How can brands measure consistency in the multichannel experience?

23rd Jun 2011

Jamie Thorpe looks at the most effective ways of measuring customer experience across the many channels that busineses must now operate - and how to ensure that they are consistent.

With trends in shopper behaviour shifting towards online, and customers accessing brands using online, face-to-face and phone interactions, linking up the whole shopping experience is challenging, while hugely beneficial. Consumers’ expectations have increased and continue to do so – if I can place my online shopping order at 6pm on a Sunday, why can’t I do the same face-to-face? Retailers need to evolve to suit shoppers’ needs, so, for example, one that doesn’t provide a mobile app may lose out to a competitor offering the full variety of ways to interact with their brand.
A consistent customer experience across a multichannel environment is the ultimate goal and retailers are starting to recognise the value of measurement to achieve this. ASDA deploys a mystery shopping programme to measure the multichannel experience by assessing in-store and online purchases, as well as home delivery. ASDA is extremely forward thinking in its approach and the company knows that its service is a key differentiator from its competitors; as such, consistency across the various customer touchpoints adds value right across the business.
Measurement programmes provide accurate insight into how customers are feeling and what matters most to them, which can be very different to the brand’s perception. So what are the most effective ways of measuring?
Different multichannel measurement
Mystery shopping can be undertaken for telephone and online shopping interactions, as well as the more traditional in-store shopper visits. Satisfaction surveys gather opinion and data from a broad base of customers about real life customer service experiences. Measurement of physical interactions is by far the most popular as there are more variables face-to-face, while online interaction is generally more controllable and process led which can mean that measurement of the online experience is lower priority.
Generally speaking, research techniques should be appropriate to the interaction, so when measuring the online experience, gather feedback by email, or if a customer has ordered by phone, a phone conversation is likely to be the best way to gauge satisfaction. It’s therefore likely when measuring multiple channels that a variety of techniques will be used to harvest the insight required. For example, online interaction allows shoppers to give their feedback quickly, at a time convenient to them, is cost-effective, plus it can tell you more about the customer’s behaviour, interests, etc. A good tip is to always ask the customer which channel they prefer to be contacted by in future, as this is likely to lead to higher engagement, evoke higher response rates and makes them feel valued.
Interestingly, more and more complaint handling is being conducted and even encouraged online, perhaps because this puts more distance between the brand and the customer and is less personal. In future this could also be an area that requires measuring to ensure brands provide methods of giving feedback and complaints that the customer wants.
Don't fall into the trap
But brands should also be aware of the risk of over-surveying customers, and should not ask for feedback if it’s not relevant. For example while out shopping recently I ordered my purchase using a self service machine and picked it up at the collection point as usual but was amazed to be asked to complete a survey about the customer service I had experienced, when in my opinion I had done all the work!
Research can help shape the experience so that it drives customer satisfaction and loyalty, service excellence and profitability – after all, brands should remember that it’s more cost effective to keep existing customers than gain new ones. So, find out what customers look for first when they visit an online store then make sure this is clear and prominent to visitors to your website.
A consistent customer experience should start by using data to define the customer journey and map out what consumers want each channel to deliver – it’s a competitive world out there and there’s a small window of opportunity to capture shoppers’ attention and ensure they come back for more.
The experience the customer requires will be different according to the channel they are using and significant purchases will, undoubtedly, involve them using several channels – you only need one of these to be underperforming to damage your reputation. Brands can fall into the trap of thinking that customers will only engage with them via one channel, but the reality is that they will choose the one that meets their needs at that moment in time. As brands strive to deliver in a multichannel environment, research is crucial to deliver the high customer standards both retailers and shoppers demand.

Jamie Thorpe is head of commercial relations at Grass Roots.

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