Digital customer experience

Do customers care about digital? Unfortunately, probably not. Despite the noise being made about the digital customer experience, more often than not businesses and organisations often overlook what their customers feel and care about in relation to the digital experience.

Picture this –

It’s 5pm on a Saturday and a customer is shopping at a luxury apparel store. She spends an hour sifting through various items, until selecting an expensive wool coat and a pair of trendy boots. Happy with her selection, she patiently queues at the checkout counter, ready to quickly make her payment and head off home to have dinner with her friends Fast forward to 7.30pm and whilst she is back at home with her friends, she is without the purchases she attempted to make.

What happened?

If we look back, we’ll find that the salesperson at the checkout counter was unable to process the customer’s credit card payment.

Whilst the stores checkout front-end is integrated with two sophisticated systems, they are completely separate platforms at the back-end. The first system, the store’s own customer analytics platform, saves purchase data and creates (and keeps updating) a profile of each customer. The second system, the bank’s servers, processes the credit card payments as they occur.

In this instance, the store’s analytics platform was unable to sync with the bank’s servers in order to signal the go ahead to process the payment. As such, the customer was asked to move aside and provide additional details. After various attempts, the two individual systems could still not be synced. The frustrated customer dumped her shopping items and left the store muttering to herself that she would never go back.

What was the impact?

From an outside perspective, the most obvious impact relates to the time and effort wasted by the customer, with nothing to show for it. The not so obvious impact, yet perhaps the most detrimental, is the subconscious disappointment of not being able to show her new clothing purchases to her friends. As a result, the customer now associates this disappointment with the store, creating long lasting implications for the business.

The store not only lost a guaranteed sale of $350, it also lost a premium customer who averages approximately $1,200 of purchases per year. If we multiply this figure by an average of 5 similar occurrences per month, we are staring at more than $20,000 in actual lost sales, further equating to $70,000 in potential lost sales for the entire year!

So, what went wrong with the digital customer experience?

With the customer experience fully digitised, analytics play a major role in understanding customer buying patterns, predicting spending behaviour and even suggesting promotional material that both the bank and the store can send. However, this valuable resource is completely dependent on the two individual systems working together as one and not as independent systems, as they currently are.

The advanced and complex algorithms working to provide a sophisticated digital experience failed to deliver on the core premise, that is, a positive customer experience. If we ignore the digital aspect for one second, basic customer experience (or rather, the lack of it) is what turned the customer away and potentially burned a $70,000 hole in the store’s top line.

“If a customer’s experience is full of frustration, then it’s probably time to disrupt the experience!” – Sir
Richard Branson

Despite of all the digital interventions now common in the way businesses interact with customers, are customers really that frustrated?

It seems that they actually are! A recent report on digital experience within Australia shows that a whopping 69% of consumers are not pleased with their digital interactions. Of these, 35% are completely unsatisfied’ with their experience.

How do customers interact with businesses and brands?

Most organisations today have multiple channels and touchpoints in which customers are able to utilise and interact with. The report quoted above states that 87% of all engagement happens across two or more channels, while 43% of interactions take place over at least five channels.

So, what does the customer really care about?

The customer only cares about the experience, irrespective of how digital it is. The things that matter to the customer are:

  • Ease of use and access
  • Seamless experience irrespective of how she wants to interact and which touchpoint, channel or device she uses
  • Digital ensures the customer experience is owned by all departments within the organisation and not just specific divisions
  • Predictable interactions based on her preferences and past needs
  • Fast turnaround times and quick resolution of issues

Where does digital come in?

  • Digital provides the opportunity to consistently interact
  • Digital connects physical stores, mobile devices and call centres
  • Digital ensures the customer experience is owned by all departments within the organisation and not just specific divisions
  • Digital enables seamless interactions across any device and at any touchpoint

The digital customer experience challenge –

It is imperative for businesses and organisations to make the customer experience easy. Yet to do this from the front-end, businesses have to make it complex at the back-end.
And businesses don’t always have the capability and bandwidth to handle the complexity that is required to make the process easy for customers.

What approach should businesses take to tackle these challenges?

  1. Design Thinking: it all starts with thinking about what the customer actually experiences. Systems and processes must be designed by keeping the customer experience in mind at all times.
  2. Process Centric:customer interactions must then be mapped with processes and technologies that support them in the back-end.
  3. Reimagination: the processes have to be reimagined to ensure that they meet the 4 key expectations that the customer truly cares about. That is, an easy, seamless, fast and predictive experience.

The above approach should be undertaken with adequate expertise in the domain in which the business operates in order to understand the depth to which customer expectations could vary. Businesses and their digital partners should be open to continuously experiment with what works and what could be improved. An iterative, continuously adaptable solution is what works best, as is evidenced by the increasing prevalence of agile methodologies in the modern technological world. Businesses that manage to do this sooner, rather than later, are the ones which will potentially avoid the $70,000 hole in their top line, and it could be even more for some!

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