By DJ Nelson, Creative Director and Staff Writer
Do businesses need to focus more on creating a frictionless customer experience or do people just need to relax? It is not new that customers want things to be quick and easy, driven by a culture that is dependent on instant gratification and wanting fewer interactions with companies and their employees (i.e., self-checkouts). When a transaction does not go smoothly, it can deter customers from returning, and since they are more likely to share their bad experiences over good ones, new potential customers are scared away as well.
When I was working at a Home Depot Customer Contact Center for online sales, the number one question asked by callers was “where’s my order?” Many of these callers already had tracking numbers sent via email, but because they were given an estimated time of arrival (ETA) after placing their order and it was now past that date, they decided to call in. Having to call in and figure out why an order wasn’t delivered on time is only one example of friction that causes a transaction to no longer be effortless for the customer.
First, I would like to point out that businesses never guarantee a delivery date, hence an ETA will always be used. Hopefully, you will understand why in the next paragraph.
When there is friction in the transaction, is it possible to still make an effortless experience? In the case of delayed orders, a simple notification to the customer may deter a call, but in cases where logistics get more complicated and third-party delivery services are used, automatic communications are more difficult to integrate into a customer-management relationship (CMR) system. I say automatic communication, because it’s not as though when you place an order a person sitting behind a desk is watching and guiding it all the way to your front step. I point this out because another frequent question I got on the phones was “why wasn’t I notified?” From my experience, it’s because an order starts at a warehouse, gets put on a freight truck to another warehouse for local distribution, gets put on a smaller truck, and is then delivered to you directly or sometimes to the post office. My point is there are a lot of steps, and frequently it is an outsourced logistics company making these decisions. You still might be asking why. The details were not a part of my training.
Points where friction occurs can really happen anywhere in the transaction, not just the delivery. Have you ever tried setting up an appointment but the time you want is not available? Have you gone to a store to make a purchase just to find the product is out of stock? Have you received a package just to open a box of damaged goods? Has your food order at a restaurant taken longer than expected? If you have a home, have you scheduled an inspection and the technicians can only give you a window of time between noon and five o’clock instead of an exact time for the visit?
The effortless customer experience is unattainable in my opinion largely because people make mistakes and some things end up being out of the control of the business. Sure, human error can be mitigated by advancements in technology, but technology can fail too.
Now that you know friction is going to happen and some effort is going to be made by you as the customer, ask yourself next time, “why am I upset about something I cannot control?” Businesses will never be perfect, that is a fact, but you as an individual have the power of understanding and patience.
I have found that this has been lost on us. My neighbor’s complaints about an Amazon order being delayed, a friend having to take a day off work and sit at home waiting for a technician to show up in a window of time, the person tailgating me when I’m going the speed limit because they are probably late for something.
In a world where we receive instant gratification and see less and less face-to-face interactions, try to have patience and understanding the next time you experience some friction in your life.