Ed's Take: Keeping Customers Happy, Regardless of Channel
Cross-channel retail integration can mean many different things to many different people.
It can refer to integrating a brand across a variety of channels, such as retail store, website and catalog, for example, which Brent Niemuth discusses in "The Integrated Shopper," beginning on page 13. Niemuth explains that for consumers to really connect with a brand, they must have the same brand experience online, in-store or with its catalog.
It also can refer to integrating inventory, fulfillment systems and pricing. Or cross-channel retail integration can refer to integrating the customer experience across online platforms (e.g., social networking sites, mobile, email, and online advertising platforms such as search and display) and offline platforms (inserts, space ads, solo mailings, DRTV, telemarketing campaigns and DR radio). And going along with this concept, it can refer to integrating data to achieve a central view of the multichannel customer.
Another very important area in cross-channel retail is cross-channel customer service.
During less-than-stellar economic times — when staffs and resources are cut and a general malaise abounds — some retailers may think of customer service as an afterthought. And making sure it's integrated across channels? That's likely last on their lists. But despite the economic situation, consumers are as savvy as ever, and as a result expect excellent customer service regardless of the channel they choose or the company's economic situation. In fact, in bad economic times, consumers hold tightly onto their money. If they don't get the service they believe they deserve, they'll go elsewhere– — or perhaps not spend at all.
You probably offer great cross-channel customer service. But if you feel like you need a little improvement, which companies can you look to for inspiration and ideas?
L.L.Bean, for one, at least according to the 8,600 U.S. shoppers surveyed for the fifth annual NRF Foundation/American Express Customers' Choice survey last fall. L.L.Bean was voted No. 1 in customer service across all retail formats in 2009 for the third year in a row.
The survey was conducted by consumer marketing intelligence firm BIGresearch in September 2009. For the survey, consumers were asked to answer the following open-ended question: "Thinking of all the different retail formats (store, catalog, internet or home shopping), which retailer delivers the best customer service?"
L.L.Bean wasn't the only retailer shoppers praised. Overstock.com, Zappos.com and Amazon.com took positions two, three and four, respectively. Each of these online retailers held on to the same spot it secured in 2008, according to the survey. QVC, moving three spots forward from 2008, rounded out the top five. Other multichannel retailers that landed in the top 10 included Coldwater Creek (six), Lands' End (eight) and J.C. Penney (nine). Climbing nine spots to a top 10 position was HSN (seven). Tied for 10th place were Nordstrom and Kohl's, which moved up the list from No. 18 last year, according to the survey.
What are your cross-channel customer service strategies? Do you make sure you offer the same level of customer service no matter where your customers transact? Has anyone complimented you on your service? Do you have any strategies you can share? Let me know by sending me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps we'll use your examples in an upcoming article on the subject.