"C" is for Consistency in Customer Experience

More than a few eyebrows were raised when a recent study by ForeSee revealed that consumers believe Apple is losing its polish when it comes to a great customer experience. In an annual survey of customer satisfaction with online retailers, Amazon maintained its hold on the number one spot among the top 100 e-retailers with a score of 88. Apple's score dropped from 84 to 80, changing the website's ranking from top 5 status in 2011 to top 15. In general, pure online retailers fared better than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Two examples include Barnes and Noble losing two points to 79 and JC Penney falling five points to 78.

It is suggested that one reason why e-retailers may fare better than their multichannel competitors is they have honed a more consistent online customer experience. Companies like Amazon, LL Bean, and QVC serve their customers through direct channels. The customer experience is well scripted and because it is driven by technology, there is little variation in the interaction we have with online sellers. In contrast, brick-and-mortar stores are challenged during the holiday season to balance larger inventories, increased store traffic, and temporary employees in addition to striving to deliver a great customer experience. Moreover, it is challenging to create consistency in the customer experience to the point that shopping in-store and on the store's website have a similar feel.

E-commerce offers the "wow" factor to buyers. E-tailers like Amazon have tremendous merchandise assortments. Also, the convenience of shopping on your computer, tablet, or smartphone makes fighting crowds in stores less appealing. Free and expedited shipping is another way online sellers add value to the shopping experience. These factors combined give e-tailers a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. And, the factors listed here can be offered consistently. Whenever a person logs on to an e-commerce site these factors will be present. In contrast, brick-and-mortar stores may be short-staffed, too busy to deliver the best possible merchandise presentation, or run out of merchandise in individual stores. But, regardless of the channel used to sell products, striving for consistency in the customer experience must be a priority. Add value by "wowing" customers in 2013.

ForeSee Holiday Customer Satisfaction Study: Amazon Sets Standard; JC Penney, Apple, Dell Drop

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