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 gets even more valuable to us. Good customer experience professionals know that about the human nature and strive to give back time to their customers with the CX journeys they built.
How can you give back time to your customers?
It is actually quite simple. Give people 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 effective in terms of giving time back to the customer. Another way to achieve that effect is to empower the customer by giving him/her the necessary information to make a choice to repurpose their time in the best way possible.
We see the impact of wait time on the customer experience when we look at public transportation. The New York subway system recently installed clocks and changed the commuting experience of New Yorkers (a little too late if you ask me). 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 with it. To further personalize and have control over your journey, you can use apps like BusChecker or other GPS empowered apps 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 journey of the customer abruptly gets bad/worse once he/she gets to the train station at arrivals. There is a palpable disruption of the flow when you see a huge line, and masses of people hovering over a cluster of ~4 kiosks to buy tickets for the train. 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 ability to buy tickets online. That booking channel was the difference between making the train or 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 have apps where customers can buy their tickets. 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.
In his book The Effortless Experience, the author walks us through 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 you if you should call, others implement chatbots to give you back some time. Waiting on the phone to reach a call center professional so you can be allowed to 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 child. They want to be heard. And just 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. Both the check-in lobby redesign and the facial recognition boarding programs have the gift of time in their foundation. It is a win-win to approach CX design from this perspective.
When wait time is reduced or eliminated, the brand can service more customers for the same amount of time. This creates efficiencies and helps the bottom line. The customer, on the other hand, can reallocate that extra time to his/her best needs during that specific journey. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be given the freedom to personalize your experience? Who does not want that?
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