By Simon Harrison, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Avaya
What creates loyal, brand advocating customers? After years of striving to “delight” customers to exceed service expectations, the trend has shifted to creating effortless experiences—and for good reason. Dazzling customers with “delightful” moments doesn’t deliver on its promise of building loyalty. Rather, it drives customer expectations higher, setting businesses up for eventual CX failure. This point was highlighted in Gartner’s study of 97,000 customers which showed little difference between the loyalty of customers whose expectations were exceeded and those whose expectations were simply met.
So, what do customers want? Perhaps more than ever, customers expect consistent, predictable service from businesses that solve their problems and make their lives easier. But in this digital age, what does effortless look like, and more importantly, how can it be delivered?
Effortless customer experience begins with removing friction and making every experience as smooth as possible. But as we all know, many businesses fall short of this level of service—with common sticking points occurring along many customer journeys. From complicated IVR menus to unsatisfactory handoffs between front and back-office teams, friction remains pervasive, and it can quickly drive a customer to move on.
Removing friction requires looking at customer experiences holistically. By mapping out customer journeys from first interaction through post-purchase touchpoints, you can start to see the true experience from a customer’s point of view. All teams—marketing, sales, operations, CX— should be involved in this ongoing exercise, as well as aligned around how to eliminate friction in customer journeys. By working together to eliminate friction-causing pain points, businesses can begin to break down the silos that create them.
Effortless is also built on consistency. A single “wow” experience may garner instant customer attention. However, consistency, across every channel and touchpoint, reduces the possibility of errors, while delivering reassuring continuity to customers. The challenge is infusing consistency into journeys with customers increasingly expecting greater personalization and more modes of engagement. For the businesses that overcome this challenge, the rewards can be great.
Starbucks is a brilliant example of this. The iconic brand has built its success on consistency. Despite its stratospheric global expansion, Starbucks has stayed true to delivering incredibly predictable experiences across over their 30,000 locations worldwide. Whether you’re in Dubai or Detroit, you know exactly what you’ll get when you step inside to place an order. And this level of consistency continues to expand Starbucks’ loyal customer base.
Effortless also means giving customers the freedom to change their mind. Let’s say you buy a new laptop, take it out of the box, set it up, and then decide it’s not what you want. Will the retailer make it easy for you to return it and get a refund? If they do, you’re likely to buy from them again.
In contrast, complicated processes and restrictive policies increase customer churn. According to research from Forter, more than 80% of consumers are deterred when a store has inconvenient return policies. Although reversibility has become an essential element of providing an effortless experience, some brands still require customers to jump through hoops to cancel a service or make a return. While restrictive policies may reduce some costs associated with returns, it’s often at the expense of customer experience.
The good news is that preventing customers from abusing return policies doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing customer experience. Tools that analyze customer touch points to identify abusers and implementing real-time decisioning can enforce policies at each step of the customer journey. This enables good customers to make legitimate returns while bad actors can be prevented from abusing policies.
Effortless is now expected
To win the attention and loyalty of customers, effortless experiences have become table stakes. The reality is daunting, but there is plenty to be gained. The progression of digital technologies, along with our increasing ability to control them, places effortless experiences squarely within every business’s reach. And artificial intelligence (AI) is infused in the core of the applications that can make them happen.
AI applications, such as intelligent virtual agents, bio-authentication, predictive analytics, and AI-based knowledge bases, are already helping businesses reduce friction and deliver more consistent, satisfying experiences. Emerging AI-based experience platforms are taking these advancements even further by allowing businesses to compose tailored experiences using these applications to fit the exact needs of their customers.
Communications-related tasks can be performed via automation and fit-for-purpose apps that deliver consistent experiences across mobile, web, wearable, conversational, and immersive touchpoints. And as effortless experiences increasingly become the norm, customers will gain complete control of the services that are employed—receiving them in context and at the exact desired time, expending little or no effort to use them.
transcosmos, Inc., a Japan-based business process outsourcing provider with a presence in 30 countries, is already taking advantage of the many possibilities now available with an AI-based experience platform. The company chose Avaya OneCloud™ with Google Cloud™ Contact Center AI to deploy advanced virtual agents that deliver intuitive and natural conversational interactions—all with no agent invention required, across any touchpoint. The solution eliminates the need for customers having to repeat their issues, empowering agents to resolve problems quicker. Using the solution’s built-in sentiment analysis features, powered by natural language processing technology, transcosmos is gaining new insights and analytics to drive higher CSAT scores and operational efficiencies.
The future is here
The future of effortless is already happening. Activities that once took extensive amounts of time and effort, now happen in seconds. As technology continues to advance and instant gratification becomes the expectation, effortless is becoming the essential ingredient to making customers feel good. With an AI-powered experience platform, you gain the ability compose the effortless experiences that customers now expect, while opening up countless new opportunities to maximize the ever-growing possibilities of AI.
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Simon Harrison is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, leading the global marketing function to engage new and existing customers and partners, drive adoption of the company’s software solutions and support Avaya as the leading player in a dynamic digital communications market.