The Effortless Experience: Is There Anything of Value Behind The Hype?

The Effortless Experience Promises the Roadmap to El Dorado

Over the course of 2013 I noticed a certain buzz about ‘customer effort’ and its associated metric, the ‘Customer Effort Score’.  So when I was invited to review The Effortless Experience (the book behind the buzz around customer effort) I took up the offer.

The central assertion of the book can be summed up by the following paragraph (page 3):

“Whilst most companies have been pouring time, energy, and resources into the singular pursuit of creating and replicating the delightful experience for their customers, they’ve ironically missed the very thing that customers are actually looking for – a closer in, more attainable, replicable, and affordable goal that’s been sitting right in front of them all this time: the effortless experience….”

That paragraph got my attention. Why?

First, because my experience contradicts the first half of the paragraph. It occurs to me that most companies have NOT been pouring time, energy, and resources into the singular pursuit of creating and replicating delightful experiences for their customers!

Second, the authors make a bold claim. Is there anything of substance to support this claim or is it as ungrounded as the first half of the paragraph?

The Effortless Experience: Four Core Findings

The authors claim that they surveyed over 97,000 customers and conducted a whole bunch of research through which they “ended up with a few million data points..” which they boiled down to four simple yet profound findings.  What are these findings?

1. A strategy of delight doesn’t pay

“…. there is virtually no difference between the loyalty of those customers whose expectations are exceeded and those whose expectations are simply met… loyalty actually plateaus once customer expectations are met.

2. Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty

“… we found virtually no statistical relationship between how a customer rates a company on a satisfaction survey and their future customer loyalty..

3. Customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty

“.. according to our research, any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty…”

4. The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort

” … four out of the five drivers of disloyalty are about additional effort customers must put forth…..”

What showed up upon a closer-questioning look at these ‘profound’ findings?

If one reads the book carefully it becomes clear that one has to be very careful about these findings.  Why?  Because the scope of the findings is limited to only one domain, one piece, of the end-2-end Customer Experience:

“We wanted to know ….. exactly which elements of the customer interaction with customer service have the biggest effect on making people more (or less) loyal….

In the first of these surveys, over 97,000 customers – all of whom had a recent service interaction over the web or through calling a contact centre….. – were asked a series of questions about their recent service interactions….

An important disclosure before we reveal the results and their implications: we intentionally limited this study to service transactions and their impact on customer loyalty.”

Now you understand the scope of this “exhaustive study” is limited to interactions between the customer and the contact-centre. And you understand that the data was collected through post call surveys.

Take a look at the four findings again. And think back to your telephone interactions with contact centres.  Get present to the situation that led you to call the contact centre. Get present to the state that you were in just before you made the call.  Get present to your experience of being on the phone to the contact centre.  Now ask yourself if these four profound findings are not a statement of the obvious?

Looking into my own experience, the four findings showed up for me as being true to my lived experience. And yet nothing new. These so called profound findings show up for me as a statement of the bleeding obvious. In the next post (in this series) I will share my rational with you. I will also set out and explain my assertion that reducing customer effort in customer interactions with the contact-centre is a ‘strategy of delight’ and does generate delight in customers.  Until then, I wish you the very best and invite you to share your perspective by commenting.

Posted on January 8, 2014, in Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Philosophy, Customer Service, Customer Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Oh sent too quickly, can’t edit… bad customer effort score? What I meant is that CEM is a multichannel effort. They only looked at the call center experience to draw conclusions, so customer effort cannot be used a as measure applicable to and comparable at every channel and interaction.

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    • Hello David,

      First, I hope all is well with you and I wish you the very best for this new year.

      As for your take on the situation, I find myself in agreement with you: CEM is a multichannel effort and has to span the entire customer journey (lifecycle) not one slice of it through one channel (the contact centre).

      At your service
      maz

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  2. Maz, I think that most customer experiences could be improved by applying the obvious…

    Not making customers wait
    Smiling when you serve them
    Knowing their names
    Not making life difficult

    What amazes me is the lengths we go to to create “customer insight” that tells us the blindingly obvious

    James

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    • Hello James,
      I thank you for your contribution. Your contribution makes perfect sense to me. And I do not find myself amazed at the lengths we go to to create “customer insight”. It is great way of not doing anything today, right now. This reminds of the favourite tactic of official bodies especially governments when they don’t want to deal with a politically sensitive issue – they set up a commission to investigate and report back. Talking about that has anything happened as a result of the investigation into phone hacking and police corruption (not to mention government corruption)?

      All the best, please forgive my tardiness in replying.

      Maz

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  3. Hi Maz,
    Thanks for your comment on the book, I haven’t read it but think that it’s really dangerous to draw broad conclusions like these when we don’t know the context of the calls and the industries that they focus on. I mean, if all of the calls were made when customers had problems and/or complaints and the contact centre solved the problem quickly, politely and painlessly then the least amount of effort, I would estimate, would be greatly appreciated. However, a different context would and could produce a completely different and just as viable approach.

    I like what James advocates and also question why we need lots and lots of data to tell us what we probably ‘know’ to be true.

    Adrian

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