Customer experience is suffering at the hands of the Last Mile
This article first appeared in Customer Experience Magazine.
When a customer makes a purchase, the baton is passed to the delivery service to complete the final leg. When in reality, the customer experience team’s race has just begun.
The post-purchase experience is the most critical stage of the entire customer journey, yet many brands are still grappling with how to get it right. In the meantime, their reputations are suffering for it. If brands are serious about improving the customer experience, then they need to embrace new tools to take ownership of delivery and returns.
Your products can be perfect in every way but if deliveries are delayed, or something happens with the courier, then it impacts the entire customer experience.
If you’re a seller, it doesn’t matter that you’ve outsourced this part of the process to a different company.
If a customer is buying your product then they’ll hold you responsible for every aspect of their interaction with it.
This isn’t just conjecture; the stats bear it out. According to our latest research, which analysed 3,000 one-star reviews on Trustpilot, more than half (55%) of customer complaints were attributed to frustrations with the post-purchase experience.
Whether it was an issue with delivery (40%) ora messy returns process (15%), these figures show that it’s the act of receiving an order, rather than the product itself, that tanks brand image time and again…and it’s the retailer that takes the blame.
Rather than taking ownership of the ‘last mile’, brands continue to place their reputation in the hands of their chosen delivery provider. Too many rely on sporadic SMS messages about an order or access to their carrier’s web portal to keep a customer happy.
The huge investment that retailers make in the customer experience up until the point of purchase is undermined if they simply abandon shoppers after they hit the buy button.
If companies want to end this self-sabotage and make a real difference to their customer retention and lifetime value measures, brands need to start taking back control. Practically, this means opening up new channels of communication with customers to keep them informed and give them a real feeling of control throughout the delivery and returns process.
Package due to arrive later than originally scheduled? Don’t make them type in their tracking number to find out. A change of plans meaning no one will be home? Help them easily rearrange delivery. The product’s not quite right and needs to be exchanged? Talk them through the return step by step and let them know when they’ll get a new item.
Proactively communicating with your customers in this way is what will set your customer experience apart. But this level of communication isn’t achievable with legacy systems. Instead, CX teams need to look beyond their existing tools and embrace new technology that puts them in the pocket of their customers.
AI technology is one way of maintaining close, personal contact with your audience – at scale. New generation natural language processing tools enable you, at last, to have high quality, engaging interactions with customers and instantly solve their questions without involving vast teams and resources.
Many common issues, including WISMO (Where IsMy Order?) queries, can be resolved through AI technology - providing it’s sophisticated and properly integrates with your own systems - leaving your customer service teams free to focus on the most complex and sensitive tasks.
And it’s not just how a brand communicates with its customers, it’s where that communication takes place. The CX teams that will win big at the post-purchase stage are the ones that make it easiest for consumers to get in touch.
That means reaching customers through the most convenient communication channels: their favourite messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Rather than wrestling with branded or carrier-specific apps and services, they can contact you in the place they do their friends.
In an ideal world, every delivery would arrive at the right time, in the right place and in pristine condition. This isn’t an ideal world. But that doesn’t mean delivery frustration is part and parcel of the customer experience.
Brands have the ability to take ownership of the ‘last-mile’, but only if they start exploring new tools and wake up to the post purchase opportunity. First impressions matter – and so do final ones when it comes to great customer experience and high retention metrics.