This past year, I ordered a gift for my wife through a major online retailer. I was excited about it as this was exactly what she wanted. I even paid extra for delivery and setup. The day before her birthday I even called to confirm on-time delivery, but it did not go as I had hoped or expected. Not only did the delivery happen one week later but they didn't have any history of the setup, and the way I wanted to deliver the gift. They just left a box on my front door with no gift wrap and the price tags still intact.
Several weeks later, we seemed very satisfied with the product, but how did I feel about that shopping experience? Well, it took me days to convince my wife that it was an organizational mistake. I felt neglected, frustrated, annoyed, and even embarrassed. This is just one example of a customer journey gone wrong. There was nothing wrong with the buying process or the product and yet this company lost a customer and potential recurring revenue. Defining customer experience used be simple during the early 90s. A customer might walk into a store and buy something. Today, there are a lot more nuances to it. Defining an end-to-end experience is not just about a smooth buying process, but also about the pre-shopping, during-shopping, and post-shopping experience. Customer experience is the total relationship a customer has with an organization through communication, interaction, and transaction. Every consumer interaction via any communication channel is a customer touch point. Every customer touch point information is processed by the customer mindset, which transforms into a perception, and then develops further into behavior, consciousness, and life experience.
This means that even one faltering touch point in the journey is a potential loss of a customer and sales. This essentially means that an organization shouldn't only have an inside-out view but also an outside-in perspective. It is about thinking and designing every process from a customer’s perspective. It can be a downstream customer or the end customer. The dimensions are endless. Today’s customer is essentially a wanderer in the online marketplace and springs to different brands where they find the comfort of price and impeccable services being offered.
Let’s discuss a complex customer journey of buying a car online and further nail down the “CEM or CXM” hardwood by taking a case in point from a customer’s perspective. Let’s put across the three layers of a total customer experience:
Layer 1– Front-end experience: The car industry has been fairly traditional with their product offerings and the selling model. A typical customer would look out for an appreciative car model with petrol/diesel variants, visit the dealer, perform a test drive, and buy a car. But in modern times, the customer journey has fairly changed. Almost 50% of the car buyers begin online. Customers typically switch four times between online and offline channels and want to move seamlessly among them. The customer visits a dealer on an average of 2.4 times before making a final buying decision. Further, there is a breadth of various car subscription model services, hybrid models, and electric vehicles in the offer. This is where an automotive firm can engage a customer for a longer amount of time in the buying and selling journey. This requires a unified cohesive story in the front-end design experience. Below are the stages of an online car buying journey:
- Learn– Customers learn about the car models and leasing/subscription services through various online and physical channels.
- Shop– Customers configure a car with interiors, exteriors, options, packages, and services which are personally suited to them.
- Own– Customers have a personal dashboard showing data and information about their vehicle, repairs, services, insurance, and maintenance schedules.
Layer 2– Business process management: Customer experience is a function of availability, reliability, responsiveness, agility, price, and support. This requires organizations to streamline their business process management and offer customer convenience at any time in an omnichannel model, delivery at door step, one-touch shop, and reduced delivery lead times. Research suggests that 50% customers are ready to pay prime prices if they get a stocked car available closest to them with matching configurations and specifications. So, what does this entail on processes and for business process management?
- Order-to-delivery (OTD) process: Organizations are reaching out directly to their consumers for booking an OTD slot from the web. The web further showcases the complete delivery dates, from date of manufacturing to the real delivery date of the vehicle.
- Transport and logistics process: Firms are relying on streamlined distribution networks to maintain profitability and in many cases are improving flexibility through new distribution strategies such as direct selling, mobile stores, boutique stores, etc. This will enable them to deliver cars at the doorstep.
- Inventory process flow for stocked cars: Automotive firms struggle to get a holistic inventory picture of stocked cars, latest car models, dealer inventory, and built-to-order production capacity. Firms are leveraging the dealer inventory pooling mechanism and building a car finder service integrated with different dealers and plants to get one source of truth in markets and regions across the globe.
- Order-to-cash process: The order to cash process is unique in automotive industry. The customer needs to go through an identity check, credit check, and insurance check and send bank details to perform the transaction for final payment. This usually takes days and/or weeks. Organizations are now resorting to process automation to reduce cycle times and get this fast tracked and checked within seconds. This enables companies to receive cash quickly.
Layer 3– Systems interaction and design: This is an important facet of customer experience management and design. Just imagine if backend systems are time-consuming and are not developed the way they need to be in order to transfer the right information to upstream and downstream systems. This would further mean displaying wrong prices according to car configurations, faulty CO2 emissions, as well as wrongly added options, packages and services to a customer’s basket, showing incorrect features against the wrong car model and exhibiting an old model year car image compared to what the firm is selling this year as a latest car model. These are fairly regular issues encountered in any automaker’s IT support and maintenance unit. A few pointers that can solve these problems proactively:
- Build a robust system architecture: The systems should be designed in harmony with each other in the same technology stack to realize high uptime, one-click information feeding, and decoupled code, configurations, and content setups.
- Automated information handling: All systems should stay up to date with the latest information by automated notification mechanisms. This enables consistency and having a one true source of product and marketing information across the enterprise.
- One release and deployment process: Agile at scale requires different systems to be in symphony with the schedule of deployments. This simplifies the go-live implementation and launching a full solution to batch of markets on a global level.
We can conclusively and collectively see the fact that customer experience management is not only about redesigning the front-end customer journey. The transformation requires business processes and systems to be in sync with the simplified user-interface design. Organizations should take a more comprehensive and totalitarian approach to customer experience transformation rather than embracing the customer journey superficially. This phenomenon is also known as “digital lipstick” syndrome. Nevertheless, organizations should be wary of such representational experiences.