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Is Customer Effort the Next Customer Experience Metric?


Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” arrived in my inbox and unleashed an immediate flurry of calls, emails and ideas among our merry Impact band — social learning at its best. The gist of the Harvard Business Review article by Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman of the Executive Board is that their research points to a fallacy in the idea that customers must be “delighted” to remain loyal.  Instead “to really win their loyalty, forget the bells and whistles and just solve their problems…quickly and easily.” Amen, Here Here, Cheers, and Skol to that!

As much as I appreciate good manners, friendliness, and respectful etiquette, what I really want is someone or some way to cut through the quicksand, time sucking bog that I tend to find myself in when I have a customer service or technical support problem.

Not everyone will agree with me but I’m drawn to self-service options. I somehow expect those options to be  ready for me and fast. Yes, quick and easy, ready and just waiting to serve up the information I need. Unfortuntely, my question never seems to be one of the FAQs and my config doesn’t usually match the system specs in any of the help articles rendering them useless to me. Or at least that how it feels. Do you ever wonder what happens to all those ‘no’ votes you leave in response to the question: “Was this answer helpful?” I do.

So then I’m forced to another communication channel. It could be chat. It could be a web form. It could be the telephone. Apparently, I’m not alone. The Executive Board’s research showed that 57% of the 75,000 people they interviewed had experienced having to switch from the web to the phone to get an answer or help. I’m also not alone in having had to re-explain an issue or provide information multiple times — 56% of customers surveyed experienced that. Being transferred is another potentially loyalty corroding experience especially if you’re transferred to someone who isn’t there. And few things say “We don’t care” quite as effectively as making the customers call back repeatedly in order to resolve an issue.

Personally, I support reducing customer effort – especially when I’m the customer — and think it’s an excellent metric for measuring customer experience. Here are some ideas for reducing customer effort and improving my customer experience:

  1. Power to the front line! If you’re a manager, make it possible for front line employees to use their training, knowledge, experience and common sense to do what’s right and help me.
  2. If your systems don’t enable you to accomplish #1, start now to figure out what needs to  change so systems help rather than hobble efforts. As just one example, I’d be pretty excited if a rep said, “Ms. Postell?” and when I said “Yes” said “I have all your account information here. How can I help you today?” That’s instead of asking for all the information I’d already keyed in to the IVR.
  3. If you’re a rep, here’s a 1.0 suggestion that still works: Take notes. This is especially helpful if you have to explain my situation to someone else…so I don’t have to repeat the whole story.
  4. Encourage everyone who talks with me to use positive language and talk about what they can do, what my options are, and what is good about what they can do for me. I’m really not interested in excuses and lengthy, time consuming explanations.
  5. Add value to our conversations. Give me information so I won’t have to call back. Teach me something. Help me be more self-sufficient and confident in whatever I’m using of yours. 

What else would you suggest? I’d love to hear your ideas as soon as I get back from showering off all this gritting sand.

Originally Published on August 26th, 2010 by Monica Postell on Is Customer Effort the Next Customer Experience Metric?

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