Customer experience management usually lands in the laps of the marketing team. After all, they’re the ones who are responsible for fostering the relationship between the brand and the customer.
The idea that customer experience is exclusively a marketing problem is a little shortsighted for any business. For the multichannel retailer, it’s flat out incorrect.
Retail customer experience management is about solving two complex problems: meeting new customer demands and learning to execute an effective multichannel strategy. And these two problems cannot be solved in isolation. They are joined at the hip.
Meeting New Customer Demands
Delivering an exceptional customer experience is about consistency and care for the details. The market demands this. So retailers need to refocus on the behind-the-scenes processes and technologies that actually provide an exceptional customer experience.
Companies like Amazon have supercharged consumer expectations, redefining what makes a great customer experience. Now you are expected to:
- Offer ordering options like “buy online, pickup in store”
- Provide one- and two-day shipping options; Offer free shipping
- Provide personalized customer service online, on the phone and in the store
- Unify the in-store and online experiences (e.g. being able to tell a customer that the product they are browsing is available in their local store)
- Have what the customer wants when they want to buy it
Most of these are difficult-to-impossible in a retail business that looks at each channel in its own vacuum. The bar that Amazon set is the expectation, but meeting this expectation is complicated.
Battling the Multichannel Hydra
Being a multichannel retailer means fighting a monster with many heads. You probably have a webstore (possibly more than one). You may have multiple brick-and-mortar stores. You may sell through online marketplaces, like eBay or Amazon. You likely source from multiple suppliers -- they are channels, too.
Each of these channels is an opportunity for growth. But, each time you expand your market presence, you complicate your business. You make it more difficult to meet the customer’s new demands.
How do you unify customer data from all of those channels? How do you synchronize inventory and pricing information? How do you know where all your inventory resides? How do you manage drop ship suppliers? How do you tie all of this together to accurately communicate order status to your customer?
These questions all impact the customer experience. More importantly, they are questions you must answer if you expect to meet customer’s demands.
More Than Just Marketing
To deliver an exceptional customer experience, rethink how your business addresses it. Marketing plays a part, but true customer experience management means organizing your entire company around the right processes and the right technology.
The merchandiser must be able to publish the correct information to the correct channels. Images and product categories must be correct. They must account for the unique requirements of different channels (marketplaces versus your webstore, for instance). Otherwise customers will be confused or untrusting.
Merchandising affects customer experience.
The customer service manager must be able to track customer orders. They need access to a complete customer history. They must be able to communicate confidently and accurately. They must have a complete picture of the customer they’re dealing with.
Customer service affects customer experience. (Shocking, I know.)
The inventory manager must know where his products reside. He needs to much how much is where. He needs to know when to order from suppliers, how much he must order and from whom he should order. Every customer who reads the words “out of stock” becomes an unhappy shopper and a missed sale.
Inventory management affects customer experience, too.
I think you get the picture.
For the multichannel retailer, exceptional customer experience is a product of communication. It’s a product of data management. It’s a product of process. Broadly speaking, it’s a product of a whole bunch of things that the customer never sees and that the marketing team never touches.
Customer experiences aren’t just skin deep. Start building yours from the inside out.