By Jarrod Johnson, vice president of IT services, Retail and Consumer Products, Xerox

Full aisles, effective signage and shoppers moving through check-out lanes at warp speed are retail nirvana. Then the point-of-sale go blank and freeze up. Bar-code scanners become pet rocks. And the store becomes an empty warehouse, with shoppers leaving in herds. No surprise, but technology downtime isn’t just a tech issue. It’s lost revenue. Lost shoppers. Lost opportunity.

When the worst does happen, it only gets worse when everyone is wondering who to call and how to fix it. It’s an in-store tsunami sweeping way beyond store associates, even the store itself. Such a disaster requires a quick-response commando team that’s ready to act and resolve problems immediately. In basic terms, it’s a support team—a store support team that is poised behind the scenes, with real answers to real problems.

We call it the Store Command Center. It’s a centralized service desk and support team that optimizes in-store technologies. It allows retailers and store employees to be “doing retail” and serving customers. Managing technology, waiting for tech support and being idled by systems failures are too expensive and harmful for any retailer.

To determine the move from in-house store support services to a managed services provider, start with these three steps:

  • Make the Financial Argument. Are the costs for labor, training, “break/fix” equipment, knowledge transfer and training steadily rising? One survey reports that more than 80 percent of businesses surveyed stated that call center outsourcing was beneficial. Sixty-two percent reported substantial savings.
  • Make the Satisfaction/Resolution Argument. Study customer satisfaction metrics, quantitative and qualitative. Find out average response times, call handle times and first-call resolution effectiveness, among others. These indicators will confirm or deny perceived problems.
  • Make the Vendor Rounds. Know your options and identify vendors that specialize in your industry, and have proven support service infrastructure and personnel. As your in-store technologies increase, so do the number of vendors, IT and support complexity–and the time to manage all the moving pieces and personnel. Evaluate the time and costs associated with managing all of these partners vs. a centralized approach handled by one vendor.

Keep your stores optimized and operational – and questions answered quickly and completely. It can mean the difference between shopper transactions and walk-offs.