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Staying on top of rapidly changing technologies to effect positive behavioral change in loyal customers is one thing, but to leverage this in a sustainable fashion that engenders long-term brand loyalty is admirable.
At The Container Store, John Thrailkill, Vice President of Store Systems & Business Development, told Loyalty360 that fixing the internal communications among employees−where store employees relied on basic walkie-talkies and overhead speakers to exchange limited information−was not high on the company’s priority list.
But representatives from Theatro, the pioneer of voice-controlled wearable for retail employees, wanted to come up with a better solution for The Container Store, the nation’s originator and leading retailer of storage and organization products.
“They spent a lot of time in our Austin store listening to our radio traffic,” Thrailkill explained. “They told us they thought they could fix the walkie-talkies we were using. It wasn’t on our list of things we necessarily needed to fix, but we got very excited about their ideas. We gave them access to the store to record traffic on walkie-talkies and understand how many of those messages are for other people and how much clutter there is. They worked at it and came up with a prototype and it was a huge hit from the very beginning.”
Thrailkill explained that Theatro’s innovative voice-controlled wearables as a service will greatly streamline operations, heighten customer service, and improve staff efficiency in stores.
“The walkie-talkie is just broadcast,” he said. “It’s going into everyone’s ear. If you have a smaller store, it’s not a big deal. But at a larger format store with 30 employees up to 100, walkie-talkies are just almost unusable when it gets busy. Over 70% of communications you’re hearing is not meant for you.”
By connecting store employees and managers to product and order information, The Container Store has created an environment for immediate problem solving and an uninterrupted focus on customers not possible with older technology. Theatro’s software as a service (SaaS) adds key applications like SKU look-up, allowing store employees to check inventory without abandoning the customer or having to visit a stationary computer or device in the store.
What’s more, The Container Store leveraged Theatro’s analytics application, providing insight for its employees’ day-to-day activities, how they work as a team, and how on-floor performance varies from store to store.
“Just the ability to have 1-to-1 or small group conversations makes it a success,” Thrailkill said. “What we’re rolling out is a communication device. It’s drastically better for employees working on the sales floor. This technology is very flexible and meets the needs of larger or smaller stores.”
Although most of The Container Stores comprise 21,000 to 25,000 square feet, Thrailkill said the busier locations can have twice as many employees.
He said employees can learn the basic commands of the wearable technology in 10 minutes, but the overall learning curve for each store takes a few days.
“What we’ve seen is it’s only a few days where stores develop an undercurrent of ‘we’re all new at this,’ but then they adapt to it really quickly,” he said. “We haven’t had any problems. We place a very high importance (on innovative technology). We believe it can be a differentiator for us. We have to be competitive to remain relevant.”
Thrailkill said the Theatro wearables will be used by the retailer’s more than 3,000 store employees in more than 70 of its 80 stores by the end of July, with continued rollout to all remaining locations and all new stores throughout 2016 and beyond.
“Employees have been thrilled by using it,” he added. “I’ve gotten emails from employees about how cool this is. As soon as you have something that takes away all that chatter, and gives you so much more flexibility, it makes you realize how much clutter there was.”
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