If you have been in one of my sales training programs you know that I am very down on the future of salespeople who simply write orders and do not actually add value to the customer interaction. I call these workers, transactional salespeople.
The huge numbers of transactional salespeople in retail environments is driving people to the web. Why get in your car to drive to a store when the workers there are more interested in their smartphones and co-workers than you?
There may be a new reality on the horizon for disengaged retail employees and that is exemplified by a new partnership between IBM’s Watson and Macy’s. Shoppers to participating Macy’s stores will be able to use a mobile web tool to get answers to common questions such as, “Where can I find Michael Kors handbags?”
Over time, IBM promises that Watson will get smarter and have even more information to help shoppers. They are trialing this new technology in 10 stores (the only California store participating is in Arcadia… boo!). In 5 of the 10 stores the web tool will be able to engage a store employee for further help. I guess they are still trying to keep humans in the loop. You can learn more about this innovative partnership between the two companies here.
If you run a retail environment you are seeing a glimpse of the future in this partnership. Salespeople who are phoning it in will increasingly be replaced by software and even robots leaving only the high performers who make shopping with them a joy.
One tip to connect with a customer entering your space is to compliment them sincerely on something you notice about them. This will lower their guard and make them appreciative. At that point they will be open to some natural conversation about what brings them to the store today and how you can help make it a better experience. Just don’t start with, “How can I help you?”