Staples Installs Two-Way Video Customer Service Stations

For stores that find it too expensive to hire floor employees that care or can actually tell you where an item is without being insolent and rude (we’re looking at you, Home Depot), your solution is here.

“Video Agent” is essentially a video-conferencing kiosk that connects you with an off-site employee. Staples Canada is going to put them in 34 stores across Canada, one “live agent” per store in the copy area. On the other side of the screen will be one of six experienced sales reps located in a Toronto call center. They will have access to the full store layout and can tell you if your item is in stock in the store. The live agents will sport the same garb as a regular store employee.

According to a company representative, we could very well be seeing these in US Staples, and other US stores, within a year. Supposedly, they won’t replace any store employees but will instead augment their number.

What do you think? Boon for customer service, or sign of the apocalypse? Press release, below…

STAPLES BUSINESS DEPOT AND EXPERTICITY

BRING FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE TO CANADA

STAPLES Becomes First Mass Market Retailer to Adopt Pioneering “VIDEO AGENT”

Two-Way Video Customer Service Stations in 34 Stores Across Canada

Seattle, WA – July 15, 2008 — Experticity, the pioneering provider of video-assisted customer support solutions, today announced that STAPLES Business Depot, Canada’s largest supplier of business supplies, has signed an agreement with Experticity to roll out the innovative retail “VIDEO AGENT” customer service stations to 34 stores across Alberta, Canada. Using VIDEO AGENT, STAPLES Business Depot can now provide shoppers with new ways to get expert assistance when shopping their stores. Customers can walk up to VIDEO AGENT station and engage in a live, two-way video conversation with a highly trained sales associate who uses the interactive Experticity platform to push content from the Internet to consumers or place orders for customized business supplies. The agreement follows a comprehensive pilot evaluation in which STAPLES Business Depot rigorously tested the VIDEO AGENT concept, using it both as a vehicle to help shoppers get answers as well as a new resource for small business customers to create business materials.

“Shoppers have more options than ever and are unwilling to wait around to find a knowledgeable sales associate to answer their question,” said James Pelrine, Manager of Process Improvement for STAPLES Business Depot. “The response to VIDEO AGENT over the past two years has been overwhelmingly positive. People love the convenience of a standalone station where they can talk to real people and get great customer service. In addition, we have determined that VIDEO AGENT not only improves our customer service levels but also contributes to our bottom line.”

STAPLES Business Depot has been pilot testing VIDEO AGENT since 2006, when it installed six stations in five Toronto stores (including the busiest store in Canada located in Fort McMurray, Alberta). The VIDEO AGENT is a self-standing unit that includes a web camera, microphone, a scanner, and a customized user-interface that enables shoppers and sales agents to engage in real-time conversation via high quality video. STAPLES Business Depot has staffed a call center in Toronto with six highly experienced sales associates who can be routed to any of the 34 stores in an on-demand fashion. Through “right-staffing”, managers at STAPLES Business Depot can maximize the utilization levels of their most knowledgeable employees and pool them across multiple stores, gaining new efficiencies while providing higher service levels.

“While the Internet has given consumers new options when it comes to shopping, they still want a more personal level of service. However, when they go to a store and can’t get the service they need, they’re more inclined to take their dollars elsewhere,” said DL Baron, founder and CEO of Experticity. “By integrating cutting edge, customer friendly technology into their store environment, STAPLES Business Depot has demonstrated its commitment to providing an exceptional retail experience, one that will help them succeed in a highly competitive market.”

About STAPLES Business Depot

The Business Depot Ltd. was founded in Toronto in 1991. It is Canada’s largest supplier of office supplies, business machines, office furniture and business services for the small business and home office customer. The company is an everyday low price retailer. The chain operates stores in all provinces across Canada under the banners STAPLES® Business Depot™ and BUREAU EN GROS™. The company has over 13,000 employees serving customers through more than 265 office superstores, catalogue, and e-commerce. STAPLES® Business Depot™/BUREAU EN GROS™ is committed to making shopping easy by offering customers three ways to shop – online, by catalogue and in-store. More information is available at http://www.staples.ca.

About Experticity

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Experticity is the pioneer of live on-screen expert staffing technologies and has been developing remote service solutions for the retail industry since 2005. Experticity’s patent pending, proprietary right-staffing technology enables companies to load-balance live customer service staff from a remote location to service front-lines, using real-time, two-way video, audio, and data screens to provide customers with a personalized, one-on-one service experience. In 2007, Experticity was recognized by Red Herring Magazine as one of the Top 100 most promising technology companies in the world.