In automotive retail, we’ve never had a more complicated time making transactions easy and frictionless. So-called “omnichannel retail” empowers retailers to reach consumers at every touchpoint of the buying experience – online and off – to provide a pleasing consumer experience across all channels. But information is traveling much faster than any of us expected and many organizations are finding it difficult to keep up. Complex decisions are often made in real time, and to be successful, customer friction points must be kept to a minimum.
Retailers today need a fully-integrated retail strategy that provides consumers with a unified experience across all touchpoints and channels. Without this strategy, customer friction points appear and multiply, thereby impeding leads and sales.
What is customer friction?
Customer friction is any step in the customer experience that impedes the customer from buying the product, having success with the product, or finding value in the product.
That might sound a little complex, but think of it as basically any hurdle that gets in the customer’s way.
You’re not in the business of selling things, you’re in the business of helping people buy things. The best way to help people buy the things you sell is by reducing customer friction points along the way.
There are just too many alternatives available when buyers confront friction. If you can identify and understand your customers’ pain points, it will bring you closer to them and solidify the relationship.
What are the most prominent customer friction points?
- Bad website user experience and/or lead conversion tactics
- Not using automation to benefit the customer
- Apathetic or uninformed salespeople
- Unfavorable customer service
- Not providing a self-serve knowledge base
- Poor public perception and/or reputation
- Negative online reviews
The fact is, friction kills customer experience.
There are thousands more subtle friction points along the way to the sale. The best way to get ahead of those is to study your buyers’ behavior and think like a customer.
Data is important in your process of understanding customer behavior. Numbers don’t lie. However, some organizations focus solely on their data for answers when conversions begin diminishing.
Thoughtfully shape your customer experience.
Empathy is an essential element of everyday relationships and can be equally powerful when it comes to company-customer relationships.
What does it mean for a company to show empathy to its customers? On the most basic level, companies demonstrate empathy by thoughtfully shaping the customer experience. Customers should be treated like individuals, rather than sources of revenue, during every step of their journey.
When you’re unable to empathize with the customer, you can’t relate to the customer and very often, they can’t relate to you. Providing a frictionless pathway to the sale depends on your ability to relate to and understand what your customer needs in order to make their purchase.
Minimize friction along the buyers’ journey to keep them moving forward.
The sales funnel is not gravity driven. There is no guarantee anyone will ever make their way through to the sale.
Make it effortless for the buyer to find their way. Minimize the friction in your online and offline interactions by providing support and expertise.
Companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Apple are very adept at eliminating customer friction points. They delight their customers and they have issues just like the rest of us. Just the other day I ordered some drinking glasses from Amazon. When they arrived, one was smashed to bits, so I went online to request a refund. Amazon processed it quickly and refunded me immediately (no waiting until they received the package back). That was pretty delightful.
My experience with that transaction set me up for less friction to future purchases.
Unlike Amazon, Starbucks or Apple however, a car purchase is a complex transaction, which leaves room for more obstacles to leads and sales. Where can you make changes in your sales operations to reduce friction?
Keep operations processes grounded.
Consumers are looking for competent, ethical companies to do business with and first-rate operations processes reduce customer friction.
The world is suffering from an intense lack of trust. Misinformation disseminated via social media and irresponsible media outlets has caused a wide gap between the populace, and that distrust lingers between buyers and sellers.
Examine the places where your customers might encounter friction and shore them up. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be better than your competition.
Don’t get stuck in an out-dated business model.
It’s a complicated time and retailers unwilling or unable to adapt their models are experiencing difficulties. Automotive retail has advanced 10 years in 10 months. When I talk with industry leaders, I hear a common refrain: “Our industry is doing okay right now, but I see the writing on the wall.”
Digital retailing has become a buzzword, but what does it matter if you’re not adapting?
Why didn’t the Yellow Pages come up with a Google? Why didn’t the taxi companies invent Uber? Because they got stuck in their business models, their processes and their own thinking. They didn’t consider the world from their customers’ viewpoint. They were unable to empathize with the customer and didn’t recognize the friction points.
More ways to reduce customer friction points
In order to create a frictionless journey for your customer, examine the cornerstones of your business processes. Your customers are looking for signposts on the road to the sale. Plan for their next steps by maintaining empathy and thinking like the customer in these areas:
The organization’s website, social media, and advertising all require meaningful content to generate leads and convert sales. Reduce friction points by thinking like your customer. Supply them with the knowledge it takes to make the right purchase decision. Your website should communicate exactly what your customers want to know, in the most distilled form possible.
2. Customer Experience
A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is. It’s what consumers tell each other it is. From your marketing touchpoints to completed transactions to repeat purchases, a positive customer experience drives your business. Give them something to tell others about.
3. Your People
Salespeople and support staff can very often neglect to see the importance of the transaction through the customers’ eyes. They get busy and fail to recognize that the transaction they’re facilitating is a milestone in that customer’s life. Provide your people with gentle reminders to approach sales with empathy. They’ve likely experienced a milestone purchase in their life too!
The simple reality is that relationships with current and repeat customers obliterate friction. Since one of the largest points of friction is lack of trust, nurtured relationships instill trust and can often be the reason someone buys.
To sum it all up…
By understanding your customers’ pain points and eliminating friction, you provide a positive experience that matters along each stage of the buying process. Isn’t the shortest, most effective route to the sale always the best one?
Need help setting up your organization with proven automotive digital retail processes? Get in touch with me here and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours.