Customer Experience, Self Service, and the Gift of Time
Time is the most precious gift in life. If you think about it, time is the one thing we all want more of. As we get older and busier, time becomes even more valuable to us. Good customer experience professionals understand this about human nature. So we strive to give back time to our customers along the customer journeys we build. In fact, saving time is one of the most effective ways to improve customer experience.
How Can You Give Back Time to Your Customers?
Actually, it is quite simple. Start by giving customers information. Information is power. Often, we think that unless we make something faster, we are not giving back time.
A faster process or transaction is an effective way to give back time to the customer. Another way is to empower the customer by giving him/her the necessary information to make a choice to repurpose their time.
We see the impact of wait time on the customer experience when we look at public transportation. The New York City subway system recently installed clocks and changed the commuting experience of New Yorkers (a little too late, if you ask me).
Display Wait Times
Now, if you are at a station rushing to get somewhere (as most New Yorkers are) you can make an informed decision to wait for the train or to grab a cab. Rather than waiting for the train without being in control of your journey, you have time to DECIDE what to do.
To further personalize and gain control over your journey, use GPS-empowered apps like BusChecker that show where a bus actually is and how long it will take to arrive at your stop.
Informing people of expected wait times is not the only way to give back time. A commuter who can purchase his/her ticket by phone is given a gift like no other. I recently traveled to Milan, Italy. At Malpensa airport, the customer journey stops abruptly. And it gets worse once you reach the train station arrivals area.
There is a palpable disruption of the flow. You see a long line, and masses of people hovering over a cluster of ~4 kiosks to buy train tickets. On top of that, the kiosks do not accept American credit cards. So, suddenly I was about to miss the only train that worked for me that morning. The meaningful gift of time happened when I saw the option to buy tickets online. That booking channel made the difference between catching the train and waiting over an hour for the next one. I was gifted that time to use for something much better than sitting in a crowd.
Both Metro-North and LIRR in New York now offer customers in-app ticket purchasing options. That is what I call a game changer for the customer and for CX in general. Call it self-service, convenience, or enablement for efficiency – it creates time. Time that we are empowered to reallocate to whatever suits our needs best.
Remove Time Thieves
In his book The Effortless Experience, the author explains the value of low-effort service. One of his four principles is the delivery of a “simple, intuitive, and guided self-service experience that makes it unnecessary to call the company if a customer does not want to…”. Why do you think some people do not want to call? Because they do not want to wait! One of the common time thieves is call wait times and transfers. We all complain about that. Yet, very few organizations have solved the challenge.
Some use a decision tree to guide customers through the process of choosing whether to call. Others implement chatbots to give back some time. Waiting on the phone to reach a contact center professional and start a grievance process is one of the most frustrating experiences. This is the time when the emotional state of the customer is similar to a frustrated child. They want to be heard. And in that peak moment of emotional charge, the brands decide that playing elevator music will calm the caller. That, for sure, never works.
As a Customer Experience Director at an airline, my mission is to eliminate wait time anywhere at the airport. The end goal of most customer-facing projects on the ground is to eliminate queues and give our customers the freedom to co-create their personal journey with us.
When we reduce or eliminate wait time, a brand can service more customers in the same amount of time. That makes it one of the ways to improve customer experience. It also makes it a smart way to create efficiencies that help the bottom line. The customer, on the other hand, can reallocate that extra time to his/her best needs during the journey.
Wouldn’t that be nice? To be given the freedom to personalize your experience? Who does not want that?
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