Where’s the friction in your customer experience?


3 steps to seamless transactions at every stage

Ordering pizza is not a particularly complex task. But when Domino’s launched an app that let customers text an emoji of a pizza and then track the creation and delivery of their regular order while their credit card was automatically debited, it removed any last hint of friction in the home delivery experience.

Targeting record store growth in 2016, the Australian master franchise has also seen share price growth of over 700 per cent  in the past five years. And its pipeline digital projects are all focused on making the ordering process even faster and easier for customers.

There is no doubt customer experience can be a game changer for business success. As Forrester's Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine described in their book Outside In, customer experience is “the best predictor of business success… It’s not just customer service – it’s every interaction, from the point at which they discover you to the moment of purchase to each of the touchpoints in the ongoing relationship.”

And that makes it quite challenging to track and improve, because every process and product in your business is part of the customer experience ecosystem – from customer call centre hold time to the small print in your disclaimers.

If staff can resolve issues quickly and feel ownership of the client relationship, they’ll provide a better experience. Effective communication can smooth out the edges of friction in customer experience.

The impact of experience

“Over the past ten years or so, technology advances have changed customer experience in three important ways,” comments Mahesh Roy, Macquarie Business Banking’s Segment Head for Financial Services.

“People want to interact easily through more channels. They expect every experience to be user friendly and intuitive. And with social media, if they don’t get the high service they expect they will let a lot of people know about it very quickly.”

Roy says this can have an immediate impact on online reputation. “On the flipside, if they have a positive experience they can be highly visible advocates – and in sectors like financial planning, referrals and word of mouth recommendations are gold.”

Happy clients will find new business for you, sharing their experience with their valuable likeminded network. But empowered staff can also be a valuable source of business growth.

“If staff can resolve issues quickly and feel ownership of the client relationship, they’ll provide a better experience. They’ll know who to redirect questions to and re-set any expectations – because effective communication can smooth out the edges of friction in customer experience,” says Roy.

For example, Amazon focuses on customer problems that have not yet been completely resolved by tracking the Non-Resolution Rate (NRR), because they know that’s what generates unhappiness or frustration with their customers. By keeping those problems visible until they are fixed, they also ensure similar issues won’t emerge again.

If there are consistent and repeated problems in your customer experience, it could also be costing you money. Increased calls to customer support, delays in the onboarding process – even compensation if complaints escalate. Fixing inefficiencies is good for customers and staff, but it’s also good for the bottom line.

Finding your roadblocks

Every transaction a client makes is solving a problem for them – whether it’s buying a pizza or a house, renewing insurance or filing a tax return. And no one wants that transaction to be time-consuming or frustrating.

Make it easy, or they’ll find someone else who’ll make it easier for them.

From your client’s point of view, the less friction at each stage of that transaction the better their experience will be. Global customer strategy consultant Don Peppers describes four attributes of a frictionless customer experience as:

  • reliability – does your product or service do what it promises? Does your website work?
  • relevance – do you remember each customer’s information or needs (or do they have to re-state their account number every time they speak to someone)
  • value – does your experience reflect the cost of your service?
  • trust – do you proactively help clients? – For example, with independent reviews, tips and tools, or easy unsubscribes

So how do you identify the root cause of friction in your experience?

1. Ask your customers

“We’re now used to being asked for feedback after an online or phone transaction,” says Roy. “You can do the same – ask your clients directly, in the moment of purchase.”

This is a good way to understand what really matters in their experience. For example, Roy says Macquarie conducts a propensity survey with consumers, which aims to provide advisers with client insights. In 2015, four of the five top drivers for a client’s likelihood to recommend were:

  • I feel my financial adviser values my business and relationship with the firm
  • proactively manages your affairs
  • I receive the right level of information about my status/progress
  • ability to choose products/solutions that suit your needs

“This highlights the importance of proactive communication from a client’s point of view,” comments Roy. Interestingly, there was also a direct correlation between employee engagement and higher propensity to recommend.

2. Map their journey

To really experience your service through your customer’s eyes, you need to use it. That’s the only way to understand the emotions it provokes – whether that’s enthusiasm or boredom, frustration or happiness.

If you identify a problem, go behind the scenes to find out what causes the issue – because often that will be invisible to the customer.

“If you’ve ever sat through a statement of advice review with a financial planner, you’ll know it’s not a particularly customer-friendly process – the documents are lengthy but legislatively required,” Roy explains. He says one financial planning firm now provides the documents on a USB to their client.

“They talk through the key highlights in person, but then let the client work through the paperwork at their own pace online, with a dedicated phone number for any questions. This turns a dry compliance experience into something quite practical and convenient.”

Take your website for a test drive as well, and look at a range of user scenarios. Can you find the information you need in three clicks or less? Can you ‘check out’ online, or understand how long solving your problem will take and how much it might cost?

“Make it easy, or they’ll find someone else who’ll make it easier for them,” says Roy.

3. Fix one problem at a time

Sometimes you don’t need to do a major customer experience overhaul to get a quick win or two, especially if technology or process glitches are causing common roadblocks.

In the US, investment bank Fidelity set up a customer experience improvement budget  and let teams draw small amounts from it to fix individual problems quickly, as they arose. This allowed it to find the cause of a log in issue and deal with it without spending time preparing a business case. Ultimately that saved millions of dollars by averting calls to customer service – and demonstrated to customers they were responsive.

Roy says a seamless customer experience can be as simple as using technology more effectively to do what you’ve always done.

“For example, I recently discovered how much easier my tax return could be. I went to a new accountant, and they took care of everything in less than an hour. The data was already downloaded from the ATO, they gave me an estimate straight away, and I could pay their bill in three clicks.”

With a better tax result and some complex issues sorted, Roy is one satisfied customer – and he’s telling everyone about his experience.

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This material has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 ("Macquarie") for general discussion purposes only, without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this general information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. The information provided is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service.