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How GNC Tackled a Double Whammy: COVID-19 and its New Website’s Shakedown

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The pandemic put pressure on every retailer’s website, but GNC faced a unique obstacle: the company had rolled out a revamped ecommerce site in January 2020, just in time for social distancing and lockdowns to cause a massive shift toward online ordering. The entire site was new (except for the store itself), and now the standard process of ironing out hiccups was complicated by a spike in customer traffic.

“With the January transition we were integrating the full store and integrating service clouds and integrating customer service function, feedback and that type of process,” said Chadwick Hamby, VP of Ecommerce Operations and Solutions at GNC in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “That is a challenge in itself, but then within just a few short weeks we had COVID and then four weeks later we’re shipping from stores.”

The solution to both challenges was the same: listening and reacting to customer feedback. The most immediate concern when managing both website architecture and new shopping habits is making sure customers can still get what they need with minimal friction, and GNC leveraged its partnership with Verint to ensure that its ecommerce experience was as smooth as possible despite the turbulent times.

GNC used the Verint Experience Manager to help collect customer data through digital feedback, and merge it with other information from its Salesforce CRM platform. This enabled GNC to get a clearer picture of the challenges it faced to help minimize response times whenever problems arose.

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Collaboration Keeps Operations Running Smoothly

No retailer can predict exactly what challenges will arise, so GNC created a triage team tasked with quickly and efficiently responding to anything brought up by customers. The company held three daily meetings, with participants including developers, customer service and other stakeholders, to touch base with the entire team and ensure that no problems went unnoticed.

One major early concern was a glitch in the credit card system that caused customers to drop off at the end of their transaction. Thanks to detailed feedback and the ability to directly contact customers, GNC’s IT team was able to fix the issue within two days.

“Because we were only 60 days in, there was instability with the site,” said Hamby. “What the tools tell you versus what a customer tells you sometimes are different. However, because we were also integrating FullStory with Verint, we could see the actual replay of what the customer is experiencing and we could do that in 15-minute increments. We would play it out at those meetings and then ensure that we had the ‘hot fix’ that we needed in development.”

The triage team wasn’t available solely for technical problems. The early pandemic saw a massive spike in sales of Vitamin C and immune system-boosting products, and the group was on hand to manage substitutions and figure out changes to the supply chain. Connecting customer feedback across the entire enterprise improved GNC’s agility and flexibility when responding pm multiple fronts — an important strength when dealing with so many challenges at once.

Continued Data Gathering Sets a Path for the Future

The feedback GNC collects has remained useful even as the pandemic slowed down and the new website fully stabilized. The constant flow of data helps the retailer continuously monitor for new concerns. Additionally, the Verint platform will help GNC expand its customer service capabilities to improve the post-fulfillment experience in the near future, to ensure shoppers are satisfied with their experience even after the final delivery is made.

“We’re going to expand on the unified platform around data analytics and post-fulfillment,” said Hamby. “In today’s world we don’t do a very good job of pushing data down after we fulfill the order, so now we’re going to use the platform so that when your packages have been delivered, you receive emails or texts [that] allow people to give us some direct feedback.”

Hamby noted that GNC and Verint worked closely throughout the toughest times, including calls made late at night or over the weekend, and that level of partnership was key in helping the retailer thrive. This level of commitment has ensured that GNC will be able to continue improving its platform while minimizing the impact any tinkering may have on the customer experience.

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