"At the end of the day, all customers want is a frictionless experience, a consistent experience. Do what you say you're going to do and fulfill your value proposition." — Paula Courtney, President and CEO of The Verde Group
Taking the friction out of the customer journey not only boosts retention and loyalty for brands — but also drives revenue.
Paula Courtney, president and CEO of The Verde Group, says any brand that wants to boost its bottom line should start by tackling customer pain points.
The Verde Group specializes in helping companies measure the cost of customer dissatisfaction. The firm then crafts strategies to address the root causes of these issues and boost profitability for clients. So, Courtney understands better than most which levers companies need to pull to improve their customer experiences.
Courtney joined a recent episode of the "Unpacking the Digital Shelf" podcast, "Reclaiming Revenue at Risk by Removing Consumer Frictions," to share her perspective on why so many companies struggle to address pain points in their customer journey — and actionable steps they can take to create a more seamless buying experience.
Every interaction a customer has with a brand is a chance to keep or lose them — regardless of how many times they’ve shopped with the company in the past. According to an Emplifi report, 86% of consumers would abandon a brand they had previously been loyal to after one to three bad customer experiences.
However, many brands experience a higher-than-necessary risk of customers jumping ship because they don’t focus on the fundamentals.
"Whatever your business is, make it easy for customers to buy from you. We call it 'being shoppable,' and what that means is having your products available. I know that sounds crazy, but this is one of the most important or most significant problems consumers experience." — Paula Courtney, President and CEO of The Verde Group
Courtney says issues with product availability and different pricing for the same products on different channels make the purchasing experience more onerous for consumers.
Though it’s easier said than done, brands need to focus on creating a seamless, omnichannel experience, where there’s no distinction in product availability or pricing whether a customer tries to purchase a product on an ecommerce marketplace or a brand’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) site.
The Verde Group’s recent consumer research also finds that creating an exceptional customer experience isn’t just about omnichannel. Customers expect something even more basic: good customer support.
Brands not only must address customer pain points; they must also have mechanisms in place to effectively and quickly address friction when it occurs.
"That's all customers want … is to be hassle-free in how [they] buy and when [they] require support for a problem that may occur in your purchase journey," Courtney says.
Using Data To Understand Customer Pain Points
In its work with brands, The Verde Group focuses on helping companies understand where they need to invest to maximize return on investment (ROI). The firm uses data to understand how a particular experience translates to either revenue growth or revenue erosion.
"That means we go to market for our clients with a very purposeful and deliberate interrogation of customer problems," Courtney says.
Focusing on customer dissatisfaction may not be the most attractive approach for most companies, but it produces powerful insights that help brands maximize their revenue in ways that don’t involve acquiring new customers or launching flashy new marketing campaigns.
"Understanding which problems they have — and more importantly, the individual contribution of specific problems on that negative market behavior — is the most critical discovery for an organization, and there's money to be made," Courtney says. "If you know where your problems are that hurt you economically, then not only can you rectify them, but also understanding problems is a tremendous source of innovation."
Finding 'Moments of Truth' in Your Customer Experience
The Verde Group uses a range of data to understand customer friction, including market studies, customer surveys, behavioral data, reviews, call center data, and more.
Many companies struggle to understand customer pain points not because they lack data, but because they often have too much of it, Courtney says. It’s also not consolidated in a central place, making it difficult to draw insights from this information and then take action.
The Verde Group helps brands hone in on the data that matters at every stage of the customer journey — from customer onboarding to service and support, and then post-purchase and post-transaction.
Courtney says the firm focuses on what it calls “moments of truth,” or “all the different interactions where customers have an opportunity to have an opinion about the organization.”
These interactions encompass opinions about the core product or service a consumer buys from a brand; ancillary experiences like marketing, sales, and customer care; and less transactional, more emotional experiences like a customer’s trust in the brand and their belief the company values their business.
All of these inputs and touch points make up the customer experience. The Verde Group’s aim is to link all these experiences to negative market behavior that causes a brand to lose customers.
Ultimately, it’s about evaluating the relationship between the things that happen to a customer along their journey and the actions — good or bad — they take as a result.
How 2 Brands Addressed Friction
The Verde Group has helped several brands make this connection and maximize revenue in the process. Its work with a service organization and a leading women’s apparel company shows the benefits companies can reap by identifying and resolving friction.
Better Terms, Better Customer Retention
The service organization — which provided shop towels, soap dispensers, and uniforms for small businesses — had a serious customer retention problem. The company couldn’t understand why it was losing business, given that it had a high Net Promoter Score.
Through customer research and surveys, The Verde Group discovered the company’s five-year service contracts and quality control issues were the main reasons it was losing customers.
After discovering the root causes of its customer friction, the company’s CEO immediately called its legal department to restructure its service contract to more favorable, shorter terms for its customers.
The company also conducted a pilot test in a location with high customer churn to identify which strategies would be most effective for improving product quality.
As a result, the customer defection rate at that location dropped from 33% to 0% in 10 months, Courtney says. The company took these learnings and used them to recover its losses, which eventually made it an attractive acquisition for a larger company.
Addressing a Less-Than-Obvious Product Quality Issue
The Verde Group also worked with a women’s apparel company to drive better business results. The firm discovered the company had a product quality issue — but not in a way that would have been obvious to the brand.
"There are two things about quality — there's actual and perceived," Courtney says.
The issue was that the company had clothes squished together on hangers in its stores and sale items arranged sloppily in bins, after tons of customers had rummaged through them.
Both these things gave the impression the brand’s products were low quality. The company also had a line abandonment issue, where customers would see long lines in-store and leave without making a purchase. None of the brand’s previous customer research ever unearthed this learning.
"All of these non-intuitive issues came to light and they were able to make some incredible immediate, low-cost changes that had a profound positive impact on their business," Courtney says.
Beware of 'Silent Killers' — And Win
Courtney adds that it’s critical for brands to dig deeper into their customer experience, ask the right questions, and not just focus on the things that work — but even more importantly, the things that don’t.
She says one of the biggest points of failure for most organizations is that their experience across channels isn’t connected. How leaders run their respective lines of business only worsens the problem. Companies must bridge these silos to be able to look at their customer experience differently and better understand why they’re losing business.
"When you hear about customer complaints, you can often get distracted and think that you’ve got to fix those problems that customers are screaming about, but often the problems that hurt you the most are what we call the 'silent killers' — those issues that you don't hear about," Courtney says. "Customers just don't shop with you anymore. They leave."
Want to hear more of Courtney’s perspective on how brands can eliminate customer friction? Check out the full episode of "Unpacking the Digital Shelf."