How Businesses are Paying Lip Service to the Omnichannel Experience

 In Articles

Despite a decade of conversations regarding the critical nature of omnichannel experiences and 360-degree customer profiles, there’s still a massive hurdle to get over regarding budgets, accountability, ownership and outcomes that is thwarting digital transformation and the creation of a seamless customer experience.

The dilemma can be boiled down to one question: who owns the customer experience?

Most business leaders will confidently proclaim that “everyone” owns the customer experience. The ‘everyone’ that executives are often referring to, however, is the ensemble of distinct departments that touch the customer journey. Typically, each of these departments – from sales, to service, to marketing, to product – have their own structure, KPIs and goals to convert customers and push them to the next stage of their journey.

However, approaching the customer experience in this myopic and territorial way doesn’t provide the necessary foundation to create fluid, holistic experiences. With each team striving to fulfill different metrics for success, departments end up siloed and processes and people become disjointed. Employees are only driven to pursue activities that yield bonuses within their team, and departments end-up investing in solutions and technologies that will only positively impact their own KPI’s.

Consequently, no one ends up investing, contributing or owning solutions that will improve the experience as a whole and the customer experience, and the goal for omnichannel, suffers accordingly. 

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The Aimless Sales Associate: A Symbol of Organizational Disconnect

Take the retail sales associate as an example of how this fragmented approach to the customer experience comes to fruition. Many organizations compensate their sales team based on the customers they convert in-store, motivating store associates to provide a top-of-the-line brick-and-mortar experience that influences customers to purchase more product at a higher price.

Yet, as we know all too well, the customer experience is rarely limited to the in-store environment. Many shoppers who come into a brick-and-mortar have already extensively researched products online.

Indicative of an omnichannel experience, this scenario beckons associates to build upon the customers previous online experiences by using their ecommerce purchase history, browsing and search behavior to provide a more tailored and productive in-store interaction.

Void of technology and critical customer information, however, sales are largely unsuccessful in their efforts to provide help or personalize the experience for today’s mobile-savvy customer – a dire circumstance which has led 83% percent of shoppers to believe that they’re more knowledgeable than retail store associates.

Additionally, many consumers (almost a third) visit the store first to see, touch and feel products before leaving and ultimately purchasing the items online. When a customer leaves the store empty-handed, sales associates should continue building on their in-store experience by collaborating with customers over the digital channels they prefer most – for example, sharing product suggestions via email or text. This approach would enable a seamless experience that drives more profitable customer relationships and sales.

Despite the enhanced experience these efforts would provide customers, we don’t receive these digital follow-ups from sales associates… which isn’t all that surprising considering that sales teams are only rewarded for the purchases they influence in-store. Rightfully so, sales associates are reluctant and disincentivized to interact digitally with customers, aware that it could motivate an online purchase which will ultimately be credited to the efforts of the ecommerce team.

The outcomes for the customer experience, the sales team efforts, and ultimately businesses bottom-line are grim. Customers are presented with disconnected interactions that only drive a single channels activity and sales have no way to fluidly build customer relationships or aid in the shopper’s experience.

Put your Customers at the Heart of the Problem

Fixing this problem is simple: organizations must put customers at the epicenter of their operations. When a business is customer-centric, everything that flows from it is made to support, and is in the best interest, of the customer. To quote David Cooperstein in the Forrester report, Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer, “a customer-obsessed enterprise focuses its strategy, its energy and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

While eradicating an age-old business model isn’t feasible overnight, many businesses have recognized the organizational disconnect and started moving toward customer-centricity by rooting out points of friction in the customer experience.

Integrate customer data to fuel customer-centric decisions

One of these points of friction that businesses have sought to relieve is the internal disconnect between siloed departments and the disparate data that resides within them – the main challenge that business leaders face in achieving a truly customer-centric organization.

To solve this problem, businesses have invested in technologies that are able to give every employee the necessary visibility and transparency to provide an enhanced customer experience. By integrating data from existing point-of-sale (POS) systems, CRM’s and ecommerce platforms, technology like 4-Tell’s Smart Commerce℠ Platform, can surface comprehensive insights in the form of customer profiles, a unified product catalog and business analytics.

With access to real-time product information and customer data, every employee across an organization can engage in more personalized customer interactions, identify opportunities to create products for the best customers, and use customer lifetime value to segment customers based on top spend. Customers are more empowered than ever before, which means your employees must be equally empowered to put customers first.

Measure success against the customer experience

To elevate customer obsession and address more fundamental wide-reaching opportunities, businesses can’t stop here. Organizations need to adopt a method of measurement that crosses gaps, breaks down silos and brings teams together. Afterall, the only way everyone can truly own the customer experience is if everyone is held accountable for it.

By making interconnected metrics like Net Promoter Score and other measures of customer satisfaction, customer success and customer loyalty the benchmark for success in every department, the entire organization will have the incentive to work together to a common goal of an enhanced customer experience.

In the last few years, we’ve seen numerous brands put the customer first in all that they do. Think Nike: “Everything we do starts with the consumer,” said Nike CEO Mark Parker, “It’s our obsession with serving the consumer that sharpens our focus and drives our growth.”

Other brands like Zappos, Nordstrom and Home Depot who are notoriously dedicated to customer-centricity have seen big returns. Research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer.

All sales associates are not aimless – they just don’t have the necessary foundation to engage in the fluid, personalized interactions that customer desire.

To quote Melissa Campanelli, editor-in-chief/content director of Total Retail, “Consumers today are channel blind; they just want great retail experiences.” Enabling these connected customer experiences, requires business leaders to unify internal processes and people through data, technology and goals. Incentivized by customer-centric goals and empowered with the right technology and data, every employee can create fluid experiences that drive customer loyalty and business’s bottom-line.

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