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Digital Experience

Customer Effort: The Key To Simplifying The Digital Experience

A man lifts what looks like a million pounds. Sometimes this is what customer effort feels like.

Believe it or not, the single most important factor in gaining customer loyalty is reducing customer effort, according to the Harvard Business Review. Yet so many experiences remain so complicated.

Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge, wrote a great column in advance of the popular Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a few years ago. The headline read: “Everything is too complicated.”

Patel noted that while CES was always fun because it unveiled brand-new gadgets to the world, he wasn’t sure if the world was ready.

“Most people have no idea how any of these things work, and are already hopelessly confused by the tech they have,” he wrote. “The tech industry is starting to make these assumptions faster than anyone can reasonably be expected to keep up.”

After an informal survey of friends and family, Patel learned that many people were confused about the difference between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, why some text messages are green while others are blue, whether Hulu and Roku are the same thing, and more. These are things that appear basic but only because those of us “in the know” assume everyone else is.

Do Simple Better

Former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon coined the mantra “Do Simple Better” to ensure that the basics are never forgotten.

In baseball, Maddon is talking about always making the routine plays, whether it’s fielding a ground ball, sliding into second, or laying down a bunt. In business, this equates to making every interaction with the customer easier.

Simplicity is a basic tenet of customer experience, but it is often overlooked in favor of a company’s outdated rules or procedures.

Doing simple better means aiming for the fewest clicks (or taps) possible to complete a digital task, allowing a customer to easily talk to a human being on the phone if they need to, and writing legal terms and conditions in language customers can understand.

Reducing Customer Effort

Reducing customer effort, as we learned earlier, is the single most important factor in gaining customer loyalty.

Then why, as Patel notes, is everything “too complicated?”

Often things that make sense “on paper” don’t translate correctly to “real life.” The best way to suss out these potential customer pain points? Go through the entire journey and try to “break things.”

Digital design is about making things people use; think of it conceptually not as a website or mobile app but as an experience.

Completing tasks on your digital properties, whether it’s your website, mobile app, or social media page, should require low effort from users.

Ordering Flowers via Chatbot

A client asked me to talk about a great chatbot experience, so I started doing some research. Using a chatbot, I ordered flowers from a well-known national company that none other than Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had lauded for its Facebook Messenger experience.

The ordering part was great. I got to view a bunch of arrangements, select the one I wanted, and see the pricing. It was more or less like the chatbot holding my hand through the ordering process on the website.

Then after I selected a lovely bouquet, it gave me three date options on which they could be delivered. Unfortunately, I wanted none of the dates.

I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I typed “Help” into the chat. The bot figured that out and replied with, “What are you looking to do? Start over? Keep going? Or talk to support?”

I typed, “Talk to support.” Then the bot responded with, “Customer service is closed.”

That left me wondering: Why did it offer me the choice of talking to support in the first place?

Then it really got weird. Right after learning that customer service was closed, I got another response from “Samantha”: “Hey, Dan. I’m Samantha, a live agent. How may I help you?”

Now I was confused. So I wrote to Samantha, “Hey, I was just experimenting. I haven’t used a bot before. Nothing specific, but thanks for the help.” At this point the bot replied, “What would you like to change?” and gave me three options. Then Samantha also replied: “Okay, Dan. Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like any assistance.”

Suddenly, I was talking with the bot and Samantha at the same time.

It started off as a pretty easy interaction—I wanted to order flowers, which is a basic task. There are only so many choices, and building a bot around that is pretty simple. But when I ran into trouble with the date and I needed to talk to a human, the whole experience fell apart.

The lesson: A bot is supposed to reduce customer effort, not increase it. Bots must be programmed to bring in a human at the very second they can’t solve the problem, and, of course, the human should then override the bot.

Choice Overload

See how the flower example qualifies as “Everything is too complicated” instead of “doing simple better”? Too much customer effort.

When designing for simplicity in digital, guard against what’s called “choice overload.”

“The phenomenon of choice overload occurs as a result of too many choices being available to consumers,” according to “Overchoice has been associated with unhappiness, decision fatigue, going with the default option, as well as choice deferral—avoiding making a decision altogether, such as not buying a product.”

In other words, reducing the number of choices and simplifying the options can be helpful to your customers and potential customers and also get them to buy more.

Unnecessary Choices Increase Customer Effort

Sometimes, no choice is required at all.

When attempting to deposit a check through my bank’s mobile app, the app asks where I want the funds placed.

The only problem is that I only have one account.

So why does the app give me this “choice” every single time?

Clearly the functionality was built for customers who have more than one account, but the developers forgot about the percentage of customers that only have a single account.

Let Customers Accomplish The Task

The best digital experiences don’t get in the user’s way and just let them do their thing on their own terms. Helping them accomplish their task by eliminating roadblocks will also reduce frustration and improve satisfaction.

I used to remind my teams that no one wakes up in the morning wanting to come to their credit card or health insurance website. People come because they have to, so they want the process to be simple, fast, and convenient.

A good rule of thumb: Don’t make your customers jump through hoops that you yourself find annoying.

One time, while heading up a company’s website, I got into a debate with the Marketing team. I wanted to remove a pop-up ad that displayed immediately after someone logged in. After all, pop-up ads are annoying to me, so I think it’s a reasonable assumption they are annoying to others as well. (I like to jokingly ask the audience during a keynote speech to raise their hands if they like pop-up ads. So far, no one has been brave enough to do so.)

The Marketing team responded by saying it was one of their best-performing ads. In fact, it was converting at 6%, which is pretty good for a digital ad.

The only problem? It was annoying the other 94% of customers! So it probably wasn’t the “best-performing” ad when customer effort and the annoyance factor were considered.

Bottom line: Customers expect that technology should make their online experiences with brands better.

Is your online experience delivering on that promise?

Exclusive excerpts from The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share, used with permission. Buy the book on Amazon. Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

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