For the most part, businesses have their digital sales capability sorted out. Barring the odd failure due to out-of-sync data, connectivity or suboptimal solutions, consumers are able to make an informed choice and execute and experience a successful buy transaction.

The same ease that allows a buying transaction to take place is not necessarily evident when consumers need to use the “support component” of a digital business relationship. It is, however, in this experience that a business shows their steel. Is the integrity of a digital business not proven by the ability to make a “less than optimal” situation a pleasant one? Is the experience with a digital business not measured precisely in situations like these?

My story is about a broken but new smart phone, barely 2 months into its life as a connected device. And about a mobile service provider, where two stores are selling devices with mobile service contracts, but only one store is able to process and take a return. It is a story that includes so many “analog” components that it is sometimes difficult to find the digital part of it, but, in the unravelling, the fundamentals of the challenges are definitely digital.

You see, I bought the phone with its contract at an “express” store, a fact I was blissfully unaware of at the time. As a customer, this store was exactly the same as the other — it had the same logo, the same products I was interested in, the same marketing material, the same offers…but with a shorted queue. Maybe I should have read more into the shorter queue…

From the perspective of the business, the stores however, are not the same. The “express” store does not share its sales information with its parent business, even though the invoice to the customer shows the same logo as the parent. From the perspective of the customer, they are one and the same business.

The two stores have different sales solutions and no sharing of customer data between them. So, in my attempt to return a faulty device, I was promoted to the role of analog “integrator,” negotiating and passing data between the two partner digital businesses:

  • Walk to first store to learn the requirements (and shortcomings) for a return
  • Walk over to the 2nd store to wait in line for a consultant,
  • Explain the faulty phone situation,
  • Request a printout of the sales document,
  • Wait…
  • Return to the first store with printout of the sale document, and
  • Start the process of returning the “faulty device.”

The irony is thick on the topic of digital in this example, when the experience is about walking in and out of physical stores, but that is the reality of this experience with a business that describes itself as a “digital” one.

Once again, the digital cart and horse were not hitched in the right order, forcing the customer experience to be the point of failure. In this case, the partner and channel strategies did not prioritise integration of sales information, the the “return device” process was created in its own vacuum.

Customer experience is still in many businesses the last aspect to be considered. And when it is considered, the “buy” experience usually receives priority. But what about the return, cancellation and fix experiences? Can you afford in the connected world not the pay attention to these experiences? If consumers have unlimited choice and base decisions on sentiment, feedback and own experience, will they choose you? If you were a customer instead of an employee, what will you choose?