Design Your Customer Experience to be Frictionless

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Customer Strategy
Customer Experience
Most definitions of "customer experience" boil down to how a customer perceives all their various interactions with a product. And of course this only really makes sense when we try to view it from the customer's own point of view. The quality of a customer's experience with your product or service is whatever the customer says it is.

Most definitions of "customer experience" boil down to how a customer perceives all their various interactions with a product. And of course this only really makes sense when we try to view it from the customer's own point of view. The quality of a customer's experience with your product or service is whatever the customer says it is.And hey, guess what? In the vast majority of situations, customers aren't buying a product or service for the sake of the "experience" of buying or using it. They are just trying to solve some problem or meet some need, and if they could solve that problem or meet that need without having to deal with a company at all, don't you think they would?

What this means is that the ideal customer experience should be designed to be frictionless. The ideal experience would require no extra effort on the customer's part, it wouldn't require the customer to repeat anything they've already said, and wouldn't pose any obstacles to meeting the customer's need.

Probably, in fact, the ideal customer experience would be no experience at all, to the customer. That is, the only thing the customer would "experience" would be the elimination of whatever need or problem drove them in the first place. So when you design your own company's customer experience, you should aspire to that goal - the goal of receding from the customer's awareness altogether, fading into the background of the customer's life, never to cause a worry or require a task of any kind.

Marketing research supports this design concept, because studies have consistently shown that customer loyalty is not very highly correlated with customer satisfaction scores, although customer disloyalty does have a high correlation with customer dissatisfaction. In other words, customers don't necessarily stay because they're satisfied, but they often leave because they're not.

In one survey of nearly 100,000 US consumers, each of whom had recently participated in some online or over-the-phone interaction with a business, researchers Matt Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi found that "there is virtually no difference at all between the loyalty of those customers whose expectations are exceeded and those whose expectations are simply met...[and] virtually no statistical relationship between how a customer rates a company on a satisfaction survey and their future customer loyalty."
In fact, the survey found an R-squared (coefficient of determination) of just 0.13 between satisfaction and loyalty, which is very close to saying no correlation at all. (R-squared values range from 0 to 1.0, and to put this particular score into perspective, an R-squared of 0.71quantifies the correlation between "getting good grades in school" and "achieving career success later in life.")

Instead, the key driver of customer disloyalty appears to be dissatisfaction, driven by unresolved problems or service issues - from the customer's perspective, friction. According to the study, a customer service interaction is roughly four times more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty.

So when you design your own company's customer experience, it's important to deconstruct every different type of customer journey, realizing that different customers need to be treated differently, but then take some time and try to figure out how to suck as much friction out of each customer's experience as possible.

If you want some guidance in breaking down the elements of a truly frictionless experience, think of these elements in terms of reliability, relevance, value, and trustability.

- Reliability. Your product or service should perform as advertised, without failing or breaking down. You should answer your phone, your web site should work, service should be performed on time, and so forth. Your systems and processes should be capable of rendering a product or service on schedule, seamlessly across multiple channels and consistently through time, in such a way that it doesn't need a lot of maintenance, repair, correction, or undue attention from the customer just to meet whatever customer need or solve whatever customer problem it's designed to handle.

- Relevance. You should remember your customer from transaction to transaction, never requiring a customer to re-enter information, or to look things up that the company ought to know about them already. Every time a customer has to tell a call center agent their account number again, having just punched it in on their phone, they are coming face to face with friction, and the most efficient way to overcome it is to remember each customer's specifications, once you learn them.

- Value. The value-for-money relationship can't be out of kilter. As a customer, when you go to Costco you don't expect a Bergdorf experience. But when you buy a Lexus, you expect more than a Ford experience. Whatever product or service your customers are buying from you must be good value-for-money. It will be economical for customers who are interested in price, and it will provide "fair value" for customers more interested in quality, status, or other attributes.

- Trustability. In today's hyper-interactive world, mere trustworthiness - that is, doing what you say you're going to do and not violating the law - is no longer sufficient to render a frictionless customer experience. Increasingly, customers expect you to be proactively trustworthy, or "trustable." Trustable customer experience is one in which the customer knows the company provides complete, accurate and objective information, and will help the customer avoid mistakes or oversights. In the customer service arena, think about reducing friction by trying to improve "next issue avoidance." Think about a call center rep, for instance, proactively advising a customer how to deal with whatever problems might now occur, once they hang up the phone on this particular call. That would be trustable.

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers at http://community.cxpa.org. - See more at: http://community.cxpa.org/blogs/val-moschella/2014/10/07/cx-day-blog-car...

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