How ordering pizza online changed the customer journey forever
In the age of AI, bots, and automation, companies that deal in high-value transactions still need to invest in human solutions for the first point of contact with their customers. In this piece, our VP Marketing Brendan Jackson discusses how online pizza delivery came to change consumer expectations of services and transactions.
Way back in the olden days of the late 1990s, there was the promise of this thing called the “internet” changing our lives forever. We saw people in movies ordering pizza over their computer without having to pick up the phone, and after about 30 minutes there was a knock at the door and there was pizza. This idea of ordering goods and services, or completing business transactions without ever having to talk to another human, was embraced by consumers who could shop for anything in the comfort of their own home, and by businesses who could streamline operations by hiring fewer people and not needing as many physical locations.
Fast forward twenty years or so and where do we stand? If I had written this article at the very beginning of 2020, I would have pointed to the fact that only 11% of total retail purchases in the US had been made online in Q4 of 2019. But what makes that 11% number even more interesting is that 82% of shoppers in the US are actually e-shoppers. This means that a vast majority of people are shopping online, but they are still making their largest purchases offline.
Of course, after January 2020 things started to change globally. With lockdowns in effect around the world, buying habits changed as a matter of necessity. For many, outside of essentials like food and medicine, you had no choice but to buy online. We then need to ask: what was causing people to still make the majority of their purchases offline and how will companies now adapt their customer journeys to fit this new consumer behavior? For me, it all starts with looking at the first interaction – this is where you either win or lose a customer.
To get to the right outcome, we need to make sure we view this through the lens of our current global reality. Suddenly there is a large majority of people looking to make all their purchases online, that due to price or complexity, they would have made in-person before. Whether it is a high-end retail item, a large one-time purchase like a car, or something that has a perceived complexity, like insurance, consumers want to be personally guided through their purchase.
The simple rule of thumb I use is that if the purchase is expensive or complex, the customer will want to talk to someone (a “real” someone, not just an AI bot).
So how do you ensure that your first interaction puts your customer on the right journey?
Remember The Human Touch
People want to talk to people. It is that simple. While AI (like chatbots and voice assistants) has become a big part of many technology platforms over the last five years, the jury is still out on its impact on the customer journey and the first touch. In looking at data for this piece, I came across this article which contains a laundry list of stats about the impact of chatbots, many of which are contradictory. One study says they increase satisfaction, and another says they contribute to a decline in sales. But one stat is consistent: companies save money by not hiring additional customer service agents or by reducing staff.
So what does that mean? While retailers like Amazon, that rely on volume and efficiency to turn a profit, know that it’s not cost-efficient to have a human be the first point of contact (challenge: using the Amazon website, try to get an actual human Amazon customer service agent on the phone), companies that sell expensive or complex products need to do the opposite. Someone spending $3000 on a camera, or opening a life insurance policy, wants to be able to talk to a real person about the purchase they are going to make. If your business was relying on a real live person to be your customer’s first point of contact before the world went remote, their first digital point of contact should be the same.
Keep it Simple
If you accepted my challenge above to connect with a real live Amazon customer service agent via their website, you now know that it is close to impossible. This is on purpose. Amazon (and most other companies who sell large volumes of goods with small margins) want their customers to follow a self-service journey. But when human interaction online is the first key point in the customer journey, it needs to be simple to find and initiate. A big button with a clear call to action (“Talk to an Agent”) may seem like overkill, but if you want to make it easy for someone to start a conversation, then do just that. Make sure it is clear, takes up prime real estate on your site, and can be easily accessed from any page, and anywhere on your site.
Now that your customer’s first digital touchpoint will be with an actual team member, and you have made it easy to find and initiate, it’s essential that it be as close to an in-person interaction as possible. This means utilizing tools that allow your team member and customer to collaborate together in real-time.
While there has been an uptick in the use of screen sharing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to collaborate with customers, they require software downloads and were built as a one-way “show and tell”, not as truly collaborative platforms.
When looking for active collaboration that is almost the same as sitting side-by-side, co-browsing technology that is browser-based, and allows an agent and customer to browse your company’s site (or a third party site) together, offers the best experience. With co-browsing, you can guide a customer step-by-step through your complete buying process, and on to payment, as if you are sitting in the same room – an end-to-end process, similar to what we were able to help AXA put in place earlier this year.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how your customers buy your products or services, and how you meet their expectations. If their expectation has been to visit you in-store and talk to someone before making an expensive purchase, or to meet with someone one-on-one because it is a complex purchase, that same flow needs to happen online, and it needs to be the first touch. Resist the temptation to automate and use AI bots as the first line of communication – there is no substitute for the personal (and human) touch.