As customers, we know what we want: Service that's quick, simple, and of course reasonably priced. And everywhere, please: in stores, in the web shop, on the phone, and on social networks.
Behind the scenes – as retail experts well know – this omnichannel management approach means a lot of work, coordination, and expense for retailers. To keep pace with stiff competition, retailers have to be available for their customers on all channels and offer the best service everywhere. "That's why we want to support CIOs of major retail companies with a solution that makes it simple to digitalize and automate their processes," Thomas Wüst from T-Systems told me.
Wüst knows the retail trade inside and out. And as an IT expert, he knows the digital solutions that meet the challenges retailers face. Three examples:
A customer makes an online purchase, then makes a complaint and returns the product in a store. If the store has a low level of automation, this process will require lots of paperwork, phone calls, and emails – taking up valuable employee time – and is highly error-prone. In the worst case, a dissatisfied customer will be the result.
To manage customer needs efficiently, however, all the involved work steps must be modeled on a single platform without any system discontinuities. And Thomas Wüst and his colleagues have configured this very platform based on ServiceNow. A reliable database system can be built using ServiceNow from the cloud. It models all the processes of a retail business and holds all the necessary data from the merchandise management system, web shop, and customer database in near real-time ("single system of truth and action"). The platform triggers each necessary process step automatically and even documents them. T-Systems together with our partner ServiceNow will demonstrate exactly how this works at the next EuroShop 2020, from February 16-20 in Düsseldorf.
On one hand, retailers have to offer the best possible service, but on the other, they also have to continuously optimize their operating costs. Which brings us to example number two: the Retail team at T-Systems will also be demonstrating a combination of store management (also based on ServiceNow) and the cloud-based Connected Things Hub at EuroShop 2020.While the Hub consolidates the data generated by connected devices – such as cash registers, refrigerated counters, and storage racks – the service platform presents all the data for the store manager in a clear display. If there is a need for action, for example, because a product on the shelf is nearly sold out or a cash register isn't working, the person responsible can trigger the necessary actions directly on their mobile device. The system documents all process steps automatically, so the data is available for immediate reporting, and can also be analyzed later to improve process flows.
Fast workforce planning
The third example for using ServiceNow is the "human factor" in retail. "The skills shortage is a huge issue for the retail sector, too," Wüst explained. One challenge is assigning the available professionals exactly where they're needed. When the barbecue season starts in the spring, for example, supermarkets will probably need more staff for the meat counter. Likewise, when it comes to recruiting and hiring scarce experts, companies that can do so quickly and easily will have an advantage over the competition. The HR module in ServiceNow models the entire process and integrates the relevant corporate systems, such as SAP SuccessFactors. When a store manager needs a logistics expert for warehousing, for example, the system requests the hiring contract from the HR department automatically. This is followed by automatic entry into payroll accounting and other downstream systems.
Intensive preparation is needed to fully automate such processes. "We support our customers in integrating the solution in their IT landscape and managing the system, of course," said Wüst," because a digital process is only as good as the data that triggers it."
Video interview with Thomas Wüst