“Digital tools are helping businesses navigate this current post-lockdown world. However, they are crucial for the long term too,” comments Andreas Knürr, CEO, TIMIFY, in an exclusive interview with ITBusinessToday.
ITBTBureau: What are the common challenges that you see bothering the retailers across the globe?
Andreas Knürr: The challenges facing the retail industry are constantly evolving. The most common problems recently have naturally been a consequence of the pandemic; in particular, our customers have come to us to solve managing an influx of customers during peak times while maintaining social distancing, delivering outstanding customer service despite the circumstances, and having the resilience to bounce back if there is a second wave.
ITBTBureau: What steps retailers can take to maintain customer loyalty in the fluctuating lockdown scenario?
Andreas Knürr: In order to maintain customer loyalty, it all comes down to ensuring customers receive a quality service. Ultimately, you want to provide an experience that’s satisfying and stress-free – this, of course, will help you stand out from competitors.
But customer service is not what it was six months ago and, for many, returning to shops comes with some apprehension. Businesses must realize that when customers step through the door, they’re in an environment they don’t have total control over, which can make them feel uneasy. Organizations, therefore, need to think about the customers’ entire journey, from initial browsing to queuing, collection, and payment.
In today’s digital world, adopting digital tools will be the key to maintaining loyalty. Having automated booking and queuing capabilities, for example, can create an effortless and enjoyable experience where customers can schedule on their terms, in real-time, and in a matter of clicks. Increasingly, businesses are exploring how digital tools can be blended with the physical to enhance the overall customer experience.
ITBTBureau: The UK sales are going back to the pre-pandemic level. However, retailers are worried that another lockdown can significantly change this scenario. How can retailers prepare themselves to sustain their business in such drastic situations?
Andreas Knürr: The retail sector was one of the worst-hit by the pandemic, so it’s pleasing to see shops back in demand. In fact, UK retail sales recently climbed back to pre-pandemic levels with sales volumes rising by 3.6% between June and July. It’s understandable though, that businesses don’t want to get complacent and they’re worried this may be short-lived. In order to be resilient, companies should consider adopting efficiency-boosting technology in the face of the new normal.
If a second or local lockdown occurs that forces retail shops to close their doors, technology will be crucial in getting them back up and running quickly again. Advanced bookings, queue management, online payments and staff rotas ensure a smooth operation, no overcrowding and contactless services.
Another benefit of advanced booking is you can evaluate when people are coming into the shop, meaning you can extend or cut hours to ensure just the right amount of staff are in which can save on overheads.
ITBTBureau: How can retailers keep their employees’ confidence, as the threat of another lockdown hovers over them?
Andreas Knürr: For months, the news agenda has been littered with companies announcing redundancies and businesses going bankrupt, so it’s only natural employees feel wary about their future. In order to instill confidence in your workers, you have to stay connected and communicate your plans clearly. Whether that may be updating rotas on a weekly basis, sending out regular email alerts about new policies, or arranging video calls to check in with everyone, it all helps in building company culture.
Ensuring that shop floors and workspaces are safe will also give employees a confidence boost. Having everything in places, such as using contactless services and staggering workdays, means not only are you reducing the risk of spreading the virus but also you can bounce back again if stricter rules are put in place, which is what employees want to hear.
ITBTBureau: What technological investments retailers should invest in to sustain their business growth?
Andreas Knürr: With the economy facing a recession, it can be hard to justify investing in new technology. So, in an ideal world, you want to invest in one nifty tool that’s not too expensive but has an array of features.
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Digital tools are helping businesses navigate this current post-lockdown world. However, they are crucial for the long term too. TIMIFY, for example, offers a customizable client database where you can find information easily, filter individuals into different groups, and find past bookings. Meaning, organizations can really create a tailored customer experience that will generate more sales and grow businesses. Additionally, collecting this valuable data can be used for creating future engaging marketing content.
You also want something that looks professional; tools that are customizable and highly flexible can integrate with third-party tools so organizations can give customers an end-to-end experience. Ultimately, you need to invest in technology that will grow with you.
Andreas Knürr is the CEO and a co-founder of TIMIFY – the online scheduling and resource management software. Andreas has been an entrepreneur since he was 17, founding companies in the insurance and real estate sectors as well as internet services. He is also the co-founder of Green Gecko Shareholding GmbH and Physioline (physio practice chain in Germany). In his current role at TIMIFY, Andreas ensures the company continues to grow. Under his supervision, TIMIFY today has successfully established global presence with more than 55,000 customers in 28 countries, and offices in Munich and Bulgaria.