I had several “retail” interactions over the past few weeks that rubbed me the wrong way.
I went to rent a car from Enterprise, the only car rental in Olean, for about the 10th time this year. Other than knowing my name, they treated me like a new customer, signing all the forms, holding a huge deposit against my debit card (aye) or I needed to bring in my utility bill (?) and providing a slow front counter experience, despite very competent staff.
Shortly after I wanted to put a small, several thousand dollar over draft protection on a business account at the local credit union. These folks know the color of my underwear, have had many. many dealings with me and the account carried a very high monthly average. But for year end purposes I just wanted to be able to draw the account down for tax purposes. I had to go down to their office, bring my 2013 tax return, sign numerous pieces of paperwork and wait for 3 days to get an answer and then sign more paperwork.
In both cases there was personal attention and competent staff but I felt frustration. I realized after some reflection that what I missed in those transactions was the ease of a one click solution to get me through the most onerous parts of the transaction.
I also realized that the sharing economy companies, while not redefining economies or capitalism, do in fact redefine the customer experience expectations. They are not some new economic model but they are very efficient, albeit new, middlemen in a range of transactions that have leveraged technology to reduce staff and decrease buying friction.
One click shopping started with Amazon, moved on to Apple who demonstrated that you can value add a one click shopping experience with people and a store front.
But the sharing companies have introduced one click transactions to a broader range of activities, car rental (Zip), taxi and limo service (Uber, Lyft), accommodations (AirBnB) and I assume many consumers, like me, have come to expect a similarly easy transaction in all dealings whether local or online.
My expectation created a situation where I was no longer satisfied with the tedium of these recent transactions. In fact I actually resented the seeming redundancy of the interaction.
Obviously companies like Zip, AirBnB, Amazon etc have worked long and hard to provide a simple experience around those points of the transaction that have traditionally been the most painful whether it is a reservation or a product return.
While I don’t think that every business needs an app I do think that every business, small and large, needs to examine every client facing transaction and explore making theses processes that are not core to their identify, faster, easier and less painful.
And its not to say that you need to remove people from the interaction. I think they can add value. But they need to be given the infrastructure and tools so as to be able to spend their time adding value to the interaction not making me sign paperwork.
I know that most small businesses confront a range of competitive pressures and difficulties in staying competitive. Adding one more “to do” to their list might seem almost impossible. Yet the ability to honor the time and trust that customers give them by respecting their expectations as to process efficiencies is one though that is critical to their long term survival.