Three Hacks for Creating an Effortless Customer Experience

The hardest part of making it easy for customers? Knowing where the pain is.

by Jon Picoult

Most every company strives to be “easy to do business with.” But as common as that mantra is, it remains a rarity to come across a business that is consistently effortless to patronize. One reason: Most organizations aren’t detecting the pain points that drive their customers away.

Sure: the 30-minute call center wait or the poorly designed website — these are examples of pain points that are easy for businesses to discern (though that doesn’t mean they’ll actually tend to them). But unnecessary, avoidable, loyalty-sapping customer effort can creep into a company’s customer experience in subtle and insidious ways. To deliver a truly effortless customer experience requires spotting those circumstances and addressing them. 

That requires looking at one’s business through the lens of customer effort, and using techniques like the three outlined below to reveal the pain points that customers aren’t telling the business about:

#1 – Figure Out Why Customers Contact You

Nobody wakes up and says, “I can’t wait to call my cable company today.” Or their health insurer. Or their appliance manufacturer. Customers typically don’t crave contact with their product and service providers. They prefer things to work as promised, to go as expected, obviating the need to contact anyone for assistance.

For many businesses, outside of the initial product purchase, a customer contact means that something has gone wrong in some way, creating added effort for the purchaser. For this reason, it’s a good idea to track why customers contact the company, be it by phone, email, text or in person. (Note that this is different from how businesses typically track customer contacts — an exercise that’s normally focused on what the inquiry was about.)

Once the firm identifies the most common reasons why customers seek assistance (e.g., to clarify a line item on a recent bill, to inquire about a product feature that’s not working right, etc.), it can then figure out what’s really triggering that inquiry, upstream in the business process. It could be a product design issue, or poor expectation-setting at point-of-sale, or a jargon-filled customer communication. 

By making improvements to those upstream touchpoints, the business can preclude some or all of those customer inquiries. That translates into a more effortless experience for the customer, as well as smarter demand management for the company’s service operation.

#2 – Look for Repeat Contacts

For customers, if there’s one thing worse than having to contact a company for assistance — it’s having to contact it twice. Or more.

Businesses can watch for this by monitoring when the same customer contacts the organization more than once in a specified period (two weeks is a good rule of thumb, but the most appropriate time window really depends on the type of product the business sells).

What’s great about this approach is that it not only catches situations where customers must follow-up on a single unresolved issue, it also catches situations where customers have a second but related inquiry that could have been preempted during the first contact. For example, a software-as-a-service customer who calls to get a new feature activated, and then calls back two weeks later with a question about how to use it.

Businesses should look for the common themes that trigger these repeat contacts, as that will help them identify business improvements to eliminate the inquiries, saving customers time and frustration.

#3 – Capture Every ‘No’

When a business declines a customer request, it usually creates more effort for the customer. After all, that customer still has to figure out some other way to address the needs that prompted the call — even if that means switching to a competing provider, which requires effort in and of itself.

Therefore, it’s a worthwhile exercise for companies to track every instance where the business has to decline a customer request — and then mine that data for common themes. Some of those situations may be borne of limitations to the company’s products or services, highlighting an opportunity to enhance the offerings to address unmet customer needs. Others may be triggered by rigid policies that may be ripe for reevaluation.

While it’s unrealistic to think that any business can make all those “noes” go away, it is feasible that some subset could be minimized through business improvements. And that’s a good thing, because the less often customers hear “no,” the more effortless their experience will be.

People’s most valuable, finite resource is their time. Any company that seeks to strengthen customer engagement should treat customers’ time as sacred. Because if a business consistently gives customers the gift of time and convenience, then those customers will surely reward that business with their enduring loyalty. 

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting and author of “FROM IMPRESSED TO OBSESSED:12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifelong Fans” (McGraw-Hill, Nov. 2, 2021). A noted authority on customer and employee experience, Picoult is an acclaimed public speaker and advisor to top executives at some of the world’s foremost brands.

Did You Know: Rave vs. Rage: According to the Watermark Consulting 2021 Customer Experience ROI Study, publicly traded companies that excel in customer experience earn shareholder returns that are, on average, 3.4 times greater than those of their less customer-centric competitors. 

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