Why The Customer Experience Is A Program, Not A Project

The pandemic has reshaped how we interact with merchants — and what we expect, as customers, from those increasingly digital interactions.

Call it the transformation of CX, shorthand for the customer experience.


In an interview with PYMNTS, Mike Vaughn, senior vice president of operations at eCommerce and financial services platform MerchantE, said merchants must adapt, or risk losing business.

It’s not enough that the CX be secure — though that’s critically important, of course. The CX must also be speedy and seamless, and for the merchants themselves, digital in a way that helps them make their own “money management” efforts more efficient as they digitize their own banking and accounting activities.

Vaughn noted, “Customer experience is just a broad term and oftentimes businesses and organizations treat it as a project when it really should be looked at as a program.”

The journey itself, from browsing to checkout, must be intuitive and speedy, said Vaughn, as customers “want an immediate response to whatever the transaction may be with a potential organization. They want to be confident that what they ordered is accurate or what they’ve signed up for is accurate. There is little patience if a mistake occurs and they can’t get a transaction done on the first try. If they can’t, there are five or six other companies they can go to in order to get it done.”

For merchants, he said, the fewer steps placed in front of their customers as they move along the CX, the better — along with features that can help “delight and wow them,” in Vaughn’s words, to incite them to come back.

For the business, it’s important to have integration of back-office functions that tie together inventory management, and where information flows through to the accounting system and updates journal entries.

“As businesses look to improve money management activities, they want to make sure all of those integrations are there, and they will search out solutions that work with their existing providers,” he said. That focus on integrating the back-office functions will only sharpen as time goes on and merchants broaden their omnichannel offerings and as they continue to enable and empower a remote workforce to purchase goods and services on the business’ behalf.

The holistic approach toward digitization gets a boost from online platforms, noted Vaughn, who added that online platforms such as MerchantE’s can reduce the number of systems and providers needed to do everything from authorizing transactions to analyzing inventory or receiving funds instantly. Application programming interfaces (APIs) and advanced analytics can help a firm promote specific activities that help their business models, perhaps by leveraging electronic invoicing or promoting contactless transactions.

Looking Ahead

As to what lies ahead for the digital CX, Vaughn said we’re headed toward greater adoption of card-on-file transactions, and the use of digital wallets to enable those transactions. The trend, after all, is toward contactless transactions.

“It is not a new concept,” said Vaughn, but adoption has been slow across face-to-face channels as the card issuance was not there previously. “The big push had been around transitioning everybody to EMV,” he remarked. The fact that consumers are becoming more comfortable with wearable technology and the ability to pay by phone should serve as tailwinds to that contactless mindset, which enables consumers to make everyday transactions on the other side of the pandemic (say, paying the babysitter or landscaper) on the spot.

“The pandemic is forcing this behavior shift with consumers,” Vaughn told PYMNTS. “They’re trying new things for the first time and given the new social distancing norms, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I see us rapidly adopting more contactless payments or card-on-file interactions within an app.”