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Putting a Human Face on Customer Effort

I recently read an article in The New York Timesabout a, well, less than perfect encounter that Alan Alda had with the customer service department of a computer software company. (For those who are unfamiliar with Alan Alda – he’s a well-known American actor most famous for his work on M*A*S*H).

The root of the problem? He wasn’t getting some of his e-mails due to this company’s security settings – even though he had stopped doing business with that company years ago. He simply wanted to stop getting the services he believed he was no longer paying for– so he contacted customer service.

At any rate, his ensuing experience is certainly what we here at CCC would call high effort. After sending several e-mails and not getting a response, Alan tried chatting online with a rep who at first did not answer his question and then provided him with an option which still failed to resolve his query in the end.

Alan’s story really puts a human face on what we mean by high-effort customer service. We talk a lot about high effort and its importance to customer loyalty but sometimes it helps to really put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what high effort actually looks like.

So let’s dissect Alan Alda’s experience to understand what particular points caused him high effort and, more importantly, how much more disloyal he was after his interaction. To break it down, it looks like a number of things happened during his quest to resolve his issue:

  • More than one contact to resolve. Alan had to contact the company way more than once. We counted reviewing the company’s policies online, several e-mails, plus a web chat – and the issue still wasn’t resolved.
    Net impact on loyalty? Our data suggests that when a customer has to contact the company again, there is a 219% decrease in loyalty.
  • Switching channels. After the failure via e-mail, Alan switched trying web chat.
    Net impact on loyalty? We have found that channel switching decreases loyalty by 10%.
  • Canned responses. In Alan’s case, the frontline rep’s answer of “I have successfully canceled the auto renewal feature for your account” really seems like a canned response without even trying to understand Alan’s particular issue (which wasn’t about auto renewal at all!).
    Net impact on loyalty? Receiving generic service (liked canned responses) results a 45% decrease in loyalty.
  • Repeating information. People don’t want to have to repeat the same information over and over again. They just want to get the problem solved. And having to repeat themselves gives customers the impression that reps aren’t listening or don’t understand. Alan had to repeat himself during the chat a least a few times.
    Net impact on loyalty? We have found that repeating information degrades loyalty by 40%.
  • Rep didn’t take ownership over the call. The rep pretty much recited company policy back to Alan – leaving him to fend for himself without helping him navigate through the policies to find a good solution or options for resolution. Here, the rep didn’t seem to know how to get things done. All of this makes a customer feel like they have a higher effort interaction – can’t you just hear Alan’s frustration over the chat?
    Net impact on loyalty?  Our research finds that this ‘feel’ side of customer effort makes up two-thirds of what effort means to customers.

So, when we add all of that up, we can see just how much effort Alan had to undertake (and amount by which his loyalty was reduced…at least 314% when all is said and done).

Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers, can’t you just feel how high-effort experiences can cause frustration and let customers drift away? To prevent our customers from putting forth high effort, how can we help them? What would you look into first to identify the cause of all this effort?

Related CCC Resources:

  1. Customer Effort Score™ Benchmarks
  2. Shifting the Loyalty Curve
  3. Boosting Web Self-Service Stickiness
  4. Engineering the Low-Effort Experience

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