Customer Effort – A Basic Guide

Over the last decade or so three themes have held sway over the customer experience landscape.

Customer Delight is perhaps the most commonly known. The notion of finding way to provide unexpected delight for customers.

The notion of Net Promoter and Net Promoter Score isn’t far behind. We’ve all been asked how likely it is that we will recommend a product, or service, company to a friend.

The new kid on the block though is the idea of Customer Effort. If you do a Google search on Customer Effort you’ll find a lot of interesting debate. Go ahead, we’ll wait for you.

Now, if you did that what you most likely found is a lot of articles about Customer Effort and Customer Effort Score as they relate to customer service and loyalty. Make no mistake, loyal, repeat customers are what we’re all after and at the end of this series I’ll introduce some different thinking on loyalty, but I think much of what Google turns up on Customer Effort falls short of the mark.

Customer Effort begins as a set of expectations. The customer’s expectations, not yours. You may create a customer service department that is seamless and effortless for customers and that may gain you nothing because it is what they expect all along.

Being as this is intended as a basic guide allow me to suggest several guidelines for applying the concept of customer effort.

1. Effort begins before the customer is a customer.
As I mentioned above most articles seem to focus on customer effort as a measure of customer service, but what good does it do you to make customer service effortless if a customer can’t find you to buy from you in the first place?

In an overall customer effort strategy you should look first to see how easy it is for a potential customer to find you, learn about your product or service, learn what makes you different, and decide to buy from you. I know this sounds like marketing 101 but you’d be surprised how often you can go to a web site…the first place MANY potential customers go to learn about products and services…and learn less than what you need to know to make an informed buying decision.

This piece of the customer effort pie is crucial because it is where the customer begins to establish their expectations about you and your offering.

2. Don’t overlook the FAQ
How often do you go to the web to find out something about a feature of a product, or do some troubleshooting, or learn how others use it only to discover that the best answers come from user groups, bulletin boards, or Yahoo answers?

If the company that sold me the product doesn’t appear in the first three search results I start to wonder how well they know their customers. Just the fact that many of us go to Google before going to a manufacturers or sellers web site speaks volumes to how we perceive their desire to solve our quandaries.

If you want to up the ante on customer effort you should be perusing those bulletin boards, user groups, and yes, even Yahoo answers. Take what you find there and update the FAQ on your own site. The more I know you as the provider of info the easier it is to me to come to you for answers.

Don’t make me search, make we want to come ask you.

3. Not all effortless service is good service
I once had an IT guy ask for some marketing advice on a presentation he was going to give about “significant wins” for the department in the previous quarter. The “wins” were all about performance gains, down time, information access…good techy stuff. I starred at him blankly for a moment then asked, “So where are the wins?”

Everything he had presented as a “win” was something the rest of the organization expected as a matter of course. It would have been the equivalent of Ford or Chevy coming out and saying they had a significant “win” with their new models because the mirrors don’t fly off the side of the car when you go over 60 mph any more?!?

What they had surmised was a win was them barely coming up to general expectations, expectations of which they should have been deeply aware.

Remember that effort starts with expectations. What you think is something easy to take care of your customers may think is something they should have never had to bother with in the first place.

Customer Effort IS crucial when it comes to customer service but it starts well before any service call. Make sure your customers have an easy time dealing with you from the time they first hear your name, through the time they buy, and when they finally find themselves in need of additional service you’ll have set expectations correctly.

Then all you need do is deliver.

What do you think of when you hear the term Customer Effort? What types of conversations might be going on inside your organization around CE score?

One response to “Customer Effort – A Basic Guide

  1. Pingback: When Should You Delight Customers? | Curtis O. Fletcher

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