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Digital-first mindset needs to be customer-centric

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Wasn’t the online shopping experience going to mean alignment with the shopping, systems, and service of a company?

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Wasn’t the online shopping experience going to mean alignment with the shopping, systems, and service of a company?

It hasn’t.

In fact, the more “automated” things get, the more manual the process has become… for customers.

Unfortunately, I’m sure you’ve had an experience just like this one recently.

Our sump pump stopped pumping recently, so we had to change it out. I went on to the website of a national do-it-yourself mega store and found I could buy one online for immediate pick up at a store close to me. So, I purchased it online and within minutes I received an email confirming my order. I just had to wait for another email indicating the item was ready for pickup.

After waiting for over thirty minutes, and with a rising sump pit, I decided to drive to the store to check on the status of my pump. When I approached the “pick up online orders” counter, the clerk advised me that there were no items in stock. The clerk said that sometimes refreshing the website with accurate inventory totals can take a day or two.

One of the staff from the plumbing department overheard our conversation and told me he thought he saw that item on the shelf. After taking me to the aisle and checking out the stock on the shelf and “in the back” of the store, no luck. Strike two.

Interestingly, while the staff could clearly see there was one sump pump in stock and that it was the one I ordered, there was no available item in the store.

The plumbing department associate walked me back to the initial clerk, who checked to see if the item was available in another nearby store. After checking the store site, they indicated that the store had two in stock. As a precaution, they called the nearby store to confirm and the person at the other store ended up hanging up on them. A second call to the store manager resulted in placing us on hold, and with no resolution in sight, I left for home to help my wife bail out the rising water in our sump pit.

Not only was the website information wrong, there was no co-ordination with staff, and they did not receive the appropriate assistance from their colleagues at another store.

Contrast this with a visit to London Drugs where we needed to check if a certain coupon was still active. My wife asked the associate in the health and beauty section if she could check our account for the potential discount. The answer was, “I am just filling in for someone. But I can scan an item and then check your account.” She did and confirmed previous redemption of the coupon.

In each situation, staff tried their best to assist. In the first case, the company did not properly update their operating system, and the staff could not confirm the correct order status. Their colleagues at the nearby store also let them down. In the second case, the company’s operating system worked properly and provided the information quickly and the associate knew exactly what to do even though it was not her primary responsibility.

One important foundational element of a winning game plan is a basic operating system that works for everyone on the team. Everyone can access the data. Providing answers is part of the culture. Staff can properly take care of customers.

Coming out of the pandemic, where online ordering was prevalent, you would think that resolving these issues was a priority. One company had things working and the other did not. While experts have written extensively about the importance of a digital-first mindset in organizations, I counter this position with the belief that a customer first mindset is the most important.

I would like to see an executive from the DIY store perform the exact steps that I did and then monitor their reaction. A winning game plan indicates that everyone in an organization has confidence that their systems and processes are customer-centric and operationally efficient.

When was the last time that senior leaders in your company bought something from your website or store without exercising “executive privilege?” Have they tried to complete a transaction as if they were a regular customer with no special privileges? The most successful companies regularly check the ease and completeness of engaging in a transaction with their own company and with competitors for the sake of comparison.

When you make it easy to do business with you, customers are more willing to spend, and spend more often, without checking your competitors.

Tim’s bits: This seems like an extremely basic situation, yet it is still foundational to any company. Creating a winning game plan must include ensuring your systems, processes, and staff can deliver on what your customers expect. And this must happen consistently across all buying platforms.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

tim@tk3consulting.ca

Tim Kist

Tim Kist
Columnist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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