On Our Radar


Why Technology Alone Can't Create An Omni-channel Customer Experience


Tom Cole, CEO at RDA comments on an article from American Marketing Association - Great case study on the breakdown between business processes, marketing, and IT.  Omni-Channel marketing is a business decision that will change your supply chain, IT systems, and connection with your customers for the better.”

Many retailers were built for broad reach, not depth. Software alone will not transform a business; it requires a change in product distribution and service, as well.

Traditional retailers are getting less sleep these days. Over the last five years, consumers have shifted to online shopping, which now accounts for nearly 10% of all retail sales. This should come as no surprise to the average shopper as devices, connectivity and user experience all continue to change and advance.

The classic bricks-and-mortar stores have certainly made attempts to play in the space. Many marketing and merchandising leaders have spent the last several years trying to create an omni-channel experience for customers, being a trusted brand wherever consumers are (in stores, on the web, via mobile).

But I want to share a story about my holiday shopping experience that exposes major issues that traditional retailers must resolve quickly. Otherwise, they will risk losing their core shoppers to e-tailers that meet the rising expectations of today’s consumer.

This fall, our dryer went belly-up, so we took advantage of Black Friday deals to buy a new washer and dryer set. After some initial research online, we braved the crowds of a big-box electronics retailer. We were greeted by an associate in the home appliances section of the store who answered all of our questions, showcased some models, even completed our purchase and scheduled the delivery. As we walked out of the store, we received e-mails confirming the purchase and delivery date. Being in the retail business, I thought this was how customer service should feel.

As the scheduled delivery date approached, automated confirmation e-mails and phone calls reminded us that our new appliances were arriving during the standard window of 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. And then, they didn’t show up.

Where Experiences Break Down

I spent hours on the phone trying to figure out what went wrong and eventually spoke with someone to reschedule the delivery date. The same series of events happened with automated calls and e-mails reminding us of the rescheduled delivery. Then, the night before at 10:00, I received a call that the washer and dryer were not coming. In fact, the soonest they could make a delivery would be more than 45 days after we originally made the purchase. I was not happy to say the least.

I tried voicing my displeasure with the scheduler, who didn’t seem to care. I tried calling the store I purchased from but was rerouted to a centralized call bank that never made its way to the physical store. I e-mailed and tweeted the retailer to only get routed through a generic, slow-moving customer service process.

I felt helpless. So I trekked out to the actual store where I was able to talk to a human, and they worked the system to get me an expedited delivery date. Then the unexpected happened—we received two sets of washers and dryers.

What a rollercoaster. An annoying, head-jerking, expectation-missing rollercoaster. How did this retailer get to this place? The company built solutions to expand their offerings to customers and tools for employees, but in the process, it created a series of disconnected systems and unaligned accountability measures.

This isn’t uncommon. Companies’ internal systems—everything from tracking to resource allocation to investment strategies—are set up to support the existing business model. In many cases, they are built in silos, and legacy systems are well-established, difficult to change and often conflict with newer digital initiatives. This creates tension in the value chain among the different parties involved (in-store, warehousing, delivery, customer service, digital, online support). My fantastic in-store experience was completely destroyed by the poor communication and incoherent telephone and online service I received post-purchase.

How Technology Should Work

Digital should be an enabler, strengthening relationships with your customers to a new level of intimacy brands and retailers haven’t been able to scale until now. However, the retailers of commerce-past were built for broad reach, not depth. Software alone will not transform a business; it requires a change in product distribution and service, as well.

For retailers to play in both the online and bricks-and-mortar game, business models and channel strategies need to change in unison. It requires a cohesive strategy that ties all of the customer touchpoints together, rather than operating each independently.

Marketers have a right to drive this strategy while collaborating with functional leaders in operations and technology. Each leader must clearly establish what needs to be done to deliver on the overall promise of a great customer experience. That will often include an examination (and in many cases a reshaping) of the value chain for customers and partners to include new measures and metrics that reflect the desired end state.

In 2017, customers can purchase anything they can imagine directly online, but there’s still a need for an incredible in-person experience. Whether you are transforming your existing business or building a new one, alignment is imperative across the major business functions to provide the best possible interactions with customers, wherever they begin engaging. And they should be connected and clearly communicated.

Shoppers’ expectations have never been higher. Are you missing, meeting or exceeding them?


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