The Four Pillars of Distinctive Customer Journeys

2. Ease and simplicity: The payoff trade-off

Today’s harried customer values convenience. Cutting down the time it takes to complete an individual journey, such as applying for an account, by making it easier and simpler has a deep effect on customer satisfaction.  

For example, in France, customer satisfaction drops by up to 30 percentage points when the time to open an account exceeds 45 minutes. That 45-minute point marks the “satisfaction cliff.” But what’s really important to note is that there is a diminishing payoff in reducing the time it takes a customer to complete a journey.

In France, again, the impact on customer satisfaction when taking between 15 and 45 minutes to open an account is relatively minor (the “satisfaction plateau”). Cut that process to below 15 minutes and satisfaction increases by up to ten percentage points. Companies need to work out the trade-off, then, between the investment in improving the ease and simplicity of a process and the resulting improvement in customer satisfaction and new value created.  

As more processes are digitized, journey times will be cut back. But low cycle times alone don’t equate to superior CX. Rather, our research indicates that customers respond most positively to the ease of a transaction or process.  

3. Master the digital-first journey, but don’t stop there

We analyzed different types of customer journeys: those that are completely online, those that start online and finish in a branch, those that start in a branch and finish online, and those that take place fully in a branch. We found that digital-first journeys led to higher customer-satisfaction scores (Exhibit 2) and generated 10 to 20 percentage points more satisfaction than traditional journeys.  

For all the advantages of digital-first journeys, those journeys that are the most digitized across all the interactions lead to the greatest customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, many financial services do not provide fully digital services even when they exist, such as digital identification and verification. This finding indicates that financial-services providers can still significantly improve CX by digitizing complete journeys.  

4. Brands and perceptions matter

It may not be surprising that companies whose advertising inspires their customers with the power and appeal of their brand or generates word of mouth deliver 30 to 40 percentage points more satisfaction than their peers. But how advertising or word of mouth affects perceptions is crucial. Two banks in the US, for example, performed nearly identically across a set of customer journeys. However, customers viewed one bank as delivering a much better overall experience than its rival, because the higher-ranked institution’s advertising promoted its user-friendliness.  

That perception had an important effect on identifying promotions that were effective for attracting new customers but, on average, had a nearly neutral impact on satisfaction. The average, however, is misleading. Promotions are slightly negative for traditional banks but positive for purely online players. In the same vein, physical proximity to a financial-services provider tends to have, on average, little discernible influence on customer satisfaction.

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