Creating the Frictionless Journey Your Customers Want and Demand

The following article has been re-posted from Convenience Store Decisions. The original posting can be found here.

Create a powerful customer experience solution where the customer can easily identify and manage their relationship with your brand.
By Ed Collupy

These were insights & remarks I prepared for a session on Customer Engagement that I cohosted with Matt Miller from NCR in the International Hub at the 2017 NACS Show.

I want to start off today and take a look at some interesting research about the customer experience as it relates to customer service; some of these stats get to the core of a ‘frictioned’ customer experience. (source: NewVoiceMedia)

  • One study suggests that U.S. companies are losing more than $62 billion a year due to poor customer service.
  • 49% leave for not being appreciated and 37% leave because of a bad experience with staff.
  • 62% of 25-34 years have switched where they shop following a poor experience & it’s this age group that has the greatest population – there are more 26 year olds than any other age living in the U.S.
  • And as it relates to the digital transformation, 42% – after a negative experience – are likely to post a bad review or share on social media what happened.


I see four major trends going on with the Customer Experience:

  • Big Data – Customers interact with retailers in so many ways today – in-store transactions, emails, chats, customer surveys and social media – and each of these channels is as important as the other and is making up massive amounts of customer experience data. Solutions that help look across this data and help to create useful and actionable data that can build customer loyalty and improve satisfaction is the next step in the evolution of big data system solutions.
  • Artificial Intelligence – Although it’s possible that we could see AI capabilities replace human function, some technology trend observers believe AI will assist customer support people, become an IA, or Intelligent Assistant. The Amazon Go store in Seattle uses artificial intelligence along with sensors to track the items the customer has taken off the shelf. Chatbots that are providing personal service experience are one of the first AI experiences customers will have.
  • Social Networks – customers are expecting a very high level of responsiveness when they are interacting with retailers through social media. If there isn’t a response to a post within a few minutes this customer is at risk of moving on to the next similar retailer. This loyalty builder along with anticipating other information a customer may need from their initial post is being designed into what the customer experience is like.
  • Internet of Things – U.S. fast-food chain Pizza Hut selected China for a rollout of beacon sensors that alerts customers on their arrival of discounts and cross-retail promotional offers. Studies report that IoT devices will more than triple by 2020, to 34 billion devices – these are everyday devices that share information and perform tasks even without someone around.

Around the world, both geographically & digitally, so much is going on with retailers and your customers.

In Latin & South America – the list of customer experience trends looks like what is going on in the U.S. with loyalty and mobile, but there are some distinct differences when it comes to Personalized Offers.

In Europe, customers want, as part of a customer service element, to talk to their brands as easily and informally as they would with their friends. In a recent study by Mintel 59% of Italians surveyed reportedly would like to be able to contact customer service through an instant message using Facebook Messenger, Snapchat or WhatsApp. In Europe, time has become a key issue for retailers this year as they see more demand to help people organize and make better use of their time off via new geo-location technology services and platforms.

In the Asia–Pac region of the world there is growing attention to customer’s emotions and how that influences their experience with retailers. Demographics like age and gender are becoming less important in creating offers for specific customers. Through all types of digital trails, customers are posting their mood – this is best seen in the prevalent use of emojis in Asia vs. the U.S. or Europe. The Chinese social media platform, WeChat, is a clear example of a movement toward social-commerce, where a lot of different mobile activity – marketing related, buying/selling, financial transactions – is all in one platform. Some 50% of customers in China, India, Thailand and other countries have chatted with retailers using messaging services that are yet another source of gaining emotional insights. (source: Michael Agnew Foresight Factory)


It’s right in the name of the industry – ‘Convenience’ – and when you think of it the industry was a leader in bringing the consumer one of the most common and most used self-service convenience around – the fuel dispenser. I just read something that Jeff Lenard of NACS said – we sell convenience, not just product and service. Convenience translates to speed of service to today’s time-starved customers. Many retailers are putting focus on customer success as they consider the various customer experience touchpoints in a store. There are new service expectations being created each day as new technologies are introduced but for me what is most important is to keep convenience first. Convenience is a winner! This may be your ultimate customer service and CX weapon. If you want to win in business, figure out how to be more convenient than your competition.

One of the most important elements of creating a powerful customer experience solution is delivering one where the customer can easily identify and manage their relationship with your brand. A great way to think about how you want to interact with your customers from a digital viewpoint is to think through the customer’s journey. As you design your digital customer experience think about your customers and what makes them the same and what makes them different from one another.

Customer Journey

This afternoon I will introduce you to two customers and like all of us we have some things in common and many where we are different. Our customers are going to help Matt and I to delve into two customer experience technologies that are making inroads into the convenience store industry – self checkout and mobile.

Let’s first meet Lola – the loyalty gal. She thrives on rewards and being recognized for shopping at “her” store. Let’s take a look at a part of her journey. Before she heads out to your store she’s using her tablet to see what is going on at what she calls ‘My Store’ and as she arrives at the store checks her mobile phone to see what loyalty points she has available. After picking up items that will give her club points she notices that the checkout line is a bit long and decides to use one of the self-checkout units that is available. Lola, on the hunt for more points decides to pay using her mobile wallet and is then reminded on the self-checkout display of the points she earned on that visit and has available and also gives the store five stars while she still has her mobile phone in her hand. She was reminded that she had achieved the level of points for a free cup of coffee and decides to return the next morning where at the self-checkout she was asked if she wanted to add a muffin to go along with her free coffee.

Lola’s decision to use the self-checkout was prompted by a visual signal, the queue, but she knew that she would be best satisfied by making a choice to take things into her own control…. after all it is ‘my store’. For the retailer labor can and often is saved in the deployment of self-checkout; I recently talked with a retailer that is piloting self-checkout and he told me that although their cashier staffing levels at peak business periods went from three to one, they have redeployed some of the staff to other duties; a decision, just like Lola’s, driven by convenience. Their experience in their first store after only a few months had almost half of the transactions being done through the self-checkouts – a sign that many of their customers are satisfied with the experience.


In a recent forecast (source: Technavio) I read, globally there is expected to be an 18% compound annual growth between now and 2021 with the U.S. & Canada leading with implementations. The technology behind self-checkout units continues to evolve with features such as being able to accept multiple bills at once and recycle up to eight different coin denominations and six different note denominations. Other advances are also helping to bring costs down.

A Different Customer Journey

Now meet Gus – our Gas Guy. Price conscious, fills up more frequently than others, apt to come into the store, and wants to update others on the price he paid for fuel. As he anticipates needing to fill up Gus relies on his mobile phone to check local fuel prices and gets to thinking about the mobile technology he saw recently when he test drove a new connected car. He gets to the station with the lowest price and it’s a stormy day so he’s glad he can authorize the pump and get his payment transaction underway while in his car on his mobile phone. While he’s filling up his phone beeps with a reminder that there’s an offer inside the store he’d likely be interested in and after filling up he does go inside the store, makes a purchase but realizes he’s got a coupon stored in his mobile wallet for one of the items he is buying and has the cashier scan the barcode and waves his wrist over the NFC-equipped payment terminal. After a short drive home he takes a minute with his tablet to post the price he paid for fuel and to comment on how good the food was he purchased.


Mobile, to me, is really an “any” – besides the notion of customers being connected as part of the mobile customer experience, the concept and reality is much broader – it’s the mobile web or app that’s available 24×7 and proximity sensing wherever you are, it can be a mobile payment or checking out on a mobile point-of-sale (POS) wherever you are in or outside of a store, and to ensure you have what customers want in stock your employees could be using a mobile wireless device for inventory management. We saw it in Gus’ journey – interacting with any & many mobile devices – phone, tablet, even thinking about that new connected car, and was checked out by a line busting mobile POS since the store was busy and paid with his wearable mobile device – his watch. It was anywhere – at his office, in his car, on the forecourt, in the store, at home.

With mobile being in just about any one of you customers hands it’s no longer a case of asking whether a mobile customer experience is important, we know it is!

Consumers expect to be able to engage with brands on their mobile devices to get anything they want in their immediate moments of need. Forrester calls this the mobile mind shift.

It’s now a question of how best to address the needs of ‘any’ of your existing customers to increase market basket size and their loyalty and to attract ‘any’ new customers using the statistics to understand how consumers behave when engaging with you using mobile devices.

Please reach out if you would like to connect with Matt Miller, me or would like more info on customer engagement. Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at and be sure to visit for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational, and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses, and technology companies.

Know Your Decision Makers and Build Your Community of Support

Having trouble getting a project or initiative in motion?  Are people your biggest challenge? Regardless of your level or position within a company, you need to gain support for your effort and get the commitment to the next steps. Knowing how people respond to change and how they make decisions is paramount to getting the critical mass of support needed to influence change.  Mastering this ability will provide you with the means for leading across an organization, not just up or down.

There are many methods for influencing, but let’s focus on the different ways that people make decisions to examine how you can increase your chances to get the desired outcome.  According to the article “Change the Way You Persuade” by Warren and Miller, decision makers possess certain personality traits which influence how they approach the decision-making process. Warren and Miller believe that a decision maker can be further classified into the following categories:

  • Charismatics
  • Thinkers
  • Skeptics
  • Followers
  • Controllers

Each of these categories has a process for making a decision and requirements that you must meet to get their buy-in.


These people are typically high-energy, high-emotion players. They are known to be captivating, talkative and dominant.  If you think about people you know and have worked with, you can probably think of at least one person that fits this category.  To influence this type of person you need to avoid getting caught up in their emotion and drive brief and concise arguments to make your point.  Focus the discussion on results and use visual aids to make your point, as too much text will make this group impatient.  Visuals that make the point and can be easily understood can earn their buy-in quickly.  Be sure to highlight the benefits and features of your pitch. Research shows that charismatics make up about 25% of decision makers.

In practice:  You are accountable for delivery, and your CEO is very energized about a new consumer engagement strategy that he/she feels will drive high adoption rates of your new mobile application.  It’s your job to create a realistic expectation, layout the tangible steps for moving forward and identify what it will cost in terms of time, resources and dollars.  For this group, you need to avoid getting caught up in the excitement of the new initiative, and drive focus toward the straightforward steps and supporting visuals that show how this new engagement strategy will come to fruition.  Using this strategy for this group can provide a more realistic path that the organization can support.


Thinkers are known for being logical, cerebral, intelligent and academic. You need to have extensive data ready for review and discussion with these people.  Case studies, market research, cost-benefit analysis, etc. are all examples of data that these decision makers are likely to request from you to understand all perspectives of your proposal.  Thinkers make up about 11% of decision makers.

In practice:  The organization is overcommitted on the number of projects it must complete in a given fiscal year.  You are the portfolio manager and must recommend and influence the Executive Leadership team to choose which projects should be progressed and which should be deferred.  With this group, you must rely heavily on research and data, including market research (what others are doing), surveys, case studies and a cost-benefit analysis. Thinkers will use the data to validate your recommendation against what they think is the best path forward.


These people are known to be demanding, disruptive, disagreeable and rebellious.  When dealing with a skeptic, you need to gain their respect and be viewed as credible.  Having that credibility is your clout with these decision makers.  If you cannot get the credibility you need, you need to find someone who the skeptic trusts and have them endorse you. This group can be tough and often require time to get to know you and understand how your agenda reconciles with their beliefs of what is the right thing to do. Skeptics make up about 19% of decision makers.

In practice: You must implement a new labor management system that will automate employee time entry, task management and labor cost management.  The Chief Financial Officer has sponsored and supports the effort, but the Chief Operating Officer feels it provides no real benefit, as Operations feels the tools will create an additional burden on the employees.  The COO will not be swayed by cost-benefit data, case studies, etc. which he or she does not trust. Your best opportunity for success is to find a respected individual from within the operations team, or someone external to the organization, that the COO trusts, such as a respected peer or an experienced consultant within the industry. You need their help to influence and gain the support for the effort. In my experience, this is the toughest category to influence.


These people are known to be responsible, cautious, and brand/bargain-driven.  Followers tend to focus on proven methods and need data to show how others have fared while attempting the same approach. A follower needs to feel confident that they are making the right decision, so information on how others have approached a similar decision, and their outcome, is key.  Followers make up about 36% of the population of decision makers.

In practice: Your Payments department has identified an opportunity to migrate from an in-house proprietary credit card settlement system to a 3rd party developed solution.  To gain the support of the follower, you must highlight peer company testimonials and identify proven methods to reduce risk and ensure a successful project. Data, such as a cost-benefit analysis from another organization that has successfully completed a similar project, is key.


Controllers are known to be logical, unemotional, detail-oriented, accurate and analytical.  To appeal to these types of decision makers, the structure of your pitch must be both well designed and credible.  The controller wants details, but only if presented by an expert.  You must be careful about being too aggressive in how you present the data. Often, the best strategy is to leave the information with the controller and hope that they will review it and that it will be sufficient to generate buy-in and support for your effort.  Controllers make up about 9% of decision makers.

In practice:  You feel your company has an opportunity to consolidate the multiple channels of trade (in-store, eCommerce, mobile, etc.) into one omnichannel focused environment that will streamline costs, improve efficiency and create a robust one-to-one relationship with your customers.  When dealing with a controller, you must ensure you are viewed as a subject matter expert (SME) within your organization. If you are not, you should leverage an internal or external SME to present the business case. Similar to dealing with skeptics, the data is less important than the individual presenting it.

Parting Thoughts

Estimated Breakdown of Decision Makers

Now that you know the various types of decision makers at an organization, and what influences each type, you are ready to craft perfect proposals, right? If only it was that simple.

It is important to remember that the decision maker types presented here exist at all levels within an organization. The advice presented above is as relevant when presenting to the C-Suite as it is to interacting with an internal department. In addition, it is important to realize that people do not fit into one single category. Decision makers can be a combination of the above decision maker types but tend to lean more heavily towards one style.  You can use this information to make the best guess at what type of people you are dealing with and create a strategy for generating buy-in. This is not an exact science, but if you consider the characteristics of each decision maker type, you can make an educated guess, and at least have a plan for building your community of support. If you are presenting to an executive team, remember you’ll have to consider an approach that leverages multiple techniques.  According to Warren and Miller, in crafting your pitch, consider that over 50% of sales presentations or pitches fail because 80% are focused on skeptics and controllers, which comprise only 38% percent of decision makers.

Remember, know your decision maker types, as you will need to appeal to their values and priorities to be successful.  Network internally from your organization or team, and if necessary, develop external contacts, to build your community of support.  Finally, remember that to successfully influence others, you must allow yourself to be influenced as well, so people will support you when you support them.

If you would like to learn more, you can reach out to Loren at


Warren and Miller (2002). Change the Way You Persuade, Harvard Business Review, 80(5): 65-73

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