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Firstline worker helpin a cusomer

The world of Retail is evolving rapidly under pressure from internal and external dynamics and is shifting toward instant and frictionless access, extraordinary variety, and deep personalization.

Some have suggested this transformation may displace retail firstline workers through increased automation and AI. While there will be major changes to the role of retail employees due to the increased adoption of new technologies that enable frictionless retail, the firstline will remain central to enabling differentiated retail experiences that will drive customer loyalty and advocacy.

These changes magnify the importance of retail employee empowerment and engagement, ensuring the firstline is excited and not demoralized by the new retail landscape and the demands of the modern customer/employee relationship.

Furthermore, today’s consumers form opinions and make decisions at an increasingly fast pace.  And those opinions are having a wider impact than ever before as opinions and reviews are easily amplified through social channels, in turn shaping the impressions of other potential customers. This dynamic is putting new strains on the retail firstline, whose actions resonate more than ever. The firstline needs increased engagement from their employer to feel supported and continue adding value in increasingly automated and transparent environments.

Retail and many other industries are also now reacting to experience and decision timescales that are faster than humans can process unaided. Retailers need machine intelligence and support to meet that need. Eliminating the latency between insight and action in retail requires further empowering firstline employees.

The core of retail continues to be meeting customers’ needs, helping them find the products and services they need, supporting their decision-making process, completing the transaction, and resolving any issues that arise after purchase. While automation is increasing, firstline employees are still essential to this journey by helping inform customers and crafting the experiences that not only meet their basic needs but also surprise and delight.

To learn more about the importance of an empowered firstline in today’s retail environment, read Transforming customer service through empowered employees, a new e-book written by retail strategy and technology experts from Microsoft Services.