Study Tests Multichannel Service Success

Are you a true multichannel merchant? Many catalogers talk the talk, but The E-tailing Group sent out a group of secret shoppers out to stores to see who was really walking the walk. And according to the Chicago-based Internet consultancy’s new survey that coincides with the back-to-school shopping period, there’s room for improvement.

The E-Tailing Group’s sent its “mystery shoppers” to 16 stores pitching “shop online/return in-store” offers to determine each marketer’s preparedness. Among the study’s findings: 44% of the time the return process required the aid of a store manager to override the system, as Internet and store order numbers were not always compatible. The study also found that packing slips and invoices generated for the Internet sale often did not provide pertinent information for store associates to accurately perform the return, and it was not always clear what, if any, tax was paid, what credit card was used, and if an Internet order number supplied.

The lack of cross-channel training for store associates was apparent as not one store employee mentioned the Web, nor did any ask for an e-mail address. The study also found that Web promotion throughout the stores was also limited. According to E-tailing Group president Lauren Freedman, the good news was that problems were resolved and in-store returns took an average of just 6.6 minutes.

Still, Freedman says, “if your customers happen to get a store clerk who isn’t used to dealing with Internet returns, they could be there a while. And our mystery shoppers weren’t there at a particularly busy time. Can you image if this occurred post-Christmas?”

To make your customers feel at ease with Web returns in stores, The E-Tailing Group recommends training all store associates on the nuances of online return processes. And on your Website, list 800-numbers on your home page along with customer service hours of operation. And be sure to provide a well laid out, easy-to-navigate information center with contact information, FAQs, guarantees, return policies, and tips for first timers.

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