The irony of chasing the perfect “wow” moment for customers is that you can actually end up creating a worse customer experience in the long run. The bright shiny object of the front-end customer experience – be that a perfectly designed website, slick in-store engagement or the latest innovations in augmented reality – is only a passing moment. Yes, customer’s love to feel good when they buy, and that is an essential differentiator for retailers, but, if this initial experience is not supported by the second and third touchpoints, any value gained will be lost just as quickly. Customers want businesses to process their payment effectively, deliver the product securely and handle returns efficiently. Customer experience does not end once they choose to buy.

Many businesses are starting to find this out the hard way. According to Forrester, 50 percent of companies cannot link investment in customer experience to an upturn in revenues. If customer experience is not tied to a profitable business, a complete customer journey, value proposition or a product that people actually want to buy at their own convenience, it will not meet the needs of either the consumer or the business. There has to be substance behind these actions.

Chasing the vision

It is hardly surprising that companies dive head first into doing everything they can to attract customers before the point of sale. After all, competition is fierce, and every business knows how easy it is for someone to take their custom elsewhere at the swipe of a screen. This conundrum is perfectly encapsulated in the retail sector. With every month that passes, consumers are demanding more. More convenient methods of purchasing products, more personalised approaches, more speed. In fact, PWC has highlighted speed, convenience and a blend of technology and people as the elements of customer service that are worth paying more for.

Let’s take one of the core elements of the customer experience as an example, the process of buying a product. Of course, retailers should be concentrating on making it as easy as possible for customers to buy goods. Yet, for any improvement to be sustainable, it has to be compatible with the wider business and contribute to keeping it profitable.

Time to refocus

In principle, implementing chatbots or innovations like biometric payments will provide customers with the convenience and speed that they desire. Such technology helps customers to buy and return what they want, when they want and how they want to. Yet, business management teams need to focus on a number of elements to ensure this makes the selling process equally as easy for the organisation in question.

How staff use new technology is a prime consideration. Depending on the composition of a workforce, some technologies may require a significant amount of training if they are to be used to their potential. This will require serious investment of time and money. Even after this training has been provided, there may be more practical considerations that impact the utility of a piece of technology. Will employees actually find the technology easy to use within their working day, or is there a risk that it will take up a lot of their time that could be better spent making more sales?

Another issue to concentrate on is whether an item like a new payments system integrates with existing infrastructure. Capturing and analysing customer data is such a fundamental element of delivering the personalised experience that consumers crave. A new payments system simply has to make it easy for the retailer to collect customer data if they are to deliver the personalised experience that will keep them competitive in the market.

Third – and a personal pet hate of mine – is many retailers are simply terrible at dealing with returns. If I buy something online, consumers should naturally be able to return it in-store. If they buy in a foreign currency, they should be able to be refunded in that currency. However, these simple requests are seemingly too difficult to master for even some of the biggest retailers. In truth, they are not. If your omnichannel strategy extends beyond the first touchpoint, the technology is readily available to join up the whole experience. It’s all in the planning and the completeness of vision.

The overarching point linking all of these considerations, is that every business can improve the customer service it delivers, but at the same time, each one is different. It is incumbent upon the management teams of these businesses to understand exactly to what extent they can support new customer service initiatives, without damaging themselves.

Make change a reality

Without considering all these elements and defining how efforts to meet customer demand also tie in with the smooth running of the business, organisations are not going to be able to sustain a positive customer experience in the long-term. The perfect customer experience will remain nothing more than a mirage that tempts and disappoints customers and businesses alike.

Written by Dr Christine Bailey, European Women Payments Network Advisory Board Member and CMO of Valitor

This article first appeared in the Fintech Finance Paytech Magazine

Back to news