Jewelry brand Sokolov talked about the testing and implementation of smart badges from VocaTech

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Sokolov jewelry house in Russia has implemented smart badges for all employees who work directly with customers, in partnership with VocaTech. The device records the seller’s voice when communicating with customers, and transfers recorded data via built-in Wi-Fi to a server for processing. The Sokolov company’s head of analytic center noted the badges were well received by employees and led to an increase in customer loyalty by 10%. The badges were also 30% cheaper than mystery shopper analytics in 2020. In the future, Sokolov predicts that smart badges will replace secret shoppers to evaluate employee performance.

Jewelry brand Sokolov talked about the testing and implementation of smart badges from VocaTech

In 2021, the Sokolov jewelry house, together with the VocaTech company, implemented smart badges for all employees who work directly with customers. As the company told Khabra, as a result of the implementation, the consumer loyalty index increased by 10% and reached 90%. At the same time, the brand spent 30% less on the launch than it spent on mystery shopper analytics in 2020. In a conversation with Habr, Alina Kolpakova, head of the Analytical Center at the Sokolov company, talked about the badge, its implementation and the results of its use.

Photo: Sokolov

A smart badge is a device the size of a bank card and weighs 45 grams, similar to a regular branded badge without any gimmicks. The device records the seller’s voice when communicating with customers. The system does not hear buyers: the microphone is insensitive and picks up the voice only at a distance of 50-60 cm, therefore, as Alina Kolpakova assured, everything is legal.

Using the built-in Wi-Fi module, the recorded data is transferred to the server in online mode. Since it is necessary to work with large volumes of raw data, VocaTech had to develop its protocol taking into account TCP maximum utilization of communication channels.

A pipeline based on RabbitMQ queues is built to process records on the server.

  • First, audio files are combined into logical blocks for several hours and processed using VAD (Voice Activity Detection). This allows you to reduce the amount of data for Speech-To-Text by 20-40%.

  • Next comes transcription of audio into text through the services of Sokolov partners, and audio files are cut into separate dialogues. At this stage, the audio is translated from RAW AAC for long-term storage.

  • At the final stage, the dialogues are categorized and analyzed by a neural network.

As a result, complete analytics from all processes in all branches of the company are available the very next day after data removal.

Project launch and comparison with mystery shoppers

Testing of the project was launched in 2021 in several stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg. For this purpose, the places with the highest traffic were specially selected, so that more feedback could be collected in a minimum of time. As Alina Kolpakova notes, employees accepted the innovation well, there was not a single situation when someone expressed negativity or refused to wear a badge during work.

Several months of testing showed the potential of the technology. During the initial period, Sokolov received three thousand fully analyzed consultations, which were worked on by data analysts. For comparison, during the same period, the company could receive a maximum of 100 cases from mystery shoppers. At the same time, the badges were 30% cheaper.

Sokolov managers decided to implement the technology at all retail outlets. By the end of 2022, smart badges were working in 342 Sokolov branded stores, and the total number exceeded 700 pieces. Today there are more than 1,000 of them.

In the process of testing, analysts discovered a trend: the effectiveness of mystery shoppers has been decreasing for several years in a row. Experienced salespeople have learned to quickly recognize bogus customers, because they largely follow a script and check a certain number of service features. If the mystery shopper is detected, the check is failed: the seller will make everything as perfect as possible. According to Sokolov’s estimates, boutique staff reveal about half of mystery shoppers, making this method of verification outdated and ineffective.

Smart badges allow you to evaluate the consultant’s communication with all clients, and not just with a selective one. At the test locations, experts noted that even the very fact of wearing a badge disciplined the staff. The consultant strives to better meet service standards, which indirectly increases overall sales. After the introduction of badges, the consumer loyalty index increased by 10% and reached 90%. As Alina Kolapkova assured, it is safe to say that soon the very principle of secret buyers will go into the past, giving way to modern technologies.

During 2022, more than 700,000 audio recordings were downloaded from all connected Sokolov stores. A hybrid approach was used to process such an array of data: at the first stage, analysts worked to customize the system, reporting and identify patterns that strengthened the company’s business processes. Now, this task is handled by a neural network, while analysts perform selective one-time checks.

Patterns that have changed sales processes

The study of audio recordings and the analysis of the personal results of each of the salesmen made it possible to test a number of hypotheses about the effectiveness of sales. In particular, analysts found that top salespeople are 26% more likely to announce company promotions and special offers at the very beginning of a dialogue with a customer and 19% more often to mention benefits throughout the conversation. In addition, the best results are shown by consultants who immediately announce the possibility of paying for the purchase with bonuses and inform that the discount in this case can be up to 99%.

The identification of the client’s needs and competent presentation of the products turned out to be the two other most important factors of efficiency. Top sellers were 18% more likely to ask multifaceted questions to determine a potential buyer’s need. At the same time, they related specifically to the individual preferences of the client, and not to general information about the goods. The dialogue with the client was 9% more likely to end with a purchase if the consultants colorfully described the product, drew the client’s attention to production technologies, stone cutting, features of coating and fastenings, as well as indicated the collection and talked about the brand.

As a result, Sokolov’s managers completely revised the processes of communication with potential buyers. Active work is currently underway to standardize scripts and principles of dialogue by consultants so that all brand representatives use the best sales tactics. The company’s store revenue ratio (LFL) increased from 45 to 56 compared to 2021 before the introduction of smart badges.

Prospects and experiments of smart badges

The field of application of smart badges is not limited only to the analysis of sales and methods of communication between consultants and customers. Sokolov analysts have a hypothesis that staff turnover and, as a result, the profitability of a retail outlet can strongly depend on the style and principles of management and the store director’s communication with consultants.

It cannot be measured by conventional methods. But badges can help with that. It is expected that with the help of recording communication of directors with subordinates, it will be possible to highlight a number of features and patterns that distinguish effective managers. By analogy with the development of scripts for consultants, it will be possible to create an optimal strategy for the manager, which will include the principles of motivation and encouragement of employees, discussion of controversial points and even communication style with subordinates.

For now, this is just a working hypothesis. The feasibility of director badges is still being debated, but Sokolov is confident that they can provide the same boost to workflows and revenue as those currently used by consultants.

Sokolov predicts that smart badges will soon completely replace secret shoppers to evaluate employee performance. Badges have already proven to be easier to use, cheaper and more accurate than dummy clients.

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In June 2021, Sber introduced the SmartBadge audio badge with a display and a microphone. A smart badge helps to record all stages of communication between employees and customers and transfer this data for further semantic analysis.

Last year in May, Beeline reported on the results of testing similar badges from VocaTech. Recordings were transcribed using the Yandex SpeechKit service. During the pilot, 66,243 hours of speech were transcribed. The pilot was deemed successful in achieving the project’s KPIs, and further full-scale implementation of audio badges and audio analytics was planned.

At the end of January of this year, the company “Octava DM” of the state corporation “Rostec” presented its own compact audio badge for recording, storing and processing negotiations of an employee with clients.

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