Though your customer experience will involve different steps, depending on the nature of the transaction, one thing remains true whatever your industry: customers are increasingly demanding simplicity and ‘flow’ in the experience of interacting with you.
The concept that the customer expects a good buying experience is, of course, nothing new, but the demand for ‘ease of use’ and ‘simplicity’ to get them from A to B has never been greater; with more sophisticated ways of measuring behaviour through neuroscience, more light is being shed on this topic.
The importance of ‘flow’
Back in 1998, psychology researcher Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi wrote that people who perform seamless, sequence-based activities regularly are happier than those who do not. He described this behaviour as ‘flow’.
This was very prescient when we consider how the average person in western societies now purchases products and services.
For products and services we are not familiar with, we will go online (likely on a mobile device), research providers for our need, and then look for social proof; we will then check out a few websites and expect a seamless buying experience. This includes easy identification of the product we need, a clear understanding of the features and benefits, and an easy way to buy it and get it to the door.
For products and services we are more familiar with (like Amazon or hotel booking websites for instance) it’s even quicker and easier – with our details pre-loaded. A few clicks and it’s done, with an email confirmation sitting in your Inbox.
It couldn’t get much easier. Successful companies have incorporated Csíkszentmihályi’s words into their entire modus operandi. They are successful because they offer a MORE seamless experience – one which breeds confidence and trust in the customer experience.
The websites that have not yet mastered this – that struggle with poor product display, difficult-to-fill forms, and clumsy call-to-action buttons (‘Register Here’ or ‘BUY NOW’) – won’t last long. Slow, interruptive processes simply don’t wash in the digital age.
Even in 1969, Robert B. Miller’s observed in his paper Response Time in Man-Computer Conversational Transactions that people are most comfortable and productive with response times of less than two seconds.
Meeting ‘baseline’ expectations
When it gets to the buying point, most customers now expect a smooth, seamless experience – or they go elsewhere to get it; and they may never return.
Few businesses can afford to turn away customers like this. Building a base of loyal customers who talk about their experience positively to friends, and through social media channels, means first meeting ‘baseline’ expectations of service.
‘Baseline’ can be seen as the standard of client experience that an organisation expects to deliver with every client – and simplicity of experience has become one of them.
Only once this has been achieved do you have the opportunity to delight the customer and really set yourself apart from the competition.
These expectations change over time, of course. Air conditioning and satellite TV in a hotel room are now ‘baseline’ expectations – once they were considered a luxury. Rather than ‘delighting’ a customer, they now just produce the good will of having expectations met.
Providing ‘flow’ and simplicity in your customer experience is now as necessary as a hotel providing air conditioning in the room.