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Are Your Customers Working Too Hard to Be Your Customers?

  • Annette Franz
July/August 2017

The amount of effort customers must exert in order to purchase from, engage with, get support from or interact with your company should be a key concern for all supply chain management professionals. After all, customer effort can be a major point of contention and frustration. Measuring customer effort is one of the best ways to assess customer satisfaction and understand if you’re delivering a great customer experience. If you would like to alleviate your customers’ struggles, one of the best ways to do so is by taking a look at your company’s omnichannel offerings and capabilities.

First, make sure not to confuse omnichannel with multichannel or any of the other “channel” terms:

  • Multichannel describes offering or using multiple channels to interact with customers for purchases, support or whatever the customer is trying to achieve with a company. It does not refer to a consistent, seamless experience across channels. And because the channels are not integrated, the experience cannot be optimized. This often leads to a fragmented experience for customers.
  • On the other hand, omnichannel refers to using these multiple channels to interact with customers and let them engage with you in a consistently seamless way. The experience is consistent across all channels, and companies know who the customers are, what they’ve done at any previous channel and about their past interactions. Regardless of which channels your customers use, they feel like they are getting the same, personalized experience. They don’t have to start from scratch with each interaction. To them, you appear as one brand from channel to channel.

Most supply chain management professionals know that they have to offer multiple channels through which customers can interact with their businesses, but far fewer have mastered how to make the entire omnichannel ecosystem experience effective — and even fewer seem to be making it a priority to integrate the experience across all channels.

Why is this important?

Recent research by Oracle Retail and Retail Touchpoints notes that there is a great reason why businesses are so committed to omnichannel strategies: Omnichannel shoppers are significantly more valuable than single-channel shoppers. The report, “The Omnichannel Challenge: Strategies that Work,” explains that about 45 percent of retail executives believe omnichannel shoppers are 11 to 50 percent more valuable than single-channel shoppers. About 3 percent of respondents even claimed omnichannel shoppers are a whopping 200 percent more valuable.

The research notes that the three most significant ways that their value is measured are frequency of shopping trips, total dollar value of purchases over time and average basket size. These types of results clearly speak to the importance of focusing on the omnichannel experience, simplifying it and reducing the work that customers have to do when they are interacting with your company.

Big steps

Unfortunately, realizing less effort for your customers requires a Herculean effort by you, your team and your organization. Why? First of all, by definition, these advancements are not something that each individual department can fix or improve on its own; they require a company-wide transformation that begins with executive commitment and moves on to fully understanding your data inputs, outputs, infrastructure and flow.

Getting the executive team on board with resources, a budget and the like is likewise essential. Once this is accomplished, there are two essential next steps:

  1. Silos must be broken down. This is a culture thing. Departments need to start talking to each other, working together, and sharing data and information. The trick to this is helping everyone understand how they affect the customer experience and that every department touches a single experience in one way or another. The best tool to facilitate this type of understanding is a journey map.
  2. Get a single view of the customer. In order for objectives to be attained, data must be shared. Your chief information officer must prioritize this work, as the key to an improved omnichannel experience and, hence, a reduction in customer effort, is data. It must be shared across departments and channels; to do that, you first must have the right architecture and infrastructure to capture information, centralize it and get it into the hands of the right people at the right time in a format that makes sense and is actionable. This is no small feat!

Meaningful efforts

Here’s the crux of the matter: The reason why the omnichannel experience breaks down is that a business acts like it doesn’t know the customer at every touch point. For customers, this means having to reauthenticate themselves with each interaction: They essentially begin again by identifying themselves, explaining what they’re trying to do, who they’ve already talked to, where they’ve been and so on. You’re a customer; you know exactly what this feels like and why it’s so frustrating. Why would you ever want to perpetuate this negative experience with your own customers?

Today’s customers and prospects are extremely savvy and well-informed. They want to browse, shop, talk and otherwise interact with businesses through a variety of channels: in store, on the phone, online, through social media, on an app, via a web chat — the list goes on. Supply chain management professionals need to help their companies enable and encourage customers to use whatever channel is most convenient for them and ensure that the chosen channel affords a truly seamless and personalized experience. Then, and only then, will you have successfully reduced customer effort in a way that is both meaningful and impactful. Are you ready?

Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey. She may be contacted at cxjourney@gmail.com.

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