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It was great to share ideas around customer experience and omni-channel at the German Swedish Seminar in Berlin earlier this month.


A series of insightful speakers provided data and understanding around the progress of e-commerce in the German market.  As in all territories, consumers are becoming used to interacting with global vendors and the likes of Amazon and Ebay are setting the pace in on line experience. And the way we are able to shop on line is setting our expectations for face to face experiences with customers constantly becoming more demanding for easy navigation, straight forward processes and access to service when they require it.


And that’s why it was particularly interesting to listen to the presentation given by Michael Mette of IKEA talking about the realities of reorienting a global retail business into an omni-channel exemplar. It was clear from Michael’s presentation that leadership and vision are key to delivering a programme which can, in time, make a real difference to a customer’s perception of the brand through the events that they experience.  What is also clear is that saying it doesn’t make it happen. There’s a huge amount of sustained effort required from all areas of the business to deliver superior customer experiences. Organisations talk about running change programmes alongside business as usual but surely change is business as usual? Managers need to embrace continuous improvement in customer experience delivery, constantly looking for the quick wins as well as the big strategic leaps that will deliver competitive advantage.


Even digital brand leaders get this stuff wrong from time to time. Witness the public outcry when customers who booked appointments on line for the Genius Bar in store found themselves standing in line for hours due to the abject failure of the system to match service demand with supply.   


No-one should underestimate the size and complexity of the task of bringing the digital and the physical worlds together but equally the most difficult jobs are the ones that are never started.  Most sales are going to be made on smartphones and in face to face space and these channels need to supplement and complement each other.


Given the estimate that 80% of the human race will have a smartphone within five years, that smartphones for those that possess them are the preferred means of accessing the internet and that the vast majority of sales will continue to complete in a face to face environment then the need for brands to have a strategy to address this issue is now.


The devil is in the detail, as Apple have found to their cost. Brands need to look beyond technology into human behaviour and perception.  After all, beyond the smartphone, there is a hand and running the hand is an intelligent but emotional decision maker who will punish you if you don’t get it right.


Practical solutions already exist, for example, ICA in Sweden are rolling out “click & collect” and drive thru for groceries across Sweden, enabled by Qmatic’s Orchestra platform, allowing customers to interact using their smartphones and through SMS.


Strategic moves and low hanging fruit. Any customer experience programme needs both.