Tag Archives: Remote Expert

NRF Big Ideas: Post Session Overview

Social Retailing at The Home Depot

It all started in March 2007 when an MSN Money article called “Is Home Depot Shafting Shoppers” by Scott Burns got a lot of feedback. The response on the discussion boards was overwhelming – 7,000 comments within 3 weeks all echoing the same sentiment. The Home Depot CEO posted commentary asking customer’s to give them time to improve customer service and their help in making it a better place to work. This was the first foray in to social media and it opened everyone’s eyes to see how engaged and passionate people were about their brand.

Fast-forward four years, The Home Depot has come up with an interesting model for enabling their employees to assist customers through social media. They aren’t the first to get employees answering customers questions through social media channels, Best Buy has a community team, that answers questions, rates answers online and utilizes Twitter in multiple languages called the Twelpforce.

According to AdAge, The Home Depot’s model is a bit different, they developed a hybrid model of social-media store associates. When the social media team approached the CEO with a request to start a social media team, Mr. Blake pushed back, saying that Home Depot’s store associates were the company’s strongest source of knowledge, and he wanted to think about how to use them before adding people to the corporate communications team.

The Realtime Report has a decent summary of the model.

Interesting presentation by Nick Ayers from The Home Depot in 2008. According to Nick, The Home Depot has the following 3-prong strategy:
1) Capture lost or on the fence customers
2) Connecting with new customer’s such a new home owners
3) Engage associates in a way they haven’t done before. The 300,000 employees have tribal improvement knowledge that they want to leverage. The Digital Orange Apron is an extension of an iconographic part of the brand.

Video Enables New Levels of Customer Intimacy

I am always on the lookout for examples of “remote” expertise. I believe that video is enabling the transformation in how companies provide services with its ability to deliver a real-time experience anywhere anytime. I came across the following examples in a pfsk report:

Trunk Club They hand-select outfits for you based on your profile (needs, tasks and fits)and send them to your home. Experts can guide you via phone/email/Skype. You can send back anything you don’t like. Imagine what this could look like when they can use umi (Cisco’s high-definition video conferencing).

plan b Allows you to schedule a remote consultation, a 15-minute session, with a planb master stylist, using SKYPE from your home computer.

Power-up Experts Across All Channels for Better Customer Relationships

I believe the ability to digitally connect to an expert (not contact center staff) when you need one will become main stream in the near future. In a googable world of data, facts and figures a clear way to differentiate an experience is to enable your customer to connect live to your experts or knowledgeable staff. We know customers are much more likely to buy if they interact with a human, we also know they are even more likely to buy if that person has experience with the product or solution they’re selling. There are new labor models emerging that are enabling organizations to economically extend the reach of highly-skilled people whether they are their own employees, a vendor, partner or perhaps even a customer.

This online and in-store digital connection is more than a click to chat capability. It is the ability to talk to someone using high-definition video while shopping – which is critical because 80% of people make purchase decisions while in the store. We’re beginning to see the use of high-definition video to extend the reach of the expert for processes that are complex, emotional and involve a significant financial investment (buying a car, a home, a new kitchen) because video = trust.

Our early pilot tests of high-definition video combined with the ability to share content in the store have been well received by customers. They felt the experience talking to the expert was intimate because they had their undivided attention. The experts ability to share content and view the content brought in by the customers was key to delivering a real-life experience. Once they leave the store the customer can continue the conversation with the expert through video, email, discussion posts, IM or shared spaces.

The centralization of expertise will push us to the consolidation of the customer information which might just help us to achieve that elusive vision of a true multi-channel experience.