Friction in the Frictionless Journey

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

There is still so much that needs to be changed in the quest to eliminate friction in the customer experience and lessons to be learned that the c-store/petro industry should consider as it ventures into making the forecourt stop or in-store visit more convenient.

Although I easily walked in and walked out with a couple of items in a recent cashierless store visit, I was confronted by many holes on the shelf. With all the cameras watching, the basics of being in stock and not disappointing a customer still was missed. New and additional inventory control processes and systems need to be refined and committed to.

BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), the great convenience time-saver, failed me twice at the same store with the same item. The failure, which cost me considerable time (read friction), wasn’t just with the inventory management system it was further complicated by a less-than-thought-through point of sale (POS) system process.

The cashier’s only recourse was to have me sign for a refund on an item I never received, and then encountering a situation where it wouldn’t refund to my credit card, she opted to give me cash. POS system functionality needs to ensure simplicity in order to meet the convenience requirement; get feedback from cashiers and customers in the testing and pilot phases that this has been met.

The stories of how friction is taken out of the customer experiences at conferences and webinars are endless. Although there is visible effort and new technology implemented, I’ve found myself recently standing in long lines at retailers who, along with their solution providers, tout they’ve entered the frictionless age.

Be sure operational practices in areas such as labor management are managed properly; update the drivers that determine labor needs when you’re fully satisfied the new systems are working well.

The online world of bots and chat are there in part to “help” when a customer has had some friction in their experience.

I’ve recently run into these “help” experiences that turned out to be no better than phoning in and being led down an endless voice assistant “press one for” path. Take time in the design phase of projects to think through the steps the customer and/or employee will be going through, and challenge yourself to be sure its not only expedient but will live up to being frictionless; if not, move on to the next idea.

In one new app I used, the mapping function took me on a several-mile route to find the “nearest” store, only to go by another of the retailer’s stores before I got there. After receiving an offer notice in email that changed my mind as to where to shop, I went to use the offer in the app only to experience cellular connection friction.

There are situations like these that are not directly in the retailer’s control but need to be thought through. Outline and test the many scenarios that could occur, and determine if these inconveniences outweigh the benefits or if some risk mitigation action should be taken.

Technology is moving faster than ever, and yes, there are many customer experiences that have been improved. However, the customer as they shop is on a journey and there are many stops along the way that need to be considered to truly take friction out of the experience.

As you look to implement your next convenient moment for your customers, be sure to look all around, and don’t miss seeing what else should be addressed.

Ed Collupy is an executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group. Reach him at ecollupy@wcapra.com. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses and technology companies.