How to Keep Customer Journeys on the Frictionless Path

Customer in a café ordering coffee on her mobile phone

Many things contribute to a poor customer experience. Take buffering, slow download speeds or bad Wi-Fi connections, for instance. Connectivity issues are beyond a brand’s control. But the performance of an ecommerce app or website, in the digital domain and how that ecommerce experience translates into the physical domain across all channels, are within the realms of a brand’s responsibility.

Businesses that optimise both the customer journey and the customer experience are rewarded with strong customer retention, revenues and brand reputation. But so many fail at the first hurdle because they don’t take the time to understand the customer journey. This is because many businesses don’t fully appreciate the difference between the customer journey and the customer experience.

Customer journey explains the path a customer takes when they interact with a brand or product, including the steps required to complete an action. Customer experience is how a customer feels about that interaction with a product, app or service.

Improving the customer journey means detailing and optimising all customer interactions with your product or business on all channels, devices and touchpoints. Today, customer journeys can involve many touchpoints, even without the customer ever having to leave the house. So, what does it take to get the customer journey right?

Removing friction

To begin with, let’s look at what can cause friction in a customer journey. Friction refers to when a customer struggles to use a product or service, either because it fails to work properly or doesn’t match the customer’s expectations.

Consequently, a low-friction customer journey is integral to a high-quality customer experience. Optimising both customer journeys and the customer experience is the path to strong customer retention, revenue growth and brand reputation.

Today, most customer journeys fall into two key categories: ‘in-field’ or ‘digital-only’. In-field customer journeys involve a customer travelling to a physical location (e.g., supermarket, restaurant, cashpoint) and performing a series of actions that typically require interaction with both digital and physical touchpoints.

In-field customer journeys have become commonplace in a retail setting. For example, a customer might access a promotional offer sent to their email, use the discount to purchase an item, select in-store pickup, receive a notification that the item is ready for pickup, travel to the nearby store, show or scan a code or mobile receipt to get the item from an employee or on-site locker, and then leave a review of the product or rate their experience.

Digital-only customer journeys are a progression through the customer lifecycle that involves no physical relocation. These journeys are more common than ever. You can order a takeaway from your kitchen table, stream a film from your settee and order new sheets from your bed. But all it takes for that purchase to be abandoned is a push or a swipe of the fingers. Removing that friction starts with understanding where and how it occurs.

The four points of friction

Product teams that deliver low-friction experiences to their customers achieve this by focusing on reducing friction in four key areas within the customer journey. These are usability, functionality and payments. Broken down as follows:

1. Usability

Usability problems involve issues such as too many steps or screens to complete a task, unclear next steps, something confusing about the app design, or text or button colours being difficult to read for people with colour-blindness.

2. Functionality

Functional bugs include app crashes, 404 error messages, broken links, endless loading and more. It doesn’t matter how well the app works in a staging environment — if these issues occur when the product is in the hands of real customers with real devices on real networks, it’s not functioning properly. There’s no room for error.

3. Payments

All this effort toward creating friction-free customer journeys boils down to generating and protecting your company’s revenue. If customers can’t easily pay for your products, the rest is likely moot. And if you overcharge them for a product or service, that’s a game-changer — they’re not coming back.

Friction free customers

Consumers today want an easy, streamlined experience from the brands they deal with. Whether it’s shopping, banking or entertainment, they want to be able to access different products, on any device, at any time, wherever they are, without friction.

The only way to ensure everything works for real customers is to test the customer journey with real people, across digital channels and instore. By tapping into a global community of testers to address customer needs and identify bugs, biases, and potential flaws, the crowdtesting approach allows brands to create frictionless experiences for more satisfied and, importantly, more loyal customers.

About the Author

Carlton Retland, ApplauseCarlton is the Principal Solutions Engineer for Applause’s Customer Journey Testing solution. Carlton works closely with organizations to understand their customer journey maps and understand how Applause can help them test their customer journeys across multiple touchpoints. Carlton is based in Washington D.C. and has been with Applause since 2016.

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