IKEA builds bridges between online and offline

Happy New Year! During the holiday break I paid a visit to the local IKEA store here in Essen. I was amazed, how well IKEA has tailored its (mobile) website to the needs of onliners planning to go to a local store. A very good cross channel experience.

I visited their website in advance to make sure, everything I need is available in the right quantities. The site immediately changed to the mobile version when I accessed it with my iPhone and I was able to check stock levels for the store nearby. All of this went without any need to log in. Even saving items on a virtual shopping list was possible without an account. During the store visit, the site allowed me to tick-off the items already in my cart (green ticks on the left).

IKEA mobile site
IKEA’s mobile site acts as stock level check and shopping list
© 2014 IKEA

IKEA has done an excellent job in connecting the Online and the Offline world with their mobile website. This experience was very helpful because IKEA:

  • made it easy to access their site thanks to the mobile design
  • provided a tool to help me prepare my visit to the local store (shopping list & stock check) and
  • supported my during my store visit (ticking-off items on the shopping list).

Funny enough, this seems so little but had such a big effect on improving my shopping experience. To enhance the customer experience even more, I would love to see three additional features.

  • The information on where to find the items is of little use for the customer. It would be more helpful to know in which part of the exhibition or the pick-up area the item is located. This helps in narrowing down the area to search for it. Or even in-door navigation through WiFi…?
  • When I had finished shopping, I was not able to get all the items on my list despite the fact they were listed as available. Stock probably got broken or stolen and this can’t be accounted for in the system. When stock levels are below 10 pieces it would be more helpful for customers to tell them stock is “very low” or “as good as empty”. This prepares them for the fact that a shelf might be empty when they reach the store as it happened to me (with the website still saying seven pieces available).
  • The last part of my wish list would be a button on the mobile shopping list that allows me to place an online order with all the items I did not tick-off during my shop visit. It would complete the Online-Offline-Online customer journey during an IKEA visit.

Despite the three wishes at the end of this post, I was very pleased with the work IKEA has done in connecting the Online and the Offline world. No app or account was needed to give me great tools that made my live and my shopping experience easier. Good job!

Join me in Berlin on the CX Management Summit

Less than a month ahead, the 4th Annual Customer Experience Management Summit will take place in Berlin. The conference will offer a variety of speakers from telecoms, banking, airlines and hotels and will be held from 8th-10th of October 2013 in the Steigenberger Hotel Berlin.

As part of the very exiting program of speeches and case studies, I will be holding a presentation on how to weave customer experience into the hearts, heads and hands of an organization. So if you are around the corner and the program sounds inviting to you, I would be happy to see you there!


(image source: welu-berlin via flickr.com)

When an unsolicited SMS made me smile

“The customer is always in control.” or “We only contact our customers when they allow us to.” are statements that can be found in many customer experience manifestos around the world. Recently a small company broke those rules on me and it made me smile.

When the SMS (a.k.a. text message) arrived on my phone, my first reaction was annoyance. How did my number end up on a spam list? Aren’t there laws in Germany that keep the SMS channel pretty clear of spamming? Or was I just lucky during the past years – something I couldn’t say for my mail accounts.

Some months ago I had the pleasure of visiting several focus group interviews. One of the topics that came up was, how the people in the group would like to be contacted from the corporate world and where the marketing messages should end up. SMS was considered to be the most private channel there is. The group clearly stated that this is still one of the most frequently used channels for keeping in touch with friends and family. Marketing? Stay out of here! Same applies to me.

Sharing your customer’s spirit opens windows to communication

Then I started reading the whole message. It was from a small coffee roaster around town that I had once given a call to know if his shop was open. As he was on his delivery tour, I postponed my initial visit. I had left nothing more with him than my number on his phone. No opt-in/ double opt-in whatsoever. The guy that operates the business is surely not a marketing guru or builds upon a massive ATL/ BTL budget as you can see from his website Leon’s Roasthouse. But he showed the right sense of how much he can intrude his (potential) customer’s intimacy without ruining the young relationship. He is a coffee geek, I am a coffee geek. We share a spirit – and that made it fully OK to get a marketing SMS on the new spring roasts and blends that were available from that day on.

What is the take-away for bigger operations out there? Respecting a customers’ privacy is still a major pillar of good customer experience. Full stop. If you are dealing at arm’s length with your customer or are only own a small part of your customers’ mental bandwidth, you better obey to the rules. Only if you are veeery veeery close to your customers and there is an emotional link in between, you can break the rules from time to time.

(Image by: chaparral)

Watch your customers’ mental bandwidth

In customer experience, we care a lot about making customers happy and are having a close eye on NPS, CS and others. Those measures are then used to judge the impact of a single communication or service measure upon the customer. In large corporations, these “single” touch points with the customer can add up massively, when departments don’t align what they do. This is when a customer gets three letters from the same company that suggest four ways of getting an issue resolved. One from sales, one from service and the last one from the logistics department. So shouldn’t we first determine our customers’ mental bandwidth and how much of that bandwidth they grant us?

Your product or service is not the center of the world

You all know the drill. Your job and the industry you are working in is the most important thing for you during daytime – and sometimes also after having returned to your home and family. But what about your customers? Ask yourself how important the product or service you are providing is for your average customers? Check how much time a customer spends every day, consciously using your product or service. Assessed with Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene theory in mind, where does your product or service belong to?

Customer bandwidth has become a scarce resource

Now, wipe the tears from your eyes if you have realized that your center of gravity falls into your customers’ “hygiene” bucket. Your are in good company. There is a lot of noise out there and every company tries to grab the customers’ attention. Our customers on the other side have only a limited bandwidth for us as they also need to care for their work, their family and all other things that are in their “motivator” bucked to use that analogy again.

Mind the context and you will be relevant

For a customer experience professional that means that the context the customer is in is very relevant. Ask yourself how much bandwidth a customer will have in the situation that you are designing your service for. Will there have been noise before entering the respective service stage? How much time do you allow for the action/ transaction to happen? How much information do you provide for ask from your customers? Will the customer be on top of things or is the situation new for her?

If you thoroughly go through your service design and design for minimum bandwidth use with minimum distraction before and after, you have a good chance of getting your message across and providing an excellent customer experience that does not leave any open questions to your customer.

(Image by Jacob Earl)