As online channels continue to grow, many companies are challenged with the age old question: how can we create and maintain meaningful connections with online customers? After all, expectations have never been higher, with 76% of consumers viewing customer service as the true test of how much a company values them.  Oftentimes though, the online experience does not meet the needs of a customer, creating a situation analysts like to call the “customer struggle.”
Though the customer struggle can lead to higher abandonment rates, this is only one part of a much larger problem. Even if customers are able to struggle through your site and complete an action, customer struggle can lower their confidence in the online channel and the company as a whole. In fact, 51% of customers who left a website blamed their exits on bad online experiences.  This has a negative impact on current and future transactions with those customers, potentially leading to higher costs, lower repeat business, and negative word of mouth.
While the customer struggle is real, there are ways to combat this challenge. All it takes is a little recognition and logical action.
Five Types of Online Customer Struggle
Understanding why customers are having difficulties completing a task on your site will help define what steps are necessary to improve and optimize your digital customer experience. Here are five common types of struggles customers typically go through:
1. Path confusion - Customers often aren't sure what path they need to go to accomplish their task. This type of problem can cause them to go back and forth from one page, as they are forced to experiment with several alternative paths.
2. Information confusion - Sometimes customers just don't understand the information on a page, whether it’s a description of a product or a customer service FAQ. When this happens, they tend to spend extra time on the page trying to figure it out.
3. Process concerns - If customers aren't sure if they can complete a process like applying for a loan or making a change to a setting on their account, then they aren't likely to finish the process. These types of problems are hard to spot since customers often won't even start the process.
4. Content fragmentation - At times, customers need information that is scattered across the site, forcing them to hunt around to collect what they needed. In these situations, customers often create paths that weren't expected by the design team.
5. System failures - When the site goes down or returns an unexpected error message, customers can be turned off from the entire experience.
While there are a bevy of struggles out there, the challenges listed above are not only the most common, but perhaps the simplest to fix once a process is put in place.
Four Steps for Minimizing and Eliminating Customer Struggle
The process of minimizing and eliminating customer struggle on a site is a continual process, and while there are many ways to identify customer struggle, having a good digital customer experience program can lend insights that other programs are unable to find. Here are a few steps you should take when minimizing and eliminating the customer struggle:
1. Look for known signs of customer struggle - Companies should monitor their websites for signs of customer struggle. Start by defining a set of scenarios that correspond to each of the five types of customer struggle listed above. Then, look for user and system activities that correspond to those struggles. These events include excess time on a page, appearance of error messages, and going back and forth from a single page.
2. Search for new forms of customer struggle - As it turns out, users can be very unpredictable. So, the customer struggle can come from scenarios that online teams would never have imagined on their own. That's why companies need to use feedback from users about their experiences to unearth new customer struggle scenarios. This information can be gathered through surveys or by mining other customer contact points like inbound emails, calls to the call center, and social media conversations. Once new forms of customer struggle are identified, firms should monitor experiences to find when they occur.
3. Continually prioritize customer struggle - The customer struggle of one user can be unique to that person or affect only a small group of users. But, that issue can also be endemic to a large population of site visitors. Therefore, companies can't treat all customer struggle issues with the same priority. Firms need to develop a process for identifying the number of customers that are affected by the issue and the business impact of those situations. This information should drive a continually updated list of prioritized customer struggle issues.
4. Dedicate resources for fixing customer struggle - There's no reason for a company to look for the customer struggle if it's not prepared to fix those problems. So, firms need to allot ongoing resources for developing approaches, testing, and implementing changes to remove the causes of customer struggle.
These steps will not only allow you to solve customer struggle issues, but also put you on the path to resolving them in the future.
The Struggle Doesn’t Have to Exist
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the customer struggle can occur anywhere on a site, not just during a critical process like checkout or registration. All areas of a site should be analyzed for customer struggle and eliminated to provide your customers with the most pleasant experience possible. Plus, identifying customer struggle is one area customer experience truly shines. The ability to not only identify that a struggle is occurring, but also why it occurred helps you determine the necessary steps to improve your site for your future customers.