CX Beat: Reducing Customer Effort to Improve Brand Loyalty

Customer Service Articles

This month, our CX Beat post is focusing on articles that deal with the topic of customer effort. In the world of customer service, much talk centered on reducing customer effort in order to make experiences simpler, easier, and more enjoyable for the customer. Between the three articles we highlight here, readers can see that there are many different approaches to reducing customer effort whether it is using technology that the customer is expecting, catering customer service initiatives to a certain generation’s demands, or understanding that without a low effort experience customers will not think twice before offering their loyalty to a different brand.

3 Brands Crushing Instant Customer Service by Aaron Agius
This article highlights three brands from different areas of the marketplace that are successfully using live chat as part of their customer service initiatives. This piece shows that reducing customer effort is essential across all industries, and does not require a great deal of investment or change.

Matt’s thoughts: In today’s world, whenever I need to contact a customer service department my first action is to search and see if the brand/company offers online live chat support. Not only does this provide the easiest form of communication, but it is often quickest and more convenient than being placed on hold and sitting around waiting for the next available representative. When a brand offers live chat, it greatly reduces customer effort in seeking support or an answer to a question because it does not bite into the customer’s daily routine/life. Customers are simply able to open an app on their phone or quickly sit down at their computer for a minute and have their issue dealt with. Alternatively, without live chat support they are required to set aside time in their day to deal with someone over the phone. The most interesting example covered in this article is the pet insurance company PetPlan who offer live chat support within their Facebook page. I thought this feature was a great idea because it means that customers don’t need to leave their social media pages in order to get the help they are looking for. As the author highlights, PetPlan is a great example that can be followed where interacting with customers where they are already active greatly reduces customer effort and increases brand loyalty.

Dawn’s thoughts: Live chat is quickly becoming my preferred channel of communication when I have a question or issue. It is usually a quick interaction with minimal customer effort. In this article, Agius makes an excellent point that companies need to do more than just have a live chat option, you have to go the extra mile to retain customers. The examples in the article showed some great value adds that companies are including in their live chat offerings which can really make a difference in the customer effort experience.

Millennials Are Changing the Customer Service Game by Megan Miranda
This piece tackles the idea of reducing customer effort from a generational perspective. The author promotes the idea that millennials could be some of the most picky and demanding consumers when it comes to customer service.

Matt’s thoughts: One takeaway from this article that stood out to me as being important to note in the realm of customer experience is that it often matters more how you deal with a negative customer experience than how you deal with a positive one. Customers are much more likely to remember and appreciate your service when they are having a problem that needs to be addressed then when they are simply having a positive experience. The author highlights the fact that companies are beginning to change in order to reduce customer effort and better match service offerings to what the consumer needs, wants, and expects from an experience with a brand. While the article highlights that the Baby Boomer generation is more likely to remain loyal to a brand despite its bad customer service offerings, it also brings to light the increasing buying power of Millennials and their tendency to immediately jump ship after a negative experience with a brand. If companies hope to survive in the long run, they are going to have to adapt and at least offer service options that reduce effort for the millennial customer and give them what they want. This will not only create loyal brand following, but a brand following of influencers who will tweet, share, and post about their experiences (both good and bad).

Dawn’s thoughts: There are many articles about millennials and how they’re buying habits are shaping the future of retail, but this piece focuses less about what they’re doing and more about why. In a study quoted by Miranda, it is shown that 62% of millennials would switch companies due to bad service. This doesn’t mean that millennials have higher expectations than other demographic segments, but it does mean that high customer effort experiences are out if you want to appeal to this younger generation. Miranda also shares the statistic that only 27% of baby boomers will switch companies due to bad service. These are very different percentages, but I would wonder if the differences have anything to do with previous brand loyalty. Is it possible that baby boomers are more loyal to companies and therefore it takes more than bad service to sway them? Or is it possible that millennials have the same level of brand loyalty but their need for low customer effort and exceptional customer service outweighs the loyalty? Either way, the writing is on the wall for companies: you will lose a significant percentage of your customers if you deliver less than optimal customer experiences. If you invest too much money in technology that detracts from the human connection, if you make it too hard for customers to do business with you, and if you don’t focus on customers as people first and customers second, it won’t matter their age…you’ll lose that customer.

What Makes a Great Customer Service Experience? by Marisa Sanfilippo
The last article takes a look at a study done by the CMO Council and highlights two essential points related to customer effort. First, consumers are more than willing to abandon brand loyalty and try a new company if their needs are not sufficiently met. Second, it is important for brands to know their stuff and act quickly when interacting with loyal customers.

Matt’s thoughts: One point made in this article that really stood out as being noteworthy was the fact that consumers don’t need personalization at every moment in order to have an ideal customer experience, it is the most important moments when they are truly seeking help where personalization is essential and can have huge impact on their perception of the brand. The author makes the point in this piece that above all else, customers want control over their situation (or to at least feel like they are in control) when dealing with a customer service representative. In recent years we have seen many brands limit or completely eliminate their traditional telephone service agents and instead offer online chat support which is faster, more convenient, and overall reduces the customer effort. If companies are going to learn one thing about reducing customer effort, it’s that service channels should be adapted to meet the needs of the customer. Not all brands will thrive with online chat support, but those that would need to embrace it before their customers flee for brands that do.

Dawn’s thoughts: This article crystalizes a concept we’ve long seen in our customer satisfaction research: people want to be acknowledged and valued for how their business with a company. Acknowledgement of loyalty to a company, is a minimum expectation for customers and business often miss the mark. Sanfilippo shares that there are many ways to acknowledge a customer’s value beyond just the words you use, my favorite being focusing on providing excellent service where your customers expect it. If your customers are more likely to email you, prioritize ease of reaching you through your website and personalization of emails. Don’t spend as much effort in other channels or technologies that your customers aren’t interested in. Forcing them into these other channels will increase customer effort and breed frustration. At the end of the day, businesses need to understand what their customers want and not what you want them to want.

There you have it, one of the most important conversations in the world of customer experience is revolving around reducing customer effort. When customers have an issue or want to speak to the brand/company, they want it to be fast, easy, and they want to speak with someone who knows their stuff. While live chat support has been an easy way for many brands to reduce customer effort, it is certainly not ideal for all brands which is why it is essential for every company to know their customer and then match service offerings to best suit them. Researching customers demographically will not only provide a brand with a best plan to match their service offerings to their audience, but also some insight on how they can expand to new audiences as well.

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CX Beat is brought to you by Matt Searfoss and Dawn Kirspel of The Center For Client Retention. They have scoured the web tirelessly for relevant articles and goats in pajamas videos to share with you. Care to join the conversation?

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