Getting the Retail Omni-Channel Experience Right

  January 21, 2014       Martin Taylor

What does it take to truly deliver an exceptional omni-channel experience? Here’s another blog from our Salesforce consultant – Martin Taylor, on his experiences with onmi-channel shopping.
Omni-channel simply means having the capability and will to deliver a consistent customer experience regardless of chosen channel across sales and service.

Here’s a personal account of substandard ‘omni-channel’ experience…

How helpful does this sound to you? A forlorn looking slightly overweight almost middle aged man walks into a sports shop looking for a pair of trainers for his 7 year old son for Christmas.
The assistant explains that the overpriced pair that his son had noticed some weeks ago are out of stock in his size, then with the help of some elaborate scanner informs him that they are available in another store (in another city) OR they can be ordered on line.

The man walks away reassured that he can visit the on line store and save a little time and energy – result.

It certainly appears that the shop assistant was going the extra mile – not only determined to bag a sale for her company – but really offering great customer service.

The fat, old bloke was me by the way…I visited the web site as soon as I was able to, found the item, found the required size, opened an account, chose a password, selected an appropriate reminder question from a drop-down menu and went to check out safe in the knowledge that Christmas was going to be a success…My peaceful, beautiful Christmas dream was shattered.

The already, way overpriced trainers (I know, I’m old, but he’s only 7 and will just kick a ball in them…) were now subject to a choice of delivery charges – I could have them next day, on a Saturday or the cheapest option – 3-5 days later. To add insult to injury, during the on-line ordering process (which I didn’t complete) unwanted items were added to my basket – at best, another example of inconsistency, at worst, a vague attempt to stitch their customers up. Either way, this seems to be a poor approach to encouraging customer advocacy or even on-boarding new customers.

In this word of omni-channel retailing, where channel consistency is highlighted as the aspirational strap-line, I object strongly to forking out another fee for delivery – am I the only one?

No, I’m not. There are several forums detailing similar experiences and I learned that others felt similarly cheesed off with the on-line experience (one customer even created their own web site dedicated to the subject).

The point is that I left the physical shop environment with a bit of a spring in my step thinking my Christmas was enriched only to experience a complete brand breakdown via another channel – the result being  no purchase and a high likelihood of never using them again.
What could the experience have been like?

  1. They could have held extensive stock at a high cost to themselves which the consumer would probably have to pay a premium for.
  2. The online store could have offered free delivery.
  3. The shop assistant could have offered me a code to order online with free delivery.
  4. The shop assistant could have ordered them for me – while I was there.

Any of those options would have been fine for me. Unfortunately, the option that they chose has completely turned me off their brand. I’ve lost the trainers – they’ve lost a customer – nobody wins.
Worst of all, I had to revisit the stores the weekend before Christmas to repeat the process…
I’m not advocating that businesses change the way they hold stock, structure their pricing or anything like that. I’m just saying; test your channel experience from a customer’s perspective and understand what consumers want – consistent experience and value for money!

I believe that with the right strategy around channel, operation and staff optimisation and the tools to enable it, you can create an environment where the customer is comfortable choosing you, staying with you and even advocating your service to their peers – get it wrong though and your customers may act like I have and advocate to others NOT to use you.

Salesforce is one such tool that can truly be embedded at the heart of your operations to ensure constancy of experience across multiple channels. We’ve worked on a number of Salesforce implementations and have successfully delivered Salesforce Service Cloud projects that have transformed the omni-channel experience for the end consumer.

If you’d like to see if we can help, we would certainly welcome the opportunity to talk this and other customer service challenges through over coffee – let me know. I promise I will deliver a consistent channel experience regardless of how you contact me.