While I played up theiPad's ability to streamline back-office processes and improve operational efficiency, it will also add a huge "wow" factor for Arhaus customers. Upon meeting customers, delivery drivers will hand over an iPad, which will show a message from the company's owner thanking them for their purchase. Customers will then be able to browse through an online catalog while the driver unpacks and sets up their furniture.
If there is a problem with the purchase, the application will allow the driver to resubmit an order then and there, which Roddy says will speed delivery of replacement merchandise by three to five days. When the delivery is complete, drivers will use the iPad to collect an electronic signature, which will generate an invoice and prompt the financial system to e-mail a receipt to the customer.
Most folks who use the iPad seem to love it. Roddy, Arhaus' head of IT and the company's senior executives are all iPad converts, and he thinks the burly drivers will find them far easier to work with than the cell phones they use on the road now. Because of its intuitive interface, Roddy thinks little training time will be required for the iPad. Said Jennifer Friedman, TOA Technologies' vice-president of marketing who sat in on my interview with Roddy:
The iPad offers a pleasurable experience for everyone involved, the drivers and the customers. We think that alone is a great benefit.
A "pleasurable" experience is good, of course, but it's even better when it's empowering. Arhaus is just one of the companies mentioned by CRM expert Brent Leary in a Focus discussion of how social channels, mobile technology and location-based services could change the way companies approach customer service by giving customers more control over their own destinies. In addition to Arhaus, Leary (whom I interviewed about social CRM last August) provides other examples of companies that are improving operational efficiency while simultaneously wowing their customers. Among them: Southwest Airlines, Walgreens and Chase.