• August 10, 2016

Smooth Ride: Find Potholes in the Customer Experience Journey

Pave the path end-to-end through policy, software, and process integration.

Companies compete in a customer-driven age. The balance of power first shifted to consumers with the advent of social media, but it didn’t stop there. Several recent reports have found that customers abandon a brand or company in less than a week after a poor customer service experience—and often never return. It’s therefore critical for organizations to provide an excellent customer experience across all channels. Unfortunately, too many of those efforts to do so result in piecemeal solutions with profit-busting potholes along the customer experience path.

“Years of uncoordinated technology purchases will come home to roost, hamstringing big CX innovation efforts,” writes Deanna Laufer, senior analyst in customer experience at Forrester, in a blog post. “In 2016, we’ll see glimmers of success—Wells Fargo personalizing its ATMs and Expedia saving travel searches across devices—but short of rebuilding their technology stack, companies won’t be unifying the end-to-end customer journey anytime soon.”

Finding the Lost Sales

This reality is unfortunate given how much will be lost in sales due to the delay in fixing the potholes. It’s ironic, too, that potential lost sales will likely exceed whatever costs these companies thought they were saving by delaying expenditures to repair the situation.

So what can organizations do to improve customer experience end-to-end? It’s critical to understand that the customer or constituent (for public sector) experience is foremost a people issue rather than a technology issue. The technology should be the enabler of the experience, not the point of the experience. Here are four tips on finding and patching common potholes in the customer experience:

1. Integrate software and data. If, for example, your interactive voice response (IVR) asks for your customer’s information, such as phone, social security, or account number, don’t ask for that information again further down the line. Minimize or eliminate redundant data entry within channels, especially online, and when a customer communicates through more than one channel. Make sure customer and problem information follows the customer—and don’t make the customer conform to each system independently of the other systems.

2. Ensure policies aren’t one-sided. While most policies are written to direct employees to behave in ways that are beneficial to the company, as they should, those same policies can be an actual turn-off to customers if they disrupt the customer experience or appear one-sided. For example, requiring customer support reps to strictly follow a script and ask questions that may delay finding out the exact nature of the problem unnecessarily frustrates the customer. Check to be sure your policies are protecting your company in a way that doesn’t alienate customers.

3. Integrate your processes with the customer’s perspective in mind. It’s to your advantage to integrate your processes for added efficiencies and to ensure you have also taken into account the customer’s perspective. For instance, if a customer has to wait a week for an appointment to get cable TV or Internet service installed, and but sees your company installing those same services for his neighbor the next day, that customer is going to be irritated. If you aren’t batching service calls in the same area, it also means you haven’t optimized your fleet and installers’ schedules.

4. Use analytics to find ways to smooth and innovate the customer’s path. Analytics can help expose potholes in the customer experience from long wait times to redundant or complicated processes and everything in between. Starbucks, for example, knows that long lines can cause would-be customers to walk away. By pushing mobile payments to reduce the time customers spend fumbling with credit cards and cash at the register, the company has accelerated the traditional order process, been revolutionary in mobile payments, and potentially boosted participation in its My Starbucks Rewards program, which makes it easier to track purchases. It’s the kind of brilliant innovation in customer experience that would not likely be discovered without analytics to reveal the underlying problem in a traditional process.

If your customer experience technology, or blend of technologies, does not perform to customer expectations, it will become the focus of the customer experience—and slow down or stop sales. Look for a technology partner that delivers end-to-end solutions that are essentially invisible to the customer, and yet so flawlessly executed that customers want your products or services all the more.

Like this story? Read about customer experience in the financial industry in our report. And learn more about how HPE can help improve your customers’ experience.