We can characterise the essence of customers’ expectations as shown below. There are aspects that are obvious, such as a product or service being simple to use and of good quality. Then there are essential criteria like being trustworthy, secure and complete. Then there are new expectations, for example that the experience should be hyper personalised and accessible instantly

These qualities are the core of what underpins an excellent customer experience, which is ultimately the sum of many tangible and intangible characteristics that together create value and a positive connection.

These elements provide clues to the challenges faced in delivering a memorable customer experience and are the basis for examining how organisations can take the experience they offer to the next level.

The aspects of customer experience

Quality of experience - This must equate to a good or excellent experience versus the individual customer’s expectation. Customers’ expectations are constantly evolving. Businesses must continually examine what they deliver, how they deliver it and what feedback they are getting from their customers to identify what needs to be improved. This applies as much to the payment experience as it does to the whole customer journey.

Blend of technology and a human touch - Great service never goes out of fashion. New technology can enable great service to be provided in new and innovative ways.

Intuitiveness – The experience and journey must be intuitive. Users should not have to understand how things work behind the scenes. Instead, they should come to use the technology intuitively and trust the fact it will work.

Supported, guided and optimised - Making payment easy is not enough; every interaction where payment is handled is also an opportunity for further value creation.

Coverage of the journey - Payment is only one aspect of the wider customer journey. The experience should link each stage seamlessly, letting customers navigate a simple, intuitive path to their destination.

Trust - Key to every successful payment journey is the confidence that it will work and that it will work safely and securely. No trust, no business.

Hyper personalisation - Hyper personalisation uses technology to tailor the customer journey and meet the individual’s needs and expectations.

Instant/real-time - People are accustomed to having “everything now”. This expectation also extends to how exceptions are handled: re-arranging a failed delivery or returning goods should be just as quick and easy as placing the initial order.

Context and proactivity  - The experience should fit the context; tap and go for charging your electric vehicle or grabbing a coffee, engaging and interactive when individuals need to be informed or require the human touch.

Barriers to great customer experience

Creating a customer experience that addresses all these aspects comes with several challenges:

Security - Any enhancement of the customer experience and, in particular, the payment part of the journey needs to be secure. This requires sustained investment in the latest technology that combines security and simplicity (such as biometry).

Fragmentation - Competition stimulates innovation and increases customer choice but can also result in fragmentation and confusion.

Organisational capability and readiness - Organisational readiness for change is a multi-level, multi-faceted construct. When readiness is high, businesses are more likely to initiate change, exert greater effort, exhibit greater persistence and display more cooperative behaviour.

Of crucial importance is the organisational culture which needs to embrace open-minded and experimental approaches to transformation. Leadership in any company should articulate an inspiring vision to encourage people to persevere, even when faced with challenges along the way.

Technical debt – Today’s great customer experiences rely on technology, yet many organisations still use legacy systems. These can be difficult and costly to adapt, which reduces agility. Modernising or rewriting them often requires a significant investment.

Market readiness - With the current pace of change, tensions can open up between those ready and able to move and those resistant and fearful. As one side pushes for a digital future, the other resists the pace.

Enabling future customer experiences

Several technologies and approaches will have a crucial influence on the future of customer experience:

The Role of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Data and Intelligent Automation - Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way businesses interact with customers. With AI, brands can be available 24/7 at every stage of the journey. Businesses will use this technology to synthesise and contextualise customer data to deliver personalised experiences.

Connected services - Connected services have changed our lives, both at home and at work. So much that people can now carry out work, leisure, family and travel activities simultaneously. An example of a connected service is how booking an airline ticket may shift to suggestions for booking a hire car, taxi, hotel room or parking. What might have been four or five separate tasks can now all be done in one place, under one umbrella, with one payment.

Super Apps are now taking this a step further, combining services that seem like they have nothing in common to make life easier for consumers. In Latin America, Rappi launched an app that combines food delivery,e-scooters, payments, P2P transfers and cinema tickets. It is even possible to ask a Rappi delivery person to bring you something you forgot at home, walk your dog, or buy clothes and pay for services (https://agiletech.vn/super-apps-examples-review-2021/).

"Let the consumer choose where they start, stop, pick up again and complete their purchase."

Optichannel and channel uniformity – Regardless of where and how customers start on their journey, the possibility to switch channels, media, or processes should be a seamless experience.

For example, a consumer browsing the internet in the evening may see a shirt that catches their attention and add it to their basket but go no further. Then, whilst out shopping the next day, they might pass the store that sells the shirt, go in and try it on. It looks good and fits well, but the tills are all busy. The consumer can then go back to their saved basket and complete the purchase on their phone. Experiences like this let consumers choose where they start, stop, pick up again and complete their purchase.

Customer journey analytics - Customer journey analytics helps customer experience, customer care, and marketing professionals measure cross-channel journeys over time, allowing them to better design and improve the customer experience.

Partnerships and ecosystems – Providing the best future experiences requires a combination of ecosystems and partnerships as no single organisation can offer them all.

The power of big data coupled with the very best AI algorithms, payment solutions, telecoms, fulfilment and logistics services and the merchant or service provider will require better design. With more emphasis on the points of connection, greater respect for security, regulation and transparency. For this very reason, we have seen the rise of the API (Application Programming Interface) and its quiet role in helping join pretty much everything to everything.