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Industry Contributor 30 Nov 2021 - 5 min read

A sorry tale of delivery hell: Five ways agencies and brands should be putting the C into CX strategy

By Julie Dormand - Former CEO, Mercerbell & Senior Advisor, 24 Hour Business Plan

Former MercerBell CEO Julie Dormand had an infuriating experience buying furniture online. Instead of getting mad, she's getting even-handed – highlighting exactly where despite all the talk, the CX journey falls down – and what CX agencies should be doing about it.

After two decades leading Australia’s first Customer Experience agency, MercerBell, I’ve enjoyed taking an outside look in recent months as lockdowns sent consumers sprinting into the final mile of their Great Migration Online. 

The pandemic has been advantageous for digital agencies, as the remaining refusenik clients that were slower moving to e-commerce have been forced to take the leap. But now, as we exit the lockdown era, agencies must plan and consider how to better manage consumers’ online experiences on behalf of their clients to meet the challenge of this rapid and irreversible shift to digital.  

Here are five ways that CX agencies and their clients can respond to the Great Migration – and to make my point I’m going to use my agonising recent experience with a leading furniture retailer. 

Be end-to-end: Service doesn’t stop at Australia Post or DHL

Ordering my items online was a fair-to-middling experience but delivery – and communication about delivery – was an absolute shocker. I was told the shipping was ready to go and then received no further information for weeks. Zilch.  

Then, when I finally called the customer service line, I was told they don’t have any visibility or control because “that all sits with the shipping company”.  

What’s more, when the goods arrived and the order included some incorrect items, I took them back in-store to find that I could not get a refund because it had been more than 30 days. Regardless of the fact the goods had been with me for a day. Yep, fun times. 

We all know shipping congestion is a major global issue right now. But it was the lack of communication, the disconnected omni-channel experience and lack of customer care that really impacted my customer experience. 

So, while many CX agencies are advising clients on optimising the front end of their e-commerce and social commerce platforms to create a seamless path to purchase – a vital job, to be sure – they must never forget that the customer journey does not stop at Australia Post or DHL. Brands need to be embedded with such partner services to provide a holistic end-to-end service, including aftercare.

Plan to serve the customer well in real life (IRL)

The brands that do well online provide an absolute end-to-end experience. That includes call centres that delight, rather than infuriate. They put you through to a real, live human who can bend the delivery returns protocol when there are delivery issues (i.e., someone who doesn’t simply parrot a robotic script). 

Most brands now have customer service bots that are adequate for basic queries – but AI remains relatively nascent. Bots can be maddeningly useless when confronted with a nuanced question. If the questioner then tries to speak to a person on the phone and is put on hold forever, any goodwill the brand earned from its lovely path to purchase is thrown out like used wrapping paper. So, serve the customer well ‘IRL’. 

Plan for a pain-free payment journey  

I almost forgot to mention the payment journey. When I clicked on the retailer’s Facebook ad in the first instance, I wanted to click through and buy in as few taps as possible. However, I had to faff about finding my wallet and details to finalise the payment.  

Brands that have been enabled with Apple Pay (making it super simple for me as a consumer) have become top of mind – and wallet – for me. 

The opportunity for CX agencies  

My sorry tale of delivery hell was not a one off. Sadly, it has become standard post-purchase dissonance for online shopping transactions. It provides agencies with a huge opportunity to help their clients strategically by optimising the omni-channel path to purchase and taking a holistic view across all touch points. This, in turn, boosts customer satisfaction and future value.   

None of which an agency can do and sustain without a clear business plan for growth.  

Agencies develop strategies for clients every day, but often fail to develop a clear strategy for themselves. The seismic changes of the past 20 months mean that is no longer an option. 

Plan to have a plan 

Today’s CX agency must have the right structure, skill sets and partner relationships to deliver that end-to-end digital and physical customer journey for the brands it manages. That requires an intentional plan that can drive personal, revenue and client growth. 

Of course, because CX (and digital transformation in general) is so important, the competition for client business and talent has never been fiercer. Clients are building in house capability, and large consulting houses are doing the same.

What will this mean for the CX/Digital agency ecosystem?  

For any CX agency, being crystal clear on its value proposition – for itself, its clients and its talent is critical. CX agencies may position themselves similarly to their rivals, but the truth is they are often very different. One may have killer e-commerce capability, one may do fantastic research, one may be great at building customer engagement, another may deliver an awesome customer experience from an advertising point of view. 

There are thousands of agencies across Australia. To a CMO, the agencies’ sales pitches often sound very much the same. Once you can articulate your opportunity and specialism to your leadership team as well as the whole organisation, you will have already achieved competitive advantage over many. 

Finally, and most importantly – you must make the plan live. Use it every day. Make sure the entire team knows what you are trying to do. And work together to achieve greatness. 

Good luck and enjoy the process. Putting aside the time to plan is not only efficient, it is the fun part of the job.   

Julie Dormand is a Senior Advisor with the 24 Hour Business Plan and is former CEO of  MercerBell. 

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Julie Dormand - Former CEO, Mercerbell & Senior Advisor, 24 Hour Business Plan

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