Retail customer journey – Mind the gap

Retail Customer Journey

Every large company (and many small ones) struggle to bridge the disconnect between internal perceptions of customer need and service delivery and the reality; unchecked the gap can be fatal.

As I was reminded by our newest Client Wolseley, retailers feel the pressures of multichannel customer experience more acutely than most. If they get too removed from customer reality things can go very wrong, very quickly.

It's not often one has an epiphany but our newest Client Wolseley has created just that for me.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always been very wary of retailers - ever since working with M&S. All was panic and short-term tactics ultimately generating more heat than light, and at great expense.

Maybe I’ve got smarter or maybe I’ve just been lucky to work with a better Client but recently I’ve really enjoyed the demands of retail.

They say "retail is detail" but it’s much more than that, it’s also about getting the right balance of pricing, range and service cross multiple channels if they are to earn trust at every encounter and build share of wallet. If retailers get too removed from customer journey reality things can go very wrong, very quickly.

Plumb Center stores, just one touch-point in an intricate multichannel retail customer journey
Plumb Center stores, just one touch-point in a multichannel retail customer journey

Wolseley’s intricate multichannel retail customer journey

If you’ve not heard of them Wolseley are the world’s largest supplier of plumbing and heating supplies to the trade. With brands in the UK that include Plumb Center they interact with customers via some 700 stores, direct delivery, a range of digital channels, call centres and a large field sales team.

Their Multichannel Director understands the importance of staying alive to the swiftly changing expectations and experiences of customers and staff across their key touch points and he asked us to use a wide range of research techniques to help him do this. A key part was the implementation of an extensive Mystery Shopping programme to provide an independent, factual record of actual service delivery.

We asked Customer Journey Consultancy to help us understand how we could further improve our multichannel offering to our customers. Using a mix of mystery shopping, customer insight and debriefs with branch and contact centre colleagues they were able to confirm and prioritise our customers’ needs by segment and the strengths and weaknesses of our current multichannel customer experience. As part of improving our multichannel offer, CJC have also helped with the design and copy of key aspects of our online journey. We have been pleased with the contribution of the team and plan to use their expertise in more areas going forward.
Jeremy Maxwell, Multichannel Director, Wolseley UK

Every large company I have worked with struggles to bridge the disconnect between internal perceptions of customer need and service delivery and the reality; unchecked the gap can be fatal. For example some Financial Services companies, despite their protestations, exhibit a deadly lack of interest in what their customers feel preferring to think that it is somehow sustainable to be mistrusted, or worse. (I can only assume this has been fostered for decades by a lack of compelling customer choices.)

Although the barriers to cross-functional change are just as thorny for retailers, they seem to be more keenly aware of the importance of customer perception than some. However understanding customers is only the first step, doing something about it is even more difficult.

As you will know only too well, one of the key challenges of multichannel customer journey change is developing a shared understanding across functions of the issues and then building alignment behind a course of action that will consistently, and profitably, improve customers' experiences. This needs to be done by implementing changes (to communications, people, process and systems) that reduce customer effort and vitally that also (as our Head of Transformation constantly reminds me) reduce the effort of the front-line staff who must deliver those services. That is one reason why collaborative design is such an important concept here.

Our team of diverse talents have certainly all had their part to play over the past few months. One area that was particularly enjoyable for me personally was the redesign of key parts of Wolseley’s online customer journey. It is very rewarding to help make the complex simple and our growing creative team are certainly teaching me new things in this regard every day.

Here is hoping your own epiphany is a good one. Mind the gap!