Customer Experience gets a lot of airtime in today’s marketing landscape. There’s much debate about what CX actually is, and what customers actually want. Ultimately, companies embarking on this journey are trying to unlock how to better their business, increase sales and drive customer loyalty.
There isn’t just one answer or method, but there might be a magic 1-2-3 to unlocking best-in-class customer experience:
Step 1: Reduce Friction
As a student of retail, I know that the experience the customer has in-store or online can make or break a business. Reducing friction is where I personally think the most fruitful CX lives, and it’s definitely where I would start. Eliminating a lineup, always having products in stock, making online service bookings available and reducing wait times all remove a meaningful reason for the customer to ditch their purchase. Think of friction as the moment when the shopper exhales loudly and thinks “this is such a waste of my time” -- that’s what you’re trying to eliminate and replace with “that was easy”. McDonalds drive thru is a great example: a family-centric brand that aimed to eliminate Mom and Dad hauling the kids out of the car and standing in line for food. Brilliant, decades ago.
Not long ago, I had an experience with Aldo that I thought was so simple and yet so smart. No one loves the experience of walking into a shoe store, asking for three different shoes in your size and then waiting for 10 minutes while the sales rep searches through the back room, only to come out and say “sorry, I only have those in a size 5”. Aldo has eliminated this friction through a simple app all reps on the floor have - you give them the shoe, they scan it and immediately tell you if they have it in stock or if it’s available online. Now if they could just give me that technology and I could look for myself even before I engage with the rep, even better!
Step 2: Added Convenience
Assuming you’ve removed the big friction points, step two is added convenience. If not executed carefully, this tactic could lead to ‘solving a problem the customer didn’t know they had’, but it’s a valuable area to explore.
The Starbucks payment, in my view, is a great success story. Even if customers don’t have a problem with payments and can use any number of platforms to buy their lattes, when a friction point (waiting in line) and convenience (payment) are put together to create an order ahead system, it’s a game changer. To illustrate, I recently had to be downtown for an all-day meeting and didn’t want to bring a coffee mug along. I jumped in an Uber, pre-ordered my Starbucks, added the Starbucks stop on the Uber app, jumped out, grabbed my coffee, and was back in the Uber on my way downtown in less than a minute. That’s convenience at its best.
Step 3: Immersive Content
I’ve listed content as the third step, simply because I believe that reducing friction and adding convenience need to come first in order to build a customer base that cares enough to engage in added content. In my experience, immersive content – while valuable -- can be a heavy lift, so the ROI has to be worth it.
Whether it’s QR codes on clothing to show how it fits (Uniqlo), gamification inside a loyalty program (Tim Hortons), or extensive understanding of your car’s performance within an app (BMW), successful immersive content depends on a customer base that is already engaged but can be pushed further into loyalty with this type of CX.
There’s definitely no silver bullet to creating unmatched customer loyalty. However, if you aim to build an experience that delivers on the customer need consistently every time, it’s important to first make the journey faster and simpler and then overlay additional convenience and content. Then, you will likely reap the benefits in your sales results.
Jennifer Stahlke is the VP of Customer Marketing at Walmart Canada and a member of the CMA Customer Experience Council.