Stitching Together Customer Data Is a Bad Fit in Omnichannel Retail

A few months ago, I was shopping at a brand-name clothing retailer and found a great suit, except for the fact that the jacket sleeves were too short. A sales associate volunteered to help me locate a jacket in the right size.

That meant getting on the phone with another store to determine if they had the jacket I wanted in stock. They did, and when I said I'd like to order it, the associate handed me the phone to provide the other store with my information, including name, shipping address, and credit card number.

During this transaction, a line of customers built up behind me at the checkout. To make matters worse, I was a loyalty club member and using the retailer's own branded credit card. This retailer has more than 500 stores in the U.S., and I'd been buying from its Web site and brick-and-mortar stores for years.

I found myself thinking, Why I am supplying my credit card number and address over the phone? Don't they have my records at their fingertips—especially as a loyalty club member? Couldn't they have looked up inventory availability over a computer or tablet instead of making a phone call like it was 1999?

Given the importance of having a single customer record and real-time inventory update considering rising consumer expectations for a seamless omnichannel experience, my awkward and inefficient experience was mind-boggling. As a long-time brand loyalist, I'll continue shopping there, but I suspect that the chain is going to lose customers and revenue unless it can deliver a better experience, and hence better customer service.

Consider this: Sixty-two percent of customers who had a "very poor" service experience decreased their spending with the offending company, according to a recent survey by the research firm the Temkin Group. The survey found that any degree of subpar experience negatively impacts revenue. Naturally, a rewarding experience translates into repeat business.

The Need for a Single, Unified Record

Experiences such as mine underscore the critical need for a single, unified customer record across all touchpoints—physical POS, e-commerce, call center, and mobile devices. It needs to be accessible by both customers and retail personnel to avoid hiccups that

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