Get a Better Backend the Multichannel Way
Many companies "just accept the metrics they get," says Debra Ellis, "They're not rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work that's required." Although cautious about the success of customer relationship management in general, Ellis is still optimistic about its possibilities, especially for companies that work to develop their own CRM on the basis of whatever order management system they have.
Deluxe's Kirk Etten still is a believer in CRM, but says that what he terms the "spend $10 million on this system and CRM will magically appear" approach doesn't really work. Instead, he says, "The relationship with the customer and how you manage it is the key to the success of the business."
Etten calls technology an "enabler" for developing strategy. "Technology provides access to information," says John White of Musician's Friend. "I can find out anything I want about the business. I start my morning and end my day just reviewing broad-based reports." All that raw material is the basis for planning operational improvements, or if necessary, dealing with problems. "I'm a great believer in: If things are going wrong, management can take action," White says.
Direct merchants shouldn't forget to take prior action, either. The fewer surprises the better, for customers and businesses alike. Harris suggests developing a strategy for possible stock-outs well ahead of time. For instance, a merchant that sells perishables—such as foodstuffs, flowers or plants—should have a back-up plan that automatically recommends comparable substitution items for SKUs that are hard to forecast, especially during high-volume gift seasons. And if such recommendations can be made in real time, all the better. Once you've developed a back-up strategy, it's just as important to let everyone know what the strategy is. Harris warns, "There are lots of different people in the company who have to be able to react to a plan, and if it was put in place before you need it, it's automatic."