Get a Better Backend the Multichannel Way
By Barbara Arnn
No one claims it's easy for direct marketers to keep customers satisfied, but the answer to how multichannel merchants can best achieve that goal may be simpler than you expect.
If there's a single maxim to which everyone in direct marketing subscribes, it is that you can't afford to disappoint your customers. A happy customer will return and bring a few friends; an unhappy one will spread the word and keep a dozen more potential customers from ever visiting your business.
What methods do successful direct merchants use to make sure their customers get what they want, when they want it, no matter the channel used? Does customer satisfaction depend on software or some sort of sophisticated management system? Does it depend on an array of complex supply chain management processes best handled by mega-retailers?
The answer is none of the above, according to industry experts. Instead, the best way to keep customers happy might be summed up in two simple words: Pay attention. The sort of attention required to run a successful, customer-centric enterprise comes in many guises—attention to your customers, to the details of inventory management, to communications with vendors and with employees. Direct merchants with a satisfied customer base must pay careful attention to details in all those areas and more.
These days, everyone is a customer at least some of the time, and stories about the difficulties of dealing with direct-to-customer merchants abound. A customer sends 11 e-mails to a major computer retailer and doesn't receive any response other than a computer-generated message that someone will look into the problem—11 times. A customer orders a product online, then makes a trip to the merchant's retail store to pick it up that same day and discovers, despite the fact that the Web site said the product was available and waiting, the item is sold out when she gets to the store.