We are all talking about “easy”, but what do we actually mean?
We’re in an era where making things easy or friction free for customers is key. It is becoming a popular talking point around customer experience delivery, and never before has it been such an important aspect of delivering a brand.
But preventing brands from putting “easy” into action, is the way we all look at our customers. They are different people, with different needs, at different times of the day and on different missions, yet many of us approach them as if they were all the same individual.
In an ever increasingly complex world, how do we simplify the way we do business in order to provide the easiest experience for our customers? An experience that helps them find what they need and transact with us as efficiently and seamlessly as possible, across all channels.
We build delivery blueprints that help brands align to their customers and deliver seamless and elegant experiences, so we have been angsting over this issue for sometime. And when I say angst, I really mean angst - be it on behalf of our customers or our customers’ customers.
It seems that, with more and more solutions, insights, concepts and theories coming to the surface, the complexity of customer experience delivery is only growing.
Yes, this really makes my brain hurt.
But it’s something I want to find the solution to. This means reading about and talking to those in the same field and deciphering whether I can learn from their experiences.
Isn’t serendipity an amazing thing?
We have recently worked with a number of brands to design their new customer experiences. All of which aim to provide customers with the answer to “how are you going to help me do what I want to do?”.
To be able to craft and deliver experiences that focus on the solution our clients offer their customers, we needed to look at the following questions:
What does the customer need the brand to solve for them?
How can the brand deliver this solution in a seamless and friction free way?
How can the brand remove barriers in the digital and physical experience to support the customer on their journey?
Can the brand build great differentiation through what they do and how they do it?
We have data and correlations coming out of our ears. And analytics by the bucketfull. We also have some incredible insights into the emotional side of the customer’s decision making journey. What really matters to them, what their deeper motivations for purchase are, and what they are really thinking beneath the surface.
So how do we help the brands we work with and feed such emotional insight into their customer experience?
As I was reading the September edition of The Harvard Business Review - one of my favourite publications - I came across an excellent article Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to be Done”. It is an insightful piece that has provided some brain food to feed our approach. I would recommend it to anyone developing robust, rigorous, inspiring and irresistible customer experiences.
In short, the single minded thought of the article is this...
Our fundamental role in the lives of our customers is to solve their problems and help them do what they want to do.
If we can do this and make it an easy experience - because we understand their needs both emotionally and in terms of delivery - then we should make progress with them.
But it is not just about making it easy for customers through the multiple touch points they use to connect with us. It needs to be easy for them to find and use the right solution for “the job” they need done. Be that a retail purchase, travel, consultancy, whatever...
In our world, there are two significant elements to “easy”:
The experience and its process, and...
The ability to easily find a solution to your need
Seamlessly easy – slick process must empower amazing people
We all know that any journey we engage in is always better if it runs according to plan. Whether we’re passing through an airport or buying online. As customers we all seek seamless and elegant experiences. But more often than not, we will hit a glitch along the way.
For example, passing through the airport should be quick, but it is often let down by process. Long queues, confusing technology, and conflicting flight schedules all damage the customer experience.
Similarly, a beautifully crafted digital experience can collide with an over complex or analogue return and refund process. This morphs us from delighted customer to anarchic activist in the blink of an eye.
We all know and engage with brands that deliver in both worlds. They exist in the digital space and engineer slick and well observed UX, whilst also existing in the physical space with a barrier free experience.
These are the brands that are creating distinctive positions in markets based on how they do things and how they answer the customers’ “jobs to be done”. They are aligned at delivering consistently brilliant basics that make me feel that the brand is answering my needs, without it being a big deal.
And interestingly, they involve each member of the team in the process. They’re building customer journeys inclusively across the business, so everyone can see, often for the first time, how and why they fit into it all.
Make it easy for the team to see and they will make it easy for your customers.
Let’s put this into context.
A few years ago we started working with a large parcel delivery company working on behalf of a multitude of online and direct selling organisations. They were looking at the B2B2C journey as a potential source of differentiation within a market that was undifferentiated at the time.
I didn't have much experience in this industry, or an extensive knowledge of what parcel delivery was all about. So I signed up for a week on the road with a number of their drivers. From inner city to extreme rural routes, I wanted to see how the designed experience and the driver experience matched in order to help us build an employee experience that would deliver the brand’s ambitions.
And boy was it an eye opener...
To cut a long story short - the high level of customer satisfaction, as measured by NPS, was not created by great, slick processes. Instead, it was how the drivers did what was right for the customer - even if this involved working outside the official processes.
There’s decades of evidence that the front of house team always know what is going on with customers, and that they have valuable insight to offer. Something that translates to this particular brand; their natural understanding of what people needed made it easy for them to deliver something special.
So how do we make easy happen?
The solution lies in good old fashioned planning and mapping, combined with deep insights from both the digital and physical world. To help get you thinking about what “easy” takes, here are a few thoughts:
1. You’ll never achieve “easy” if your team can’t see the bigger picture
It is a simple and undeniable fact that if your team can’t envisage the whole journey, then they will never be able to deliver an easy or seamless experience.
We need to consider the talent that is delivering this experience at each and every touchpoint. Not just the front of house team, but the UX and UI designers, the brains behind AI and bot development, the data teams, your c-suite, the delivery drivers, the operations teams, and even the 3rd parties we engage.
Make sure they all understand their role in delivering a friction free customer experience so they can actively deliver it.
2. To get “easy” in place, start with the empirical evidence from the complete journey
Using digital and physical customer and business data, gather evidence that offers more than one perspective on the issues.
The business case must be built using solid, credibly sourced data - otherwise you're just making it up!
3. Map - where “easy” is, where it isn’t and where it needs needs to be
At each touchpoint establish the ‘as is’ position and apply the evidence gathered from the business, customer, and team to identify what needs to change in terms of process, orientation and service.
Use this information to build the business case for change and establish the link between “easy” and the P&L.
4. Execute rigorously with discipline
If “easy” is the plan, it has to become the driving vision for the delivery programme. Progress needs to be measured and celebrated, mistakes and failures learned from, and new collaborations formed that focus on the end game...
And don’t forget to keep the customers and the front of house teams involved in developments; they see what is happening way before the project teams do!
Take a holistic approach
All too often we are using digital solutions as a silo away from the holistic view of the whole customer journey. But no brand will survive contact with the customer if its slick digital journey collapses as and when it enters the physical world.
If the two do not align and work in harmony to deliver a friction free customer experience, then you have blown a lot of time and money on turning your customers into ‘brand destroyers’.