Editorial Roundtable: Maintaining A Lasting Customer Experience In New Retail Reality
eBay, Away, Parachute, quip, peach, and Salesfloor on how to attend to the pain points that come from a customer-first identity
PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
Last year, PSFK described the 10 pillars propping up the new shopper experience. But we live in a retail reality so rich that it bears multi-stage analysis and review. This year then as we promote our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK is reflecting on a different concern: how do you actually go about making the new shopper experience happen? That is, what nuts and bolts are necessary in the creation of a fully functioning machine that can respond to today’s retail landscape? The things that happen behind the scenes, behind the fitting rooms, behind the window displays.
Beyond understanding what customers want—convenience, personalization, and seamless, omnichannel access—how can you create an organization that wields employee development, optimized operations, and the latest technologies to deliver on those wants? In other words, what does it take to create a customer-first company?
Our Future of Retail 2017 experts include:
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor – a tech platform redefining the role of ‘salespeople’ for the industry’s largest retailers.
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away – the luggage company who tailors its collection of products for the modern traveler.
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute – a company rethinking the quality, comfort and design of your bedding—at a sliver of the price.
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip – an oral care company that has simplified oral health for many a happy mouth.
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach – an intimate apparel company using machine learning and in-person and virtual appointments for optimal bra fit.
Suzy Deering | Chief Marketing Officer at eBay – the multinational online marketplace remains one of the most recognized names in the dot-com space.
(Below is the fourth and final part of a four-part editorial series).
Customers want more for less, in less time, and without any hassle along the way. How do you keep the customer experience good to the last drop in this new retail reality? As with all other ambitious endeavors, growing pains will become inevitable as companies grow into customer-first versions of themselves (hence this roundtable). Where can you foresee the biggest operational problems arising? What should brands look out for (or be wary of) as they shift to a customer-first identity?
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute
“As you grow, there’s more room for operational errors, and the problems are exponentially bigger. These challenges are inevitable. What’s important is to be transparent with customers from the beginning.
We encountered a situation where an international freight delay affected our ability to fulfill orders. We communicated this information to our customers immediately instead of trying to cover up the problem. Then we made ourselves available to listen to our customers and answer any questions. Because we were candid and acknowledged the challenge head-on, not one customer canceled their order. In the end, what matters is the relationship you have with your community. They need to know they can trust your brand. Loyalty is yours to lose.”
Suzy Deering | Chief Marketing Officer at eBay
“With the onset of data-driven insights, coupled with omnichannel experiences rising to the forefront of everyday searching, browsing and purchasing behaviors, brands now have more ways than ever to understand a customer’s needs and to provide personalized experiences and engagements. The challenge is, most organizations don’t have the operational efficiencies to deliver these engagements at scale—and connections with customers can be lost.
From content creation, offers, timing of when to connect with a customer and ensuring that a brand is showing up consistently across each touch point—these are just a few variables that need to be steadily and persistently managed to provide a truly customer-first experience. What’s more is, once a brand promises to deliver a personalized experience, if they fail to follow through for every single engagement, they can lose customers—and often times getting them back is an even tougher struggle. It’s a fine balance, but if a brand can master it, manage expectations and not over-promise, the pay-off is a loyal customer for life, who will actively advocate for your brand.”
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor
“During a time where technology is constantly evolving and changing the experience for consumers with just the click of a button, it is crucial for retailers to keep up with change. In order to keep the customer experience good to the last drop in this new retail reality, retailers must provide a seamless and personalized experience across all channels and continue to build their omnipresence, rather than solely focusing on one-off omnichannel initiatives. One of the biggest operational or execution elements will be to redefine some of the roles within a retailer to deliver on a new customer experience vision. This also requires adapting new technology that supports these changes, but the bottom line is retailers need to change how they are used to doing business, which isn’t easy. A good example of this is redefining the role of a sales associate. Sales associates shouldn’t be limited to selling only within the confines of the brick- and-mortar store. They should serve their local online customer just as much as their in-store customer, but they need to have a digital skill set to use technology and communicate digitally vs. face-to- face with customers. Retailers need to change the way they leverage their sales associates and adapt them to the new retail reality.”
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip
“With infinite resources, own every step of the supply chain and communication with the customer possible. Without those, spend time choosing the right partners that align with the size of your company and your brand ideals. On the non-logistical side, and a huge thing for us at quip, is placing a huge importance around the Customer Experience team. The insights you gain from a great CX team end up driving so much of what we do. Identifying which services are working, what language is right and wrong, what surprises and delights, what angers and confuses, so if you have the right people overseeing CX that work, communicate and operate right next to the CEO/COO or whoever is responsible for operations and experience decisions is probably the best efficiency of all. Some things that look good on paper (or even in surveys) end up being the exact opposite when you speak to your customers, so speak to them as openly, honestly and often as possible if you want to know how to deploy limited resources you must satisfy their omnichannel desires. And more importantly, to get it right.
The biggest problem for some brands, which online clothing brands have been feeling the hardest for a while now, is returns. Brands are making the ‘buy in’ and the ‘return’ so easy, free and fast that people just order things they don’t even want because there is no longer a consequence for doing so. Originally the consequence was not getting a full refund. Then when that disappeared it was the inconvenience of shipping something back. But with all the stages of that flow becoming so automated and affordable (for the good of the consumer) it can be hard for brands with super-high return rates, low margins and high shipping costs to soak up that ‘cost’ of being so consumer friendly. The only true solution to this is creating and offering a product that you stand so strongly behind that you are confident that, whoever receives it, they will feel compelled to keep it. But that is not a simple task and in certain industries that are extremely high in competition and seasonality, it can be twice as hard.
The most important thing to look out for or, more exactly, to do, is just to spend the time getting the right people running or partnering on these channels and initiatives. Brands are spreading themselves so thinly across so many places that quality and service can degrade on all of them very fast if the right people aren’t watching over them and are not reporting them directly to the top of the organization. At the end of the day, a poor experience across a variety of channels is going to be a lot more damaging than an awesome experience across a few.”
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach
“As said by Peter Drucker, the foremost management consultant, educator and author, culture eats strategy for breakfast. This couldn’t be more true for companies that live and die by a customer-first experience.
Even though we are a small startup, we invest heavily in taking the time to learn, explore, practice and teach the behaviors we believe make us who we are. We’ve developed common language and real, lived practices around concepts such as flexible leadership, emotional agility, job crafting, or feedback culture. By being diligent about paying attention to creating a workplace that exudes our values, we are able to translate them into the customer experience both directly as well as through our stylists as we scale. A word of caution to those just ‘shifting’—you can’t fake this without alienating your employees and customers. Think about what values and strengths are authentic to your organization and brand. How do you want to make requests of each other? How do you want to give feedback? How do you animate the ideals that brought you to work on a daily basis? On the business strategy end, examine whether your goals and KPIs actually represent your customer. In other words, make sure you start from the top.”
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away
“As customers we want quick and hassle-free shopping, so we totally relate. The most important thing is to treat customers the way they want to be treated. Understand and empathize with what they want, and then find a way to deliver. We’re all about creating scalable processes that have a built-in human override when needed.”
Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the Future of Retail 2017 report offers transformational strategies for a customer-first business. The directional playbook from PSFK‘s research team helps business leaders drive success with insights into empowering employees, optimizing operations and leveraging technology.
Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.