Tag Archives: customer effort

When Should You Delight Customers?

Perhaps it seems like a bit of an obvious question. “You ought to delight customers ALL of the time!”

Funny thing is the research seems to go against that. You see, there are times when customers just want things to be easy. Hence, the rise in the idea of customer effort.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. While most folks still see customer delight as a problem solving, customer service approach, as I discussed in Customer Delight Revisited, there are plenty of opportunities to delight customers outside of trying to make up for a mistake.

But if customers want to be left alone sometimes and delighted at other times how do you know when to delight them and when to let them be?

Let me suggest a possible perspective, in terms of a siple mathmatical analogy, that you can use to determine when you ought to delight customers. If we think of customer delight as a multiplier we can start to look across any product or service offering and start to make educated guesses about where to apply effort in delighting customers. It all starts with the customers expectations.

ALL customers come to the table with a set of expectations, even if they can’t clearly articulate them. Let’s view those expectations as being characterized by four levels of effort:

  • Level 0: I expect this part of my experience to be seemless, the provider should make it effortless.
  • Level 1: I’m willing to expend some effort here
  • Level 2: I expect I will have to exert a moderate amount of effort to accomplish these kinds of tasks.
  • Level 3: I expect some faily significant effort

By way of example, paying my cell phone bill ought to be seemless. I want NO effort in interacting with the provider, however; when it comes time to configure my cell phone service I expect that I am going to exert a moderate amount of effort in determining which plan is best for me.

If we think of delight as a multiplier then where is the best opportunity for delighting the customer? Certainly not in the bill paying, the mathmatical equation, where D= delight,  would be D x 0 = 0. On the other hand if we try to delight them in the configuring service scenario we get D x 2 which yields some significant gains.

In this simple example we start to see that where a customer anticipates no effort I need to leave them alone, customer effort IS king. But, when the customer expects to do some level of work I can look for ways to surprise and delight them that will provide some pretty good returns. Some examples of the different levels of customer expectations might look something like this:

  • Level 0: bill paying, continuing service, renewing service, basic troubleshooting.
  • Level 1: Adding a service, purchasing complementary products, upsell or cross sell of products, locating a vendor web site OR locating a brick and mortar location from that web site.
  • Level 2: Configuring service, choosing from multiple product options, bundling, creating re-order templates, troubles hooting
  • Level 3: Customizing a product or service, complex configuration, design

In order to discover the best opportunities to delight your customers you can take three simple steps:

  1. Begin by mapping their experience in interacting with you from discovery to purchase, to service.
  2. Assign each step in that experience an expected level of effort. Not YOUR expectation, the customer’s expectation.
  3. Focus your efforts on the higher levels.

What ARE the steps a customers goes through in moving from discovery, through purchase, to service with your organization? Where are your highest multipliers based on expected effort?

Customer Delight Revisited

It wasn’t all that long ago that business journals were all abuzz with the notion of delighting customers. “Creating real loyalty”, they said, “is all about Customer Delight.”

Fast forward to say…now…and delight has been eclipsed. You no longer want to delight customers, now you just want to make things easy for them. Customer Effort is now the thing that creates loyalty.

I’m not sure I agree…well, let’s be honest really…I don’t agree.

Most of what you read in favor of Effort over Delight cites studies that seem to indicate that customers don’t want “something free” they just want customer service to “be easy”. True, but myopic.

Allow me to suggest three truths of Customer Delight that I believe paint a much more colorful picture on a far broader canvas.

1. Delight starts with your product.
A simple truth but oft overlooked. You can delight customers with elegant design, innovative features, good cost to value ration and yes, even ease of use.

Some people refer to this as the “human factor”, creating products and services that don’t just “solve the problem” but bring a sense of happiness, well being, or balance to the user as well.

Obviously Apple is a leader in the art of human factor design. iPhone was SOOOO cool compared to other smart phones when it first hit the market. Even now the competition is more trying to out iPhone the iPhone than they are truly innovating.

2. Delight continues when you go the extra mile.
This is not as difficult as it seems. Simple ways to provide delight in this category:

  • How effective are your assembly instructions?
  • How comprehensive is your user manual?
  • What are your policies on replacement or repair?
  • How easy are they to find?

Providing information that allows customer to answer their own questions, and providing it in detail, has the capacity to delight customers. Yes, it is interesting on how closely this plays to customer effort, but in this case effort CAUSES delight.

My son is now driving my old Nissan Altima. I love that car. But early on I ran into a bit of a confusing problem with it. One morning, out of the blue, it wouldn’t start. I tried a couple times before it finally sputtered to life. Then, for weeks, no more problem.

Until it happened again. I can’t remember if it was cold, or water, or cold water…but there was nothing that made me think there should be a problem. I did a little digging and not only did I discover this was a randomly occurring issue for other Altima owner’s as well but, I ALSO discovered the secret code to fixing it!!

I kid you not you had to do something along the lines of: Turn the key on and off three times, turn it to the on position for 15 seconds, take it all the way out, put it back in and start normally. Apparently this resets something in the computer. Works every time.

What bugged me was that I had to find that out on the internet. I know it would go against Nissan’s grain to admit there might be an intermittent problem but I wish THEY would have had the information available for me.

  3. Delight is about exceeding expectations…sometimes.
There are times when customers expect you to be invisible. They do NOT want to have to get into the weeds on details. Think in terms of your cell phone bill. You’ve set up all the options as you’d like them and now you just want it to run like clockwork.

If the only time you attempt to delight customers is when you’ve failed at invisibility it feels like you’re trying to buy them off.

Find ways to anticipate your customers expectations and be waiting to meet their needs at a point that is down the road ahead of them.

Later this week I want to look at Customer Delight as a multiplier, but for now consider these truths and ask yourself where your best opportunities lay for elegant design, superlative support, and anticipatory solutions.

Where are your best opportunities for delighting customers today? Where would you like them to be tomorrow?

Customer Effort – Level 2: Customer Service

As I mentioned in my last post Customer Effort, the notion of making things easy for your customer, begins while the customer is still a prospect.

Most of what you’ll read around Customer Effort, and what I want to take a look at today, has to do specifically with customer service…whether that be via the web in a more self service approach or via a call center.

I don’t want to argue the relative merits of Customer Effort score just yet. While it is one of several measurements that can best be used in combination to make some guesses at customer loyalty it is also a risky measurement because it can refer to a specific instance in time rather than an overall experience.

It is also important to remember that customer effort is really applied differently in different industries.

Take a transactional service oriented business like banking, insurance, or utilities. In this case I want my provider to be nearly invisible. I want ANY interaction to be virtually effortless. My expectations for invisibility are quite high.

But now think about purchasing a configured item like a computer, cell phone service, or an automobile. In these instances I expect that my interactions may have a little more substance to them because my requests may start to run in a slightly more personalized vein. I still want the provider to know what I have but I may not have the same high set of expectations when it comes to them anticipating my need.

That being said I think there are several characteristics of any organization that set them up for success when it comes to customer effort.

1. They know me
When I log in to my account on your website, or provide my customer ID to your call center agent, I anticipate that I have just provided all the information you need to quickly call up everything there is to know about my interactions with you.  I should NEVER have to provide more information and I should ABSOLUTELY NEVER have to provide repeat information.

United Airlines is struggling at the moment trying to converge two web systems since their merger with Continental. When you log in to your frequent flyer account it can show you all your currently active reservations but you have to log in AGAIN to view the details of any of them. This is an epic failure.

Once you have my customer ID don’t ask me for my address, my phone number, or the model number of the product I’ve purchased from you unless you’re trying to confirm that I am who I say I am…even then it’s a dicey thing to ask.

2. Front End People are Empowered
I believe that the worst effort experience I have had in recent days came at the hands of AT&T. We were trying to combine my “business” cell phone account with the rest of my families “personal” account.

  • The rep in the store had to get a manager
  • The manager had to call a regional manager
  • The regional manager had to call a different kind of regional manager
  • Regional manager 2 sent it back to the store manager
  • …who had to call yet another type of regional manager

In all it took more than two and a half hours…and the bill still wasn’t right for the next two months.

The problem here was that the front end folks were not empowered to solve the problem. Don’t make your front end people call routers. The more times I have to be switched to another department, manager, or agent the lower you score on customer effort. Give the front end people the authority to think independently and solve the customer issue in one stop.

3. Information is persistent
This really should probably be the first one because it fuels the other two. I list it third because it is more system than process based and thus potentially the easiest to fix.

You can’t empower people to help me if they don’t know me and they can’t know me if they don’t have all the info at their fingertips. Your customers have multiple connections to you, web site, social media, call center, billing…each of those departments capturing information all the time. If you want to know me and empower people to serve me they have to have ALL that info.

How well do you know your customers? How empowered are your people when it comes to creatively serving your customers? Do they have the info they need?

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?