When Your Stores are Rocking the 21st Century and Your Maintenance in 1985

02 May 2018

Mobile devices. Video walls. Endless aisle. Self-checkout. Kiosks. Today’s stores are getting positively tricked out with all sorts of exciting techs designed to add excitement, education and convenience to the shopping experience. Retailers call optimizing stores a top-five challenge over the next three years, according to the RIS News’ “Retail Technology Study.”

While those technologies are new to the store floor, they share one feature in common with long-established techs like POS. They break. They get old. They need to be moved, replaced or repurposed. Taking care of all that is store tech maintenance ― the hands-on part of getting devices back in service, like rolling a truck or physically replacing a part.

Unfortunately, many retailers are expecting to take on those tasks with maintenance approaches that date back decades. Their help desks are entirely separate from their maintenance service. They’ve got different service plans for every new technology. They’re investing in powerful device management software but then only using 20% of it. All of the complexity they’ve introduced into the store quickly starts translating into high maintenance costs, too much downtime, long waits for service and warranty benefits that go unused.

Retailers can fully reap the benefit all those new technologies ― if they take a hard look at current approaches and commit to bringing store tech maintenance into the 21st Century. Here are some important lessons about what’s changed in store tech maintenance:

1) Help desk and maintenance have become more interdependent. In the past, the ability to guide a store associate through software, set-up or procedural issues was seen as entirely separate from fixing a printer or upgrading a payment terminal. But as the technology proliferates, so does the need for technical expertise at the store level ― sometimes with the remote support of techs on the help desk. In addition, applying analytics to trouble ticket data, along with equipment health monitoring, has improved the ability to anticipate and prevent problems. Coordinating a consolidated help desk with maintenance activity enables service activity to be well orchestrated and cost efficient.

2) Warranties require active management. The warranties that come with all that new equipment are all issued by different vendors with different terms. To take full advantage of the warranty service benefits of a contract, you need a detailed understanding of what the warranty does and does not cover. Consolidating maintenance to a single provider makes it easier to coordinate and proactively manage warranty utilization.

3) Proactive, remote device management has arrived ― but is largely underused. Most every new store device now comes with its own remote device management software. Managing multiple MDM applications quickly becomes a big job. Perhaps because of that, most retailers only use about 20% of the functionality of these apps ― checking if a payment terminal is on line or pushing out a new file. But the true power of MDM applications is their proactive alerts and maintenance of events. As they evolve, MDM will diagnose and route calls for support and maintenance without store staff needing to get involved at all. Outsourcing the management of the broad array of MDM apps is the best way to reap the most value from them.

4) Maintenance should no longer be one size fits all. POS is mission critical. A digital display may not be. A mobile POS device may be mission critical at Christmas but not year-round. Retailers need maintenance contracts that are customize to their specific needs ― a specific level of service (4-hour, same-day, next-day, depot, etc.) by device, store type, location, time of day, or season. Retailers save money by not over-spending on service levels they don’t need and directing maintenance dollars to the places where it does the most good.

5) Analytics is transforming store tech maintenance. Stores are constantly reporting problems to the help desk. Analysis of that data reveals patterns, such as stores with high call volumes or devices with high failure rates ― perhaps early signs of a bad batch of batteries. Proactively studying and acting on these insights can prevent future calls, such as replacing those batteries on the next scheduled store visit instead of waiting for a trouble ticket. In repair depots, analytics help identify common problems that lead to fixes, to prevent devices coming back in for repairs. Consolidating maintenance plans with a single solution provider is the only way to identify complex maintenance issues.

6) Retailers are underestimating the complexity of move/add/change. After the initial rollout, retailers still open new stores, replace devices, remodel stores and close locations. Moving, adding and changing a wide range of devices goes beyond dispatching techs to the store. There are many important steps on the back end, such as loading the IP onto the device or enrollment or de-enrollment onto the network. Device proliferation along with multiple MDMs make that process more complex, another reason to consolidate maintenance to a skilled provider like Level 10.

No retailer wants their store tech investments to go to waste due to high maintenance costs, too much waste or downtime, and associates who avoid calling in issues because it takes too long. Stepping up store tech means ensuring maintenance plans are in place to keep those new customer-focused devices on the job and working to deliver that engaging new shopping experience.