One of the most popular business buzz words du jour is ‘frictionless'.
The term has been co-opted in recent years to describe the phenomenon of commercial processes which appear to work smoothly and effortlessly – on the customer side at least.
It's an impression – and a reality – that is impossible to create unless the enterprise on the other side is aggressively harnessing and exploiting data to transform disjointed analogue activities into a seamless digital workflow.
That's what underpins exceptional customer service and customer experience in 2019.
And it's increasingly what Australian customers have come to expect and demand from the businesses and organisations they deal with.
Reaching the heights the retail sector has scaled
Want to know how the bar got set so high?
It's hard to look past the retail sector, which began working on the frictionless experience years before the rest of the business world decided it was time to get on board.
Frictionless transactions are the sine qua non of digital native retail platforms such as Amazon and eBay.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos alludes to the company's approach in his oft-repeated quote: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you”.
In other words, companies should strive to make everything work so smoothly, so seamlessly, so consistently, customers aren't just able to sit back and enjoy the service, they can take it for granted.
Doing things better with digital
And take it for granted we do.
Historically early adopters of all things high tech, Australians continue to embrace the extreme conveniences of the digital era with enthusiasm.
Australians are engaging with favoured brands via social media, ditching credit cards for tap and pay technology and completing a plethora of transactions, from booking parent-teacher interviews to renewing insurance policies and arranging family holidays, at the click of a mouse.
According to Roy Morgan's 2018 Digital Payment Solutions Currency report, more than 70% of Australians used at least one form of digital payment method over an average 12-month period.
It's our collective expectation companies and organisations will keep striving to make these interactions – financial, commercial, regulatory and personal – faster and more frictionless than they were a year or two ago.
Extracting and acting on the insights contained within corporate and customer data is the key to doing so and most businesses have no shortage of it to work with.
The emergence of new technologies – smartphones and tablets, the cloud, machine learning and virtual assistants – has resulted in the production of vast quantities of data, ripe for analysis and interpretation.
Bringing consumer expectations to the enterprise sphere
Consumer expectations of a frictionless experience have begun making their way into the enterprise sphere, internally as well as externally.
Younger employees, in particular, are less than impressed by the prospect of navigating clunky, disjointed processes to complete simple exercises, such as onboarding new employees, booking business travel or having expenses approved.
They want to be able to affect these outcomes as easily as they're now able to order in a late supper via Uber Eats, book a spontaneous weekend away through Airbnb or Quickbeds, or shop 24/7 for anything that opens and closes, on Amazon.
Companies founded and run by millennials, the digital natives born between 1981 and 1996 who've come to adulthood in the internet and mobile computing eras, are leading the way in the adoption of cloud-integrated systems which help make the operational aspects of running a business a cinch.
According to IDC, they've adopted cloud applications, such as travel, invoice and expense management and human resources management, at a 20% higher rate than average midmarket firms.
Their doing so doesn't just make life easier for employees – it makes sound business sense too.
Research published by cloud accounting software vendor Xero in 2018 showed businesses which were heavy users of connected apps grew more rapidly than those which were not.
There's little mystery as to why.
Such solutions are driven by data and the ease with which that data can be shared between core systems within an enterprise is what turbo-charges productivity and growth.
Time to act
Seeking out platforms and services which allow large amounts of data to be moved, shared and manipulated is the key to achieving more frictionless operations.
As frictionless processes increasingly become the norm in the business sphere, Australian companies which don't take steps to implement them may find themselves at a commercial disadvantage to their more digitally aggressive competitors.