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Humanology - Solving for the Digital Customer Experience Quandry Part II
My article “Business Banking and the Customer experience” received lots of feedback. Many readers commented on the critical importance of managing the topic. On, in particular, said this:
“One thing that struck is Pascal’s answer to your question below
What do you want from your bank? “An honest, fair price”, he said, “and the ability to do things on my own. The expertise to give me advice when I need it and make me feel appreciated”.
Pascal wanted the following from their bank (and every service provider):
• Self-service option
Here is how he described his online experiences (Bold highlights are mine):
Suppose that I need a pen. I look at some on my PC. I see a lot (AB: wide selection), also the newest model of which I did not know (information), and the prices. I select one, click on it and the selling company has foreseen all my questions and written all the answers. I feel like I know everything about it. (AB: FULL information).
If I was in a shop, once the salesman has given me all this information, I would feel obliged to buy it now. But I am not sure yet; I want to buy the specific pen that I need, and want to see more pens. (AB: no pressure). I can do this online without disturbing anybody and take my time to think about it. Inevitably there is one point that I didn’t think of before that occurs to me, which I will investigate further. (AB: safety in exploring all options and getting all the necessary information to ensure the right fit). I can call the company or ask my questions online, there is always somebody to answer me quickly
When I have taken my decision about the model, I will look for the best financial solution and decide where I will order it (AB: price).
This process would have taken a great deal of time if I had had to visit several shops. Since I follow this process with everything I buy, how many salesman would happy not to have me as a client?
Pascal is not statistically significant, but his meticulous description of his buying process and purchasing decision-making resonates. Why did he opt for the online experience? The reasoning is not specific to who he is and applies to thousands of prospective bank customers.
1. Initial information gathering phase too time consuming on the ground vs. online.
2. Full information is available.
3. Additional information is readily and timely available online and by phone.
4. Advice is also available online and by phone to ensure suitability.
5. Price is the last consideration for purchasing. Easy online navigation to collect the initial and subsequent information is the key.
Consider two major online disruptors which figured out how to address customers’ major obstacles to purchasing.
Uber is an excellent example. Why wouldn’t you get into a total stranger’s car that isn’t identified as a taxi without Uber? Because it feels unsafe. Who knows who that driver might be. Plus, paying your driver in cash feels unsafe as well, especially in today’s cashless society. The driver might have the same concerns as the passenger does. Then came Uber.
The logic was simple: once the safety concerns are removed, one can mobilize idle resources (cars and time) to monetize those at will, while creating a far greater supply of cars available to offer rides to people. Add an economic incentive to the mix (Uber rides are typically cheaper than a taxi ride) and you’ve got a winning combination.
How did Uber do it?
• It identifies the driver to the passenger and vice versa with a picture, a phone number, car registration and car type and color.
• It tracks the ride such that both parties can share with others where they are at all times.
• It laid out a set of requirements for the condition of the vehicle and the driver.
• It facilitates cashless payment behind the scenes. No cash or card presentment is involved between the driver and passenger.
• It gives both parties an opportunity to comment on the experience, such that bad passengers will not be able to get Uber rides, and bad drivers will not be able to drive for the company.
• Driver and passenger can communicate easily through the app.
• It continues to innovate (e.g. you can now buy snacks in some Uber cars and pay for them separately).
This is not a commentary on Uber’s hiring and employment practices. It is a comment on a company that figured out how to remove major obstacles, using technology, from both service provider and service consumer, to create value for both parties:
o Enjoy a less expensive ride in a clean car
o Feel safe
o Get extra cash from a sunk cost (car, idle time) at will
o Feel safe
Economically as well as from the customer experience standpoint, this solution works for a wide range of service providers and consumers.
Similarly, Airbnb saw an opportunity in rooms, apartments and house that are idle during certain times. Those assets can be monetized, but the trepidation on both the renter and the guest is significant. The renter is concerned the guest will trash their space, possibly even steal stuff, and make their neighbors mad by inconsiderate behaviors. The guest is concerned that the space will not be as nice as advertised and that it might not include all the amenities promised.
Airbnb addressed these issues through technology:
• Detailed pictures of the property are available online to enhance accuracy of property description.
• Customer testimonials and candid feedback are also available to provide additional color.
• Renters and guests both have obligations to each other.
• Payment is handled in advance and online, with clear cancelation conditions.
• Both parties can communicate through the app for further clarification
Like Uber, Airbnb removed the major obstacles from both parties. Information and verification replaced trust and personal relationships. While both companies cannot offer a flawless experience every time, the idea of addressing purchasing inhibitors through a combination of technology and human interaction is a powerful one.
One important feature that enhances digital purchasing is offering the buyer an “out” within a short period after purchasing. Airlines allow you to cancel the flights booked with no penalty within the first 24 hours. So does Expedia. Others make returns much easier than they used to be, recognizing how important this factor is in the buying decision.
A good example of the last point is Desigual, a Spanish clothing chain I enjoy. After rapid and massive expansion, Desigual started closing stores. Concurrent with that decision, the online purchasing experience became easier and cheaper (through discounts). Plus, the merchandise return experience, which was clunky at best, changed dramatically, with a pre-printed return label enclosed in every shipment. This step, while expensive, successfully removed much of the hesitation associated with online/mobile purchases, and helped ease the customers’ move to digital channels from the physical distribution.
Pascal’s decision to buy online critically hinged on the availability of information and a human contact option (whether by phone or through chat). The technology was sufficient to whet his appetite, but, in some cases, he needed additional information to make the final buying decision.
Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and many other companies built a construct that relies on technology to address most prospective buyer’s questions, and supports that with near-instant availability of a person to round off the experience and address concerns and needs that cannot be fulfilled online.
As you consider the customer experience of these companies and many like them, the key elements that are relevant to all of us are:
• Identify the major obstacles to purchasing. This is the critical step to reduce abandonment and customer frustration. Do not shortchange this step, and utilize actual customer experience rather than surveys and focus groups to identify the real issues.
• Address those with easy access online.
• Provide a lot of information on the products and services, organized in tiers to allow the customers to drill further as they wish.
• Simplify – do not overcomplicate – the product offering and decision criteria for online/mobile purchases.
• Offer human intervention at any time at the customer’s initiative.
Community banks can leverage their unique brand promise and implicit customer trust throughout the digital customer experience, to help the customer overcome the hesitation of making the wrong buying decision, its irreversibility and other purchasing inhibitors.
Community banks have a great opportunity to utilize humanology to improve their customers’ experience across all channels, and reaffirm their brand identity while doing so. Trust is the underlying power behind repeat purchases. Community banks have a competitive advantage when it comes to trust. They should cherish it, build it into the customer experience across channels, and continue to prove their customers right for trusting them with each and every interaction.
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