New store technology has been a big focus for retailers in 2018; store IT spending budgets were up 5% to 6%, according to the RIS’“2018 Store Systems Study.” Mobile POS and mobile devices for managers and associates topped the list for short-term projects, with digital signage not far behind.
Those new devices are working hard to make customer experiences more productive and engaging when they visit stores. But they’re also being put through the ringer. In the frenzy of the busy holiday shopping season, devices get dropped, lost, spilled on, misused, and otherwise abused. Normal routines like proper battery management and calling for support get pushed aside. Help desks become eerily quiet in November and December.
So when the dust settles in early January, the picture often isn’t pretty. Devices need attention, and retailers have always used January and February as a post-holiday recovery period to get things back in order. But this year, that task is more complex than ever before:
- Many of the new devices are mobile, and by their nature mobile devices see more wear and tear.
- New equipment can mean a complicated web of service-level agreements, support contracts and warranty terms.
- With more store devices dependent on WiFi and batteries, the potential sources of performance issues have expanded beyond hardware and software. What looks like a device issue could be a router problem, for example.
All that means 2019’s post-holiday IT equipment recovery period may be retailers’ most challenging yet.
Preventing the Chaos
But there are ways to mitigate all of these challenges, so that there are fewer issues that take devices out of service during the holiday rush. That saves money, ensures better customer experiences and makes future recovery periods less onerous.
1) Understand your total service needs. The proliferation of new equipment means retailers must deal with a lot of new vendors, service plans and warranties. Managing those involves a lot of hidden costs. For example, an item is under warranty, so the instinct is to send a broken device off to its provider for repair. But the fact is, most common device issues are not covered by the warranty. So the retailer has now incurred shipping costs and administrative costs, and at the end either has a still-broken device, or a higher-cost repair by the vendor that could have been done at a lower cost elsewhere. Retailers must understand all costs around managing and maintaining equipment and contracts and create a support plan that ensures the best combination of cost, quality and speed.
2) Use tools for proactive device management. A growing number of devices can be remotely monitored, managed and sometimes even repaired. Those idle help desk techs can use these to spot issues such as a battery that will soon reach end of life, and proactively order a replacement so the device never goes out of service. Unfortunately, many retailers do not make use of device management software.
3) Develop good equipment care habits. Establishing new protocols for all those new devices, like making it someone’s job to check devices and report issues in the last 20 minutes before store closing, can go a long way toward maintaining uptime. Habits established early and reinforced with clear metrics are easier to keep up when stores enter the holiday rush.
4) Choose a deeply skilled help desk provider. In many organizations help desk techs are entry-level workers who don’t stay long. Being under-skilled means they’re much more likely to order a replacement than diagnose and solve a problem, or spend time locating and consulting an expert, driving up costs. With a larger array of devices that are critical to enabling the store experience, retailers need a provider with highly skilled, seasoned technicians capable of quickly resolving complex issues and getting devices back in service, such as those at Level 10.
Planning Ahead for Post-Holiday 2020
Retailers’ plans to infuse stores with a wide array of new technologies show no sign of stopping. That proliferation of technology means traditional approaches to service and support – including the annual post-holiday repair period – are no longer enough. Retailers need support plans that ensure devices get back to service quickly through high quality expertise, proactive monitoring and cost-effective, streamlined services. Level 10 offers an array of plans that help retailers ensure those important new devices are in place and working hard to help retailers achieve their business goals.