Who owns customer service in an age of co-branding?
New initiatives — call them co-opetition, frenemy agreements or partnerships — are bringing together retailers, brands and online marketplaces to create compelling new activations, offers and experiences for consumers. And presumably to improve one or more business metrics: traffic, revenue, profitability, net-new customers or visibility.
When forming these initiatives, companies must determine what metrics they want to drive as well as the impact on service levels and sales associates. Who will be responsible for traditional responsibilities of sales associates: welcoming shoppers, providing product information and advice, completing transactions for purchases, and handling returns, refunds and complaints?
Will Macy’s employees be able to assist customers with information on how to best use MiracleGro or take returns for Dick’s Sporting Goods merchandise at Outdoor STORY installations or will additional associates from each company be needed?
Even though department stores have operated stores-within-a-store for years, the experience is still far from seamless for shoppers. One is often told, “I don’t work in this department” when asking for assistance. It’s a frequent response in department stores, especially in cosmetics and accessories.
My recent experience when I returned athletic shoes at Macy’s illustrates the disconnect shoppers often experience. My shoes were from Finish Line, so only a clerk from that department could complete the transaction, as I did not accept a box when I bought them (so much for eco-consciousness). An associate and the floor manager spent ten minutes explaining to me that it was not actually a “Macy’s sale” so they could not assist me. I would have to wait another ten minutes until the FL associate came back from his break. The transaction was ultimately processed, but it was not easy, quick or pleasant.
Post-purchase service is especially important and its impact on overall customer satisfaction is vastly underestimated. One can be certain that, regardless of the partnerships’ goals to drive interest in events, cultivate clients or generate sales, customers expect that anyone associated with the activation will step up to provide needed assistance, information and service.
- What’s the story behind Macy’s partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods? – RetailWire
- Did Apple just hand Best Buy the keys to its retailing empire? – RetailWire
- The Retail Industry Has A Problem With Returns: ReturnRunners Wants To Be The Solution – Forbes
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: With so many companies partnering up, how can one ensure seamless service? Who is ultimately responsible for assisting customers in a co-branded model?