In early 2017, the Alberto concept store in Mönchengladbach was the first store in Germany to rely on voice-controlled technology with Alexa. After one year in practical testing the company is now also relying on Alexa to train its employees. Alberto's managing director Marco Lanowy explains why.
Since the beginning of 2017, voice driven technologies were applied at Alberto’s concept store. Back then Alexa still had a lot to learn. How did that work and what is the current state?
As Artificial Intelligence is constantly learning and we too with it, we are permanently developing simultaneously with the progress of technology. Therefore it is really helpful to develop an early interest in the topic. Nowadays, also the general market has recognized language and voice control as future-oriented subjects. Meanwhile, Alberto has even integrated Alexa into our merchandise management and training program. In doing so, Alexa doesn’t only tell the company‘s history, she also holds the answers for various needs. Conversely, this means that we’ve learned which questions have to be asked.
What are the true advantages of this technology for customers and for you as a retailer in the stores? For which purposes are customers using Alexa or would you say it is rather a technical gimmick?
We regard Alexa as a kind of “door-opener,” a playful element within our communication, which often ensures that information can be easily memorized. Nevertheless, the first contact always occurs through our brand ambassador in stores. In doing so, we consciously put Alexa in second place, where she’s always ready, waiting for her assignment.
And what does this mean for the service in stores/ on the selling floor? Should Alexa also be applied in other branches and replace sales consultants on the long term?
Alexa should train and support sellers, but by no means replace them. At this point, the human factor is irreplaceable!
Only recently, Alberto is using the technology for sales training. Why? Is it particularly to reduce caveats on the part of the sales teams or is it rather for entertainment? Lastly with Buzzer, everyone’s joy of playing is addressed…
To me it has always been a question of the corporate culture. I personally allow myself to always have a fresh perspective on things, which I try to cultivate–not least in terms of digitalization. We have achieved a lot, if we can convey knowledge and know the joy of playing. The great thing is that we didn’t have to digitalize our own pants, but everything around.
How important are training courses for Alberto in general? How often are they carried out and who manages them?
We always invest at all levels and sectors in courses and further training. Internally as well as externally. For example, our customer managers are always on the go within our sales area and are training at every level.
Today it is a challenge to find and also retain good sales employees. What are you offering Alberto employees besides training courses? How do you tie them to your company for the long term?
In the best case, employees are popular figures of the brand. We passionately try to convey and exemplify our idea and understanding of the brand. That’s why our 110 employees in Mönchengladbach, as well as the whole team are representing and characterizing Alberto as a brand. We're all fans and part of the brand. It’s this priceless "feeling of belonging together" in which we can’t invest enough.
Do you also use Alexa for private purposes? If so, for what precisely?
Yes, in the first place I use it for everyday: to play music, to turn the light on or off…or to have an overview of the waste calendar. Thanks to Alexa, I’m always informed about when it’s the right day for each container to be placed in front of the door.