The Record - Issue 14: Autumn 2019

130 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om “Store associates are the voice and face of the brand” F E ATUR E BY R E B E CCA G I B SON W hat do you remember about your most enjoyable in-store shopping experi- ences? For many people, the memory that stands out is of the friendly store associate who greeted them by name, answered all their questions knowledgably, helped them to locate their items and processed their payment quickly. “Store associates are the voice and face of the brand – everything they do while a customer is in a store has an instant impact on whether the consumer will return to the brand in future,” says Greg Jones, director of business strategy for world- wide retail and consumer goods at Microsoft. “If a store associate is rude, unhelpful and bored, customers likely won’t return. However, if they’re well-informed and go above and beyond to deliver a seamless shopping experience, consumers are likely to return time and time again.” If retailers want to ensure that their employees fall into the latter category, they must provide all the tools their staff need to complete their daily tasks and collaborate and communicate with everyone from their in-store team to head office. Employees also need to have instant access to customer, product and business-critical infor- mation at their fingertips. “Using unified collaboration and communi- cation platforms, the executive leadership team and store managers can quickly deliver the lat- est company news, important business insights, training, information about new stock and pro- motions, and more to everyone in the company at the same time,” says Jones. “Meanwhile, store associates can share feedback with managers about what displays are (or are not) working well, which products are most popular, what questions customers are asking frequently and so on. They can also share customer success sto- ries and any ideas that they may have for new initiatives or best practices for enhancing the customer experience. Not only will this ensure that employees have the information they need to do their jobs, but it will also create a central platform for company-wide innovation.” British fashion, homeware and grocery retailer Marks & Spencer, for example, has implemented Microsoft Teams to provide all 80,000 colleagues across its 1,035 UK stores with access to all the tools, data and people they need via one stream- lined central platform. “Store associates can easily chat with colleagues for guidance, check customer or product data instantly and quickly edit, share or consult important business documents on their smart- phone while they’re on the shop floor,” says Jones. “Now, employees get the right informa- tion at the right time, which has made teams more efficient and productive. Meanwhile the Unified collaboration platforms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based productivity suites are helping retail employees deliver memorable customer experiences, says Microsoft’s Greg Jones retail workers Empowering