empty lifeguard hut with number 3 on side
PHOTO: Dominik Lange

Long gone are the days of waiting in line to buy groceries, developing pictures at your local drug store or mailing a check to friend. With the click of a button, people can now order groceries for one-hour delivery, post an entire vacation’s worth of photos on Instagram or instantly pay back a friend on Venmo. Technology today fuels the desire for fast, even instant results. It’s this expectation of immediate satisfaction that's become one of the most important factors in how — and with whom —people choose to do business online.

Staying ahead of your customers’ wants and needs is critical to the success and longevity of your company. This means not only identifying what customers expect today, but also anticipating what they will need seven to 10 years down the road, and creating a customer experience roadmap that evolves accordingly.

Put Customers at the Core of All Business Decisions

To best serve their customers, companies must be hyper aware of what consumers are thinking and feeling about products and services, and adapt their offerings to ensure an optimally positive customer experience. At Aflac, we use ease as our number one metric for evaluating the customer experience. Research has shown us that ease is a significant driver of customer loyalty. By making the customer experience as painless as possible, we increase the likelihood that our customers will keep coming back to us, and even potentially encourage people in their social circles to become customers as well.

With our “Ease Score” method, we measure how easy it is for our customers to navigate and interact with the Aflac brand across our website, mobile app, billing platform and call center. The Ease Score provides a clear and consistent gauge of our customer's reactions and shows us where we might be able to improve their experiences.

Beyond the ease score, we also look at traditional customer experience metrics such as ease of use by touchpoints. For example, when customers call in for support, we ask the customer to score their experience with the service representative after the call. We want to know how they perceived the representative’s knowledge, care and service level. This is a standard approach called “first touch resolution,” and it’s something all companies should examine very closely to ensure that positive experiences are consistent at the most common points of first engagement.

Related Article: Know What's a Powerful Business Driver? Customer Success

Deliver Frictionless Experiences to Customers Today and in the Future

When you understand your customers, you will be better equipped to serve them. That brings us to today’s consumers, Gen-C, who were born into the world of digital media. As a result, they are digitally savvier, meaning they take full advantage of the convenience and access of the digital tools they use every day. Gen-C consumers make up a rapidly growing customer segment, and as the digital world continues to evolve, providing the experience these individuals are seeking is critical to business success.

Here are three ways to ensure consumers today, like Gen C, and consumers of the future receive the most frictionless shopping experience:

1. Include all employees in your innovation efforts

When creating your company’s future customer roadmap, which outlines how you’ll evolve the customer experience, be sure to pull employees from all different levels — be it the C-Suite or the front-line call center — to help inform and inspire the design. At the end of the day, success is dependent on all your employees, and each one brings unique insights to the table and has a role to play in moving the company forward. By involving everyone in your innovation efforts, you will also inspire productivity and buy-in to your company’s innovation plan.

Related Article: Want to Hear the Voice of Customers? Listen to Your Employees 

2. Seamlessly integrate teams and channels across sales and service

As businesses look to improve the customer experience, they must make sure new technology initiatives are properly integrated across the existing business. One way to ensure this is by creating cross-functional teams of business and technology professionals. This allows teams to share their different perspectives early on in a project, allowing teams to build consensus for a given solution or approach early on in the process. Creating cross-functional teams also encourages knowledge sharing, collaboration and greater agility, enabling problem solving.

Integrating sales and service channels allows customer service professionals to have a more comprehensive view of their customers. Prioritize technology systems and create enterprise architecture that allows your company to be flexible and improve efficiencies from an operational perspective.

3. Reduce effort for customers by harnessing digital solutions

Interacting with your company should never be a challenge. To that end, businesses must make sure their digital transformation efforts eases the customer experience instead of making it more complicated. Work together as an organization to identify the highest impact areas for driving value and reducing effort among customers. If data shows online visitors are dropping off your site while going through the policy application process, it likely means the process is too cumbersome or confusing.

Businesses must also ensure they have the digital foundation in place to meet customers’ expectations and that their efforts can be scaled for the future. For example, are various channels (online, chat, call centers, etc.) integrated? Are your tools and customer platforms device agnostic? How can you simplify the user interface?

Lastly, look at what your business can learn from innovators outside the industry. For example, companies like FedEx or UPS have given consumers the ability to know where their packages are anytime, anywhere. It’s reasonable to expect a demand for a similar type of transparency and accessibility within your own industry.

Related Article: How to Bake Customer Success Into Your Operations

Apply Your Customer Experience Strategies

Understanding your customers is critical to continually evolving your product and service offerings. Be sure to communicate with everyone on your company’s short-term and long-term customer experience initiatives, including how everyone’s efforts fits into those goals. By keeping your customer at the core of your all business decisions, you will build a culture that is focused on moving the company forward, ensuring success with Gen-C and beyond.