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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Single View of the Customer (SVC): Enabling Frictionless Commerce and Enduring Loyalty

Back in the days when dragons roamed the earth and men routinely wore suits to work, I used to shop at Jos. A Bank. As the years went by, however, business culture changed and my need for dress shirts, ties, and suits with two pairs of pants suffered the same fate as the dragons. My closet, like that of all other computer-tethered males, filled with golf shirts, Dockers, and jeans for Fridays. Fast-forward to modern times, and I again found myself wandering into a Jos. A Bank store, surprised they were still in business. I bought a dress shirt and a tie, wore them once to a special occasion, then forgot about them. Jos. A Bank did not forget about me, however. At some point in the transaction, I must have given them my email address, because a month or two ago I began getting regular marketing emails from them, a development that triggered my first true experience of frictionless commerce. Here’s the sequence of events:

  1. One of the marketing emails appeared on my desktop the morning I realized a need for something other than khakis, so I clicked on the email and went to the Jos. A Bank site.
  2. To begin with, I landed on the page that actually featured the product on offer, not – as so often happens – on the home page or some other location from which I would have to track down the emailed offer manually.
  3. I eventually ordered four pairs of pants, complete with permanent press. 60% off. Free shipping. What a deal.
  4. Moments after my online transaction, I got a confirmation email. 50 minutes later, I got another email thanking me for my “recent” purchase asking me to rate it, presumably after I had the chance to wear it.
  5. A week or so later, the first pair of pants arrived. It had been shipped from a store in South Carolina. Another packaged arrived a couple of days later with two pairs, this from a store in Maryland. The fourth pair arrived in a third package from yet another locale.
  6. When I saw the pants, they were not what I was expecting. The fabric was heavier than I had anticipated, which is not good in a Texas summer. The fault was not in the product description on the website, it was mine. I evidently had a different notion of “Twill” from the rest of society.
  7. So I dug out my original purchase confirmation email and wrote the Jos. A Bank customer service folks explaining my mistake and asking if I could return the garments. Since they had been shipped from three separate stores, I asked if I could simply return them to a local retail store. I did not want to have to box and ship three separate packages to the three different stores that had shipped them.
  8. Imagine my delight, then, when a customer service representative emailed me back within 30 minutes explaining that I could take the pants back to any store for a credit or a full refund.
  9. I did. I have been a victim of cross-channel miscommunication more than once, however, so I went in with my emails printed out (the original order confirmation and the customer service reply) along with the three receipts and the actual garments squeezed into one of the delivery boxes. I was, as you see, anticipating a hassle. Not at all. The sales guy smiled at me and asked if I wanted a refund or a credit. There were several Sales posters in the store, so I said I’d have a look round and take a credit if there was anything I liked. The sales guy scanned the labels on my returned pants. Not only did that action send them straight back into Jos. A Bank’s nationwide, cross-channel inventory system, it evidently identified me for the sales guy, because he was able to bring up my purchase history and tell me they had 15 ½ / 32 shirts on sale.
  10. As it so happened, I bought a jacket (on sale), along with two shirts and a tie (at full retail). I ended up spending another $200 and walked out of the store in an unfamiliar state of satisfaction . There had been no hassles, no wait, no re-stocking penalty, nothing. Just one continuous, frictionless transaction across channels (online and in-store) and touch points (emails, website, delivery, packaging, product, return, add-on sale).

Jos. A Bank has achieved a single view of the customer (and of its inventory, no less) and it has resulted in a frictionless customer experience — one that, in my case, has assured the brand of my loyalty, repeat business, and advocacy of the kind that can only be earned, not bought. That’s a lot of lifetime value. What is your organization doing to build your own SVC?

-Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences

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