“What is our DIGITAL CX score?” is a question I often get asked when working with companies to improve their website experience.

What usually prompts this question is a bunch of “non-digital” issues being reported via digital feedback mechanisms: undelivered purchases, unanswered calls and emails, unacceptable product quality, inadequate return options and so on.

You want to know if your WEBSITE experience is getting better or worse and what you can do to improve it. You need to act on issues under your control: broken filters, poor search results, checkout errors.

These other issues are clouding your numbers. Right?

Hold that thought and think about the journey from your customer’s perspective. While those poor delivery or return ratings aren’t telling you directly about website satisfaction, they are VERY LIKELY to influence whether your customers return to your site to purchase another item.

Today’s customers expect a seamless omnichannel journey – your business structure is irrelevant to them. They want a holistic, connected and smooth journey that meets their needs from start to finish. And you need to be able to adapt accordingly.

To demonstrate how an individual customer’s journey culminates into his or her likelihood to return to your site to make another purchase, let me contrast two recent personal retail experiences as a busy working mom.

Experience #1: Women’s online retailer
I need some casual boots, a winter coat and a few blouses.

I visit a well-advertised website for women’s fashions that promises great finds on unique and well-priced items.

Website is fast. Filters work well. Product images look great. Prices are good. Check. Check. Check.

Smooth sailing through the checkout. Shipping is about $65 on an order of about $500 but prices are good, boots and coats are likely heavy/bulky items so I make the purchase. Items are supposed to arrive within the week.

A week passes. An email says the boots are on their way. No word on other items.

Shortly after, boots come with the blouses. Boots in the expected shoe box, blouses come in small plastic bags.

Moment of truth: one pair of boots I love. Just like the picture, fit great. Other pair—well….really cheap material and not terribly well made. Blouses are not well made. What are my return options?

I email the customer service link but get no response-a couple of times. Finally someone responds: I have to wait for the whole order to arrive (where IS that winter coat BTW??) before I can send anything back. Hmm.

Three-and-a-half weeks from the time I order, the coat arrives. Sigh. It is definitely the item in the website photos but the quality of the materials and workmanship are awful.

Now that I have all items in hand, how can I return the unwanted items? One pair of boots are worth keeping from the whole order. Well, turns out I can only return the coat since I have now had the other items for more than two weeks. WHAT?

OK, what is it going to cost me to send the coat back? The full initial $65 delivery fee. For 1 of the 6 items I was charged shipping for. Seriously.

After that experience, I’m a little gun-shy. But life is busy and shopping online is such a promise of convenience….

Experience #2: Boy’s online retailer
I have a formal “quinceaños” event to go to. I get my school-aged son to try on the suit he wore to the last formal event we went to. (LOL wishful thinking—time for a new suit.)

I really DO NOT HAVE TIME to shop for a suit. I take a chance—Google a site that sells boys’ suits. I’m a bit skeptical about fit but I’m short on time.

I go to the site. It’s fast. Filters help me find something that looks good. Images look convincing. What about size? I take my son’s measurements, compare to the online size chart and am ready to order.

It’s a Sunday night. The event is Saturday. Yikes.

SUPPOSEDLY orders entered by noon are processed by end of the day – but it’s Sunday. Shipping options are not free—I opt for $18 two-day shipping on a $300 order. If I am lucky, I will get the order by late Wednesday, early Thursday. That gives me time to hem the pants. I take the plunge and order without incident.

Tuesday at 11 AM the suit arrives. WHAT?

I open the box. Suit is in a proper suit bag, laid carefully in the box with tissue paper. The shirt is wrapped in tissue, tied with ribbon. There is a printed receipt for “hassle free return” and a THANK YOU CARD???? This is too good to be true.

I open the suit bag—PLEASE let the suit be decent.

It’s beautiful. Color is nice, suiting material good quality, neat stitching, has a modern cut. Size looks about right—I’ll have to do the hemming I was expecting.

There is NO WAY I am returning this but I am curious. What does the receipt say about the return process? Just check the items you are returning, sign the bottom of the receipt. Tape the box back up and drop it at the local post office (around the corner).

Thinking of my journey with these two retailers, here’s how I would sum up my thought process:

Am I willing to try those retail sites again?

Both sites were fast.

Filters were great.

Images loaded and looked nice.

No checkout problems whatsoever.

Websites were both great.

Women’s Retailer: Sorry.

These guys lost me at waiting in limbo for my full LATE delivery to arrive before I could return items. There is nothing they could improve on their website that would make me TRUST them again.

Boys’ Retailer: I’m not thinking about the website.

What sticks out in my mind is the promise kept of the product I bought, delivered BEFORE the estimated time when there was no time to spare. I think about the CARE that went into packaging that suit and the thought that went into the easy return process I didn’t opt for. These guys nailed it.

And stats from the eCommerce Packaging Study 2016 from Dotcom Distribution bear out this experience. When it comes to trust, a key element in the e-commerce journey, the website experience is not the lever to pull:

The same study found that 87% of shoppers said the time it took to receive an order would influence their decision to shop with a retailer again. 47% chose NOT to return to a retailer because of unclear order status and updates.

What does all this mean for you?
Ignore site speed and stability? Forget about the clunky filters? Live with checkout errors?

No. All of those elements are critical to a smooth website experience. But they are table stakes in a customer journey that regularly crosses both physical and digital channels.

If you really want to WOW your customers and keep them coming back, do everything you can to make the entire customer journey one YOU would want to take. The goal should be to make the whole experience productive, easy and enjoyable regardless of how or where your customer interacts with you.

The key is listening to your VoC across all channels to identify the high stakes issues that make or break customer TRUST, wherever they occur.

Collaborate with others to take connected, coordinated action – work as a TEAM to break down company silos and smooth out the rough spots in the journey.

Keep listening to VoC feedback across all digital and non-digital interaction points in the same connected manner you take action on it to see if reports of problems are decreasing and where your ratings are improving.

Monitor your return visits, online sales and customer lifetime value as you make improvements across the journey to assess ROI.

Then rinse and repeat.

Are you guilty of creating disconnected customer journeys and experiences? Find out with the OpinionLab Strategy Guide “10 signs you’re guilty of disconnected customer listening”.