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CX – it's not all about the customer

In his latest article for MyCustomer, CTO Dan Hartveld explores why you can't deliver a better customer experience without better store operations.

Believe it or not, customer experience isn’t all about the customer – it never has been. While it’s absolutely essential to use digital to transform the in-store experience for shoppers, from online ordering in-store to clienteling, retailers are now waking up to the fact that without the same level of transformation in back-office processes and employee engagement, their strategies just won’t work.

Click and collect is a great example of an important aspect of customer service grinding to a halt if your support systems aren’t up to scratch. Research carried out by global analysts IHL showed that, despite most retailers offering the service and its evident popularity with customers, they are still experiencing operational issues when it comes to picking up purchases in-store:

  • 18% said their order wasn’t ready when they arrived to pick it up
  • 18% said there was no employee available to help them
  • 12% said that the pickup area was hidden at the back of the store, with no signage to direct them

And the problem will intensify over busy periods – if retailers’ systems can’t cope with click and collect orders on a daily basis, they certainly won’t be able to meet customer demands over the Christmas period, for example.

Inventory management is another key operational process that retailers neglect to their cost, as demonstrated by Lidl Germany’s attempt to implement ‘eLWIS’ - a new company-wide system for inventory control. After years of planning and investing around €500m, the company announced that it would be ditching eLWIS and reverting to its old system. What Lidl failed to recognise was that launching new software involved reviewing almost every business process – the management team refused to do this and instead of integrating the new system with existing ones, they insisted that it be adapted to fit instead. Inevitably, what amounted to forcing a square peg into a round hole ended in all systems failing to perform.

As retail commentator Florian Kolf pointed out: ‘altering existing software is like changing a prefab house, IT experts say — you can put the kitchen cupboards in a different place, but when you start moving the walls, there’s no stability.’

Both of these examples have the same issue at their heart – lack of acknowledgement that you can’t just ‘front-load’ tech-enhanced improvements and expect a better customer experience – you have to be prepared to accept change throughout your business if it’s going to work long-term.

The solution? Integration’s what you need

Digital transformation takes commitment to making a positive change not only for customers but for employees and business infrastructure as well. Retailers who have made a success of their digital stores and have delivered a better customer experience as a result have all approached this change with an open mind. A big part of this is having the vision to accept that systems integration and data democratisation will have to happen, no matter how much you’re wedded to existing processes. Fortunately, as long as you’re working with the right digital platform, you should be able to quickly and easily integrate all your systems, including legacy and third party, across the whole business. Once you’ve done an honest assessment of your operations from post room to boardroom and how they contribute to your business, you can start taking steps to ensure your operations are robust and efficient enough to back your ambitions for improved in-store service by:

  • Integrating back-end, online and in-store data rather than trying to retrofit your systems
  • Using information to close the gap between sales colleagues and customers - at the very least, ensuring that sales colleagues have access to the same data as customers
  • Democratising access to information across departments and between headquarters

It all comes down to a simple truth - better operations go hand-in-hand with better customer experiences; you can’t have one without the other.

Red Ant CTO Dan Hartveld
Dan Hartveld, 26th August 2019

This article first appeared on MyCustomer.

You can't deliver a better customer experience without first improving store operations

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