Joining up the channels

DSC_0003As with many consumers today, multichannel shopping is a convenient option for me. However, I am yet to be convinced that the stores are able to provide the seamless omni-channel service they are currently all shouting about.

The ability to provide a faultless transaction using more than one channel is for me the main issue. In the race to provide the high level of convenient digital service that is so in demand by consumers today, retailers aren’t stopping to join up all their channels. As a result, we consumers are presented with broken and mismanaged multi-channel shopping services that are in fact inconvenient.

Here are a few recent examples where the omni-channel shopping experience service didn’t quite work for me:

Supermarket – Click and Collect

After purchasing my item online on the supermarket’s website I opted for what seemed to be a handy click and collect service. I selected the most convenience store and collection time available that fitted in nicely with my working day; while noting that pick up times weren’t so practical for people who wanted to collect their item in the day time as goods were only available after 5:30pm. On arrival, I was disappointed to see that there was no drive through option to collect as with other supermarkets, and so my only option was to park my car and go in store. Once in store I was greeted with a Click and Collect collection point sign and a digital touch screen that prompted me to enter my collection details. Following this I received a ticket that advised me that my order would be delivered shortly to the customer collection area and that details were on view on the digital screen. At this point service levels dropped somewhat. Firstly while visible, the designated Click and Collect area was largely obscured by the flower area and had no waiting area or seats for customers, leaving myself and fellow Click and Collect shoppers unsure if we were even in the right place. Secondly, the digital screen was out of order and so we were left waiting for a good 5-10mins until a staff member eventually came along with our items. After all that, the presentation of my purchase was lacking somewhat and the packaging was also damaged.

Digital goods  – Click and Collect

Getting a bit of Christmas shopping in early seemed like a great idea, and so I opted to buy a laptop online and collect in store. Unfortunately on entering the store the service went downhill; the laptop presented to me was the wrong one. A helpful staff member suggested that I re-order with him in store which required him having to give me a refund and then go back online to order the item again at the online price. This sounded relatively straightforward, but unfortunately he couldn’t understand how to work the consumer website which meant I had to do it for him. On top of this the new laptop had to be delivered to a different store, as there were none allocated for the current store that I was in. After faffing about for a while, the assistant presented me with a print out of my new laptop order and I went on my way safe in the knowledge that my laptop would be available for collection the following weekend. So, a week later I arrived at store number two to collect my laptop. On arrival I was asked to wait for the single member of staff that could deal with my order. Twenty minutes later I was served and thankfully presented with the correct laptop, however this time I was informed that the price had gone up as the online deal had ended.  I calmly pointed out to the store assistant that I had in fact ordered the item two weeks ago while it was on offer and that the store had messed up and delayed my order, and while all this was happening the price had gone up. Therefore I could not be expected to pay more. Missing my point entirely the assistant agreed that I could buy the item at the original sale price, because I had been waiting so patiently!

DIY stores – Online products only

It’s all very well having an online channel that sells a greater range of products, but stores also need to provide staff with access to information about this extended product range. DIY stores are good examples of a bricks and mortar stores working independently to the online channels. Recently I found what looked like two great work surfaces online, but before purchasing either I wanted to see them in store. So I made a visit to the local DIY stores and asked to view the items in question, at which point in both cases I was told by the sales floor assistants that the items weren’t in store and were probably online only products which incidentally the staff knew nothing about.  My only option was to order the items online and return them myself if they weren’t suitable. Needless to say I didn’t buy the products as it all felt rather complicated and inconvenient.

In defence of these stores, at least they are trying to get on the digital convenient bandwagon, while others are missing the boat entirely. Take self-service in heath and beauty stores for example. It is often the case that stores like health and beauty have long queues with many customers buying just a few items. While waiting in line to be served by the one staff member working on the tills, I overheard another customer asking if there were self-service tills in store. The customer was surprised and disappointed to learn that the store we were in didn’t offer this service. While, the customer remained in line waiting to be served the good old-fashioned way, this is a good example of customer expectation today and how easily it is to disappoint.