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Feb 4, 2021

Consumers and retail staff alike expect an always-on retail environment with always available self-service. In this podcast, we will discuss what retailers can do to provide always-on availability in a complex retail world.

Related Links:

Lynn Beattie LinkedIn Profile

Jerry Langfitt LinkedIn Profile

Related Content:

Driving Availability in a Complex Retail Environment Whitepaper



Jerry Langfitt:                    00:15                     Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today. I would like to welcome today's guest, Lynn Beattie, who leads our Retail Strategy at Diebold Nixdorf. Welcome Lynn, thanks for joining me today.

Lynn Beattie:                     00:25                     Hi Jerry, it's a pleasure to be here.

Jerry Langfitt:                    00:28                     Today's consumers' behavior is shifting in two important ways. They're increasingly more reluctant to stand in lines to check out, and showing a greater desire to be in control of their retail experience. Now add a viral outbreak into the mix and you see consumers wanting quicker, safer, more socially distant retail experiences. This has driven retailers to provide more self-service consumer journeys. And with these self-service journeys, retailers must put a greater focus to be always on and always available. Lynn, how important is availability when it comes to a self-service consumer journey?

Lynn Beattie:                     01:01                     Jerry, I think it's hugely important that they're available. What we've seen in the last few years is a definite shift towards putting more and more technology into the hands of the consumer. And as you say, this is very often to support self-service journeys. So I'm thinking about technology in store, thinking about things like kiosks, self-service checkouts, handsets that maybe support customers with journeys like [inaudible 00:01:28] checkout, scan as you go type shopping experiences. And if these devices and these touch points don't work, they frustrate the entire experience in the store. So I think retailers have to be hugely cognizant that it is very important in terms of their brand and in terms of the experience the customer has in the store, that these journeys are available and always on.

Jerry Langfitt:                    01:52                     Now, doesn't it mean that criticality that happens is a self-service, by definition, the consumer's alone? So no longer is a staffer at a POS and knows there's a problem and can cover up. I mean, the consumer themselves will be the first to experience the error.

Lynn Beattie:                     02:08                     That's it exactly. If you have a lane, say on a self-service checkout, that has gone and died, the consumer, firstly, in their interaction with the lane can find it a very, very frustrating experience if they cannot complete their checkout transaction. But also then it's another lane that's not available for other consumers that are queuing. And I think that in itself is a source of frustration. And I think what we're seeing is that there isn't a member of staff that's always there that can help the consumer then complete their transaction or, in some ways, even fix the issue for the customer. So it is even more frustrating for customers when self-service devices don't work then maybe other technology that's in the store.

Jerry Langfitt:                    02:50                     And I found brand loyalty in retail is razor thin. You have a consumer that can quickly walk across the street and make decision to leave someone else and go to a different experience. Or if you have a bad experience, I'm quickly going to remember, I'm not going to go to that one. So that razor thin brand loyalty makes things even more critical. Banking, it takes a lot to change your banks, but when it comes to retail, I can switch in an instant, and I will. So that's another point that makes this so important for retailers to pay attention to this.

Lynn Beattie:                     03:24                     I think that's right. And I think, as you say, you may get immediate feedback. The customer may just walk straight out your store, but the customer may also though stay in the store, complete that transaction and then leave your store and not come back, and switch their loyalty to another retailer.

Jerry Langfitt:                    03:42                     Well, I will admit my wife has left a basket full of groceries after being pissed off. So I usually look at her as one of my customers and say, okay, look, we have to have this right, because you can get that frustrated. And that definitely leaves a mark.

                                                                                Lynn, in this day and age, some retailers mistakenly think adding a self-service journey is simply a hardware and software install. That's one guaranteed method to experience the aforementioned razor thin threshold for brand loyalty. To me a satisfying self-service journey takes a strategy, including technology, staff, process and the right business partner with the infrastructure to keep your journeys always on, always available. It's more than just a transaction. It's the whole experience. What can a retailer do looking at all these different pieces of the puzzle to make the right strategy?

Lynn Beattie:                     04:29                     I think what retailers need to do is think about where the points of friction are for their customers in their stores and think about how they can alleviate those points of friction. And that might be with self-service, or it might be maybe with other technologies, or it may even be by supporting them with more personal service from a member of staff. But I think starting with really understanding the journey and understanding where there are points of friction is probably the best point for retailers to start from.

Jerry Langfitt:                    05:03                     So preparing for availability, service reaction time, table-stakes must have quality service infrastructure to handle the immediate needs of the retailer. This has been available for years and must be dialed in to serve at a moment's notice. However, this is fairly reactive. What kind of service can someone really put together to make sure that they're being more proactive? What's involved with making sure something is more managed, and remotely, and can be more proactive?

Lynn Beattie:                     05:30                     I think historically, I think service and maintenance used to be done in a break-fix model. So when something broke, the model was that you would quickly be able to fix it, quickly be able to resolve the issue. And I think the shift that is happening is more towards a model whereby an almost constant availability is guaranteed. So to move to the 99 point whatever percent availability, and that's largely been driven by, as you say, having more and more touch points in store that support the customer directly. So self-service touch points. And with these touch points, what really needs to be done is that there is far more remote monitoring and far more remote maintenance of them. Because as you say, there's often not a member of staff there to fix the issue, and therefore you have to be able to monitor remotely.

                                                                                But there's no point in just monitoring remotely. You have to be able to take action when you identify that there is a problem. So that means, for example, being able to deploy software onto devices, or to be able to update configuration, or to be able to direct a member of staff, if it's to do something basic, like for example, change a printer roll. But it can also be maybe more complex things so that if there is a problem using that remote monitoring to identify exactly what the problem is, so that you can dispatch an engineer that has the right skill set to fix the issue with the right parts and to have the planning and the foresight to be able to ensure that the engineer is close enough to the particular instance, to be able to respond quickly.

Jerry Langfitt:                    07:06                     This seems like from ages gone by, like you had said, it was always a reaction time basis. And like I said, with hardware and software install, you actually have to have the infrastructure, not just the business partner, but the infrastructure internally to connect all devices and then give access to an outside company, securely and properly, to use that data. Because, I think you said, if the data comes in, there's not a lot you can do with it, but maybe with a correlation engine or AI to think what's going to be next? I've always seen these types of parameters broken and then the device goes down. Can we get more proactive and be able to see problems coming before they happen?

Lynn Beattie:                     07:48                     Absolutely. And I think there's some really exciting developments happening using technology, using AI, using machine learning that is allowing us in a far more complex technology environment to be able to identify issues before they even happen. And I think there's a more specialist technology that often retailers themselves maybe don't want to develop in order to do that, and therefore they are looking for partners that have got that depth of expertise and they're able to invest in models that really bring in a best of breed approach, as it were, to maintenance and to availability.

Jerry Langfitt:                    08:25                     Well, something like this, the staff still is a big part of this. Self-service you can get the impression that no staff is involved, ever. And I think that's a misnomer. I think there has to be properly trained staff and properly supported staff to make sure those self-service journeys go without a hitch. What can a retailer do to properly prepare their own staff, and support them, to make these a great experience for the consumer?

Lynn Beattie:                     08:50                     Absolutely. I think in our experience very often retailers use self-service to improve the customer experience in the store crucially to free up staff so that they can go and do high value activities, like interacting with the customer. I think staff are absolutely essential to make sure that the overall experience in the store, including self-service, works as well as the customer would expect and gives them a really great customer experience. I mean, there are absolutely things that need to be done in terms of maintenance on self-service machines. I've mentioned something as basic as just changing, say, a printer roll, and there's some other functions like that that staff can absolutely help and support. But I think the key thing is to ensure with these things that it never detracts from the core role and the really value adding role of a member of staff in a store, which is about helping customers and supporting customers.

Jerry Langfitt:                    09:44                     A great way for a retailer to further support and make something transparent, I think, is maybe leverage mobile devices, staff's mobile devices, internally, to be able to provide them with the same information a technician might have. They might not be as experienced, but if you can explain it in simple enough terms, they should be able to restart things and troubleshoot things to get a customer up and running and a lane up and running. Is that something that would benefit the retailer?

Lynn Beattie:                     10:12                     Absolutely. I think there's a concept almost of self-service for staff, in terms of maintaining self-service devices, where staff can get some support if there is an issue with being able to record what the issue is, for example, on a mobile device, and then to be able to automate getting them some feedback about how they can resolve that. And there's some really exciting technology that can use again, a combination of video recognition and natural language processing that can take what the staff member is describing and turn it into some sort of action that can come back from a maintenance solution. So, I think, there's a lot that members of staff can do around self-service. And, I think, we will see this will be one of the fronts on innovation we will see in the really not so near future.

Jerry Langfitt:                    11:00                     I've noticed in today's self-service models, and technology overall, retailers need to rely heavily on business partners and their staff. I've found that the proper business partner can enhance what a staff does and take away things. I was thinking of one example where Diebold Nixdorf ended up pulling a lot of ticket-entering off the staff. If something happened, there was automated systems that just... Look, there was no need to call in and put in a service ticket. So these kinds of automations, I think, would really help retailers to make their staff more efficient. Don't you think?

Lynn Beattie:                     11:37                     Absolutely. I think there's been a real transformation in terms of how tickets, like this, get logged and recorded. And I think there's far better ways, especially as we have so much more mobility, to be able to log tickets like this, and generally that don't require a member of staff to go and make a phone call to a customer service desk. And I think that's pretty exciting that that fairly labor intensive administratively heavy duty action has been taken away from staff.

Jerry Langfitt:                    12:09                     One retailer I was talking to a few weeks ago had said 30 seconds, 60 seconds, away from the customer seems like a lifetime. So the more automation we can give to the retailer's staff empowers them, as much as it empowers the consumer. And again, let's mention the razor thin loyalty. If someone's self-service works better than another, a grocery store, you will easily switch to that one.

Lynn Beattie:                     12:34                     I think that's right. And I think it's a much, much more empowering and enjoyable experience for members of staff to be helping customers and interacting with customers and delivering great customer service than it is trying to, say, resolve problems with technology. So that's not something that I think they enjoy doing and, therefore, in the same way that we're looking to remove points of friction from customers, we should also be looking to remove points of friction from members of staff. Because I think the more that staff are able to support customers, the more they enjoy the roles and the great jobs that they're doing.

Jerry Langfitt:                    13:11                     That's a great point, because that same retailer had said the staff wasn't enjoying the self-service journeys that they had, because there was just problems and there were bugs, both with the technology, but I often told them, it's always technology, people and process. If you just push in self-service, which a lot of retailers during COVID had said, "I need self-service immediately. Get it in the stores." And they skip those steps of properly training the staff, supporting them with the proper processes and then have a business partner that can support them all the way around. It's a great way to have, what I like to call, a false positive where you think the consumers really don't like it, but you just didn't take the proper steps to properly implement, to get adoption. It's not just an installation, you're trying to get adoption and, actually, more than adoption, you're trying to get preference, that the consumers actually prefer this. And so do the staffs.

Lynn Beattie:                     14:06                     I think that's right. And I think this comes to something that we talked about earlier is that what retailers need to do is really understand the points of friction for their customers and use technology to address those points of friction, and they need to understand the entire journey and the entire expedience that sits around self-service. And I'll give you an example. It's becoming increasingly popular for customers to be able to go around the stores and to scan products on a handheld device and directly put them in their bag, or in their trolley, so that they can quickly make payments at the end. And that can either be through the app itself on their phone or potentially going to self-checkout device, or another payment terminal, but to do that requires products to be barcoded. So you have to think about, for example, what you do with loose produce.

                                                                                Also, you need to think about how you're going to verify that person is over 18, if they want to buy alcohol. So some of these journeys end up requiring not just the technology for the journey itself, but the wider operation of the store to be considered. And also to ensure that you have got staff journeys to support the customer journey. And I think you have to look at these things really quite holistically for them to really move the dial in terms of the customer experience.

Jerry Langfitt:                    15:30                     Absolutely. It's way more than just one device. You really have to look at the whole process. And I like what you said, you have to support the staff journey. Where it's really popular to talk about consumer journeys, but invariably, even with self-service, there is an underlying staff journey, corporation journey, and business partner journey that is all interlinked. And I think you really need to consider all of those things that have a proper strategy to have a good journey, and, like the point of our current discussion, is an always on journey that someone does not hit a hiccup at all. So make sure you have things interconnected so you could properly monitor, have the right business partner, so they can take the data and make it actionable. And with everyone's goal that the customer never hits any snags at all.

Lynn Beattie:                     16:18                     Absolutely agree. I completely agree. I think it's deeply frustrating for customers when there is a particular journey that they want to go on, so something like a self-service journey, if they hit a snag and it ends up being hugely damaging for the retailer, in terms of the experience that the customer has. And so it's absolutely critical that retailers work very, very hard, not just to think through the journey itself, but once they've made that investment in these new journeys to ensure that they are always on.

Jerry Langfitt:                    16:48                     And it takes a new line of thinking, because it's no longer an SLA or break-fix, how fast can I fix it? How fast can I get a truck rolling? Table-stakes are you better have the infrastructure and service engineers everywhere, so you can support them to reduce first time fixes and get things as quickly as possible. But now with monitoring and interconnected devices, I think it's even more critical to make sure things stay running without a hiccup at all.

Lynn Beattie:                     17:18                     Absolutely. And there's huge benefits if you can ensure very, very high levels of availability. For example, my local supermarkets has a number of self-checkout devices there, and they quite often have one or two of these [inaudible 00:17:33] devices that are not operating. And I think they've almost built in the need for more devices than you naturally require, just because they almost expect that some of them won't be working. And I think if they could only improve availability on all of the devices, actually they could probably remove some devices and hand over that space to selling space. So I think availability, and ensuring high availability, has benefits beyond just ensuring that there is a great customer experience.

Jerry Langfitt:                    18:02                     That's interesting you say that, because more often than not people are like, "Oh, I want to reduce my service costs," and a proper availability strategy can do that. But what is a great point you just made is you actually can reduce hardware costs, because you're not over-committing too many devices knowing that two out of seven are always going to be down at some point. So that's an interesting cost savings, or total cost of ownership you can tie into your service model, if done properly.

Lynn Beattie:                     18:29                     Exactly. And it's not even just the actual cost of the technology or the infrastructure itself. It's the benefit. If you don't have it there at all, not just do you not have to buy it and you don't have to maintain it, you don't have to put aside the space in the store to run it. And you can hand that space back over and either improve the store environment or actually increase your sales by turning over to sellable space. So I absolutely think that there are many, many things that retailers need to consider that are as important, if not more important, than saving cost when it comes to service.

Jerry Langfitt:                    19:05                     All right. Thanks Lynn. I think that's a good place to close. Really appreciate your sharing your thoughts and how critical availability is to retailers and consumers. And thank you to our listeners for tuning into this episode of COMMERCE NOW. To download a free copy of the white paper on availability mentioned during our discussion, please visit to download your complimentary copy today.