Frictionless customer experience – should this be your goal?

  1. In 2016, an estimated $4.6 trillion of merchandise was left in abandoned eCommerce shopping carts
  2. The US economy loses $3 trillion in productivity annually due to excess bureaucracy
  3. China’s economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) grew a cumulative $82 trillion more than India’s from 1987 to 2017, even though the two economies were initially similar in size
  4. In March 2020, about 88% of all shopping carts were abandoned across these verticals – automotive, childcare, luxury, car rental, travel, airlines, fashion, gardening, cruise & ferry, mobile providers, departmental stores, hotel, cosmetics, consumer electronics, retail, sports & outdoor, groceries, pharma, and insurance. 

All these are distressing statistics. 


Can you attribute one reason to all of these? 

It will be difficult, but the common thread would be friction in customer experience. 


The most important thing that any and every customer servicing organization should do would be to reduce friction in their experience. 


Jeff Bezos of Amazon calls customer obsession the most significant success factor for any organization. Customer obsession is equivalent to zero friction on customer experience. 


Jeff Bezo’s famous quote on customer friction is, “When you reduce friction, make something easy, people do more of it.”


How do you reduce friction for your customers? 

How do you become a relentless advocate for the customers and minimize customer efforts? 


Some pointers that you can look at: 


  1. Talk to your customers regularly – this would help you discover friction and act on it. 
  2. Remove everything unnecessary or something that does not improve the customer experience – stamp out ridiculous rules and pointless procedures
  3. Provide choices to your customers to reach you. If they want to speak to an agent, so be it. 
  4. Don’t offer an omnichannel experience without putting in the necessary infrastructure to address customer needs across all the channels. The experience will have to be consistent. 
  5. Have one view of your customer journey so that the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves whenever they have to interact with you
  6. Promise only those that you can deliver and deliver beyond expectations
  7. Ask them this question, if they are willing to refer your service to their friends or relatives? If the answer is no, there is a lot for you to work towards
  8. Focus on reducing friction one step at a time. Sometimes, friction is not apparent. You will have to put yourself in the shoes of your customer to ensure that their journey

Read More: Customer experience and digital – how important is it?

The contactless approach to customer service

In the last year, most things have moved remote and online as far as customer service is concerned. Agents working from home will be the norm from now on, and the customers would want to get in touch with an agent only when necessary.


The contact centers have discovered that moving their agents to work from home hasn’t affected their productivity, and they continue to provide world-class service to their customers.


Customers still demand accessible, high-quality support, but the liking towards speaking with a live agent has come down considerably in the last few quarters.


With face-to-face interactions coming down, most organizations have migrated to multi-channel and omnichannel operations. They are looking at migrating 60% of their customer service to be handled by intelligent apps and automated bots that would be offered as self-service.


The self-service world

What do you need to do to make the self-service world up and running?

You need to get the technology in place and integrate it with your enterprise systems, which would help solve your customer issues.


The most important thing is agents’ ability to access your enterprise systems from a remote location – cloud access or VPN access. Once this is done, look at having automated IVR, chatbots with natural language processing, web self-service, FAQs, asynchronous messaging, SMS service lines, among others.


An example

I use a broadband connection at home. Whenever I have Internet connectivity issues, I was initially calling their customer service and registering a complaint. Once I register the complaint, I get an SMS with a complaint number. Then a support engineer calls me up to understand the issue. After a point in time, they provided me with an app to easily register my complaint.


Once the pandemic set in, they migrated the entire support part of the app into an intelligent application. There is no need for you to speak to anyone as all possible combinations are available in the chatbot itself.


Though it is only a rule-based engine, you do not have to talk to anyone, as every possible combination is captured as a part of the chatbot. They have all the options like:


  1. Internet not working at all
  2. Internet access is slow
  3. I am not able to access a few sites
  4. Whenever there is a power shutdown, and upon resumption, my Internet doesn’t work
  5. Router configuration
  6. A few others

You provide every information needed for the support engineer to address your issue within a minute and with just a few clicks. You get your ticket number with the approximate resolution times.


I can’t be happier.

This is a straightforward example that I have quoted. This is only the tip of the iceberg on what is possible with self-service. Imagine building intelligence to your self-service, and you would be laughing your way to the bank with happy, satisfied, and loyal customers.

Agent Experience is an essential piece in the customer experience journey.

There is very little room for error when it comes to customer experience.


In 2021, as is the case with every year, consumers will care even more about the customer experience than they did earlier when deciding which companies to support or buy from. 


Any friction in the customer journey will mean loss of business and potential gain for your competitors.


How do you go about consistently ensuring great customer experiences? 

It is an arduous task, but you have technology and tools to help you make the customer experience a genuinely seamless one for organizations and customers.


The most critical aspect of any customer experience journey is your agent, and putting them in the middle of your customer journey would greatly help your customers and business. 


Agent Experience – What should I look at? 

What is that one thing that an agent is expected to provide when it comes to agent experience? 


An agent is expected to resolve customer queries and challenges in the shortest possible time to their satisfaction. How do you make this available? 


It would help if you equipped them with all the tools that would allow them to provide resolutions in the shortest possible times for your customers. 


Some of the key things to keep in mind include: 


  1. Do you provide an omnichannel experience, with agent access to all your customers’ interactions with your brand? 
  2. Do you have all of your enterprise applications integrated to allow the agent to pull information together that will enable them to offer resolution in the shortest possible time? 
  3. Do you have intelligence built into your systems that allow the agent to access information based on customer preferences and needs? 
  4. Do you have frequently asked questions and their responses documented so that the agent can access them easily? 
  5. Do you have systems in place to allow your agents to access the right talent by the click of a button to help resolve customer queries? 
  6. Have you defined the performance metrics of your agents that are aligned with customer outcomes? People often look at call hold times, and resolution times without giving weightage to the customer’s challenge or issue. 
  7. Is your agent training in alignment with your customer experience vision? 
  8. Do your agents have the means to provide feedback to the customer service and product management functions on ways and means to enhance to customer experience journey? 

As an organization looking towards providing delightful customer experiences, you should invest in these eight areas to make your agents successful and make your customers happier. 

Customer experience journey – it is about how you respond to a negative experience!

I was working for an organization where we had many customer relationships. After being with us for two years, one of the customers decided to look at other providers for their needs.


When we inquired, we were told that they faced three issues in the last two months, and they weren’t handled well by our team.


Needless to say, we didn’t want to lose them, and especially after knowing the reason why they wanted to look at an alternate provider.


What did we do? 

Our executive management team got together, and we decided to have one of the management folks as the executive sponsor for that account.


We communicated this to the unhappy customer, and we told them to put us on probation for the next 90 days, and they can pay us half the fee that they were paying otherwise during this period.


The offer was irresistible, and they decided to give this approach a try, and we floored them with our service and responsiveness. It has been a decade now, and they continue to be a happy customer.


How did we communicate this story? 

We got them to be a part of a webinar that we were doing for our leads and prospects. Their Software Engineering Director was one of the speakers. She spoke about the fact that they decided to discontinue their relationship with us, how we responded, and where we are currently.


You won’t believe we picked up 40 leads from that webinar and a handful of them became our customers. I’d attribute that success to this customer service story.


Why is this experience significant? 

80% of customers will switch to another company after just one poor customer experience. So, you compete with your competitors now on pricing and selection and the experience.


Customer experience is being looked at as the product nowadays, as there is little else to choose between offerings.


When you look at customer service, you have to look at them from start to finish and close the loop. It is a given that you won’t delight your customers 100% of the time, but how you respond to their challenges plays a significant role in how they perceive your customer service.


This is what they call the ‘peak and the end’ experience in customer service vocabulary.


The peak is when the customer experiences the strongest positive or negative emotion, whereas the end refers to how the experience concluded.


You must maintain a positive customer experience throughout the customer journey and respond to a negative experience.


Read more: How do you make your customer experience stand out?