Brands Need to Reduce Operations Friction

Oct 04, 2012 10:50 PM  By

A brand’s customer service and warehouse operations must add to – and not detract from — the overall customer experience, according to Liz Kislik, president ofconsultancy Liz Kislik Associates. Besides market share and profitability, a brand competes for attention so people “notice you in the noise and stick to you.”

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Kislik, who spoke at the National Etailing and Mailing Organization of America fall directXchange conference last month, said if brands don’t have an ongoing relationship with their customers, “they’re shoveling money out the window. You don’t have to be a faceless brand.”

Service and operations are not just what happens after sales or marketing anymore, Kislik explained. Pre-sale, transaction, and post-sale has to be one continuous customer experience. No longer can we afford to think about customer behavior as “belonging” to different organizational groups.

“This is the crux of reality,” Kislik said.

Reducing friction, which can lead to customer risk, cost time, aggravation, complaints, and negative word of mouth, is imperative for brands today. Increasing pleasure leads to satisfaction, which leads to repurchasing, recommendations, and positive word of mouth.

Reducing friction in your operations starts with your website, Kislik said. “Websites rarely falls under operations, but if your site isn’t part of your operations, I don’t know what is.” Test your checkout process and “go through it a million times. Usability testing is huge.”

Packaging, delivery, and returns comprise the nerve center of operations and will likely tip the customer satisfaction scale one way or another,” Kislik said. For example, Kislik cited Moosejaw for its solid messaging and energetic, interactive marketing. Many brands fail in the returns area, Kislik said, because shipping returned items becomes a chore. “If you’re giving your customer work to do, you’re causing friction. Give them options. Try in-store delivery.”

Brands must make the returns process simple for consumers, Kislik said. “Send them something useful in the package, explaining the returns process and including a slap-on label. Don’t just provide delivery tracking.”

Communication is paramount in reducing friction and raising satisfaction levels, Kislik said. Communicating to customers includes topics like wait time, resolution time, effectiveness, product and process knowledge, product care and usage, and empathy. Live chat is “fantastic” for providing detailed product information.

A Facebook presence is nice, Kislik said, but only if it’s carefully monitored and immediate responses to customer questions/inquiries are crucial.

A brand’s organizational design and culture has to be strong and provide one unified message to its customers, Kislik said. “Everyone has to understand everything about the customer to make good decisions. We don’t put enough effort into that. If morale really stinks, your customers are suffering.”

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.