The Effortless Experience: Sensational Headlines, Misleading Conclusion?

In this post I complete my take on the key assertion and the 4 findings put forth in the book The Effortless Experience.  Before I launch into this post let’s recap the following points from the first post.

Recap of the essential points from the earlier post

The four major findings put forth by the authors:

  1. A strategy of delight doesn’t pay
  2. Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty
  3. Customer service interaction tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
  4. The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort

Let’s also get clear on the scope of the research that gave rise to these findings. The primary mechanism was post (contact centre) call surveys completed by customers. And the scope did not included the end 2 end customer experience:

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.

And my position?  I shared in the first post that these findings show up for me as a statement of the bleeding obvious. And it occurs to me that the headline grabbing finding “Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty” is misleading if not flawed.  Now I fulfil on my promise to share my rationale.

Dealing with findings 2, 3, and 4

How many studies do we need to get that satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty?  Just look into your experience!  I can be satisfied, even delighted, with a physiotherapist and switch to a chiropractor. Why? Because by switching I reduce my travel time from 45-60 minutes (each way) to  15-20 minutes each way.  I can be satisfied with a particular restaurant and try out new restaurants that show up on my radar – usually as result of some recommendation.  I can be satisfied with a particular mobile telco and switch because of some promotion heavily promoted by a competitor …

Who does the customer turn to when s/he has a pressing issue which needs to be dealt with?  Customer Services and the folks sitting in some distant contact centre.  What does it take for a customer to make the call to these contact-centres?  My experience that many of us only call the contact centre if and only if we cannot address the issue through other means: internet, self-service channels, friends….. Why? Because, on the whole the experience of dealing with contact centres is effortful and painful.

It occurs to me that customers increasingly turn to Customer Services as a last resort and usually with the more complex issues/problems.  And on the whole the Customer Services function is not designed to help customers with these complex issues/problems;  contact-centres are staffed and run to minimise the cost of operations not to deliver a good customer experience.  As a result of the mismatch between the needs of the Customer and the design-operation of the contact-centre customers often have to force a solution out from the contact-centre.  That is to say that at best the interaction shows up as effortful. And there are many instances where the contact centre is unhelpful: quoting policy or making promises and not delivering on them as Customer Services has little power in the rest of the organisation.  Given this is it any surprising that “Customer service interaction tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty” and “The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort”.  Don’t take my word for it, read this post for my British Gas experience.

Dealing with the profound finding: “A strategy of delight doesn’t pay”

Take a look at delight.  What shows up?  For me, taken a phenomenological approach, the following shows up:

  1. I rarely find myself delighted in the course of interacting with companies of which I am a customer.

  2. When I do find myself delighted it is because someone who is a representative of the company , or the company itself, has ‘given’ me something that shows up for me as valuable and which I did not expect.

  3. Delight is contextual – the  content which shows up as delightful in one context does not necessarily show up as delightful in another context. For example, being upgraded from an economy seat to a business seat, in Virgin Atlantic, for a transatlantic flight showed up a delightful.  If I had been upgraded in the case of an hour flight the hassle would have probably outweighed the ‘delight’. Friendly-chatty service show up as delightful when I am relaxed and have plenty of time to spare; the same friendly-chatty service shows up as annoying-intruding-unprofessional when I am in a hurry and simply want the job done, the outcome delivered. If getting the job done turned out to be easier than I imagined, involved less effort on my part, then I tend to be delighted at how easy-effortless the experience was – whether conducting research, making a purchase, or contacting the customer services team and getting help with an issue.

  4. In service transactions there is something like a recipe for generating delight in customers. The recipe involves: solving the customer’s problem; doing so quickly not leaving the customer hanging and most likely worried; minimising the effort that the customer has to make; and last but not least the human element – how you treat the customer as a flesh and blood human being with or without respect, with warmth or with coldness/indifference, as a unique fellow human being or just another call to be handled asap to meet the call time metrics….

How do the authors of the Effortless Experience see, define and measure delight? They see it very differently to me.  They do not see delight in phenomenological terms: that which shows up in the customer’s lived experience – body and mind.  No, they have defined a strategy of delight as consisting of a number of tactics falling under the category Moments of “Wow”:

“Moments of “Wow”

- Willingness of service to go above and beyond

- Applying knowledge about customers

- Exceeding customer expectations

- Teaching the customer

- Offering alternatives

- Perceived value of alternatives”

So what the author’s research is testing, if it is testing anything, is the effectiveness of these tactics in generating delight and thus loyalty.  What if these tactics annoy customers rather than delight customers?  Just this week, I rang my broadband supplier as my patience had run out. The contact-centre agent was helpful. In between conducting the tests, and understanding the size of my home, she was telling me about a special offer (wireless range extender) that the company had on, encouraging me to take advantage of this offer, and telling me she would be happy to guide me through the online process.  Did this land as delightful for me? No! Why not? Because I just wanted her to fix my broadband so I could get my work done!  I didn’t ring to get advice. I didn’t ring to get a free wireless range extender. I range because the broadband was slow, had been slow intermittently over weeks, and that day I desperately needed the broadband to work because I had pressing work to get done and for that I needed a fast (enough) internet connection!

Now take a look at what the authors have placed under the category of Customer Effort:

“Customer Effort

- Number of transfers

- Repeating information

- First contact resolution

- Number of contacts to resolve

- Perceived additional effort to resolve

- Ease of contacting service

- Channel switching

- Time to resolve”

It occurs to me that many of the factors that are likely to lead to delight showing up in customers, as a lived bodily experience, in-around-after a customer service interaction have been placed in the Customer Effort category.

If I am correct, this exhaustive research, the millions of data points, and the subsequent profound finding “Strategy of delight doesn’t pay” is:

  • misleading at best;
  • has been misinterpreted and misreported by many in the media (including bloggers) who failed to dive into the fundamental grounds of this research;
  • does not prove that leaving customers feeling delighted does not generate an economic return.

I get that I make mistakes. If you see mistakes in the analysis that I have shared with you then please point them out to me by commenting.

Posted on January 14, 2014, in Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty, Customer Service, Customer Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Maz,

    There is little truth in the world, only opinions.

    Maybe, instead of reading books, we should concentrate on reducing effort and delighting the customer when they phoned in.

    Then at least we would make some progress

    James

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    • HelLo James,

      It occurs to me that you speak truth. And in that context I share the following with you:

      “Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.”

      It occurs to me that Yates is pointing out that truth shows up in living, not in words.

      At your service / with my love
      maz

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  2. Maz,
    Don’t you think it is very telling that the book comes from the folks (the US Corporate Executive Board (CEB)) that developed Customer Effort Score. Looking under the bonnet of this research reveals another agenda. Therefore, everything they find, discover, report and state needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.

    Adrian

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    • Hello Adrian,
      My commitment is to operate from a stance of kindness. And taking a lead from one of my heroes, I am choosing not to get into the issue of people and their motivations. It is the assertions that do not resonate with my experience.

      Hope all is well with you
      Maz

      Like

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