Saving a Soccer Dad: How to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience
In a recent attempt to get his daughter the correct gear before her soccer practices started, a friend of mine drove to the local sporting goods chain to pick up a pair of cleats and shin guards. The minute he stepped through the automatic doors, he regretted not thinking ahead to purchase these items online. Shoes in sizes that no one wanted peaked out of their boxes on lonely shelves. The hooks where the bags of shin guards once hung looked as though tumble weeds might blow through at any moment. He stared at the shelves in defeat and strategized his next stop.
But to his amazement, a sales associate stepped up and asked what help he needed. He shared his problem and the associate pulled out his mobile device, ordered the necessary items for him and assured that they would be delivered to his home, at no extra charge, in time for his daughter’s first practice.
And, in just a moment, what looked like certain customer experience failure became an opportunity for deepening brand loyalty. The store had armed the associate with the right tools and, more importantly, the right information — ensuring he was confident and empowered to do his job. By extension, he left a positive image of the brand that ensured my friend not only feels confident to shop it again, but is willing to recommend it to others.
Upon hearing this story as a technology professional, my mind went directly to the systems that made the experience possible. The sales associate had access to enterprisewide inventory information in real time, as well as the ability to complete an order on a mobile device in-store. The retailer’s back-end and front-end systems could work together to enable that associate to deliver a superior customer experience.
Now it could have gone a totally different way — the way it typically does, in fact. Maybe the sales associate has a mobile device and can look across inventory at other stores, but can’t view inventory across offline and online channels to find what the customer needs, or ensure it arrives in a time frame and manner acceptable to the customer. Maybe the product in-store is offered at a cheaper price than online, further infuriating a shopper who still hasn’t solved his problem and now may have to pay more to do so.
Your Front-End Problem is a Back-End Problem
Many retailers are tempted to solve these customer-facing problems with investments in their customer-facing systems. They throw enormous amounts of money and resources toward prettying up the front-end experience with sleek mobile devices, social media campaigns or flashy websites.
But front-end systems can’t keep pace with the expectations of technology-empowered consumers if those systems aren’t being supplied with accurate, reliable data. Many retailers are in the process of trying to integrate their point-of-sale systems with disparate order and inventory management, as well as CRM and marketing systems, in an attempt to make them communicate with one another. However, even the largest retailers, who can spend millions on systems integration and customization, find this approach ultimately fails.
To deliver innovative customer experiences, you need to start with the basics. With unified back-end systems that hold one source of customer, order and inventory data, the sales associate can get a complete and accurate picture across all touchpoints. As the retailer, you’ll have the agility and ability to deliver on ever-increasing consumer expectations.
Let’s examine a few of the most in-demand customer experiences that a harmonized view of customer, order and inventory data can enable.
- Buy online/return to store: With centralized order management processes, your sales associate can easily view online order data and reconcile it with a customer standing in front of him in a brick-and-mortar store. Furthermore, with the ability to quickly and accurately address the customer’s return, the sales associate has time to suggest alternative products and facilitate a cross-sell possibility.
- Capitalizing on an abandoned shopping cart: With a unified platform and a central hub for customer data, an abandoned online shopping cart becomes an opportunity via an automated, personalized email to the customer that encourages a sale.
- Relevant email marketing: Without a single source of inventory data, you run the risk of sending an email to a customer who recently purchased an item in your store, only for them to click on the email and find it’s being sold at a lower price online. With a coherent view of that customer’s interactions across all touchpoints, you ensure relevant, timely and consistent communication.
- Accurate display of inventory levels: Perhaps a customer discovers an item is out of stock online, and is left wondering whether a trip to the retailer’s local brick-and-mortar store could solve his problem. With a single source of real-time, enterprisewide inventory levels, it’s easy to display inventory on your website from all locations, including physical stores.
- Facilitate online purchases for cautious in-store shoppers: Perhaps a shopper visits your store and tries on several items, but just isn’t quite convinced and leaves. With a unified platform for customer data, an associate can scan those items and “place” them in the shopper’s online shopping cart for consideration later at home, where the consumer may be more likely to purchase.
- Create an endless aisle: Or maybe the shopper loved the items she found but couldn’t find the size she needed. By lending sales associates a unified view of inventory across all channels, retailers can create an “endless aisle,” enabling the associate to complete the sale by finding the item in another channel and ensuring the most convenient delivery method.
Experience the Advantages of a Unified Platform
The most coveted attention to earn from consumers these days is their brand loyalty. However, a single bad customer experience can damage even the most virulent passion for your products. The most important thing you can do for your customer is ensure that her experience with your brand reliably and consistently solves her problems. With a unified platform, requisite single view of the customer, and integrated order and inventory data, you can enable experiences your customers can’t resist — and, like my friend, can’t resist telling other consumers about.
Branden Jenkins is general manager of global retail at NetSuite, a provider of cloud-based omnichannel software that helps retailers transform commerce by seamlessly connecting every step of the business — e-commerce, POS, CRM, order management, inventory, merchandising, marketing, financials and customer service.