Connecting retail customers across multiple sites

Businesses within the retail sector often have more than one site that needs to remain connected. Understand why providing them with a hosted PBX service could be the answer.

Over the past few years there’s been a noticeable shift in the retail market. Whereas ten years ago, the majority of purchasing was done face-to-face (often in a high street store), nowadays more and more retailers are using a number of platforms when selling their products or services. Online stores are regularly being used in addition to an existing retail outlet or, in some cases, even to replace the original brick-and-mortar store.

The realisation of this changing industry has meant that many communications providers are having to adopt solutions that not only offer a reliable, high-quality service but that also cater for businesses with both single and multiple sites easily.

One thing’s for sure – retailers are a rich market for hosted PBX providers.

 

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The decentralised model

Something all businesses within the retail vertical have in common is the need for a centralised, easy-to-use telecoms system. A hosted PBX provider would be best placed to deliver this. Despite operating in a number of geographically diverse locations, all retail businesses need a common communications platform to present a consistent caller experience to all inbound and outbound customers.

In the past, businesses with multiple sites would need to install a small PBX at every site along with ISDN lines to link them back to the main switchboard at head office. This meant significant investment in telecoms hardware backed by a similarly expensive support and maintenance agreement to cover each site.

Moving your customers to a hosted PBX solution makes the whole process of deploying and managing lines much easier (and in return more cost-effective). The call routing infrastructure is located in the cloud meaning that all that’s required at each store is a secure data connection and the relevant number of handsets to match the number of users. These pre-configured VoIP handsets are then plugged in, instantly activating the extension and making it part of the wider corporate communications network.

The caller experience – external

One of the great benefits of providing hosted communications solutions is that your customers can offer their end-customers a great experience from the moment they pick up the phone. If, for example, the businesses you’re targeting make sales via inbound and outbound calls alone (or even alongside their main on-site or online business) it’s important that the caller experience is as simple and easy to understand as possible.

There’s nothing worse for an end-customer trying to buy a product than finding that they can’t get through to the right department, or worse keep getting caught in a complex IVR system that means they never actually get to speak with a sales person. Eventually the end-customer will give up and go with one of your retail customers’ competitors.

Benefiting internally

Businesses in the retail environment don’t just need to cater for external calls. It’s often equally important that the phone system in place simplifies the process for making internal calls.

Providing your customers with a cloud-based solution will give them access to a number of benefits that will make the internal user experience much easier when it comes to talking between sites or stores.

For example, did you know that some communications vendors can provide a hosted solution that not only offers free site-to-site calls which you can pass on to your retail customers but also free handsets?

Another great benefit of offering hosted solutions to your retail customers is that they will have the ability to look after their phone system themselves, typically via an online portal or mobile app. This enables businesses to easily add new users and ensure incoming calls can be routed to the correct departments at the touch of a button so that they never miss a call, even when they’re out of the office.

Embracing change

For a communications partner, moving from selling traditional telephony solutions to a hosted platform can seem daunting. Particularly when it means changing from a capex-based to an opex-based revenue stream.

So why do it? The key reason is that by moving your customers to a hosted PBX they’re likely to save money. But that’s not to say there aren’t benefits to your business too.

Selling hosted means that you’ll be ensuring your customers pay a fixed monthly rate which includes their handsets, maintenance and calls (particularly if you partner with a vendor that offers free call packages). This fixed monthly cost to your customer means that you’ll see a regular monthly revenue stream for your business too. Sign customers up to a substantial contract and you could ensure that you receive a monthly sum into your business for a number of years, keeping both you and your accounts team happy.

Takeaways:

The retail market is a lucrative industry to sell into and, if done right, is a great market to conquer. Remember, your retail customers will need:

› A telecoms platform that can be pushed out easily across multiple sites
› A solution that is easy-to-use and understand, empowering your customers to make any changes in-house
› A solution that will save them money and give increased flexibility, while still allowing their customer to benefit from a good, yet relatively simple caller experience

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23 April 2015 | Justin Coombes

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.