What is Customer Effort and Why Does it Matter?
Before a company can structure a meaningful and ultimately successful customer experience or customer service program, they must first consider customer effort across all company departments. But what is customer effort and why is it important?
In short, customer effort is the amount of time and energy a customer expends in order to get their needs met. Customer communication channels allow your customers to interact and conduct business with you. How easy do you make it for customers to access these channels and ultimately take care of their business? As basic as these sounds, many companies fail to evaluate customer effort. Or even worse, companies prioritize what’s most convenient for the company, which is a recipe for failure.
Importance of Customer Effort
Studies have found a direct correlation between customer effort and customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is commonly measured using customer surveys or through other feedback channels such as reviews. These are great tools to measure how happy people were with a service provided or product received, but the information is reactive – it’s collected after the fact. So if customer satisfaction measurement is reactive, customer effort initiatives are pro-active. The good news is, both customer effort and customer satisfaction can be measured and scored. As you proactively evaluate customer effort throughout your company, consider these questions along every customer touchpoint:
How many emails must a customer send to accomplish their objective? How many phone calls must they make? How many people must they speak with? How many clicks on your site does it take? How quickly can they locate much needed information? How easy is it to order or return the product? The answers to these and more questions will shed light on how easy it is for your customer to do business with your company.
A common customer frustration is in locating company contact information on a website. While some companies have multiple locations to which must funnel calls, customers expect to see a toll free number listed in the header and/or footer of your website. If you only sell or service locally, a local number in large font in the header of your site is fine, but if you are selling across the U.S. don’t expect customers to make the call on their dime and don’t make them click 3 or more levels deep trying to locate a phone number for their location.
First, evaluate your company from within, measuring how each department perceives the amount of customer effort to accomplish interactions with that department. Next, ask your customers how they see things. Create a brief survey 5-8 questions in length. The questions should be specific to the department and services provided. Structure questions so customers can respond on a sliding scale so you can condense results to a single score. Ideally the results will allow you to identify needed areas of change.
Now that you have your score, put together your “A” team, comprised of employees from every customer-facing part of your business. It is crucial that team members include people who talk with the customers every day. Include people who are by nature curious, objective, imaginative, and empathetic. Do not include people who have uttered phrases such as, “we’ve always done it this way” or “will this involve more work for me or my department?” Allow your “A” team to reimagine a kick-ass customer effort experience that turns your processes on its ear. Finally, implement your plan for making changes to the customer effort required for each department
How effective were your changes? Following implementation of any process changes, and after a reasonable period of time for your customers to experience the changes, survey the same customers to see if their perceptions are changed. One more suggestion: evaluating customer effort is not a one-and-done project, but should be done periodically to ensure that your company continues to offer the least customer effort and most satisfaction to your customers.