When online shopping increased during the global pandemic, many businesses had a chance to gain new customers. Research suggests that 73% of consumers who tried new brands during COVID-19 intend to continue doing so. With the decrease in brand loyalty, customer experience (CX) has become the new frontier to conquer, as businesses are no longer competing on price or product. Going forward, 81% of marketers expect to compete, mostly or entirely, based on CX.
Good CX depends on meeting individual consumer needs. Key attributes include customer control, visibility and effective problem resolution. During busy periods such as the Christmas season and Black Friday, many customers value efficiency and on-time delivery. But for some businesses, it remains a challenge to apply this crucial element of CX to every customer journey.
A personal example of the importance of excellent CX was my experience of ordering a custom-made sofa online. The selection and ordering process was modern and user-friendly, including the ability to order free swatches of many fabrics to evaluate in person before ordering.
Once I placed my order, I received a confirmation e-mail and estimated delivery date, along with a “follow your build” e-mail which enabled me to check on manufacturing updates of the product. I was later notified by e-mail that the sofa build was complete, and that the next phase would be for the item to go to a transit hub, where it might sit for up to a week to synergize shipping with other local purchases with the same estimated delivery date. The experience thus far had been in line with what I had expected from the brand’s modern persona.
However, when the sofa failed to arrive on time, my customer experience completely changed. I called three times and was told the same thing each time: the company didn’t have visibility into order status once the sofa was shipped, and I would have to await contact by the third-party delivery provider. Eventually, I got in touch with that company. I was told that it had my order information, but hadn’t yet received the sofa. The representative was hopeful that it was on the order they had received at the end of the previous week, and just hadn’t been scanned in yet.
The contrast between the customer experience of the sales and service processes couldn’t have been greater. The initial phase was so strong that my expectation of a positive experience was set, but it was cancelled out by the lack of visibility during the delivery process. The sofa I eventually received might very well have been phenomenal, but the overall lasting impression I have of the company is quite poor based on my service experience, or lack thereof. This means that businesses can do everything right in the sales experience, but if they neglect the final leg of the customer journey, it can all be completely undone, resulting in permanent damage to brand reputation.
Technology can play a key role in delivering a cohesive and satisfactory CX. Disparate tools and siloed data must be brought together so that the customer journey isn’t fragmented, and the service workforce must be equipped with the information, skills and resources to deliver the experience you want to be associated with your company’s brand. Money, time and effort can be invested to consolidate systems and reengineer processes to achieve this cohesiveness, and keep pace with the type of CX provided by consumer-facing brands like Amazon.
A reliance on third-party logistics providers is quite common. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to take advantage of the benefits that digital systems offer, in the form of asset visibility, connectivity and cohesive resource management, so that a third party doesn’t negatively impact the customer experience.
In a competitive retail landscape, failure to deliver at the last stage can cause a loss of time, money and brand equity. With all available technology resources, my shopping disappointment could have been entirely avoidable. It’s a tangible example that highlights how last-mile logistics impact real customers and have real consequences. Appropriate technology tools ensure that businesses can provide excellent customer experience, during peak times and far beyond that.
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