The Effortless Experience

"I live in a small town with only one steakhouse. The steak there is fine. But the minute a new restaurant opens, you bet I’ll go there. So am I satisfied? Sure. Loyal? No way."

- The Effortless Experience, page 19

The Effortless Experience investigates what drives customer loyalty – and disloyalty. What they find runs contrary to what many of us believe to be true. Research shows that going above and beyond for a customer has minimal impact on their loyalty. The customer might say they are “extremely satisfied” with your service, but it won’t make them more loyal in the long run. What customers today are looking for is an “effortless experience” and they reward the companies that are able to provide this experience with their loyalty.

We’ve all had a high effort experience – searching a company website for an answer to your problem, calling customer service and waiting in queue, getting transferred from one department to another, and finally escalating your call to a supervisor to get your issue resolved. How do you feel after this experience? Exhausted? Me too! Likely to recommend the company to a friend? Nope. Willing to consider another provider? You bet.

So how are companies creating low-effort service for their customers? They’re putting systems in place to allow customers to help themselves. They’re finding out the real issue – not just the customer’s stated request. They’re engineering the customer experience to reduce perceived effort. And, they’re empowering their front line employees to make it happen.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Reduce the amount effort it takes to do business with you

"We pick companies because of their products, but often leave them because of their service failures."
- The Effortless Experience, page 23

The truth is, customers don’t call you when everything is fine. They call you when they need your help and this is the moment when their loyalty is most likely to be impacted. The authors’ research shows these interactions are four times more likely to drive disloyalty instead of increasing a customer’s loyalty. Four times – that’s a big number!

One of the ways in which companies are making it easier for customers to solve their own problems is self-service. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes your customers don’t want to talk to you. Rather than feel insulted, think of these examples:

  • When you need to withdraw money from your bank account, do you approach the bank teller or use the ATM?
  • On your last vacation, did you wait in line at the airport to check in? Or did you use a self-serve kiosk? Or print your boarding pass at home?

Leading companies are making it easy to help customers help themselves – and are rewarded by increased loyalty.

However, self-service isn’t for everyone. There will always be customers who want to pick up the phone and speak to a live representative and even the best self-service options can’t solve complex customer problems. So what happens next when a customer calls in?

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Be positive and understand the real issue

"Just because there’s nothing you can do, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do."
- The Effortless Experience, page 91

No one likes telling a customer “No” and no customer likes hearing “No”, but sometimes that is the answer.  What if there was another way to say “No” that your customers could accept? Even like? The authors share ways in which companies are saying “No” but still ensuring a positive experience for customers.

The first is using positive language. Your first instinct is that you can’t honour the customer request, but that’s no reason to say “No”.  Instead, focus on what you can do. For example:

Instead of, “There are no appointments available this week”, say “I have an opening next week”.

Instead of, “Your order won’t be ready today”, say “Your order will be ready tomorrow morning”.

It comes down to not what you say, but how you say it. Another way in which companies are improving the customer experience is by understanding the context of the request. A customer’s stated request is not always the real issue. A customer might call a bakery to inquire if they are open Friday nights. If the front line staff member answers “No”, or even if they use positive language and say, “We are open until 5pm”, they might be missing the real reason the customer is calling. Let’s imagine in this case, the customer wants to pick up a cake for their daughter’s birthday on Saturday. If the front line staff were to inquire and find this out, they could take the cake design request over the phone and advise that delivery on Saturday morning was an option. Now instead of “No”, they have a new order and have simultaneously made getting a last-minute birthday cake easy.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Focus on the overall customer service experience

"Bake a cake, don’t just focus on individual ingredients."
- The Effortless Experience, page 191

By now you might be wondering how you can motivate your team to create a low-effort experience for your customers. Customer service representatives have historically been marked on a checklist basis. “Did you greet the customer?” Check. “Did you empathize with them?” Check. “Did you ask if there was anything else you could help them with today?” Check. The problem with this approach is that it focuses on the “ingredients” instead of the big picture, the effortless experience. It’s likely that a customer service representative could do everything right by a checklist, but still fall short of an effortless experience from the viewpoint of the customer. And let’s face it, checklists work well when you’re faced with routine inquiries, not when addressing a complex customer issue.

In order to provide a low-effort experience to customers with complex issues, there are five main areas you need to focus on. But no scripts here – just empowering customer service reps to embrace the following principles and providing coaching and encouragement as they do:

1) Engage the customer – use a professional, courteous and engaging tone

2) Identify their needs – practice active listening and ask questions to clarify

3) Offer relevant options – give the customer a few choices that are relevant to their needs

4) Inform the customer – take on the role of expert by sharing relevant information with the customer to help them make their choice easier

5) Show commitment – let the customer know what actions you have taken, how these actions support their needs, and play the advocate by letting them know what you can do for them instead of what you cannot

If you like what you’ve read here, you should read The Effortless Experience. Not only does it cover the above areas in more depth, it includes resources that you can use to guide you in reducing the effort customers perceive when interacting with your business.

I really enjoyed reading The Effortless Experience.  I think no matter what industry you’re in, whether it’s a call centre, a retail store or a web-based business we can all grow customer loyalty by making customers’ lives a little easier.

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Amanda Zwier

ABOUT Amanda Zwier

Amanda is a Commercial Banking Relationship Manager in London, Ontario. She works with owner-managed companies to help them access anything they could need from a bank – lending, cash management, foreign exchange solutions, business transition planning and more...
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