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How Our Own Remote Retail Clerks Are Changing “In-Store” Experiences – For Good

Beam Product Specialist Austen Trainer will tell you that he spends his time working at our Palo Alto, CA Suitable Technologies Beam Store educating people about telepresence technology: the general concept, specific uses, and technical details.

What he might not mention is that he’s actually physically more than 100 miles away from the store at his home in Davis, CA, sitting in his favorite chair, wearing a pair of comfy sweats, answering questions about Beam, with his dog at his side.

This is just one of the perks about Beaming into work, or any other remote location for that matter. In fact, we decided that having an entirely remotely operated storefront would be one of the best ways to drive home the reliability that Beam technology brings to the table. It’s been over 2 years now and the store still is a destination for many tech seeking companies visiting downtown Palo Alto.

Thanks to the positive response – the store is even a stop on some Silicon Valley tech tours – it’s now a permanent retail location fully staffed by remote workers like Austen in Davis and Kema Johnson, who Beams in from her home in Denver, CO.

The future of robots – in customer service, retail, and beyond

Like Austen, Kema appreciates being able to work remotely and also feels empowered by the innovations in the retail industry that she’s ushering in as a Product Specialist and Beam Pilot.

“If we have done our job right, you, the customer, should walk out of the store inspired, whether it’s seeing how you can spend more time with your relative who lives abroad; how you can have the ability to attend meetings that you may have not been able to; how much being able to Beam somewhere reduces your frustration and alleviates the cost of traveling… there are so many applications I have yet to think of but that always emerge as I talk to the visitors who come into the store.”

While tech-savvy sales processing is certainly part of the daily equation, having fun with customers and seeing how people react to interacting with a telepresence robot is what keeps the job interesting and unpredictable.

“People really lose their inhibitions when they think you’re a computer program,” says Austen. “The number one question I get is, ‘Wait, is that real?’, followed closely by ‘What’s to stop me from stealing you?’ or ‘What are you going to do now?’ as they cover the camera with their hand.”

Store manager Michelle Posey, who oversees the 12 Product Specialists, encourages her staff to get outside to mix and mingle with pedestrians – and on occasion, take a jaunt outside to visit nearby retailers.

“Recently we decided to venture around downtown Palo Alto on Beam and visit our neighbors at the store C.R.E.A.M. We rolled across the street, and waited in line patiently with the other patrons on a busy Saturday night, and once we got to the counter, ordered a bunch of ice cream sandwiches for our guests back at the Beam store.”

c r e a m

And while all customers may not get to enjoy a “Beam ’n Cream,” what they do get at the Beam store is to experience the future of customer service robots in retail, which is now being tested in other stores.

Beaming has its benefits

As for our Product Specialists, the perks go beyond being able to work from the comfort of their own homes and delight customers with the novelty of interacting with a telepresence robot.

When Austen first started working at the Beam store, he had been living in Southern California for a couple of years and hadn’t seen his dad for most of that time. One day his father had business in the Bay Area, so he stopped by to see Austen “in person.”

“It was awesome to get a chance to use Beam to connect with my own family, and it really confirmed my faith in the product,” Austen says.

For Kema, hearing customers’ stories and helping them see how profoundly Beam can change their lives is the most gratifying part of the job.

“I sold a Beam to a family who had an elderly relative with dementia who lived in a different state from them. Their entire family is now able to eat dinner with Grandma and check in on her as much as they’d like without her having to do anything at all. It is a powerful concept to have the Pilot in complete control from their smartphone, smart tablet or computer.”

At the end of the day, the life of a Beam Product Specialist is anything but remote; it’s a powerful way to make real-world connections, both professional and personal.

The Beam Store is located at 425 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301, (855) 200-2326. Come visit us in person, or Beam into the store!