The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Silos Hurt the Customer Experience

Offering multiple paths to purchase is great but that’s just part of a great customer experience.

I’m sure many of you have purchased an item online then gone to the store to pick it up. You may have wanted to save money on shipping or, if you’re like me, you procrastinated and ended up needing to pick up a gift on the way to your friend’s baby shower. That’s when you start hoping for a red light or two so you can wrap the gift in the car…

Some of you may have researched a product online but, wanting to see and touch it prior to purchasing, gone to the store to complete the purchase. Others of you may prefer to avoid stores all together, having your online purchase shipped directly to your home.

More and more of our retail clients are beginning to focus on developing and refining these multiple purchase channels. But that is only part of the equation; occasionally, customers have to return items.

Many retailers allow consumers who purchased a product online to return it to a nearby store instead of packing up the product to ship back to the warehouse. However, just because a store is offering these services doesn’t necessarily mean the store is ready to handle them. There is often a disconnect between the physical store and the .com. Let me tell you about a recent experience…

My friend recently made an online purchase from one of the big-box retail stores and had the item delivered to his home. After determining it wasn’t quite what he wanted, he packed up his item and, receipt in hand, returned it to the local store. After waiting in the customer service line for a few minutes, he explained to the sales associate why he was returning the item. “No problem, I’ll get your refund,” said the sales associate. She went to her computer and came back with my friend’s refund – but it was more than what my friend had paid, 7% more! My friend, being the honest sort, told the sales associate that he didn’t pay that much for the item, and showed his receipt. In talking to the sales associate, my friend learned that in-store refunds at that particular establishment are based on the price of the product in the store and not the online price at the time the order was placed.

My friend left the store feeling pretty good about his experience, mainly because he was initially refunded more than what he paid. But what if the online price had been higher than the in-store price when my friend made his purchase?  I doubt he would have found the experience to be quite as pleasant if the sales associate handed him a refund that was 7% less than what he paid. In fact, knowing him, he would probably not shop there again.

So what happened? Why was the refund not based on the actual purchase price regardless of purchase channel? Once again, the .com silo was not communicating with the store. In order to provide a seamless experience to consumers, businesses need to eliminate the silos that still exist. They need to focus on the entire customer experience as a bad experience in any one step could ruin what had been, up until then, a good relationship.

-Maura Thomson, User Experience Specialist, Usability Sciences


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