This past weekend I spent the afternoon doing one of my least favorite things – shopping. I do not mind going to the store and buying what I need and then leaving, but my wife insists on going through the entire store to make sure no hidden treasure is missed. As I was waiting for my wife to find that hidden treasure, I noticed signs that were posted throughout the store advertising the availability of their store associates, in brightly colored shirts, to help in locating an item if customers could not find it in the store. Since I work with positioning omni-channel solutions every day, I thought this was a great idea. However, I found that the associates were not truly enabled to quickly provide this help.
When it came to locating items in other store locations, the associates were relying on outdated processes. My wife found a coat she liked, but the size was wrong and there appeared to be no more available on the rack. She approached one of the associates in the brightly colored shirts and asked if there were any more in the back of the store. The associate said that there were no more in the store, but she could call other locations to see if they had the item. My wife agreed, and that extended my shopping experience by 15 minutes. When the associate finally returned, she had located the coat at another store and said we could pick it up at that location, or we could pay for shipping and have it shipped to our house. My wife told the associate that she was a preferred customer and shipping should be free, but the associate said that it did not apply since it was not purchased online. Needless to say, we did not purchase the coat.
It always surprises me that well-known retailers continue to struggle to meet the demands of customers by implementing processes that do not take into account the foundation needed to efficiently and satisfactorily address customer wants. Without a strong foundation, as many homebuilders will attest, the rest of the structure crumbles. There are varying degrees of omni-channel enablement that stores can employ to help the customer, but they should all start with a strong foundational solution that provides the flexibility to enable their employees to provide a pleasurable shopping experience that maintains the loyalty of the customer and increases sales. Let me know some of your stories that you have around this issue and click on the link if you want more information about store enablement.