Reduce Customer Effort: Make it Easy

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” – Jeff Bezos

This is as simple an explanation as is possible of how to reduce customer effort. Customer effort is described as the amount of effort the customer must exert in order to have a query responded to, have a problem sorted out, return or buy a product or have a request satisfied. It all comes down to the level of customer service – great service will reduce customer effort to the minimal and the opposite will be true if your customer service is negligent. Customer Effort is also now amongst the top of the metrics that measure how satisfied the customer is with each interaction and experience. This metric states that companies must go beyond focusing on finding ways to exceed customer expectation – it is a way to find out how much effort a customer must put in to get that level of customer service. Known as the Customer Effort Score (CES) it asks the customer to rank, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest effort needed), the amount of effort they need to work with a particular company. Predictably, customers that felt that the company they could rank a company 1 or 2 on this scale, was the company that they would return to do business with.

It works so smoothly since companies that rank high on this scale know they are doing something seriously wrong and they need to take steps to correct them. CES immediately brings to the fore what your customers are getting irritated about and why you may not be garnering as much support and business numbers despite your best customer service efforts. It is probably too hard for customers to even reach you! Customers give you feedback that is based on transactions and the kind of interactions – specific and clear. It is vital that the CES rankings are taken seriously since now customers have so many different avenues of garnering information that may actually be more work for customers. Internet searches, websites, emails, live chats, phone calls, social media and even the annoying IVR that provide regular promptings without really providing information – all add to customer effort. To reduce customer effort companies must not fail to update information and also make it easier for them to access information on their sites. There are some ways suggested to reduce customer effort, but it is not exhaustive and companies must consistently review their strategies.

– Inculcate a culture within your company for everyone to aim at getting things done right the first time. This increases trust and helps to reduce customer effort both in terms of time and money.

– Get your customer service staff and all staff to suggest ways to increase the level of customer service. Incentivize this effort so that you get the best implementable suggestions and benchmark practices. Then as a company, go ahead and implement them but make sure you keep the customer in the loop.

– CES as a concept and as a process must be clearly understood by the customer service staff and all members within the organization.

– Ask a few loyal and long term customers what they think about the processes and strategies you would like to put in place to reduce customer effort. Take their suggestions and go ahead and implement them. Never assume that the processes you have identified will reduce customer effort. Ensure that you ask the ‘end-user’ before implementing.

– Train your customer service staff with multi-skills. This reduces the number of contacts a customer would need to have. A well trained multi-skilled staff member would be able to resolve all queries thereby reducing customer effort.

– All job descriptions across the company must have a portion of customer service, irrespective of job level, function or department. Present your company to potential new hires as a service business and let them understand that directly or indirectly their job would affect the customer.

– Make your customer service proactive rather than reactive. Use your customer experiences and social media discussions to pre-empt problems. Rectify the potential problem and or offer a solution to the customer that seems to be heading towards a problem.

– If you solicit feedback ensure that you recognize the effort the customer has put in to providing it to you and take action on the points received. Acknowledging and putting feedback in to action is one way to reduce customer effort in the future.

– Ensure that first call resolution is seen as the most key element in the customer service your company provides. Make sure that your customer service staff understands this and constant monitoring of the number of FCRs should let you know if they are succeeding.

– Ensure that if your company has multi-channel communication, then the strategy therein must match the customer’s behavior and serve to reduce customer effort. This will also increase the levels of customer service and customer experience.

– Reduce customer effort by ensuring that your IVR menu is not laborious and long. It should allow for the customer to interrupt and speak to someone directly if they so desire. Also keep it updated and regularly checked to make sure that while going through the menu, a customer is not cut off or directed to a department or team that was not intended or desired.

– Have more phone lines introduced so that customers are able to reach you easily without finding the contact center’s number busy or having to hold for too long.

– Invest in methods that allow you to action any faults or problems, faced by the customer in reaching you, immediately.

– Empower your customer service staff to be able to take decisions over and above protocol in order to deal with customers that are frustrated and irate.

– The launch of a new product, changes in government policy regarding some businesses or the likes are the times that customer interactions and calls are at a peak. Ensure that these events are accounted for and your company has proactively taken all measures in advance to manage an upsurge. When customers perceive that the service is unaffected and continues to be smooth, they can trust your commitment to high standards of customer service and a reduced effort from them.

– Make sure that if a customer has contacted you via multiple channels for the same query, the answer they receive is standard across all channels. A united face to the customer is vital for building trust and also serves to reduce customer effort in trying to understand if there were multiple answers to a single query.

– CES is a great way to know the weak points and service lapse areas of your customer service. Address these immediately score well with your customers. Also measure what you are doing right. Collate the verbatim comments and share across the organization to let everyone know what the customer is saying.

– Take in to account feedback given by the customer service agents. Ignoring these comments could prove detrimental to both your customer service and the morale of the staff. The front-end staff knows exactly what the customer is saying, day in and day out, and should be your first cue to reducing your CESs.

Customers of today are smart. Despite expecting the highest level of customer service, they know that it is not that easy. They understand and expect that human error, technology and service glitches will trip them up. However, they also expect that companies will make extra efforts to reduce customer effort and service them with the highest levels of customer service. For companies, reduced customer effort will certainly translate to better customer experiences leading to happier customers. Such customers over time will become loyal customers and increase the business and revenue for the company or companies they associate themselves with.

“The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.” – James Cash Penney

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