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Why Reducing Customer Effort Leads To Loyalty

Reducing customer effort leads to increased loyalty.

According to Harvard Business Review, the number-one most important factor in a customer’s loyalty is reducing customer effort. Think about that every day. Think about how you can make your customers’ lives easier. Do that, and you will create loyalty.

You can’t expect your customers to know everything. Yes, today’s customers are more connected and have access to more information than any other generation of customers in history, but they still can’t read minds (at least not yet). So why do many companies create situations where customers need to figure things out for themselves?

Known Errors Increase Customer Effort

When I upgraded my phone, I had to re-login to most of the phone’s applications. Some apps are linked to the physical device, so I also had to update that indicator in several cases.

This was mostly an easy process, except for one app: the commuter train line that I used to take to work. I had previously purchased some ten-ride ticket packages, and when I logged into the app with my new phone, they were gone.

After trying and failing several times to fix the problem on my own, I contacted the company through the app.

Related: Get Out Of Your Customer’s Way!

About twenty-four hours later, I received a phone call from a lovely “Miss Jackson,” who proceeded to reinstate my tickets with no questions asked.

“This happens when people switch phones,” she said matter-of-factly, which surprised me a bit. The company knew this was an issue but hadn’t bothered to fix it. Instead, it relied on customers contacting customer service to ultimately have the tickets manually reinstated.

This is what’s called a “known error,” which Wikipedia defines as “software bugs which have yet to be fixed but have a known root cause and either have little disruptive impact on the end user or a known work around.”

Let’s dissect this definition as it pertains to my experience:

  • This is indeed a “software bug” that has “yet to be fixed,” and logging in to see nearly $100 in tickets gone was not a good customer experience.
  • The bug has a “known root cause”: customers switching devices. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence, as millions of customers do that every year.
  • The bug did not have “little disruptive impact on the end user.” I had to wait some twenty-four hours (and purchase additional tickets in the meantime for my daily commute) and move to a different channel than what I preferred.
  • There was a “known work around”: me having to talk with Miss Jackson on the phone to get the problem resolved.

As nice and helpful as Miss Jackson was, this is not an acceptable workaround, especially for an issue that is likely to surface on an annual basis with people upgrading their phones so often. By fixing the root cause of the problem, the company can vastly improve the customer experience and free up Miss Jackson to handle other customer service issues.

A Simple Question Can Reduce Customer Effort

I experienced another, similar issue with the same phone upgrade but with a different company.

I purchased the new phone at a major wireless company’s retail store, and at the same time I purchased an OtterBox case (OtterBox, incidentally, gets customer experience right, as I highlighted in my first book, Winning at Social Customer Care).

When I got home, excited to try out the new phone and protect it with the new case, I realized that I had purchased the wrong-sized case. I blamed myself for not checking the package carefully, but in the next breath, I wondered why the salesperson let me leave the store without confirming that I’d bought the right-sized case.

This should have been an easy catch for someone who spends all day working with phones and cases.

Proactive customer service can be a game-changer for customers and the companies with which they do business. Anticipating customers’ needs makes them feel like you’re looking out for them, that they are safe and secure in your hands. Forcing them to figure out their own mistakes creates the opposite effect.

After walking a mile from my downtown office to another retail location of the same wireless provider (I had made the original purchase in the suburbs), a representative told me I had to return the item at the same store where I purchased it—a completely unnecessary and customer-unfriendly inconvenience.

By the time I got around to returning the case, I had already purchased the correct size on (you guessed it) Amazon with same-day delivery. That was a lost sale to the wireless provider. It could have been avoided had the salesperson been proactively looking out for the customer.

The Path To Long-Term Loyalty

Whenever possible, don’t make customers do extra work. If there is a “known error” in your process, either fix it immediately or communicate to customers proactively. If you see a customer about to make a mistake, do whatever you can to help them prevent it.

Imagine how my experience would have been different if the commuter rail app had popped up a message that said, “We see you have a new device. Let’s help you find your tickets.” Or if the wireless provider salesperson had simply asked, “Are you sure you want to buy this case? It doesn’t fit your new phone.”

These are simple fixes, but they go a long way toward reducing customer effort, creating a more positive customer experience, and generating a lifetime of loyalty.

Exclusive excerpt from The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share, used with permission. For more information and to purchase the book, please visit this page. Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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