That Peaceful Easy Feeling

How easy is it for customers to do business with your company? Reducing customer effort is an important part of creating a positive customer experience. A fundamental reason that businesses exist is that they solve problems for customers. Economies of scale, expertise, and efficiencies furnished by businesses provide various solutions to consumers, such as availability, lower prices, faster production, better design, improved quality, and more.

Home Problem Solvers
Home builders solve problems for home buyers every day. For example, homeowners may be outgrowing an existing home due to a growing family. Or maybe a work relocation is creating the challenge of finding a home in a new city. Or perhaps empty-nesters are faced with the dilemma of down-sizing to a smaller home to free-up equity for retirement. Regardless of the “shelter-related” problem, home builders can provide solutions for customers.

In the process of resolving their home-related problems, however, some home buyers complain of being burdened with a host of different problems during their new home journey. Are the complications and complexities of home building tidily hidden “backstage” in order to make the customer-facing aspects as easy as possible? Few would suggest that home building is easy, but the magic comes from making a customer’s journey feel that way.

How it Feels to be a Customer
Purchasing decisions are made based on a company’s reputable brand, quality product, great value, or a combination of attributes. Customer memories, however, come from how it “feels” to do business with a company. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” according to prolific writer Maya Angelou. How does it “feel” to be a customer of your business? This is an important question because customers remember that “feeling” and it impacts their long-term loyalty.

Is it an arduous journey to be a customer with your company? Whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, it is a valuable exercise to regularly review your customer’s journey ─ closely examining the journey to find any ways to make it easier to do business with your company.

Find the Friction
Analyzing the customer journey means examining every customer touch-point in terms of process, people, policies, product, and communication. The objective is to uncover any friction currently present in those touch-points which may be causing additional customer effort. After unearthing those pain-points, it is then necessary to implement solutions to smooth out each touch-point. These improved touch-points can then be “stitched” together to enable a holistic review of the entire customer experience to ensure that customer effort is minimized throughout the journey.

Some valuable sources of information which can help builders “find the friction” in the customer experience include:

  • Front-line team members: Those closest to the customers have a wealth of knowledge on areas of customer frustration.
  • Trades & suppliers: As an extension of a builder’s team, trades and suppliers often have important insight regarding measures that may be creating unnecessary customer effort.
  • Communication channels: Recurring themes in emails and phone calls, or most-frequented sites on digital channels can reveal areas of customer frustration.
  • Dissatisfied customers: Unhappy customers can provide valuable feedback regarding high-effort areas in their customer experience.

Make it Easy
Building a customer journey that reduces customer effort means removing obstacles or barriers in processes. It also means having a team that is able to understand the personal and emotional needs of each customer and connect at that level. Communication channels must also be in place to cater to the uniqueness of every customer ─ there is no one-size-fits-all communication channel to satisfy today’s consumers. Most importantly, an environment of continuous improvement must be encouraged in order to learn from mistakes and use that knowledge to head-off problems for future customers.

Mike Wittenstein is retail customer experience strategist and designer at Storyminers and he sums things up succinctly with the following equation:

Keeping this equation in the positive means ensuring that everything a builder does “for” a customer is greater than what is done “to” a customer during the new home journey. There is nothing more powerful for business success than a mass of customers that feel great about their experience.

Tim Bailey is Division President of Avid Ratings Canada, a leading provider of customer loyalty research and consulting to the home building industry. Through the Avid system, industry-leading clients improve referrals, reduce warranty costs, and strengthen their brand. He can be reached at tim.bailey@avidratings.ca.

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