The four foundations that enable disruptors to deliver fast & easy customer experiences
No organisation is free from the push toward higher convenience, as brands such as Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo disrupt their respective industries. So how can your organisation adopt a 'fast & easy' mindset?
Uber and Lyft drivers are just one click away, Amazon offers free same-day delivery, and Deliveroo can get us food from our favorite restaurant in under 32 minutes… Gone are the days in which consumers agreed to invest effort and wait to be served.
What matters to consumers is the time and effort they have to expend – the less, the better. ‘Fast’ and ‘Easy’ (hereafter F&E) are keywords that should be high on any marketer’s agenda. But what is it that sets F&E companies apart?
Below, I put forward four principles that drive an F&E mindset.
PRINCIPLE #1: F&E companies question themselves continuously
Regular audits to understand improvement points along the entire customer journey are key to success in an F&E world. A strong customer mindset should be driven by questions like What is it that customers are looking for? and How can we further enhance/simplify the customer experience?
The use of journey mapping and customer personas has become an increasingly mainstream activity within large companies. These typically lead to the design of adapted customer journeys for distinct customer personas. Yet, companies rarely design the perfect journey on the first try. The use of A/B-testing is a practice widely used by F&E leaders to always improve touchpoints along the customer journey.
In such a test, two or more conditions are created (A – the original; B – new scenario 1; C- new scenario 2; …) and statistically (too many companies still forgo this, drawing very wrong conclusions from their experiments) compared on their effectiveness to drive a pre-selected metric such as click-through-rate.
While possible in offline settings, the growing amount of interactions through websites and apps offers unprecedented opportunities to evaluate many ideas rapidly at very low cost, giving companies the ability to iterate and investigate new ways to improve the customer experience. Netflix, a prime F&E company, is well-known for its continuous use of A/B-testing to optimise the platform’s interface. Any major change to the Netflix experience is preceded by extensive testing. Nothing is left to chance.
PRINCIPLE #2: F&E companies collect real-time data throughout the customer journey
F&E companies collect real-time data that allows them to adapt their offerings almost on the go. Take the example of Uber. Its success is not based on a strong emotional connection with customers. What makes the platform so successful is that it offers high convenience at a low price. Uber’s interface is intuitive and user-friendly. You open the app, type in your destination and immediately receive pricing information. Upon agreement, a driver is immediately connected to you and knows where to pick you up. Reaching your destination, you just get out of the car and Uber charges your credit card automatically.
The data needed is not necessarily as precise and detailed as the one Uber is collecting and using. At Changi airport in Singapore, acclaimed to be the best airport worldwide, feedback screens are omnipresent questioning travelers on their experiences (using a simple 1-5 scale) throughout the airport including the facility’s cleanliness, information counter helpfulness, and customs’ checkout process. This data is used to enable quick responses to fix ongoing faults, track service performance gaps over time, as well as to raise productivity levels and customer orientation of frontline staff.
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PRINCIPLE #3: F&E companies embrace new technologies
Artificially intelligent technologies now allow for cost-effective real-time service delivery, 24/7. The growing occurrence of chatbots, personal (voice) assistants and humanoids at the frontline is making real-time service delivery a minimum requirement to compete on the market.
F&E organisations embrace these new technologies, looking constantly how they may be used to enhance the customer experience in a cost-effective way. For example, Dutch airline KLM is fueling its customer service with AI to automate over half of all inquiries through Facebook, Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp. The result? A doubling of its case volume and service agents freeing up time to focus on cases requiring a human approach.
F&E leaders, however, also recognise the limitations of technology and put the improvement of technology and data usage central. Today, many customer interactions cannot yet be managed by technology, whereas simple queries may still lead to wrong responses. Technology and AI need to be trained over time and human monitoring of its performance is still crucial to avoid introducing unwanted responses.
PRINCIPLE #4: F&E companies have ‘Fast’ and ‘Easy’ embedded in their core
While companies may start smaller initiatives to enhance customer convenience, it should not be a standalone project. F&E leaders see ‘Fast’ and ‘Easy’ as crucial parts of their overall business strategy and goals. Equally, the metrics driving their business reflect this focus. In their effort to become an F&E company, DBS Bank built its business around the acronym ‘RED’, which stands for respectful, easy to deal with and dependable. The linked metric ‘customer hour’ measures how much time customers are saving by all the new implementations done by DBS. The bank rose from bottom satisfaction scores in 2009 to one of the most rapid growing financial institutions in Asia and was elected the world’s best digital bank in 2018.
Equally, F&E companies seek to learn from other companies inside and outside their industry to uncover best practices. The GANDALF (Google – Amazon – Netflix – DBS – Apple – LinkedIn – Facebook) acronym is the guiding light for all activities within DBS, forcing any of its teams to match its plans and innovations to what leading tech companies are doing.
Recently, this has led DBS to invest in building partnerships with non-financial service providers and the launch of marketplaces for property, cars, travel and electricity. The idea? Enhance DBS customers’ lives and live up to their new motto ‘Live more, Bank less’. It is exactly this state of being ‘a partner in everyday life’ that makes F&E leaders special in today’s business environment.
While some marketers would argue this thinking does not apply to their industry, nothing could be more wrong. Take the example of Lemonade. The U.S. insurance platform is rapidly transforming a seemingly rock-solid industry. Their approach? The promise of a zero paperwork and instant everything. Lemonade uses AI to sign up customers and to evaluate claims, boasting it takes a maximum of 3 minutes from approval to payout. The result? A four-year-old startup valued at $2bn.
It is clear, no organisation is free from the push toward higher convenience. Time to become ‘fast’ and ‘easy’! The Uber’s and Amazon’s of this planet won’t wait for you to catch up.
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Prof. dr. Arne De Keyser is Assistant Professor of Marketing at EDHEC Business School (Lille Campus). His research focuses on customer experience management, service recovery and the impact of new technologies on the service frontline.