“Can I help you?” Robots at Lowe’s

Lowes

It can be frustrating to wander around in a hardware store, searching for an elusive item, and without any customer service people to provide guidance. Lowe’s feels our pain and is ready to set loose a new type of customer service staff to assist shoppers. The bi-lingual, responsive, detail-oriented staff looks a little different though……. It’s a robot named OSHbot and is a product of Lowe’s Innovation Lab.

Customers can talk directly to OSHbot, have questions answered, and be guided to the spot in the store where the product can be found. OSHbot speaks multiple languages (a great boon for non-English speakers), recognizes hand gestures, and can also be used as a typical touch screen. If customers do not know the name of the item needed, OSHbot can view the item and match it with items in the store or the online database. It can even connect shoppers with off-site experts who can consult on home improvement projects.

Don’t look for OSHbot in all Lowe’s stores though. The company plans a limited rollout to test the robot in a San Jose hardware store, testing to see how people (and staff) interact with the new robot.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. First, discuss the implications of customer service in retail stores. When is service good, not good, where, etc.?
  2. Show the video of the robot in action:

http://youtu.be/Sp9176vm7Co

  1. Additional videos and innovation can be found at

http://www.lowesinnovationlabs.com/innovation-robots/

  1. Discuss with students the barriers that might limit or prevent robotic customer service.
  2. What other stores would benefit from a robotic customer service staff?
  3. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a protocol for a robot at a selected store. What are the functions needed? What other considerations should be accommodated?

Source: Wall Street Journal, Ad Age Daily, New York Times

 

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