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It's Not Easy Being a Customer
By Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner, BT
We are busy people who want to minimise the amount of time, energy, and effort we put into things that we don’t value. Things like trying to navigate around a complicated and badly designed website, setting up a product or service, or trying to get answers from a contact centre. Sometimes we don’t want to be “wowed” by customer service. Sometimes we just want it to be easy.
This means that, as companies, we don’t need to delight every customer all the time – we just have to wow them when it really counts and the rest of the time just make it easy. This often runs counter to many customer satisfaction initiatives that aim to always delight the customer.
This is why the “e” word – whether it’s ‘effort’ or ‘easy’ - has become a hot topic in the customer experience world.
We will put effort into things that matter to us and that we value. Effort is effectively a cost – with the currency being time, physical exertion, emotional angst and brain power. As with any cost there is a both trade off and a desire to either minimise it, or get ‘value for effort’. This will, in turn, influence our perception of satisfaction, convenience and value for money.
It also has an impact on loyalty. Our research has consistently shown that nearly two thirds of customers say that they would be more loyal to organisations if they were easy to deal with. For public sector, where loyalty isn’t a factor, only five percent of customers are likely to think that they have got good value for money if they are finding things difficult.
Making things easy is sometimes, sadly, easier said than done. Products and services seem to be getting more, rather than less complex. Regulation is certainly not easy.
We don’t need to delight every customer all the time – we just have to wow them when it really counts and the rest of the time just make it easy
Internal processes and silos are often a complex tangle of spaghetti that the customer service front line has to stick a fork into on the customers’ behalf.
New technologies such as artificial intelligence seem to offer a silver bullet, but often fail to deliver. It is true that strategies such as personalisation can help to tailor customer experiences down to a more individualised level. However, personalisation will not work without customer data, and customers are not always willing to trade their data unless they believe that they will get a better/ easier experience. I call this a “me”conomy. This is reinforced by regulation such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), where customers are free to withdraw consent at any time if they are not happy sharing their data with organisations.
AI also doesn’t necessarily make things easier. Voice assistants like Alexa, or Siri, offer an innovative way of engaging with services but, beyond simple transactions, they can become horribly clunky, time-consuming, and frustrating. It is often easy to get carried away with innovative technologies, but the first question which needs to be asked by any CIO before implementing them is: “Will this make things easier for customers?” If the answer is “no” then, however exciting the technology, it is very unlikely to be adopted.
So how do we make customer journeys easier? Someone far wiser that I once said that the best way to manage something is to measure it and that is where our journey started – with the “net easy” score (other effort scores are available). This is effectively a net promoter score for effort. It simply asks customers whether they found their experience easy (plus 1), difficult (minus 1) or they don’t know (0).
It isn’t surprising to discover that customers who are finding experiences difficult are more likely to leave. They are also less likely to recommend (lower Net Promoter Score (NPS)) and less likely to be satisfied (lower Customer Satisfaction (CSat) score).
Other more internal measures affect this – if the problem isn’t dealt with right first time, the net easy score will be lower. In fact, what we have found from experience with net easy measurement in a number of organisations (including BT itself, but also airlines and banks), is that it provides the missing link between external customer measures and internal process measures.
It can also be used as an operational measure. The contact centre may not see a direct impact on CSat or NPS of a new customer service training programme or a redesign of the IVR, but they can usually see it in the easy score.
Like most good customer experience measures, easy is most effective if it is used as an end-to-end gauge of success. It must also be from the customers’ perspective. Their easy journey may start at the contact centre but if nothing happens as a result, the customer is unlikely to rank the whole experience as an easy one.
So, don’t be a muppet and just sit there being green – it should be easy being a customer.
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