Monday, April 29, 2013

Are brands fully channel agnostic ?

A key principle of multi channel (or cross channel as I prefer to call it) has to about being Channel Agnostic. The question is, are big brands achieving this ? Certainly from my own personal experience there is work to do.

When buying my iPhone, I did the rounds looking at all the providers and  I had a pretty strong idea of who I wanted to switch to and when it came to wanting to buy my shiny new phone it wasn't straight forward. I have already covered the bizarre chat experiences I had in this post, but this is more about the online ordering journey.

Having finally made my decision, I went online to place my order. The initial navigation on the mobile provider's site was great, one page to sort out which model I wanted, choose tariff and declare I was a new customer. I quite like these longer pages where you can scroll down and get a lot of things done before a new page is served.

This is where I got confused, all I wanted to do was order, I knew it may take a while to receive my order as the phone had only recently launched, but that was fine by me. All there was in this long page was a check stock button, this confused me, I wanted to order. Being stupid, I assumed that this was not a checkout or order button, but that is all there was. Having looked through the entire page for a link or something which would get me where I wanted to be, I finally gave up and clicked it. No surprise then when the site told me my chosen phone was out of stock, which I had kind of expected. The page giving me the news had no other action, so essentially I had stalled. Why couldn't the page have checked the stock for me and proposed an action that would suit me ? This also raises for me the issue about what label you put on a button, surely common sense and convention would dictate something more obvious? Ok, I accept I was being unbelievably stupid, but isn't that the point of usability and web design, test and design for different personas ?

To try and complete my order I then visited my local Carphone Warehouse. They explained that if I ordered, I would be billed from the moment I signed up i.e. there was no way to order without being penalised.

I then tried an apple store (out of stock and no ordering) and finally the mobile provider's store who had stock but it took precisely and hour to wait and then finally sign up. It was therefore luck that I placed my order with the mobile provider I had chosen (presumably they get a half decent margin from the device), but I displayed no supplier loyalty in trying to achieve my task. If someone had let me order, I would have.

It is widely known that iPhones are oversubscribed on launch, isn't it at all possible to have some simple processes to allow people to order ? If it is known that the phone may well be out of stock, why do you need a check stock button on the web site? Most retail stores deal with this very effectively. As it was the providers cost per acquisition was unnecessarily high and it wasn't really a multi channel experience. How hard would it have been for any of these companies to create a back order process?

The experience got me thinking, along the lines of .... if one of your customer service advisors treated a customer like your web site does, you wouldn't be happy with them.  Which brings to mind one of the multi channel principles to mind - "Channel Agnostic" i.e. each channel should provide the same service as any other (within the capability of that channel). As it was I had to visit a store to get the job done, when my channel of choice was online.

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