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Its happened to all of us as consumers; Retail experiences that either delight us or exasperate us. Recently I participated in two that stood in such stark contrast that I marveled at how different they were in their respective consumer experiences. 
Just like TV crime drama, the names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so innocent.
First off, the not-so innocent: two months ago I had contacted my TV/internet/phone provider because some of the premium digital channels that I subscribed to were not being delivered. The service representative explained I needed a different set top box and offered to allow me to pick them up or ship them. I asked to have them shipped, he informed me that it would be 3 weeks; I appreciated the warning and agreed that this was acceptable. I then waited patiently, 8 weeks later and still no set top boxes had arrived. I once again contacted the service center and after being transferred to a couple different agents finally found someone who showed interest in resolving my problem. He did some research and responded with, “Oh, yeah, your order is stuck in the system” to which I responded “stuck?” I inquired if there was something unique or strange about the order and he said; “No, It just happens”. To his credit he offered to expedite the set top box to me via the same ordering system and rather repeat the failed process, this time I opted to go to their retail location and pick up exactly what I needed.
Compare and contrast to this; while doing my holiday shopping online, one of the items I had ordered from a major retailer was lost in shipping. The system said it had been delivered and even signed for, although curiously the initials did not belong to anyone at the shipping address. I immediately called the retailer’s service live and the first thing the representative said was “I am sorry. I will ship a replacement to you right away” I was amazed, there were no questions asked or doubt portrayed as to my truthfulness.  On top of it and at no extra cost to me, they sent it via expedited shipping and I had the replacement in 2 days. Fortunately, the original order appeared mysteriously 2 weeks later and I went online to return it, this online retailer anticipated my needs made it easy for me. In 2 clicks I had generated the return authorization and printed the shipping label. Case closed with everything intact.
So what’s different here?
There is a transparency to the not-so innocent having broken processes and systems in place. If my order was “stuck” in the system, how many other orders were stuck causing needless customer aggravation and extra cost to resolve. Why weren’t reports, dashboards and workflows enabled that brought to someone’s attention the severe past due date, the lack of order movement. We see this often when heterogeneous systems are expected to pass orders between themselves.  What this company clearly does not have in place is best practices or certainly processes that are reproducible. An average order can pass through numerous departments (especially if you count the pricing and promotions departments) until it reaches the customer and each step is an opportunity for it to fall through the gaps. For more on this I refer you to the classic Harvard Business Review report called Staple Yourself to an Order
So what about the innocent, the one that got it right the very first time? Its clear that they anticipated what could go wrong in myriad forms and had processes in place to address the consumer’s needs. They did such a great job at it that confidence in their brand never weakened, in fact it was reinforced. Their systems enable them to scale to millions of consumers and drive a valuable experience on a repeatable basis.
So the next time you plan to deliver a product or service to your customer, I suggest you look at it from where the customer is sitting and in doing so, deliver a better, repeatable and profitable experience.
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