Focus on Customer Experience Not Channels

We’ve found another great blog written by an attendee to eTail West 2011. This time around, we talk customer experience – a hot topic for many of the online retailers at the conference. Wanda Cadigan first posted this on Cactus/blog, an ecommerce blog offering digital marketing insight. Thank you for the thoughts, Wanda! – Kelly, Editor, eTail Blog

By Wanda Cadigan

Special to the eTail Blog

A couple of weeks ago I attended eTail 2011 and while there was a lot of great content presented, the one theme that seemed to resonate in every keynote and track session was that of customer experience.

I’m used to getting hit over the head with ‘multi-channel’ and ‘cross-channel’ at these conferences, so it was refreshing to see so many retailers and vendors position the end goal – that of delivering an outstanding customer experience. Now granted, it may sound like a fairly motherhood and apple-pie statement. Shouldn’t we all be focused on delivering an outstanding customer experience? Of course. But to date we’ve tended to frame the problem through our own internal lenses. Multi-channel. Cross-channel. Those terms relate to the hoops we have to jump through to interact with customers (i.e. silo’d teams, disparate technology systems).

But to a customer, the concept of channels is foreign or at least should be. And in fact, if they do recognize that they are dealing with the ‘online’ version, or the ‘mobile’ version, or the ‘brick & mortar’ version of your business, it’s a red flag. Customers will only think of your business as having channels when something is broken. I bought something online, but I can’t return it in to the store. I have a gift card that I can only use in the store, but not online, etc.

In fact, in an effort to be efficient, many retailers have created org structures to support this channel focus. For example, a creative team for web, and a creative team for mobile, a social team…but this can lead to a broken or fragmented customer experience.

Larry Freed is the President and CEO of Foresee Results and his presentation on customer satisfaction really solidified the importance of this as a primary focus for businesses. While he presented a wealth of great data nuggets such as, highly satisfied customers are:

• 61% more likely to purchase from the retailer online• 64% more likely to recommend the retailer’s website
• 45% more likely to return to the retailer’s website
• 60% more likely to be committed to the retailer’s brand in the future

…it was his discussion on customer satisfaction and its impact on the profitability of companies that was most interesting. His correlations of ‘American Customer Satisfaction Index’ with the S&P 500 cemented this hypothesis. Simply put, businesses that focus on (and deliver) customer satisfaction enjoy better profits.

“Collectively, the companies with high customer satisfaction scores (measured by the ACSI) have blown the S&P 500 out of the water, especially over the last few years.”

While we may have an inclination to organize resources by channels, delivering a great customer experience is not a linear exercise. It involves many touch points and will require collaboration from many resources. A company that leads with a focus on customer experience, rather than channels,  will drive customer satisfaction and ultimately revenue.