Halloween – one of the world’s oldest holidays – is by far one of my favorite holidays. Children, along with more and more adults dress up in costumes, trick-or-treat, and celebrate for days on end.
What I look forward to most on Halloween, besides using it as an excuse to eat all the candy and chocolate I want, is dressing up in a costume and to be a kid for a day. But this year, the weeks leading up to Halloween had me anxious and worried. Why? The plan I had for my costume was nearly derailed by a giant retailer.
A scary retail experience
Two weeks prior to Halloween, I ordered a pair of overalls for my costume from a department store’s website (no, we’re not talking American Gothic or Super Mario). The package was delivered in record time, but instead of opening a box to find overalls, I was surprised to find a pair of blue stilettos instead! I called the store’s customer service department about the mistake. Fortunately, the apologetic customer service representative ordered up a replacement, sent a confirmation email stating that the shipment was on its way and promised a return label for the shoes. But not so fortunately, the day after the call, I received another email notifying me that the replacement order was actually canceled with money credited back to my credit card.
Fine. At that point, the last thing I wanted to do was call the customer service department again. I was done spending any more time trying to figure out what went wrong with the retailer.
But I was not about to scrap my costume idea because a retailer could not fulfill my order. I was far too invested in my costume as I had already purchased other accessories that went along with it. So, without thinking twice, I purchased a pair of overalls from another online retailer.
And just two days later, much to my surprise, the originally canceled replacement overalls showed up while the return label for the blue stilettos didn’t. If only the giant retailer had sent me email messages with correct and timely information to rectify and continue my shopping experience, I would have had a much better customer experience … and not have to deal with two pairs of overalls from two different retailers.
A lesson learned the hard way
Retailers that have been successful as brick-and-mortar stores nearly always face challenges as they move to e-commerce offerings. In today’s super competitive retail industry, retailers, big or small, can neither afford to fall behind on e-commerce nor provide a less than stellar customer experience.
The department store mentioned in my example had the right business strategy – to drive sales growth through an e-commerce channel – but a poor operational processes strategy. This department store like any other retailer, needed backend systems orchestrated to withstand a domino effect, or have some form of automated check and balances to eliminate disruption in its operational processes.
If the department store I did business with had applications and systems that communicated with each other in real-time, I would not have had such a confusing experience. Even if I received the wrong items, the customer service department could have halted the problem from escalating. The customer service representative could have made the changes from his database and then immediately feed that data into systems from the fulfillment center, finance, and other departments. If this happened correctly, I would not have received a series of conflicting emails about my order cancellation and purchased another pair of overalls elsewhere, and the store’s finance department would not have credited money back to my credit card if their fulfillment center had my order on its way.
To successfully execute their business strategy for e-commerce, retailers must seamlessly connect multiple applications and systems together behind the scenes. Integrating applications and synchronizing data among the warehouse, sales and marketing, finance, and customer service departments may be daunting, but doing so is the foundation to providing exceptional customer experience and service. After all, customers will only remember their shopping experience from the point they go onto an e-commerce site to the product delivered to their front door.
Although my next order might not be overalls or blue stilettos, I hope I have a better online shopping experience in the future.