How to prove the ROI of Customer Experience?

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Customer Experience is equal to brand management. And if you underestimate the importance of either, you might not be in business 5 years from now.

Executives need to understand that Customer Experience ROI is the same as strategy ROI.

So think about your organization’s strategy the next time you present the case for investment in Customer Experience.

Download our Customer Experience ROI Guide to learn how.

 

 

 

On 5/24/18, Liliana Petrova presented at the Customer Experience Exchange Travel & Hospitality conference in Florida. She spoke about the ROI of Customer Experience. Topics included:
We have discussed the power of employee engagement for your brand. And we have explained the true meaning and ROI of a working corporate culture. Now, it's time to examine the business case of customer engagement. This includes the powerful brand image and brand loyalty engaged customers generate. Remember, loyalty drives repeat purchases, higher revenues and more engaged customers.
 
An engaged customer requires investment in ongoing conversation. The "conversation" dollars go to social media campaigns and  closed-loop systems for customer feedback. Among other customer experience levers, it also includes a responsive loyalty customer service.

Invest in people as much as product

On one occasion, I received a complaint from a JetBlue customer. In order to keep the conversation with him going, I had to relay information to the teams that were accountable for his experience. I had to reply to him with comprehensive, empathetic feedback about his experience. CX professionals call this close loop. But close loop is a policy. Making the effort to connect with people across the organization and CARING about getting answers is employee engagement on my part. Corporate culture generates engagement like that.
 
Culture like this maintains customer engagement and, as a result, creates an ancillary purchase in the future. Often, people and service are more important than the product of an organization.  People and service build an organization's brand image when customers interact with that brand. Customer experience relies more on human interactions with the brand than on the technology that enables those interactions.
 

Empathy and Innovation

Magazine Luiza is great example of impacting ancillary sales and generating 35% ROI as a result of deliberate investment in empathy and innovation.  The Brazilian virtual store offers products on credit to under-served customers in rural areas. Customers can see pictures of their desired products. Then, they can go home and wait for delivery within 48 hours.
 
To achieve loyalty and repeat business, Magazine Luiza also functions as community centers that offer free internet, literacy, cooking and basic banking classes. This investment contributed to the build out of a strong emotional connection between the brand and its audience. It transformed Magazine Luiza into a powerful lifestyle brand for its customers. Even customers apprehensive about taking credit visit a place where a friendly face walks them through the experience of borrowing money while their child learns how to write for free.
 
The brand image of growth and development that come from the education components the company provides is, in a way, transferred to the "product" of buying on credit.  Once customers are empowered to buy on credit initially, they return to buy more things. Each of those purchases makes them feel economically empowered.
 

Engaged customers are the blood of every business

Without engaged customers, business cannot grow. Engaged customers provide steady cashflow and free cashflow that allows a business to invest in products and customer acquisition. The ROI of engaged customers lies in the growth of the organization and the incremental revenue that follows. Depending on the growth stage of a particular organization, that ROI also can mean an organization's survival.

What is the Business Case of Customer Engagement for Your Brand?

Learn how to make the business case for customer engagement and customer experience for your brand. And connect customer experience to ROU. Become a Member of The Petrova Experience.
The business case for Customer Service is complex. Gone are the days when we bought a piece of hardware that depreciates over 5 or 10 years on the balance sheet. Customer Experience does not even show up on our assets list. At least not with that name. So, understanding the ROI of CX is more complicated than it might seem. 

What is the ROI CX?

The ROI of CX is in the revenue and customer growth of your organization. It is in the engagement of your customer base that leads to ancillary sales. And it is in the strength of your brand image and the worth of your brand equity. The challenge business leaders face justifying investments (especially big ones) is driven by the non linear nature of those relationships. Today's CFO needs to understand that customer experience is a competitive advantage more than ever. Customer Experience is equal to brand management. And if you underestimate the importance of either, you might not be in business in 5 years.

Don't Forget Strategy

Customer Experience ROI is the same as your company's strategy ROI. If you don't have a defined brand and marketing strategy backed up with a complementary communications strategy, you will not see Customer Experience ROI. Regardless of your investments. Think about your strategy. And argue the case for Customer Experience investments as an execution of a strategy, not as a business case.

Need Help Demonstrating the ROI of CX?

Become a Member of The Petrova Experience and get tips, templates, and discounts on strategy coaching.    There are two types of leaders (and organizations) that stand to benefit most from improving employee experience. The first kind have 40% or higher turnover and think their frontline employees  have a culture problem. The second  have 40% or higher growth rate and think they can scale their great culture without help like ours. The reality is, culture starts at the top and frontline employees are only reflecting the culture of the organization and the behaviors of the leadership ranks.  And until founders figure out how to clone themselves, once the headcount goes beyond 300 employees, the charismatic founder effect loses its engagement power unless it is supported by an actual culture system.

Selling the CFO on Employee Experience

Nevertheless, the business case of Culture Engagements tends to be a tough sell to the CFO.  Although leaders know that bad employee experience always leads to bad customer experience, they do not deem employee experience a worthwhile investment. Today, we make the connection between employee experience, higher labor costs, and lower revenue. And since turnover and growth are business fundamentals that should trigger immediate investments, we hope this makes it easier to sell those much-needed culture engagements to your CFOs.

The ROI of Employee Experience

Let's talk about the ROI of your culture business case. Depending on the size and maturity of your organization you can go in two directions. If you are a mature organization with a bad culture that needs to be improved, the return on investment in your culture transformation is lower turnover and increased customer loyalty. How much are we talking about? It costs companies 20% of an employee's salary to replace an employee once the salary hits 75K per year. For executives, the cost to replace an employee can reach 213% of an employee's salary. If you are a young organization in a rapid growth phase, the ROI of building a culture system is the sustainability of your business and the continuation of your growth trajectory. If you are growing at 40%+, all your customer happiness agents are unhappy. They are buried in tickets and customer complaints with no technology tools to support scaling the operation. Your growth may continue, but your customer retention will start leaking. Employee experience is the vehicle to get the second year subscriptions for your business. Or the repeat trip to your hotel.  And that is vital for the sustainability of your business. So, invest in your culture. Pay for someone like us. Invest in real employee training (not only self-service recordings!).  But also invest in prioritizing  mapping important processes and procedures. Invest in technology that helps employees deliver better experiences. And make the tough financial choices that unburden employees and promote work-life-balance. These commitments will improve both the employee experience and customer experience. They will also increase customer retention and lower employee turnover.

The Root of the Problem

So, why do leaders with such obvious business risks ignore the culture problem? Is it the leader's ego or the deficit of good leadership? The answer is simpler than that. Leaders genuinely do not know what to do. Today, we are sharing 5 strategic moves you can make to improve employee experience.

Listen

This is not new advice, but it does not happen enough in Corporate America. You would be surprised to learn how many organizations do not have employee engagement surveys. Or if they do, employees get a one-off survey and leaders take no action. LISTENING means you are collecting and analyzing employee feedback with the intention to do something with it and hold leadership accountable for bad results. Does that cost money? Absolutely! Does it cost 20% of the salary of every manager and above? No.

Incentivize

In JetBlue, we surveyed each employee twice a year to measure changes in attitude and perception of the company and leadership. We also had an employee engagement ambassador program (that employees applied to join). The ambassadors worked within business units and met regularly with the VPs of their departments to design departmental solutions and respond to problems. Why do you think VPs invested time on this? Because their compensation depended on the results and changes in employee feedback. In other words, JetBlue connected executive pay with employee engagement and happiness. That is why, when asked how Jetblue was able to make their employees happy, I say with the right incentives for the right people!

Diagnose Accurately

Listening is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you are close to the operation.  This is where bias can lead to wrong conclusions. And it is why you need guidance from a partner like us. A consultant has the ability to see organizational dynamics objectively, and help you derive the right conclusions from the data. Likely, a consultant will also ask different questions in the employee engagement survey. For example, a client had an internal audit team with Management that was never leaving. In the employee survey auditors complained that there was no upward mobility. As a result, HR offered lateral movement to the auditors and the opportunity to grow in another division. Some moved. Others wanted to be auditors and did not. Even though this is an example with mixed results, it provided clarity to the employees and improved the relationship with management. See, the employees still felt heard. And that is the whole point.

Design Employee Experience

Just like you can intentionally and pro-actively design customer experiences, you can design employee-centric journeys to ensure your employees will stay with you. Citibank just announced "Zoom-Free Fridays." Not only that, Citibank CEO Jane Frazer invested more millions into May 28th Reset Day, a day for all 200K + employees to take off. In other words, Citibank has an employee experience strategy with commitments and funding. Why do you think Citibank is doing this? Citibank recognizes that investment in technology is not enough. In the past 5 years they have consistently been investing in their consumer digital experience. We all feel the positive impact. But it looks like Citibank is looking to improve their culture. The organization has recognized that great technology with bad service is not enough. When you do your cultural transformation, it is imperative that the first step on your employee experience map is something the employees want, not something you want. You may want an extra day off. They may want an investment in a technology tool they use every day. Just don’t make a decision on their behalf. ASK.

Be Authentic

I know. This feels like a pretty populist statement. Be authentic. Every marketer talks about this. Yet, the message is not translating to action. Case in point, Mary Barra, CEO of GM was called out by the owners of Black Media companies for only investing 0.05% of the organization's marketing budget in black owned media companies after publicly claiming her support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Time and again, executives do not  put their money where their mouth is. And they are being held accountable. It is simple. When a leader makes a statement, that leader needs to understand the business decisions those statements imply and be ready to make them. The world is listening. And clearly making respective business plans based on leaders statements. Business is money. So, every time an executive says something is important, there is a collective expectation that money will be invested. So, if that is not your intention, do not say it. If you do say it, be honest and do what you say.

Take the Next Step

The fundamentals are simple: listen, diagnose, incentivize, design intentionally, and be authentic. The implementation of those principles is complex. Especially when you are inside the organization and managing priorities. But at the end of the day, employee experience is one of those foundational elements that needs to be rock solid in order for your business to behave the way you need it to behave for leadership, employees, and the customers you serve. To explore employee experience and culture programs from The Petrova Experience, check our  Organizational Culture page. We can't wait to learn more about the individuals who shape your organization, and explore how you can support - and give back - to them.

Customer Experience Consulting Services

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Why Customer Experience Consulting?

Customers are not happy with their experiences. Only 30% of consumers believe organizations are customer-centric. We are here to solve this for you.

Customer Experience is the battlefield of the future. Whether you are launching a brand or leading a brand that has been around for decades, you must be intentional about customer experience design. We help you understand customer expectations to consistently, authentically meet those expectations in ways that reflect your brand ethos.

If you already invest in customer experience, but are challenged to show a connection to business returns, we track customer experience impact on your business, and prove the ROI of your CX Program.

Customer Experience Solutions

STRATEGY

Customer Experience Strategy is the foundation of Customer Experience. CX Strategy is based on your Corporate Strategy, and operationalizes your Brand Strategy.

The Petrova Experience helps you define your True North by co-creating Customer Experience Strategy with your Leadership Team.
 

CULTURE

Customer-Centric Culture, the most important piece of the experience puzzle, complements Customer Experience Strategy.

The Petrova Experience helps you articulate your brand hospitality commitments and trains your employees to bring your brand culture to life.
 

EXPERIENCE DESIGN

The Petrova Experience intentionally designs your customer experience using human-centered design principles.

Our empathy-driven approach delivers differentiated customer experiences in the physical and digital environment.
 

EXPERIENCE TECHNOLOGY

Experience technology is the most misunderstood piece of the experience puzzle. Remember, technology does not exist in isolation.

The Petrova Experience is the glue that connects your technology aspirations, operations, and employee needs, to your customer experience strategy.
 

Customer Experience Case Studies

     STRATEGY

Strategic Planning is the backbone of an organization's success. As Budget Buddies embarked on its transformation journey, our team spearheaded the creation of the organization's Mission, Vision and Values, and the build-out of the 5 year Strategic Plan. Customer Experience Strategy is built upon the building blocks of culture and corporate strategy.

   CULTURE

The Petrova Experience worked with WOT to transform the organizational culture of  their biggest client - New Beginnings Highschool. By redesigning business processes and procedures while recommitting to the organization's values commitments, we energized the culture of this mission-driven client.

  DESIGN

Experience Design is one of the most impactful and time-consuming  parts of  customer experience. The Petrova Experience worked with the TMRW Leadership Team to define the company Mission, Values and Culture Commitments. We then applied the TMRW Creed, and designed client-centered service standards.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is only as good as the experience design around it. Members of The Petrova Experience Team designed and implemented the first fully integrated facial recognition boarding experience with Customs and Border Protection and led the award-winning JFK Terminal 5 Self-Service Lobby Redesign for JetBlue Airways.

Customer Experience Consulting Services

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Contact us to begin your journey

Brands invest in customer experience, but few have proven and shown a connection to ROI. The impact on the business is missing.
Customers are not happier with their experience. We are here to solve this for you.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE STRATEGY & CULTURE

Customer-Centric Culture is the most important piece of the experience puzzle. It complements the Customer Experience Strategy that we build together. The Petrova Experience helps you take control of your brand hospitality commitments and trains your employees to bring your brand culture to life.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DESIGN & IMPLEMENTATION

Design and Implementation is how you get things done. The Petrova Experience Team co-creates customer-centric processes and procedures that empower your employees to deliver differentiated customer experience.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TECHNOLOGY

Experience technology is the most misunderstood piece of the experience puzzle. It does not exist in isolation. The Petrova Experience is the glue that connects your technology aspirations, operations and employee needs, and your customer experience strategy.

Case Studies

TMRW Life Sciences Inc.

Culture is the backbone of Customer Experience, but often is not brought to life in the day to day. The Petrova Experience worked with the TMRW Leadership Team to define the company Mission, Values and Culture Commitments and bring those to their clients through a hospitality training and client-centered processes redesign.

Budget Buddies

Strategic Planning is the backbone of any organization's success. As Budget Buddies embarked on their transformation journey, our team spearheaded the creation of the organization's Mission, Vision and Values and the build-out of the non-profit's 5 year strategic plan.

Airports

BIOMETRICS systems are only as good as the experience design around them. Current members of The Petrova Experience Team designed and implemented the first fully integrated facial recognition boarding experience with Customs and Border Protection.

What They Say

In the third quarter of 2020 US e-commerce sales went up 36.7% compared with the same period in 2019.  Websites have come back to center stage. However, we are not seeing an equivalent shift in web experience that matches the shift in today's consumer behavior. Retailers are leaving money on the table. Airports continue to speak to passengers using the CDC tone of voice by pasting carbon copies of healthcare guidelines. And healthcare web experience continues to confuse patients.

Human Centered Web Experience Starts with Messaging

Last year, we hosted a webinar for US airports. Together, we discussed the importance of passenger centered communication. Specifically, we advocated for an outside-in approach of using airport websites to provide relevant, actionable information bites tailored to the passenger’s journey. When we audited the websites of major US airports, we found most of them limit their communications practice to a COVID banner. In fact, that banner leads to non-actionable, regulatory information. If the travel industry wants to encourage travel in 2021, we must change the brand voice of all digital tools. It is a delicate balance to stay within regulatory guidelines, provide necessary information, and communicate with passengers in a human-centered voice. But it is imperative we reassess the current language that makes up web experience, and do better.

Defining the Next Decade of Web Experience

Recently, Accenture published a 2021 trends report that will define the next decade of experiences. The report discusses the collective displacement that took place in 2020 and how it impacted consumer habits. Based on this, Accenture predicts shopping will atomize "into many micro moments spread throughout the day and across devices." For retailers, this atomization means responsive design is now a must. Investment in responsive design always competes with investment in new apps. Yet, if this prediction holds true, you must look directly at the web experience and prioritize responsive web design as part of your overall brand experience. The Accenture report also notes retailers need to "replicate or replace physical touch using digital. In some cases, investing in detailed copy will help give people what they need to make a decision." And we are back to copy. Why is copy so important? If you think about in-person hospitality,  so much of it boils down to having an informative, pleasant conversation. With the switch of channels, you need to find the digital version of that interaction. And website copy is the effective tool to do that. In 2021 go back to basics and redesign your website to almost be a human that speaks to your consumer.

Do Not Forget Load Time

Since we are going back to basics, we have to take a look at website speed. Goals for improving website speed remain unattainable for many, if not most, brands. According to Google Analytics, 53% of consumers ABANDON a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Yet, it takes an average of 12 seconds for a mobile web page to load in 3G. That means we have a long way to go in terms of speed optimization for our customers' website experience. If there is one channel where consumers expect fast experience, it is mobile. Yet, we continue to fail them. I do realize that at the enterprise level, web speed goals may be with business partners or IT engineers, but think about the insight here. Half your consumers do not even BEGIN their online journey with your brand, because of web speed. That means you are losing on the ROI of ALL your projects and investments online. This is what I call a low hanging fruit. Add improving speed to your digital roadmap. And do something about it in 2021. The beauty of such an investment is that you can measure the impact very easily.

Resolve Checkout Issues

Another old problem that continues to plague our web experiences is the seamlessness of checkout. There are many ways to design frictionless digital checkout experiences. For instance, if you are not saving consumers' credit card information in their profile and reusing it on their 2nd purchase, you are stuck in the 90s (like most retail websites in Bulgaria). This is just the beginning. If you are an apparel retailer, you can apply AI at a designated touchpoint of the checkout experience. Suggest matching items to create outfits at the last minute, or shoes to go with the dress already in the shopping card. Some brands do this. And I must admit, as a shopper, I often follow the site's suggestions! Others miss out on this upsell opportunity.

Gather Customer Feedback - The Right Way

At checkout, a customer feedback survey is the best addition. The key is to have no more than 5 questions. Make it fast. A 3 minute experience. And TELL the consumer upfront that you will not make him/her spend 15 minutes rating every aspect of your digital experience. Instead, create a digital experience strategy with a vision statement that clearly states what experience YOU aim to deliver. Then, derive the three characteristics of your ideal digital experience, and ask consumers for those. I understand the business need for detailed feedback. However, make sure you ask for that type of feedback on a per project basis.

Understand User Experience Conventions

In his article 8 Simple Tactics to Improve Your Website’s User Experience, Akshay Dhiman talks about the importance of following conventions in designing user experience. What he calls conventions are the habitual things a visitor to your website looks for. This includes simple expectations like seeing your logo on the top left of the screen, or accessing a search feature in the header. It still amazes me how many websites have main navigation menus that CONFUSE the end user and fail to take the user where they need to go. This is particularly prevalent in associations and non-profit websites. Your website is not supposed to have all the information you have collected in the last 20+ years. It is a channel to communicate with your engaged visitor, and to inform him/her of the products and services you have in an easy, accessible way. What do I mean by accessible? You want to make your information easy to absorb. Do not say everything that could possibly be said about your brand in your website copy. Summarize, elevate the message, and synthesize the results. This is the best practice that will lead your web visitor on a digital journey. I do realize that we are back to copy (and more work!). But those who understand the dependency of web copy and customer experience fundamentals will win the digital experience race that COVID accelerated. Regardless of your industry, do not undermine the importance of your web experience. In the future, its importance will continue to grow. Use your imagination to leverage it in new ways. This article is the 7th in a series of 2021 Customer Experience Trends and Tactics.Today, we examine telehealth strategy for an in-depth look at this 2021 customer experience trend. As we continue our conversation about why telehealth is here to stay in 2021, we look at how thinking strategically empowers providers and health systems to put the patient at the center of their operations. And we tackle some of the challenges that come with healthcare design of the future. We're looking at prioritizing experience to overcome the challenges that come with transitioning from in-person to virtual care visits. And sharing how to combat operational inefficiencies as we navigate the new terrain of healthcare.

Think About Telehealth Strategy

Approach telehealth with a clear patient strategy in mind. Do not just do it to do it. As a rule of thumb, if you start with the patient’s needs and wants, you will most probably meet them. And if you do not, you will miss them. Think about what patients do and do not have access to before you design experiences for them. A patient population in a low-income area with spotty internet service (if any!) may not USE your telehealth option. However, the same group of people will PREFER a virtual visit to an in-person visit if they are hourly employees for whom waiting two hours to give blood for an annual physical means losing real money. Once you have patient experience strategy in place, you can design patient journeys that meet your patients’ needs. Why? Because you took the time to learn them. Yes, this involves more work. Yes, your ROI will take two years instead of one. But you will be doing your job.

Prioritize Experience

Need an example to show why you may have to wait for the ROI? And why you need to do it anyway? Look at technology within the context of patient-centered strategy. As a rule, no single technology solution should be implemented for ALL use cases. Technology that works for everyone the same way does not exist. Before moving forward, prioritize user experience research, customer experience design, and feedback collection. Currently, most of the focus is on outcomes measurement, cost tracking, and overall collection of evidence. Although each of these is important, it is equally important to design the future experience of receiving care from the viewpoint of the receiver as well as the giver. Without completing this exercise, you risk designing an episode of care while maintaining a poor end to end patient experience. We must break down the siloed implementations of diverse technology solutions in the operation that do not communicate with each other. The success of telehealth and its adoption (by patients and providers) depends on seamless experience design, especially in the transitions between in-person and virtual care.

Experience Design for In-Person and Virtual Care Transitions

What does that mean? Well, when a patient makes a pediatric appointment on Zocdoc, for example, there is an electronic check-in email to the child’s parent/guardian. The parent or guardian fills in these intake forms electronically before ever stepping foot in the pediatrician’s office. A seamless experience means the front office does not hand those same forms to the parent/guardian when they do visit the office. Yet, this happens all the time. See, experience design, like patient experience strategy, is about mapping various scenarios, not sketching out only one. It is about designing for the “what ifs.” And despite the number of times we see it, experience design is never about designing for the one (easiest) experience. If you are integrating your EHR system with Zocdoc as your front door, do it for all the use cases that might happen. Not just one. Integrate so the front desk team can access all available information. Plan for a scenario in which an older person comes in, but their child made the appointment. Plan for the scenario in which the patient is a newborn, but the parent needs to act as the patient to complete certain parts of the process. If the person who made the appointment already exists in your system, but with a different email, plan for that. See what I just did? I thought through human scenarios. And laid them out for us. If I can do it, so can you. All you need to do is CARE. Caring helps you avoid bad experiences and operational complexities. Spend some real time with the front desk of the practice. See who walks through the doors, and take notes. Once you have done this, do the same with the internal stakeholders of your solution. Talk with everyone from the physicians to the billing department. Only then, will you know what information each team needs  to welcome the patient properly and create the seamless experience we are all hoping to get. Only then, can the simple (and necessary) task of issuing an invoice take less than 21 clicks and 5 screen changes!

Operational Efficiency and Patient Safety in the Telehealth Environment: Design with Empathy for Healthcare Professionals and Patients

Operational efficiency and patient safety are hefty goals for telehealth. Both are attainable with the right IT design. Let's take a look at patient alerts. In their current state, by and large, they are a disaster. Without taking the time to dive deeper and document the day-to-day of the end users, many things can go wrong. Just yesterday a patient arrived at a PCP clinic with an alert for the wrong physician. Internal system alerts are facing the same user experience challenges. A simple example of this is using the same sound and visuals for all alerts, regardless of their type. Without anything to differentiate one from another, all alerts have the same weight. And, over time, the important ones get ignored. Also in the alerts scenario, in the design phase, you may have incorrectly assumed the healthcare representative has time for that extra work at the moment you designed it to be delivered. When you fail to observe your end user and document those observations prior to design, you remove empathy from experience design. You oversimplify (and in the worst cases, invalidate) their jobs. The cost of this? Low adoption of your product, physician burnout, and unhappy patients. When you think about it, could you expect any other outcome? If you do not respect the end user enough to ask for their input, why should they respect your product enough to use it? In many ways, this is the fundamental questions we must keep in mind to ensure the proper adoption and implementation of telehealth across the healthcare landscape. Using technology, thinking strategically, and designing empathetically create a path forward for an industry that needs to put the patient at the center. And for the patients and providers who deserve to meet each other on that path.Our 5th 2021 customer experience trend highlights contactless and self-service experiences across industries. Before we dive into this topic, let's take a moment to define what contactless and self-service mean to us. And what kind of an impact they are making on customers - and businesses - across industries.

The business case of contactless payment

In a recent issue of Fortune, Ajay Banga, the CEO of Mastercard for over ten years, said "The good thing for our business is that digital has been on afterburners. Everybody has embraced contactless commerce." Why is this so important? Because, as Ajay Banga is stepping down from Mastercard, he is leaving a tenure of 12.7% growth of annualized revenues. And ROI that reached 40% annual clip! How did he achieve these extraordinary financial results? By leveraging technology like contactless payments and partnerships to gain share against cash, which held a staggering 85% of retail transactions ten years ago. If for no other reason than these numbers in this one case, we invite you to keep reading this article in your free holiday time. And to include contactless in your 2021 business strategy.

What is Self Service?

To begin, let's define self-service. Self-service is any consumer TRANSACTION that used to be performed by an agent and is now completed by the customer with the aid of some technology. Self-service transactions do not require a human brand representative. What do I mean by that? Well, in the human-centered design and simple functionality are equally (if not more) important than the agent they replace. Let's look at some examples of self-service across industries. In travel, checking-in for your flight on an app at home or at a kiosk at the airport is an example of self-service. In healthcare, scheduling an appointment on Zocdoc is a perfect example of self-service. And finally, in transportation, buying train tickets from a machine, instead of waiting on line for an agent, is self-service. Think of the price check terminals in department stores like Macy's. These physical terminals in the stores demonstrate how a self-service product makes the retail experience easier for shoppers. We used to chase the floor agents for this information - and WAIT - for them to find the answer.

Self Service Adoption Continues to Lag

Speaking of waiting, in our experience, reducing wait times is the most valuable customer experience gift self-service gives. Customers actually get time back. If you really think about it, this is one of the few technological advancements that impacts customer experience across industries. Yet, even in 2020, brands struggle to leverage the power of self-service.  Today, we still cannot self-check out from Sephora. Even though the National Retail Federation (NFR) uses Sephora as an example of an innovative retail customer experience. The beauty retailer has virtual try-on and a voice powered advice on Google home, but somehow did not invest in the simpler (and probably cheaper) self-service product of check out. In the post-COVID era, self-check in for flights is practically disabled. And healthcare is still trying to figure out how to schedule doctor visits on websites or apps. Quite frankly, it is mind blowing that a great business case like self-service is not reaching more CFOs around the world.

What is a Contactless Experience?

Now, let's look at contactless. What is contactless? Not almost contactless... REAL contactless experience. It is exactly what the name says: a self-service consumer experience in which the consumer does not TOUCH anything. "Real" contactless experiences are difficult (and expensive) to create. Customer experience professionals call them the magic experiences. This is what we did in 2017 with the JetBlue Paperless and Deviceless Boarding. We boarded passengers with capture of their faces ONLY. And travelers did not need to touch anything. Unfortunately, contactless as a term has been misused over the last three years. Many brands make the contactless claim without having done the design right. Just last week, I boarded a Lufthansa flight at Newark Airport in New Jersey. The airline claimed boarding would be done with facial recognition (a contactless experience). Yet, I was asked to scan my boarding pass and show my passport two seconds after my face was scanned by the camera. Immediately, I asked the agent how it can be called BOARDING with facial recognition if the airline is still paying her to take my passport. And I have to touch the boarding pass to scan it. Examples like this give contactless a bad name.

Contactless Self Service Grocery Store Claims

Chances are our next example of failed contactless experience sounds familiar. Did you notice all the grocery stores that claimed to have contactless experience recently? Then, once you got to the store, did you need to use your finger to SIGN the screen on the terminal to complete your transaction? It got so bad that some people started to spray the terminal with alcohol for fear of all that contact. Of course, this ruined the hardware! On the other hand, there are standout examples of good contactless experience, too. Take Nespresso, for instance. Nespresso makes a machine that empowers consumers to make coffee using their phones!

How to Create Real Contactless Experiences

Contactless can be done. However, real contactless experiences that empower customers (and make them feel safe and happy) require human centered design, critical thinking, comprehensive use cases, and the right experience goals. In other words, you need someone like us to keep telling the technology teams, "the software is not ready…YET." Until all the proper integrations are done to, say, actually BOARD a passenger with his/her face. Now more than ever consumers expect real contactless experience. It is time to create those experiences the right way. It is time to listen to consumers and adapt business models to make self-service and contactless the first design option for your services. Not the last. And, it is time to consider these technologies as early as the architecture phases of all new airports, hotels, stadiums and hospitals. So we can ensure a contactless future.

Start Thinking Contactless Now

According to the National Association of Corporate Directors report, for most companies, current strategies will become irrelevant in the next five years. Sixty-eight percent of responding board directors report their company can no longer count on extending its historical strategy over the next five years. So take 2021 to hit the reset button. And know you are not alone. There are many others like you. Plus, there are a few of us that can guide you safely to the business model that will bring you success in the next decade.

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