Maximum Service

A provider of business-to-business office product solutions and retail office supplies, OfficeMax strives to deliver a positive customer experience in the service, value and time savings it provides, by focusing on its customers. More than 40,000 associates service customers through direct sales, catalogs, Internet and nearly 1,000 superstores.

POS Overhaul

In order to provide the best customer service experience possible, OfficeMax required more flexibility in its system, particularly with respect to pricing. The retailer had to make certain that prices were highly competitive and correct.

OfficeMax also wanted to get a better sense of what customers were purchasing through more detailed collection of sales data. This would enable detailed reporting at the corporate level, including market basket analysis, category sell-through and inventory stock levels, further fulfilling the customer's needs.

In addition to improved pricing capability and data collection, OfficeMax was also looking to checkout customers more quickly and effectively. "Today's customer doesn't want to stand in line for a long time," says Kevin Stack, vice president of infrastructure services for OfficeMax. "We wanted to checkout customers as fast as possible, not only with updated hardware, but with efficient re-pricing in instances of buy-one get-one free, bundled pricing or date effective pricing."

OfficeMax management and associates were able to perform some of these tasks on the old system, "but only with much pain and administration work at corporate," adds Stack.

To alleviate that pain, the retailer tested hardware among multiple vendors and selected a Wincor Nixdorf BEETLE /M POS configuration, which runs on a custom operating system using Microsoft Windows XP Embedded and Fujitsu's GlobalStore POS software, which serves a dual role as in-store POS servers and POS checkout systems.

Each system is powered by a 1 GHz Intel Pentium III processor and includes a touch screen display for ease-of-use, debit and credit capabilities and a smart card reader. The system is integrated with third-party peripherals including Epson TM-H6000II printers, Symbol LS1902T scanners and Hypercom ICE 6000 signature capture terminals.

Planting New Technology

The replacement of software and hardware with newer technology has now been completed throughout all OfficeMax stores. "We rolled out the project in multiple phases in order to plant a seed of the new technology in each store," says Stack. "We did 50 percent of the registers over 18 months, and by the end of next year we will complete the other 50 percent."

Since planning for the project began in late 2002, the retailer installed 2,000 systems throughout 2003 and the first half of 2004. Another 2,000 additional units will be installed over the next year.

The open platform enables the new systems to work adequately with the original technology, ensuring smooth operations during the transition. Using the new POS systems, OfficeMax has experienced faster checkout times and improved CRM capabilities at the point of sale €” improving customer service.

"70 percent of what we do now, we couldn't do before," says Stack. The retailer is also benefiting from better accountability, pricing and reporting capabilities in addition to a better view into each associate's performance. Not only has the capture and manipulation of this data improved, but the retailer can now distribute and manage registers from a remote location.

"From corporate, we can touch registers across the country," says Stack. This capability enables the retailer to not only control applications more effectively, but also to fix any malfunctions or errors much faster.

"We want to create the best registers in the industry," concludes Stack. "We want the customer experience to be stellar €” satisfying, fast, with more customers in-store with the most pleasant exit possible."

Focus on the Customer

In addition to requiring more flexibility in its POS system, the retailer also required more flexibility from its associates. In order to provide customers with the best shopping experience, OfficeMax associates had to be well versed in all aspects of the store and had to be trained quickly. The more knowledgeable associates are, the more flexibility and confidence the retailer has in scheduling employees.

As a result, OfficeMax decided to empower employees with two-way radios and headsets. The radios are a key communication component in allowing OfficeMax to maintain its commitment to customer service excellence.

The retailer created an internal employee program, Boundless Selling, designed to provide instant communication between employees €” resulting in the increased ability to effectively answer customer inquiries and deliver top-quality service.

Understanding that a strong communications partner was needed to give OfficeMax the technology to make this happen, the company reviewed the qualifications of many vendors. Ultimately, Motorola was selected to first provide its Spirit GT model and later its CLS Series business-class two-way radios.

Since 2002, OfficeMax has purchased more than 14,000 Motorola business two-way radios for the Boundless Selling program €” ensuring that each employee has a radio to use. The program enables employees to share the combined knowledge of the entire staff.

"Boundless Selling with the two-way radios has proven effective for all of our stores," says Kellie Houser, DVP store operations, OfficeMax. For example, if an employee is faced with a customer request, instead of taking time to search for an associate to help them find the answer, they can utilize the two-way radio to ask the entire staff the question and respond accurately and efficiently to the customer. The radios also enable new employees to get up to speed quickly since they can rely on the trained staff for instant assistance at all times, in any part of the store. "Excellent customer service keeps our customers coming back again and again," Houser adds. "The information transmitted over the radios play an important part in making that possible."

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