Transform Customer Delivery Step 1: Reduce Effort

Convey recently published a white paper titled “The Cost of Poor Delivery”.  Learn why the delivery process plays such a critical role in customer retention in this 4-part series.

A young woman happily browsing the internet and enjoying a warm beverageThe delivery process is a crucial part of the customer experience. Imagine yourself as Sally, a prospective customer searching for the perfect mantel for her fireplace.  She spent hours sorting through options, finally settles on one, and clicks “buy now”.  She anxiously waits for her purchase to arrive at the scheduled time – she planned for it to arrive prior to a holiday, so her family can help stain and install the mantel.  She checks the carrier’s website repeatedly and attempts to decipher the shipping updates.  Sadly her delivery doesn’t arrive, and the holiday passes.  She spent several hours on the phone with the carrier and the merchant trying to find out what happened, and she still doesn’t have her mantel.

Anecdotes like Sally’s have a huge impact on a company’s bottom line.  According to a recent survey by technical services provider Support.com, 40% of those surveyed said that after-purchase activities like installation, technical challenges and returns are the most enduring part of their experience with the brand.  The Corporate Executive Board, a division of the Customer Contact Council, reports that of a study of 75,000 call center interactions, 65% of respondents said they would speak negatively to others about their interaction.  These findings translate to existing customer attrition, and loss of new customers by way of negative word-of-mouth.

So how do merchants reverse this trend and turn unhappy customers like Sally into positive advocates?  The first step is understanding why customers are dissatisfied, and then acting on that information to change corporate practices that impact customers.  One of the main issues is the level of work required by customers post-purchase. Think about Sally’s experience – checking the carrier’s website for updates, spending time on the phone trying to figure out what happened to the mantel, and ultimately the disappointment of not receiving her purchase.  Businesses need to make it easy for customers like Sally at every step of the post-purchase interaction.

The best place to start is by collecting data and learning how your current infrastructure works for your customers.  The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a measurement that is relatively new to the marketplace.  It gives an accurate representation of the work required by the customer, and is a higher indicator of customer loyalty than the often-used Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).  Start by collecting CES from existing customers, and mining any data you have on current systems in place. Once you’ve gathered the available data, determine how to lower customer effort by looking for the following:

  • Find ways to proactively engage your customers.

     You can learn a lot from Sally’s repeated customer service calls and chat messages.  The time spent tracking down what happened to her shipment can be avoided if clear, understandable updates are available to her throughout the process.  Allow your customers to register for shipment notifications in whatever format they choose – text, email, etc.  When shipment problems arise, be the first to know and inform customers immediately.  Things like proactively scheduling a new shipment (if one has been delayed or lost) and offering a discount on future purchases can go a long way towards customer loyalty.

  • Translate confusing carrier messages to better inform customers.

    If Sally is able to understand the messages from parcel and freight carriers, she can determine the location of her package without a lot of time spent on the phone.  Most carrier tracking tools roll up updates into 5 statuses (i.e. in-transit or exception) and often leave out or don’t translate the detail necessary to know why something is delayed. Statuses that communicate more clearly can break down the barriers that arise when a delivery appointment is required, weather delays occur, or the package was destroyed in transit and needs to be resent.

  • Evaluate your customer tool set to make sure it is effective.

    Are your customers able to answer their most common questions using your company’s online tools?  Maybe Sally spent a few minutes looking around your site, and then gave up and picked up the phone.  Take all the data you’re capturing on customer tools and look for those gaps.  Cisco Consumer Products reconfigured the help section of their site to guide users to the specific help section best suited to that individual.  In 2006, 30% of customer inquiries went through self-service; today, that number is 84%.

  • Empower your customer service representatives to take the work off of the customer.

    Many customer service departments are measured on the length of each call, without taking into account the number of times a customer like Sally has to call to resolve her issue.  Reconfigure goals so customer service reps (CSRs) are incented to resolve customer issues with first contact.  Provide your CSRs with access to the same tracking and communication data your customer sees within their existing systems to reduce the time it takes to resolve a delivery issue.

Sally’s story is not a new one – we’ve all heard stories from friends and family about poor delivery experiences.  However, companies today don’t have to live with the status quo.  The first step to improving the post-purchase experience is reducing customer effort.

In our next post of the series, we’ll discuss the need to personalize the shipping experience for each customer.

Want to learn more about the critical role of delivery?  Download “The Cost of Poor Delivery”.