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<Warning:  This blog contains spoilers for a 36-year-old movie>.

My parents purchased their first VCR in 1984, and one of the first movies they bought on VHS was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I must have watched Indiana Jones do battle with the Nazis a dozen times that first week alone, and three plus decades later I still count it as one of my all-time favorites.

As I got older, however, I noticed a problem with the film that to this day still bugs me, and no, it has nothing to do with the submarine. What I realized, somewhere around my 200th viewing, is that the final outcome of the movie (Nazis opened ark, ark melted Nazis’ faces) would have been the same had Indiana Jones never even left his classroom.

Think about it, he didn’t stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the ark nor did he stop them from taking the ark back to Berlin, the ark did that all on its own. To extrapolate that thought even further, you could make the case that Indy’s involvement just made matters worse – because there’s a good chance the Nazis would have never found the ark in the first place had he just stayed home (Nazis were digging in the wrong place, Indy dug in the right place, Indy found the ark, Nazis stole the ark)

The reason I’m telling you all this, besides the fact that I love the movie and talk about it every chance I get, is that Indy’s non-impact on the final outcome of the film is eerily similar to an experience I had recently with a prominent omnichannel retailer.

Allow me to explain:

Due to a combination of poor fulfillment, weather delays and me completely forgetting to do what my wife asked me to do, I found myself in a position where I had four hours to find a pair of shoes for my son to wear to a formal event that evening.

Sitting down in front of my computer with credit card in hand, I went to an omnichannel retailer’s website with the intention of making a “Buy Online, Pick Up in Store” purchase. Everything went smoothly at first, I found the shoes I wanted at a store 25 minutes from my house, put them in my cart, entered my billing information and clicked the “Complete Purchase” button.

That’s when the problems started.

Upon finalizing my purchase, the site sent me to a completely blank page.  I could see the URL at the top of my browser window but there was no information being displayed, not even a 404 error, so I had no idea if my transaction went through.

After waiting five minutes for an order confirmation email, I contacted customer support via live chat to explain what had happened and see if my order was complete.  The live chat agent informed me that there was no record of my transaction and suggested I try again…using Internet Explorer…because their site doesn’t work as well on browsers like Chrome or Safari.

Since this isn’t 2009, I didn’t have IE installed on my computer so I grabbed my phone and hit the company’s mobile site. It wasn’t the smoothest shopping experience I’d had in my life but was able to buy the shoes, after which I received an order confirmation email that explained I would receive a second email within 60-90 minutes notifying me my order was ready for pickup.

About an hour later I received a second email, but rather than saying my shoes were ready it regretfully informed me the item was no longer available, that my money would be refunded, and that I should call their Customer Support team if I needed help choosing an alternate item.

I called the number listed in the email and after a ten minute wait was connected with a very nice customer service rep. I explained my predicament and asked if any other stores in the area had the shoe in the size I needed. He told me he wasn’t sure because he was ecommerce support and only had visibility into distribution center inventory, not store inventory. He suggested I call each individual store and ask. I didn’t have that kind of time, so instead jumped in my car and drove to the store I had originally placed my order with, knowing they didn’t have the shoe I wanted but figuring I’d be able to find a reasonable alternative.

Upon entering the store, I made a bee-line to the kid’s section to start my shopping and the first shoe my eyes settled on was, you guessed it, the exact pair I ordered online. The very pair I was told wasn’t in stock any longer. I asked an associate if they had it in the size I needed, to which he replied: “I’m sure we do, we have a ton of these in stock.” He went into the back and returned two minutes later with the shoes, which I promptly paid for and then left.

At the end of the day, the manner in which I bought the shoes would have been the same, for both me and the retailer, had this transaction taken place the same day my parents brought that VCR home in 1984. The fact the retailer has invested millions in its omnichannel strategy didn’t help either of us at all. In fact, this investment actually made things worse because it made completing my task more difficult and as a result cost them a customer.

So what are the key takeaways here? That Raiders of the Lost Ark is a slightly flawed but nonetheless brilliant movie? Certainly. But from a CX perspective: omnichannel done poorly can be more detrimental to your brand than omnichannel not done at all.

Let’s face it: your customers don’t care why you operate your call centers, stores and ecommerce units separately, or that the communication process between your mobile app development team and your store or branch network is challenging. All they care about is getting what they need from your business, when they need it, with as little effort as possible.  For you, that means delivering an enriching and consistent experience across all channels.

So how do you deliver great omnichannel CX? The first step is both listening and acting on your VoC across channels and touchpoints in a connected and joined up manner. Only then can you find out about, diagnose, size and resolve the issues your customers face when they attempt to give you their money.

Are you guilty of the 10 signs of disconnected customer listening? Check out the OpinionLab strategy guide to find out.

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