This month’s PAG blog focus has clearly been on omnichannel.  And if you’re a retailer and you’re NOT focused on omnichannel, you’re already behind.  Big time.  It really doesn’t matter what segment of retail you are in, you’d better get there – fast.
We have a new Point of View coming out this month that’s focused on Customer Experience, which, incidentally, is our blog focus for May.  Obviously omnichannel and customer experience go hand-in-hand, but it’s surprising how often there seems to be such a huge disconnect.  Let me give an example.  A few weeks ago, I was in CVS in the checkout line, when I overheard a conversation between a customer and the cashier.  Evidently the customer had based her shopping list on the CVS online prices, but was surprised to find out that the in-store prices were higher for a handful of items she was buying.    This customer asked if CVS matched their own online pricing, and the cashier admitted she didn’t know and paged a manger to find out.  The manager was fairly quick to come up to the register and respond that yes, in fact, they did match their online prices in-store – at a customer’s request.  So the manager intervened, adjusted the prices for that customer, and the transaction was complete.  Except now the three people in line who just witnessed this ordeal are left to wonder: Are the items I’m buying less expensive online?  Why aren’t I getting the online prices too?
This boils down to implications to customer experience with omnichannel.  Have you thought through how your pricing strategies are going to impact your customer service – not only from a price perception viewpoint, but also on throughput?  While the cashier was handling the customer’s online pricing question, the queue grew to three people.  Because there was not a clear understanding by the cashier on how price differences are handled, this created a potential customer satisfaction issue.   Customers don’t want to be confused – they want to be confident. Confident that you are offering a fair price and a good product, and they don’t want any surprises.  Therefore, any omnichannel pricing, assortment, promotional and fulfillment decisions need to be clearly communicated to and understood by the store level staff.   
This past week, I stayed at a Hampton Garden Inn.  I love that chain – they are always consistent, clean, comfortable and reasonably priced (plus I’ve funded several excellent golf vacations using Hilton Honnors points).   I’m usually pretty good about keeping my hard copy receipts, but there have been occasions when I’ve had to download a digital receipt, which any Hilton Honnors member can get by viewing their account.  However, I hadn’t done this in a while, so when I went to check out, I just wanted to verify I could still do that.  When I asked the two very friendly front desks clerks, they looked at me like I had three heads.  I told them I was pretty sure I’d downloaded past receipts on their website, but they had no idea what I was talking about. Then a person whom I assume was the manager (she was holding a fat wad of keys – a key indicator), walked in on our conversation.  “Of course.” she said, leaving the two clerks looking bewildered, “Just logon to your account, and you can pull up the final receipt right there.”    I smiled, thanked them all and left.  There again – the omnichannel / customer experience conundrum – you’ve absolutely got to get your staff on the front lines engaged.  This means a well-planned and flawlessly executed training and communications strategy, and possibly changes to roles and responsibilities at the store level.  This is a must.

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– Tricia