Improving omni-channel customer experience at La-Z-Boy, Denon + Marantz and Pello

Marketing and IT leaders from La-Z-Boy, Denon + Marantz and Pello Group talk about their efforts to improve customer experience and the challenges of technology, culture and change management


Tempering short-term expectations of technology and ensuring staff can not only access customer insights, but act on them in any channel, have been key learnings in customer experience for La-Z-Boy.

Speaking at this week’s Oracle Modern Customer Experience Summit, La-Z-Boy VP digital CX and ecommerce, Eli Winkler, said the 90-yearold custom furniture manufacturer and retailer positions customer experience in terms of delivering value, as well as the journey of purchasing its products, online or instore.

“We know the purchase journey is about 73 days, and that it bounces back and forth across channels,” he said. To deal with this, work is afoot to make this a more personalised experience for the customer.

“The type of information you need on day one is very different to that on day 73,” Winkler said. “When you think about that customer navigating across channels, the need for a frictionless experience is important to us based upon the fact we know people buy in-store.”

La-Z-Boy has invested in a number of Oracle’s Customer Experience technology products over the last 12-24 months to enable its customer ambitions. Winkler suggested expectation setting was one of the big challenges along the way.

“Our team had the expectation that we were going to turn a light switch on and the next day, everything was going to be perfect,” he said. “Tempering short-term expectations and taking a longer-term view is the right approach.

“An incredible amount of valuable insights come along as you test and pivot. We continued to do that every seven weeks, if not more frequently. Really it’s about the learning – you need to understand what technology will do for you, and a long-term vision to utilise it, but make sure you know it’s a journey to get there.”

Using customer insight

Winkler was joined on the panel by marketing and IT leaders from high-end audio equipment provider, Denon + Marantz, and windows manufacturer and installer, Pello. Both also shared the organisational transformations, technology investments and staff challenges they’re tackling in order to improve customer experience.

Denon +Marantz Group global VP of marketing, Don Freeman, said historically, all the company’s marketers knew was that the traditional buyer purchase cycle was 7-10 years.

“But fast forward three years when we got into IoT [Internet of Things] devices, and that gave us a tremendous amount of data around what customers were looking for,” he said. “Our ability to understand what product they bought, which room they put it in, is important and we want to make sure we market to them using those insights so they get that right product as their second purchase.”

One thing the team realised was that 80 per cent of customers who purchase their first wireless speaker will purchase a second. “That means we have 90 days to convince them to move forward with that next purchase,” Freeman said.

Insights are being delivered immediately once a customer plugs in their device and sets up their account, giving Denon + Marantz an email address and one-to-one relationship with the customer, Freeman said.

Customer data doesn’t just influence what marketing does, it’s started to influence product design. For instance, Freeman said it could see more than 20 per cent of speakers were named ‘bathroom’ but were not designed for such spaces. One year later, the brand launched a product specifically for bathrooms. This was followed by a patio product, which took the durability of the bathroom speaker and added a battery option for portability.

“There’s tremendous data we can leverage and we can build a product roadmap based on what the customer is telling us,” Freeman said.

What’s hindering great CX

Windows manufacturer and installer, Pello, is another brand striving to live up to customer experience expectations. One of the challenges its information tech manager, Julie Neary, identified is legacy systems and integration.

“I work in IT, and we partner closely with business partners to ensure systems support, enable and enhance CX,” she said. “Too often, systems can hinder that – it’s the tail wagging the dog and you have to adjust your processes because the system dictates it.”

But the barriers around technology utilisation are arguably bigger. Winkler noted in-store staff and sales teams often have a way of doing things that have worked for decades. “Getting people to think about how to change what they do is the hardest thing,” he said.

Freeman also wished he’d started the education process earlier, creating internal evangelists to support technology-enabled experience efforts.

“We have lot of legacy sales leaders that may not have bought into digital transformation or customer journey mapping,” he said. “Why they need to change has been the biggest hurdle. I wish five years ago we’d started things we’ve only been doing in last couple of years, such as executive digital bootcamps.

“There’s no more important thing than getting executive buy-in. You can have best quarter, but if you don’t have someone to catch the ball and take it over the finishing line, it doesn’t make sense.”

What’s next in customer experience

Despite the challenges, the three brands see digital technologies as vital to ongoing success. La-Z-boy, for example, is exploring how to use augmented reality and virtual reality to make experiences more compelling.

“In the next year or two, you’ll see AR/VR experiences, where you hold your iPad up in the home, it scans your room, you click on items you want to disappear and to replace with La-Z-Boy furniture,” he said. “Within minutes you can see your home re-imagined. It’s not possible, it’s happening.”

As more millennials start investing in homes and buying wireless and connected speakers, Freeman said different customer experience and services needs must be met.

“They want multiple ways to contact customer service... and even all channels at the same time,” he said. One recent Denon + Marantz initiative is ‘co-browse’. This allows a consumer to tap into their product app and interact with customer support in real-time as they set products up.

“This puts them directly in the home to solve the problems out there,” Freeman said. “That’s a major evolution in how we support our customers.”

Moving forward, Freeman is keen to solve issues for customers before they know they exist, and said this has already started thanks to data. “Based on a few phone calls and IoT, we could see an issue with a soundbars we sell. We could identify 350 products in market with same issue, and overnight sent an update to fix the soundbars. Customers never knew the issue existed.”

Live chat is on Pello’s radar, but again, issues of cultural change are making it a difficult one to adopt, Neary said.

“With chat, people know intellectually it’s a good decision, that change has to be done and what our customers need, but it’s emotionally a struggle,” she said. “We joke the five stages of grief is also the five stages of change – you go through anger, denial, bargaining and depression before accepting it.”

What’s key to point out is the clear benefits of change, Neary said. “It’s also about ensuring great training and support as much as having a great team,” she said.

In La-Z-Boy’s case, using digital to get sales and designers upstream and in the process with customers sooner and faster, versus waiting for them to come into the store, is a priority. Another is arming people in-store with information about what has happened in other channels.

“Right now, it’s like they’re walking in to the store new each time,” Winkler said. “We’re looking at providing sales associates with information about what they looked at online, fabric, promotions received, so they can start conversations in a personalised way so it’s efficient but also relevant.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to the Oracle Modern Customer Experience summit in Las Vegas as a guest of Oracle.

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