Customer experience is defined by the impressions you – and your brand and company – leave with your customers. These impressions influence how customers think and feel about the company, and play a very large role in generating customer loyalty. Last week, we touched on the rise of automated and self-service systems such as self-check-out cashiers. It’s clear that these technological developments have made big impacts to sales and efficiency, but how do these impact the customer experience?
Following last week’s insights, it’s very clear that there are some key aspects to self-service automation that directly influence customer experience:
1. Quicker Service
Once customers become accustomed to using the automated systems, the service is generally quicker. A lot of people who aren’t comfortable using the self-service or have complicated items will normally revert to any staffed cashiers, allowing for those who are perhaps more tech-savvy and quick to work their way out using automation. This speeds up any queuing process and means that customers are less likely to have to practice patience.
2. Less Stress
People like to be in control, make their own decisions, and generally dictate what they do and how they do it. What better way than to give that control back to the customer than by letting them use an automated system? Empowering your customers to use a cashier, or a search engine to show them where that one thing is that they can’t find, provides a stress-free environment; customers don’t have to stand in line to pay, they don’t have to hunt around for a salesperson, because they can help themselves to whatever information they need through the automated services available.
And, as an added bonus, staff won’t be as stressed because they won’t have to deal as much with difficult customers!
3. Customer Data in Realtime!
Every automated system provides you with an analytical rundown of what people are doing, looking for, and how they are using the self-service systems available. As we know from our years in mystery shopping, the more data you have, the better you can act on your customer’s real needs and expectations. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power! For example, you might notice that many customers are using a self-service directory to locate restrooms – this might mean that the signage in store isn’t clear enough and needs to be adjusted. Similarly, there might be data that indicates a lot of customers are using self-service cashiers for large items, which could prompt a quick analysis of whether or not there is space enough at these areas for those items – maybe a slight revamp of the layout could lead to an even better flow-through of customer traffic.
Customer experience can be influenced by a variety of factors: customer service, product quality, even store layout and environment. One of the things we often include in our store environment sections of most of our mystery shopping programs is about whether or not music is playing, and if so, is it too loud? Most of us don’t realize that the little things – like blaring music, dust on shelves, etc – can affect a customer’s impression of a company forever and imprint their sense of the brand in a negative light.
The self-service customer experience as well can make or break the impression, so it’s important that the automated systems are thoroughly tested and installed properly. Personally, I’ve always found it useful when there’s a staff member darting between the automated system – say, one person for every ten machines? – just to help customers become accustomed to the systems in question. Giving customers a proper adjustment period is important, because otherwise you’ll damage their trust in the machines – or worse, in the company! – and either need to go back to the non-automated days or perhaps lose them forever.