Creating the Frictionless Journey Your Customers Want and Demand

The following article has been re-posted from Convenience Store Decisions. The original posting can be found here.

Create a powerful customer experience solution where the customer can easily identify and manage their relationship with your brand.
By Ed Collupy

These were insights & remarks I prepared for a session on Customer Engagement that I cohosted with Matt Miller from NCR in the International Hub at the 2017 NACS Show.
I want to start off today and take a look at some interesting research about the customer experience as it relates to customer service; some of these stats get to the core of a ‘frictioned’ customer experience. (source: NewVoiceMedia)

  • One study suggests that U.S. companies are losing more than $62 billion a year due to poor customer service.
  • 49% leave for not being appreciated and 37% leave because of a bad experience with staff.
  • 62% of 25-34 years have switched where they shop following a poor experience & it’s this age group that has the greatest population – there are more 26 year olds than any other age living in the U.S.
  • And as it relates to the digital transformation, 42% – after a negative experience – are likely to post a bad review or share on social media what happened.

Trends

I see four major trends going on with the Customer Experience:

  • Big Data – Customers interact with retailers in so many ways today – in-store transactions, emails, chats, customer surveys and social media – and each of these channels is as important as the other and is making up massive amounts of customer experience data. Solutions that help look across this data and help to create useful and actionable data that can build customer loyalty and improve satisfaction is the next step in the evolution of big data system solutions.
  • Artificial Intelligence – Although it’s possible that we could see AI capabilities replace human function, some technology trend observers believe AI will assist customer support people, become an IA, or Intelligent Assistant. The Amazon Go store in Seattle uses artificial intelligence along with sensors to track the items the customer has taken off the shelf. Chatbots that are providing personal service experience are one of the first AI experiences customers will have.
  • Social Networks – customers are expecting a very high level of responsiveness when they are interacting with retailers through social media. If there isn’t a response to a post within a few minutes this customer is at risk of moving on to the next similar retailer. This loyalty builder along with anticipating other information a customer may need from their initial post is being designed into what the customer experience is like.
  • Internet of Things – U.S. fast-food chain Pizza Hut selected China for a rollout of beacon sensors that alerts customers on their arrival of discounts and cross-retail promotional offers. Studies report that IoT devices will more than triple by 2020, to 34 billion devices – these are everyday devices that share information and perform tasks even without someone around.

Around the world, both geographically & digitally, so much is going on with retailers and your customers.
In Latin & South America – the list of customer experience trends looks like what is going on in the U.S. with loyalty and mobile, but there are some distinct differences when it comes to Personalized Offers.
In Europe, customers want, as part of a customer service element, to talk to their brands as easily and informally as they would with their friends. In a recent study by Mintel 59% of Italians surveyed reportedly would like to be able to contact customer service through an instant message using Facebook Messenger, Snapchat or WhatsApp. In Europe, time has become a key issue for retailers this year as they see more demand to help people organize and make better use of their time off via new geo-location technology services and platforms.
In the Asia–Pac region of the world there is growing attention to customer’s emotions and how that influences their experience with retailers. Demographics like age and gender are becoming less important in creating offers for specific customers. Through all types of digital trails, customers are posting their mood – this is best seen in the prevalent use of emojis in Asia vs. the U.S. or Europe. The Chinese social media platform, WeChat, is a clear example of a movement toward social-commerce, where a lot of different mobile activity – marketing related, buying/selling, financial transactions – is all in one platform. Some 50% of customers in China, India, Thailand and other countries have chatted with retailers using messaging services that are yet another source of gaining emotional insights. (source: Michael Agnew Foresight Factory)

Convenience

It’s right in the name of the industry – ‘Convenience’ – and when you think of it the industry was a leader in bringing the consumer one of the most common and most used self-service convenience around – the fuel dispenser. I just read something that Jeff Lenard of NACS said – we sell convenience, not just product and service. Convenience translates to speed of service to today’s time-starved customers. Many retailers are putting focus on customer success as they consider the various customer experience touchpoints in a store. There are new service expectations being created each day as new technologies are introduced but for me what is most important is to keep convenience first. Convenience is a winner! This may be your ultimate customer service and CX weapon. If you want to win in business, figure out how to be more convenient than your competition.
One of the most important elements of creating a powerful customer experience solution is delivering one where the customer can easily identify and manage their relationship with your brand. A great way to think about how you want to interact with your customers from a digital viewpoint is to think through the customer’s journey. As you design your digital customer experience think about your customers and what makes them the same and what makes them different from one another.

Customer Journey

This afternoon I will introduce you to two customers and like all of us we have some things in common and many where we are different. Our customers are going to help Matt and I to delve into two customer experience technologies that are making inroads into the convenience store industry – self checkout and mobile.
Let’s first meet Lola – the loyalty gal. She thrives on rewards and being recognized for shopping at “her” store. Let’s take a look at a part of her journey. Before she heads out to your store she’s using her tablet to see what is going on at what she calls ‘My Store’ and as she arrives at the store checks her mobile phone to see what loyalty points she has available. After picking up items that will give her club points she notices that the checkout line is a bit long and decides to use one of the self-checkout units that is available. Lola, on the hunt for more points decides to pay using her mobile wallet and is then reminded on the self-checkout display of the points she earned on that visit and has available and also gives the store five stars while she still has her mobile phone in her hand. She was reminded that she had achieved the level of points for a free cup of coffee and decides to return the next morning where at the self-checkout she was asked if she wanted to add a muffin to go along with her free coffee.
Lola’s decision to use the self-checkout was prompted by a visual signal, the queue, but she knew that she would be best satisfied by making a choice to take things into her own control…. after all it is ‘my store’. For the retailer labor can and often is saved in the deployment of self-checkout; I recently talked with a retailer that is piloting self-checkout and he told me that although their cashier staffing levels at peak business periods went from three to one, they have redeployed some of the staff to other duties; a decision, just like Lola’s, driven by convenience. Their experience in their first store after only a few months had almost half of the transactions being done through the self-checkouts – a sign that many of their customers are satisfied with the experience.

Self-Checkout

In a recent forecast (source: Technavio) I read, globally there is expected to be an 18% compound annual growth between now and 2021 with the U.S. & Canada leading with implementations. The technology behind self-checkout units continues to evolve with features such as being able to accept multiple bills at once and recycle up to eight different coin denominations and six different note denominations. Other advances are also helping to bring costs down.

A Different Customer Journey

Now meet Gus – our Gas Guy. Price conscious, fills up more frequently than others, apt to come into the store, and wants to update others on the price he paid for fuel. As he anticipates needing to fill up Gus relies on his mobile phone to check local fuel prices and gets to thinking about the mobile technology he saw recently when he test drove a new connected car. He gets to the station with the lowest price and it’s a stormy day so he’s glad he can authorize the pump and get his payment transaction underway while in his car on his mobile phone. While he’s filling up his phone beeps with a reminder that there’s an offer inside the store he’d likely be interested in and after filling up he does go inside the store, makes a purchase but realizes he’s got a coupon stored in his mobile wallet for one of the items he is buying and has the cashier scan the barcode and waves his wrist over the NFC-equipped payment terminal. After a short drive home he takes a minute with his tablet to post the price he paid for fuel and to comment on how good the food was he purchased.

Mobile

Mobile, to me, is really an “any” – besides the notion of customers being connected as part of the mobile customer experience, the concept and reality is much broader – it’s the mobile web or app that’s available 24×7 and proximity sensing wherever you are, it can be a mobile payment or checking out on a mobile point-of-sale (POS) wherever you are in or outside of a store, and to ensure you have what customers want in stock your employees could be using a mobile wireless device for inventory management. We saw it in Gus’ journey – interacting with any & many mobile devices – phone, tablet, even thinking about that new connected car, and was checked out by a line busting mobile POS since the store was busy and paid with his wearable mobile device – his watch. It was anywhere – at his office, in his car, on the forecourt, in the store, at home.
With mobile being in just about any one of you customers hands it’s no longer a case of asking whether a mobile customer experience is important, we know it is!
Consumers expect to be able to engage with brands on their mobile devices to get anything they want in their immediate moments of need. Forrester calls this the mobile mind shift.
It’s now a question of how best to address the needs of ‘any’ of your existing customers to increase market basket size and their loyalty and to attract ‘any’ new customers using the statistics to understand how consumers behave when engaging with you using mobile devices.
Please reach out if you would like to connect with Matt Miller, me or would like more info on customer engagement. Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at ecollupy@wcapra.com and be sure to visit www.capraplus.com for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational, and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses, and technology companies.