Better Retail Support Services Can Mean Bigger Profits

By: Jacqueline Lee| - Leave a comment

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As brick-and-mortar retailers head into the final months of 2017, they can only hope there’s nowhere to go but up following the disappointing results of Q4 2016. Retail sales grew a sluggish 0.6 percent between last November and December, even as e-commerce sales surged, Wolf Street reported. In a business where micromanaging expenses is an everyday activity, cutting retail support services costs is a practical way to improve gross margins.

At the same time, businesses must make sure not to cut costs in a way that jeopardizes sales revenue. Outages during the last third of the year, from back-to-school to the holiday shopping season, could mean downtime at one of the busiest and most profitable times of year. Fortunately, there are ways to cut costs without putting sales at risk. Furthermore, working with the right vendor can turn cost-cutting ventures into new revenue opportunities.

Vendor Consolidation Cuts Costs

As any seasoned retail veteran knows, there’s usually a binder in every office filled with phone numbers to call in a crisis. When the cash registers go down, managers call one vendor; when digital kiosks go dark, they call another, and still another when they have problems with their security system. Contracting with multiple vendors seems like a way to avoid vendor lock-in and maintain flexibility. Unfortunately, this perception of flexibility, which may or may not be realistic, is often accompanied by higher-than-necessary costs.

Choosing a single retail support services vendor that can handle everything, as opposed to using multiple vendors, means having a single phone number to call when any system goes down. From CCTV to self-checkout, one support provider can cover IT services and provide a single invoice for lower costs and easier logistics. Instead of managing multiple service-level agreements, managers can have a single contract with easy-to-understand guarantees around uptime and mean time to repair.

Many retail stores operate using a combination of new and legacy systems. Old cash registers running on old operating systems share a network with state-of-the-art digital signage, with many stores adopting new technologies like augmented and virtual reality all the time. Instead of having an even more fragmented ecosystem and not being confident that multiple vendors play well together, retailers can benefit from relying on one vendor supporting and integrating multiple hardware and software systems.

Preventing Incidents

Retailers often envision support services technicians as people they contact when something breaks instead of the ones who should prevent problems. Today’s retail networks can and should be monitored remotely. Problems shouldn’t just be resolved quickly — many should never happen in the first place.

In the modern retail store, a proactive system and network management provide a competitive edge. Thanks to automation, many problems can be diagnosed and repaired before they turn into major outages — often without the need for human intervention. Instead of waiting for something to break, retailers can receive proactive calls from support technicians advising them to reboot a server or take other preventive action. When incidents do happen, retailers can call and have problems diagnosed and repaired remotely, which is far more cost-effective than paying for a tech to make an in-store visit.

Growing Your IT Vision

Most support services providers manage their equipment and no one else’s. They may share information about new products they’re developing, but they don’t bring a market-wide perspective on the best and most cost-effective products out there. A retail support services vendor that provides non-biased support of multiple hardware and software systems is the perfect partner to address repairs, upgrades and network expansions. Because they handle multiple solutions, they can explain which hardware, software and network configurations provide the greatest value for the money.

In today’s stores, where retailers compete not only against other businesses but against their own e-commerce sales, the speed of business is too fast to stop everything and wait for a tech to come by. Every moment hangs in the balance, and a better retail support services strategy can make all the difference.

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About The Author

Jacqueline Lee

Freelance Writer

Jacqueline Lee specializes in business and technology writing, drawing on over 10 years of experience in business, management and entrepreneurship. Currently, she blogs for HireVue and IBM, and her work on behalf of client brands has appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. In addition to writing, Jackie works as a social media manager and freelance editor. She's a member of the American Copy Editors Society and is completing a certificate in editing from the Poynter Institute.

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