November 29th, 2013
Many U.S. consumers are intimidated by jargon and technical data. Retail associates must translate the latest features into real-world benefits.
By Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of marketing at WDS, A Xerox Company.
Black Friday has kicked smartphone shopping into high gear, and U.S. consumers are heading to brick-and-mortar outlets and websites in droves. Which brands will they favor? Which features are most attractive?
We know one thing: Consumers favor ease-of-use over the latest device specifications. Here’s a look at the key findings from Selling Smartphones, a white paper that reports on consumer research conducted by WDS, A Xerox Company.
- A physical retail store remains the most popular destination for purchasing a new smartphone. Sixty-seven percent of consumers treat it as their primary destination while only 19% of buyers over 60 would buy their device online.
- Buyers between 25-34 years, and the over-60’s, are the most likely groups to research and evaluate smartphones before visiting a store.
- More than a third of under-24’s will walk into a store knowing the exact make and model of device they want to purchase.
What do they want from their smartphone?
- The importance of the device’s brand declines with the consumer’s age.
- Sixty-one percent of consumers stated that having the latest product specifications was of little importance when choosing their smartphone.
What do they want from their mobile operator?
- Network coverage and service reliability are considered more important than network speed by all age groups.
- Consumers over 60 are the most price sensitive when it comes to choosing a price plan. They are also the least interested in network speeds.
Confusion and apathy over the latest specifications could point to consumers being overloaded with technical data. So it’s important that retail associates are able to translate the latest features into real-world benefits.
July 8th, 2013
By Jarrod Johnson, vice president, Retail and Consumer Products, IT Services, Xerox
It’s an all too common experience.
A shopper is ready to buy and a sales associate is nose down straightening shirts and ties. The shopper has to alert the associate, who then looks for the specific item in a specific size. Sorry. Out of stock. One lost sale. One lost shopper, maybe forever.
It’s a profit-changing dilemma for retailers, who may not yet recognize one primary reality: the negative shopping experience and a shopper’s unmet expectations. Regardless if it’s a people or product problem, one bad experience translates into lost revenue.
Caring for customers—and generating loyalty— isn’t easy. Whether you’re a retailer, consumer product company or a service provider like Xerox, customer care is dynamic and intrinsically fluid. There is no definitive recipe for it. But there are key ingredients. Attracting shoppers, and keeping them for life requires innovation and simplicity. Here are three:
Three Ways to Care for Customers
- Train Up. Customer care starts with associates on the front line. They matter. If they’re well- trained and treated well and are enabled to perform, they work harder and smile more. Consider training beyond policies, procedures and point-of-sale systems. Think motivation, personal development, even life skills. Note to self: It’s not the quantity of training; it’s the quality of training and topics that impact performance. It’s also about follow-up. Finish the training, and then track performance.
- Stock Up. Stock means product to most of us, but stocking up is more about who and when your employees are working at a store. I can’t tell you how many retailers acknowledge the need for staffing up stores during peak times, yet cost-conscious store managers hold back to meet budgets. Result: sales walk out the door and ROI plummets. Finding this balance in motivation is what separates the winners and losers.
- Tool Up. The empowered shopper is bombarding your associates with photos from their smart phones, “Do you have this?” Associates dash to the stock room or scurry for insights. Why not “mobile-ize?” Find ways to get that information – in a way that fits your brand and style – into a format associates can consume on the go. Keep it simple, but do something. It can -be affordable, and consumer demands can be met.
These are simple starters. They aren’t nirvana or transformational, overnight. Excellence takes time and effort. Most importantly, it takes commitment.
What do you think are the key ingredients for providing outstanding customer care? Please share your comments below and follow us on Twitter at @XeroxRetailIT.
June 28th, 2013
By Chris Riback, freelance writer
As I consider everything I’ve read, written and discussed around delivering excellent customer service, I realize one thing: How difficult it can be. To help make it simpler, here are six key takeaways that I keep hearing from the experts:
Center yourself: All good customer service programs begin with a solid center. That means a strategy. Identify your business goal, and determine how your customer service operations will directly support and advance that goal. Then you can design tactics (call center approach, return policies, social media interactions, etc.). Too often companies start with the tactics — we need to be on Twitter! — without first centering themselves.
Focus on the details: Once you have the big picture, focus on the little things. While mundane, they often become the one thing a customer remembers. A couple of weeks ago, I took my kid to a Major League Baseball game. I couldn’t help but think about the experience as a customer service exercise. How were they treating me as a customer? While the team did a fairly good job, it wasn’t until the day after the game that they hit it out of the park—I got a thank you email from the club. The email came with a box score, link to video highlights and a thank you. It was so simple—saying “thank you”—yet it really stood out.
Use social wisely: Too often companies use social media to respond to immediate complaints, while they let phone customers languish on hold. What’s your social strategy? Allowing tech-savvy customers to jump the line in front of other callers, is not a winning strategy. Social is about sharing, listening and engaging. Make sure that’s how you use it.
Let your employees be human: Recently an online retailer wouldn’t let me order the return labels for a gift I had received. The call rep insisted that the gift giver had to order them. That was not a human response. Who would actually say that? She was, of course, following policy. I knew that. Indeed, I said to her, “I’m guessing that’s the policy you’ve been given, but I assure you that senior management doesn’t want you to implement it this way!” Once I escalated the call, the supervisor immediately went against policy and assured me I could order the return labels. Don’t restrict your people from being human. They represent your brand.
Listen: The customer who complains certainly isn’t the only one who has the particular issue they are calling about. Similarly, your call center employees are on the front lines, engaging with customers every day. Listen to your customers and your employees. What they know will help you improve your customer experience.
It ain’t easy: Customer Service is never simple. It’s much more complicated than the old adage—the customer’s always right. Great, consistent, scalable Customer Service starts with a strategy and tactics. Further, Customer Service is a living, breathing thing. Products change. Customers change. Communications channels change. Employees change. You must be nimble and continually evolve your approach to keep up with the times.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.
March 29th, 2013
By Robert Palmer, Palmer Consulting
Any successful managed print services (MPS) program begins with a good assessment. It serves as the foundation for the service by uncovering such issues as device redundancies, utilization problems, and process inefficiencies. At the same time, the assessment helps to establish a baseline to measure against over the course of the managed print engagement.
What makes a good assessment? That question has come up quite a bit during recent Xerox Focus Forward customer events. Of course, it starts with a good assessment tool. One that can easily and graphically show customers not only how assets are deployed but also provide summary report data on issues such as device economics, distribution, page volumes, and usage patterns.
One thing is certain: a good assessment involves much more than simply collecting and analyzing device data. Experienced customers consistently agree that you need to understand how equipment is used—whether individually or within the team, workgroup, or department. That typically means employee interviews and long-term monitoring of the document environment. A close, working relationship between the provider and the customer is crucial to that process.
Once in place, a good assessment can unveil important information about your document environment, which could be used to drive output costs lower and, more importantly, improve productivity. Consider one such example provided recently during the Xerox Focus Forward event held in Atlanta. Christopher Swezey, director of auxiliary services for Berkley College of Music, explained that their initial assessment conducted in partnership with Xerox uncovered that only four (yes, four) students were responsible for 90 percent of their entire print volume.
It seems highly unlikely, but it turns out that those four individuals had basically established their own on-campus print centers—providing print services for other students who simply found the process too intimidating or too time consuming to tackle on their own.
On the one hand, you have to applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of those four individuals. On the other, it speaks volumes as to how inefficient processes and hidden print costs can go uncovered in any organization. What unknown gems might be lurking within your own document/print environment? It could be time to find a good partner and conduct your first MPS assessment.
Robert Palmer is an independent market analyst and industry consultant. With more than 20 years of experience in the printing industry, he has covered technology and business for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. He was managing editor of the Hard Copy Observer for six years and more recently served as director of office document services for Photizo Group. Mr. Palmer recently formed Palmer Consulting, an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market.
March 27th, 2013
By Mark Duffelen, director and general manager, Channels Group, Xerox UK and Ireland
When you hear someone say Xerox, you probably think of a big corporation with sales offices across the globe. While this may be true, the reality is that Xerox, alone, can’t be everywhere, serving everyone. To help us do that, we rely on our network of channel partners including multi-brand resellers and concessionaires.
With the strength of the Xerox brand behind them, our channel partners provide customers with local sales, support and service, the length and breadth of the country.
Our expanding network of channel partners provides customers with what they want: new technologies that support their key business objectives of creating a simpler, more efficient work environment. Like Xerox’s new ConnectKey offering and our industry-leading channel managed print service offering – Xerox Partner Print Services.
To celebrate the achievements of our UK-based channel partners during 2012, we recently held our own version of the Oscars, the Xerox UK and Ireland Partner Awards, in Lisbon, Portugal. All winners were selected based on business results, quality of service and their dedication to enhance our global network.
Drum roll please…
Partner of the Year & Finance Partner of the Year – Advanced Business Equipment
Systems Integration Partner of the Year – Commercial IT Services
Managed Print Services Partner of the Year – Xenith Document Systems
Office Premier Partner of the Year – Bytes Document Solutions
Production Partner of the Year – ROI 360º
Xerox Authorised Reseller of the Year – The Danwood Group
My sincere congratulations to all of the winners!
We look forward to engaging with current and new partners in 2013. If you’d like to know more about becoming a Xerox channel partner, I’d be pleased to hear from you. Please drop me a note at email@example.com.
March 21st, 2013
By Ed Gala, vice president, Marketing, United States Client Operations, Xerox
As a proud parent who’s writing rather large checks to two colleges, I love hearing about creative ways to keep tuition costs down and deliver better student services.
That’s exactly what happened when I dropped in on a gathering of about 25 higher education IT and administrative leaders from Tulane, Tuskegee, Saint Louis, Dillard, and other schools at a recent Focus Forward event. The conversation was filled with interesting insights and strategies about how to lower expenses in the face of tighter government appropriations and increasing demands to do more with less.
Opportunities for savings and efficiency sometimes come in unlikely places. In fact, based on the experience of one senior administrator, it pays to look in little-used closets where unknowing staff have been known to stash broken personal printers.
You can see how it happens. The little ink jet on the assistant dean’s desk clogs up and she innocently stashes it in the closet vowing to call someone to pick it up another day. Only that day never comes and some unfortunate department — usually shared services or IT — is still paying for charges on that discarded machine, incurring invisible costs.
Meantime, back at my house, I’m griping with fellow parents of college students about tuition bills that only go in the up direction. And my daughters are calling to remind me that the sorority dues need to be paid and talking about that exciting opportunity to study in London next semester. Cha-ching.
So you can’t blame me if I get a kick out of hearing how one college took $215,000 of annual cost out by outsourcing their print shop. And you’ll understand if my eyes light up when I learn a major university cut the number of individual printers in staff offices from 573 to 140 and saved $881,000 by conducting a campus-wide scavenger hunt for underutilized equipment — including that machine hiding in the closet.
I admit to nodding involuntarily when told of a 60 percent reduction in paper costs through centralized purchasing. And I applauded at the end when they talked about how all of this freed up dollars to invest in other priorities and student-centered programs.
Let me know if you’re aware of other things colleges and universities are doing to make the business of education less costly and more productive.
It won’t be long before two more tuition bills come due. And I need all the encouragement I can get.
March 8th, 2013
By Robert Palmer, Palmer Consulting
Teams and teamwork: how you have your team configured makes a big difference in today’s business world. So says Richard Karlgaard, columnist and publisher for Forbes and the keynote speaker at Xerox’s recent Focus Forward event held in Chicago. Karlgaard covered a lot of ground in the keynote address, but his discussion around the “soft virtue” of teamwork really resonated with me and tied perfectly with what turned out to be the theme of the day.
One of the real advantages to attending the Focus Forward events is the opportunity to hear directly from customers—those who are deep in the midst of transformation and dealing with the challenges involved in that process. In Chicago, Xerox asked two such customers to tell their stories: Bill Rouse from US Foods and James McDonald Jr. from ING. Both described how the transition to managed print services (MPS) has not only reduced costs but more importantly, helped drive operational efficiencies throughout their organizations.
During the course of the day, the conversation consistently reverted back to the issue of change management. While most recognize the benefits associated with MPS, many still search for the best way to communicate those benefits to their employees. The fear of change remains a difficult obstacle to overcome—especially for employees that feel threated by that change. One question that seems to surface at every event: how do we deal with employees who simply do not want to give up their desktop printers?
Interestingly, both Rouse and McDonald shared similar experiences and meaningful insight. The secret lies in making sure that employees are invested in the process. First, educate employees up front on the entire value proposition and explain how they stand to benefit from MPS: through reduced costs to improved productivity and better environmental policies. More importantly, involve individual employees in the ongoing process of transformation. Let them carry the message for you. Teamwork, after all, will make the difference.
Robert Palmer is an independent market analyst and industry consultant. With more than 20 years of experience in the printing industry, he has covered technology and business for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. He was managing editor of the Hard Copy Observer for six years and more recently served as director of office document services for Photizo Group. Mr. Palmer recently formed Palmer Consulting, an independent consultancy covering the imaging market.