Magazine Article | July 20, 2006

Apply Metrics To The Brick-And-Mortar Store

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Call centers have metrics displaying levels of customer service. Can that be applied to the brick-and-mortar retailer?

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2006

By Jonathan Amsler, the leader of retail customer engagements at Brickstream. Jon can be reached at jon.amsler@brickstream.com. 

It’s no secret that call center customer management has become quite a science.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles about queue management and abandonment rates. One thing is clear: Call centers have an advantage over retailers because they can tie wait time to customer service, track lost customers, and analyze labor dollars against the lost virtual customer.

What About The Customer You Never See?
It makes one wonder — do brick-and-mortar retailers care about the customer in the store the same way as those it services over the phone? Most retailers have a limited view of the customer who walks through their door. Transaction data is primarily relied upon as the basis to determine the number of customers, how quickly they are served, and the best labor-to-customer ratio. Unfortunately, this method does not capture the customer you never see — the customer who didn’t buy.  

Of course, it is impossible to answer the question of exactly who that customer is, but you can be sure of one thing — he probably entered your store with the intent to buy. It is likely that he even got so far as to choose the item and then move to the checkout. However, in the end, he did not buy. This customer abandoned the checkout line just like the call center customer who hung up without being served. Yet, unlike in the call center, this customer was never “seen.”

Why Don’t We See The Customer Who Didn’t Buy?
One answer is that most retail stores are not equipped to look for customers who didn’t buy. Employees within the store are receiving inventory, stocking shelves, or completing other noncustomer-facing duties. In fact, it is estimated that floor salespeople see only 25% of all customers who enter the store. Unlike call centers, retail outlets do not have the technology built into their infrastructure to automatically capture the number of customers walking into the store, measure wait times to check out, and compare operations with labor demands.  

How Much Is The Customer Worth — The One Who Didn’t Buy?
Retailers spend over $100 billion annually on advertising and other promotions to drive traffic into the store. In response, customers invest personal time to travel to the store and do their shopping. When the shopping experience doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations because store personnel aren’t available to help or the checkout line is too long, the customer becomes dissatisfied. If the retailer promises excellent customer service or claims to put the customer first, the customer you never see feels that the contract is broken, which erodes brand strength. When a customer abandons the store, the cost to the retailer is twofold. The retailer has lost the current sale for the items in the customer’s cart and very likely lost future shopping opportunities, as well.  

How Can You See All Of Your Customers?
Technology to provide information on the physical customer is available now. Just as call centers can track call volume, hold times, personnel interaction time, and call abandonment, retailers can gather in-store information with the right solution. Correlating metrics for brick-and-mortar retailers include store traffic, check-out wait times, cashier service time, and cart abandonment. When this type of solution is fully implemented and integrated with the stores’ POS and labor scheduling systems, retailers can see the customer who left without making a purchase. This enables retailers to develop processes that keep and serve that customer before he or she walks out the door.

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