Keeping Customers: How Convenient Brands Win

Eric DiGiovanna

Recently I traveled by train to a business conference, entering the customer journey with Deutsche Bahn in Germany wearing both my professional and personal hats.

The professional me recognizes the importance of end-to-end customer journey, and I was thinking of that almost immediately when I recognized that had Deutsche Bahn been thinking of the typical customer experience, they would have integrated a real-time status of their parking places.

Upon my arrival at the station, 15 minutes before the train departed, the parking area was completely full and three cars were waiting to get in. You can imagine the result: I had to find a new park house, and did, but it was 500 m from the station. After rushing back to try to catch the train, it had already left the station, so I waited another 30 minutes for the next connection.

As I waited, I wondered, “How could a billion EUR company like Deutsche Bahn not offer their patrons an end-to-end customer journey, meshing location-based marketing and real-time information when it is crucial to customers in their part of the journey?”

The challenge with convenience is not the what, but typically the how

Businesses often view convenience as slightly easier than what is presently available. This narrow vision creates a host of missed opportunities to both attract and retain more customers. Clients want to experience, and in fact, in many cases, expect, ease throughout all areas, not just the main transaction. Focusing on convenience as a driving force throughout your customer’s entire experience will also prove to be a driving force to your bottom line.

Convenience creates online loyalty

Many retailers are now offering online ordering with conveniences such as in-store pickup, but Amazon still rules all things e-commerce, having taken convenience to a whole new level. With one-click shopping and Prime membership perks like free shipping, it’s no wonder why Amazon is the go-to online retailer for the masses.

Though the brand may consider it convenient to provide in-store pickup, the consumer may not want to wait several days, then still have to trek to the store and pick up their items. Amazon’s alternative delivers the desired products quickly, and with less time expended by the consumer. Every step of the customer journey is focused on convenience for the customer.

We all know that in-store shopping can be a bit frustrating at times. Most of us have experienced trying on clothing, only to discover that we’ve put on a few pounds, or that the size runs too large or small. While new business models combined with realtime technology can’t slim down a waistline, it can get the correct size delivered to the changing room in the blink of an eye. With RFID technology, the changing room knows what you brought in, asks what you need, and tells a sales assistant to get it for you. The customer is king again. Investments that pay into the increase of lifetime customer loyalty will pay out in dividends sooner or later.

The potential ROI speaks for itself

A Watermark Study from 2015 noted that companies devoted to the customer experience had a CTR of 107.5% (2007-2014). Companies that lagged in customer experience standards had a cumulative total return of only 27.6% in the same period of time.

There are many companies like Societe de Transport De Montreal (STM) who offer their customers a convenient end-to-end process and complement the customer journey by rewarding customers for their loyalty.

This approach works similarly for car drivers in cities: New business models are appearing as the search for free parking space becomes more time consuming and annoying. Startups like Find Your Gap offer smart solutions for car drivers AND carriers of parking decks, so both users benefit. Free parking spaces are detected via sensors in real-time, and customers who are near the spaces receive a notification through an app. Once notified, they can reserve a free space for the next 10 minutes, essentially parking their cars instantly.

From customers to fans: an end-to-end-experience

Sport club FC Bayern Munich designed an end-to-end fan experience, creating a customer encounter that is exceptional.

Their Fan app allows free WLAN access inside the stadium and personalized push notifications. Imagine: you and your friends are driving to a soccer match, but heavy traffic is creating a jam. An individual app notification based on your geo location data shows in real-time if you’ll arrive at the stadium to see the start of the match. Alternatively, the system could provide a public transport route that is the fast lane to reach reserved seats just in time, when Müller and Co. arrive on the field.

The huge potential of end-to-end processing unveils itself when you zone into the area of B2B business. Each supply chain has already been optimized to the bone, but real-time capabilities can enhance more value for the businesses.

Keeping the cargo moving

The Port of Hamburg is a very busy place, with up to 40,000 trucks arriving daily and cargo being shipped to and from the farthest corners of the earth.

Around 12,000 ships use the port each year, and dock workers load and unload some 9 million containers from their decks. In addition to thousands of trucks, about one third of all the goods are transported via trains that travel throughout the European rail network. The HPA collaborates with terminal operators, transport companies, logistic companies, and parking providers.

Real-time information lets shipping agents view the availability of containers at the docks, and work with terminal operators on collection schedules that reduce waiting times.

By assigning new orders before the trucks reach the terminal, transport companies can optimize their capacities, and the port can make better use of available parking spaces. Drivers also receive timely information that lets them know which routes to choose, and how long they might have to wait at a destination. Further, mobile devices have replaced the old CB radios that were prone to miscommunications.

Silver linings

Back to my personal journey with Deutsche Bahn and the parking situation: I missed my train, but discovered a parking space next to the station that saves me half of the parking cost. Though grateful for this insight that I’ll use again, I also look forward to an end-to-end customer journey with Deutsche Bahn in the future.

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