Mobile: It comes down to one person

Jun 01, 2016

Steve Rowen

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.

For all retailers, regardless of size or product sold, the absolute best way to get past their extensive list of roadblocks to capitalizing on mobile technologies is to elect one person to take charge of the overall customer experience, according to RSR Research’s most recent mobile study.

At 50 percent, this beat out such options as IT support, coordination of LOB execs — even a streamlined technology platform. But should we be surprised?

RSR has been a proponent of this “single owner of the customer experience” for years now. In fact, our “2012 eCommerce Benchmark” found that only nine percent of respondents currently had such a title while more than double that number — 21 percent — say an executive whose charge is to ensure what the customer’s experience looks and feels like across any/all shopping channels is vital in determining the strategic direction of the retail e-commerce offering.

Still, not much has changed since then. As we conduct more evaluative research of retailers’ online offerings, cross-channel consistencies and overall shopability, it remains glaringly apparent that few retailers have yet undertaken this assignment.

And the role has become even more essential with mobile quickly rising to become a critical component of the shopping experience. Retailers are expected to delight consumers who have consistently been — and will no doubt remain — several technological steps ahead of them via their increasingly sophisticated mobile devices.

Moreover, our recent research shows that 52 percent of “retail winners” say that stores don’t even understand the mobile, social, or cross-channel opportunities of the new retail landscape — far and away their biggest inhibitor to making progress. This is no small feat to overcome. How can stores be relevant when they can’t grasp how far out ahead consumers really are?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: With the rise of mobile, has it become more important to put one person in charge of the customer experience? What do you see as the biggest challenges for retailers as mobile becomes more entrenched in the shopping experience?

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17 Comments on "Mobile: It comes down to one person"

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Cathy Hotka

Retail companies have a chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer — and in 2016 are just now figuring out that they should have a chief customer officer?

For years we heard that customers were “everyone’s job,” but now it’s obvious that if it’s everyone’s job, it’s no one’s job.

Gene Detroyer

What retailers need is one leader responsible for the customer experience with a team of experts each specializing in a particular touch point. The constancy of the message and the crossing of the touch points is critical. Just as there must be omnichannel thinking, there must be omni-experience thinking. The experience can not stop and start at the store door nor can it start and stop at the website nor on the phone. The retailer must value the experience across venues. It is a matter of building complete connections or losing a customer with a hiccup.

Adrian Weidmann
Most retailers and brands are approaching mobile as a “to-do” item on a checklist instead of developing a process with an associated experience that is valued by the shopper. Interactive agencies advocate this approach because they can charge extraordinary fees to develop an app for their client. This in turn allows the retailer or brand client to claim that they have a mobile initiative. Unfortunately, the majority of the insights and research suggests that the use of apps while in-store simply don’t work! There are notable exceptions — Starbucks, as their app is tied to both loyalty and payment programs. The broader reality is that shoppers rarely use brand apps while in-store. The shopper is on a journey, she has an objective, and if she is surprised and delighted on the way, then that is a great bonus. She clutches her mobile device throughout the journey but is only using it to talk to friends or using it to make her journey easier and more rewarding. An app gets in the way of this flow.… Read more »
Tom Redd

It is not a new trend to have a designated person and team focused on the customer area. This was an area in which each department that interfaced with shoppers had customer officers of some type. The change is that customers require more focus than ever because they have changed and there access to information has changed. With these changes in mind a customer officer is critical — one single point that is focused on how all departments and channel management areas interact with shoppers.

One of the worst rated service providers — Comcast — is enhancing their customer care space and promotes direct contact with their customer satisfaction officer. Their past customer care efforts were costing them a high churn rate.

Ralph Jacobson
Is the management of mobile, customer, etc., consistent across retail? Not yet. Have some retailers dedicated one senior leader to mobile? Very few. Around the world, mobile will soon be the primary channel of commerce, if it is not already. For that reason alone it deserves attention at the highest level. Is this mobile leader role different than the chief customer officer role? Yes. Very different. Should they work in partnership? Of course. However, all towers need to leverage insights from other towers to optimize the organization’s effectiveness. Easier said than done, I realize, however that doesn’t mean it cannot be achieved. Mobile is all about convenience. If your website isn’t truly optimized for mobile, (e.g., fewest clicks, largest font, quickest page loading, etc.) you are disappointing customers. Always ensure you visit your own website often to check out navigation and do a gut check on if the experience is as good as it can be. Beyond that, suggest to your leadership a point person for mobile. This evolution is happening as we speak and… Read more »
Lee Kent

For those of us who are big advocates for customer experience, we have been broken records about having executive buy-in. Does this mean one person in charge? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it does mean having a CX strategy that the entire brand has bought into.

The brand story must be enforced throughout the company from executive row to every person working in the stores. And to perpetuate the story, voice of the customer as well as voice of the employee programs are great tools.

If you want to keep up with your customers and know what they want and need from the brand, there is no better place to start than on the floor with the customer.

And that’s my 2 cents.

Bob Amster

I am not big on titles unless they CLEARLY define for what that position is responsible. Times have changed and channels and customer touch points have increased. These times call for a new position and set of responsibilities to address the new paradigm. However, I do not subscribe to the notion that the executive in charge of guaranteeing a smooth, transparent customer experience has to sit at the C-table. Whether it is mobile or the confluence of all possible channels and touch points, it is clear that there has to be someone in the retail organization that sees all the touch points, understands all the interrelationships between channels and the processes involved — beginning with browsing and ending in merchandise returns — and worries about the details of how that whole interaction with the customer will take place.

Karen S. Herman

Mobile is clearly entrenched in today’s shopping experience and integrating all of a brand’s channels, in user-friendly and informative ways, through diligent CX is key. But CX alone is not the answer. Shopping today is not just the experience, it is the journey. And good CX needs the support of customer service and all online and/or offline store functions to succeed. From my experience beta testing new technologies, I see the shopper’s journey growing more digital and interactive, quicker than one may imagine. Brands beware.

Frank Beurskens
6 years 1 month ago

Something about the concept of one person “being in charge” sounds like an aging ogre’s call. Mobile is a channel with millions of stations with the consumer in charge of the channel selector. The biggest challenge retailers face is relevance in the age of change, choice and access. The question is, how can an organization reorganize itself to be nimble and responsive to the pace at which the customer experience will continue to change? “One person in charge” suggests the illusion of control is still rampant in retail, which may be the the biggest challenge to overcome.

Ed Rosenbaum

We can all agree this is a good move and long overdue. But so is improving the customer experience at the store level. Executives at all levels on down to the front line at the stores have to do more than give lip service or the cursory nod to customer service. Customer service has to have a leader We have said this for years on this forum. Has anyone listened?

Anne Howe

It’s almost impossible for this wide of a job scope to be charged to one person. But for years I have referenced this RSR study with clients, insisting that any and all retail executives should focus deeply on customers/shoppers to really explore where they are and where they’re going and why. Only then can retailers be prepared to serve the needs and gain share of wallet. The marketplace results from 2012 to 2015 give a clear picture of those retailers who failed to take action. More and more retailers are now finding out that they are way late to this party. Chief customer officer should be a must-have position with a clear endorsement from the CEO and enough staff and resources to actually understand the customer!

Ben Ball

Two points.

1. “With the rise of mobile, has it become more important … ?”

No. It has always been this important. Mobile is simply another communication device that is part of the CX.

2. ” … to put one person in charge of the customer experience?”

Of course one person should be in charge of the customer experience. And the title is “CEO.”

Good grief.

Vahe Katros
Vahe Katros
6 years 1 month ago
Let’s call this person Jane and let’s call the retailer RetailCo, and let’s imagine a few conversation between the CEO and Jane, a trusted and promising employee at RetailCo. The only exercise for the retailers reading this is to have their own conversations. Conversation A: Revolution “Jane, the handwriting is on the wall, we have one or two holidays left in us, our business model and our customer are at odds with each other. We need to change this place, but I fear that the prevailing ways we do things around here prevents us from doing what needs to be done that thing called creative destruction. You have all the qualities of leadership, you get this design thinking thing, and you understand the tech as well. You’re that T-shaped person they talk about. I have a proposal for you — it’s a life changing commitment that is what I think is necessary to save this place. I want you to compete against us, I want you to put us out of business! I’ve decided to… Read more »
Matt Talbot

I think having someone own the customer experience for retailers and retail brands is vital, regardless of the rise of mobile. The customer experience trumps pretty much anything else and can evolve someone from a costumer to a brand evangelist.

The biggest challenge with the rise of mobile is ensuring that the mobile technology retailers and brands possess is not surpassed by that of their customer. For instance, if a retailer or brand cannot track out-of-stocks in store via mobile devices, but a consumer can use their mobile device to purchase a missing item from their mobile device when uncovering said out-of-stock item, the retailer/brand is losing business … and trust.

Brian Kelly
6 years 1 month ago
Larry Ring and Stanley Tiggert created a program at William and Marry entitled “The 8 Ways to win at Retail.” It put the customer at the center of all decisions. All members of the executive cadre owned their piece. The CEO ensured that all members aligned to the target definition. We created a brand tracker that covered each aspect of the customer experience. We were paid based upon the data collected. We were very successful. We didn’t have a “Chief Customer Officer.” Seems to me that it’s a nice idea. Ensuring leadership alignment remains at the core of business performance. In my career, if the CEO doesn’t lead its team, the brand is sunk. I’ve worked in some companies where this worked and others in which it didn’t. It was much more fun when it worked. To me mobile is a tactic. The activation of that tactic should be informed by the behavior of your target customer. Mobile activation is shared by several executives. Its importance to the brand should be informed by the behavior… Read more »
Christopher P. Ramey

Really, isn’t it always one person that’s responsible — the CEO? Mobile adds a new layer. But ultimately, it’s the corporate culture that matters. Mobile isn’t the enemy. It’s an opportunity to connect.

Consider that the highest paid employees meet with the vendors while the lowest paid employees meet with customers. Surely the lowest paid employees understand what matters; you move up through the ranks to get away from customers!

Those in the luxury hospitality business understand it. They empower their employees and manage every touch-point. They create a culture of caring and responsibility that transcends all employees. Those in luxury hospitality train as a daily event. The result is a focused responsibility for all employees to serve clients — not sell them.

Matt Talbot

I think that, as within most industries and companies, there needs to be a final-decision maker to ensure clarity and consistency. Large discussions surrounding each variable for each outcome may be too time-consuming and exhausting. Therefore, a single person to examine and own decisions inside a certain department or sector is vital to help businesses run smoothly and efficiently.

As we know, customer support, care, and service is absolutely paramount to reduce churn rate and increase satisfaction. One person who owns the customer experience should be able to provide additional attention and resources, when compared to a disorganized team.


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