Posted by: Marketing | 08.24.2017
Friction free as a term has been applied to the idea of capitalism, marketplaces and customer experience. The idea is to provide consumers easier access, whether that is to competing products, purchasing via mobile device or interacting with an organization. This may seem like a strategic concept to be worked toward; however, the customer expectation exists today, and rightfully so. Amazon has been working toward achieving new levels of customer experience for years. In fact, many innovative organizations are learning to adapt and respond quickly to customer feedback, thereby improving the experience and lowering any friction.
Humach’s Tom Asher, senior vice president of customer engagement, has seen first-hand the impact of focusing on friction-free customer experience.
“When you consider how rapidly business is moving and that customer expectations are going to increase, it is important to adjust your approach,” said Asher. “The companies I see that are doing well are iterating in small bits, much like software organizations do when using an agile methodology. That gives them quick wins and solid data.”
Asher believes that most organizations are not focused on implementing frictionless customer experience today.
“It’s important that organizations recognize the need and desire is here, rather than luxuriating in the concept as a future strategy,” said Asher. “Implementing friction-free customer experience can be difficult, depending upon the level of systems integration required and the current state of the organization’s customer experience. The best advice I can give to any organization is start now with test projects, using the idea of agile methodology, and learn as you go.”
Agile Methodology: Start Small to Win Big
Customers are receiving a seamless experience today, sometimes without realizing it. Microsoft, Apple, and Google all provide behind-the-scenes updates to technology, partially to improve security but also to improve customer experience. Typically, these releases are small, and allow the organization to gather data quickly for future improvements. According to Asher, applying this style of thinking to business is key.
“The old-world thinking is you have these major initiatives that take months to implement. Truthfully, to gain momentum requires sprints, which are smaller projects or pilots that leverage partners to create those quick wins,” said Asher. “Smaller corporations and start-ups have to think this way to compete and consequently are effective at creating frictionless customer experiences.”
Asher noted that he sees organizations focused on more risk-averse processes, such as cost cutting or increasing sales.
“To take steps toward better customer experiences requires a recognition that your customer is expecting an experience from you that is ahead of where you are today, then adjust your methodology and rewards systems. Consider ways to measure the overall health of the business while rewarding forcustomer retention, rather than top-line or bottom-line metrics.”
To achieve friction-free customer experiences requires organizations to first accept rapid innovation as part of the new normal in operating their businesses, while also understanding that customers must be the focus of these agile-styled pilots and programs to gain understanding. But what’s next?
Know What Your Customers Experience
Customer journey is not a new term. In fact, it’s been discussed for years among multiple industry experts, and yet there still seems to be a disconnect between the organization’s overall goals and the ability to provide a positive customer experience. Why?
“You must put yourself in the customer’s shoes: literally. Go into the field and experience first-hand what they do, in order to glean any real understanding,” said Asher. “Without identifying the issues, there is no starting point.”
There are many stories of customer challenges that would seem to be easy to fix. The problem arises when there is no focus from the organization on the issue, and the employees are simply performing a work-around, or have no way to deal with the problem at all.
“There is a major clothing manufacturer and retailer that opted not to give a particular customer complain merit, believing it to be an exception. The issue was that a customer purchased an item online and wanted to return it in a retail location, but could not do so for the same price she purchased it online. One of the customer engagement team replicated the problem and discovered that not only was the problem real but the employees had no work-around. It was a complete fail,” said Asher. “Without taking that one little step, this retail clothing company would have continued with this broken process. Instead, they made some quick adjustments and empowered the employees to do what was needed to make the customer experience better. They removed the friction.”
It’s easy to assume that certain complaints are exceptions. So spending time to investigate issues first-hand is crucial to have any hope of truly mapping the customer experience, much less achieve the goal of removing friction from the processes.
“There is a reason that Amazon is achieving results others are not. They focus heavily on friction-free customer experiences,” said Asher. “Now they have incredible loyalty, and they continue to utilize agility in their model to make adjustments so customers are happier and they are more efficient. I am confident they are not having long meetings while overanalyzing tactics. They are making rapid adjustments regularly, learning from mistakes, and willing to take risks. It’s paid off.”
Stop Overthinking It
There are always challenges with any business, whether the complexities of a large enterprise or the resource-constraints of a start-up. However, using those as a reason to forgo customer experience as a focus will ensure an organization will stagnate.
“Realistically there are many things any company can do quickly and easily to make an impact,” said Asher. “For example, when was the last time you updated the FAQs on your website to align with your customer? Have you considered retraining your contact center agents to achieve a satisfaction score that positively impacts the customer journey?
“Experimentation is important. Perhaps you start with ten agents in a pilot to learn if the metrics have merit. It’s not always about self-service, and it’s not always about technology. It’s about understanding the entire customer journey and how they experience each step. Then make small, rapid adjustments, and learn while you go.”
The long-term benefits of developing friction-free customer experiences are proven, and customers expect them now. Asher recommends working with partners who can support you in making the shifts needed to positively impact your current environment.
“We work with our clients to provide pilots and programs that improve customer experience and reduce friction on a regular basis. By aligning with a partner, organizations can quickly and easily get a more agile method to improving any part of a customer journey, and get those quick wins to move forward.”