Why Effortless Customer Experience Is a Necessary Customer Service Business Strategy

The Richmond Telephone Company has faithfully served the residents of a small Massachusetts mining town since 1903. This tiny telecommunications provider has managed to stay alive and profitable for over 114 years with outstanding customer service.

The Boston Globe calls the Richmond Telephone Company the “industry antidote” to robotic customer service. Rather than pay their bills by mail, customers stop by the small office in town to hand their bills in in person, and say hello. Bob Pratt, who has worked at the company for 40 years, and knows his customers by voice and number, says:

“Customer service is always first and foremost. It’s very seldom that someone goes (an) hour out of order. We’ll be there in ten minutes. Actually, in Richmond, you can be anywhere in 10 minutes.”

–Bob Pratt, The Boston Globe

This extraordinary commitment to keeping customers connected and unburdened has made the Richmond Telephone Company a local favorite.

Creating a personal and effortless experience for their customers has been the Richmond Telephone Company’s competitive armor for over a century. An effortless experience has helped Richmond Telephone Company stay afloat against telecommunications giants.

This David and Goliath story should send a signal for companies of all sizes. You need to create an effortless customer experience.

An Effortless Experience Saves You Money

Removing friction from the customer journey should be your #1 goal. If there’s a need to be met or a problem to be solved, the brand that delivers quickly and easily wins the day. CEB has found that companies with a lower Customer Effort Score (CES) tend to have higher NPS® scores, averaging 51% (versus -31% for high-effort companies). In addition, according to Matt Dixon, author of The Effortless Experience:

High-effort experiences lead to 96% higher customer disloyalty and a 4% repurchase rate (versus 94% for effortless). Effortless customer experiences produce an 88% increase in customer spend.

But, customer loyalty isn’t the most important factor. Savings is. According to the CEB, there are significant cost savings for an effortless experience, beyond that of customer action. The actual cost of service is much lower with an effortless experience.

effortless experience | total cost to resolve service request, in dollars, charted against customer effort from low to high
Chart 1: Cost to serve by customer effort* level Average cost; n=145,418 customers Source: CEB 2015 Effortless Experience Dashboard. * “Effort” comprises ease of handling the issue (if contact is worth the effort) and relative time required. Lower numbers are better.

This is why monopolies care about their customer experience. Even though they don’t need to worry about the negative effects of customer disloyalty, the costs of a high-effort service model are hugely damaging to the business’ bottom line. Minimizing customer effort may require some investment, but the returns are far greater. Measures like first call resolution are fundamental to eliminating inefficient costs. By streamlining the path to purchase and making customer service hassle-free, you’ll please your customers and alleviate the burden on your service channels—a big win for your top and bottom line.

6 Steps to Creating an Effortless Customer Experience

High-effort customer experiences reflect an insular view. What you think is easy and intuitive, or necessary and reasonable to ask of your customers, might be irritating or ridiculous from their point of view.

Here are five steps you can take to ease the burden on your customers and, by extension, your business.

1. Anticipate customer issues and questions.

Be proactive during sales and service encounters. Go a few steps further to educate customers on products, policies, and promotions. Answer the questions they’re asking, along with related questions they haven’t asked yet. Service delivery + 1 on the sales floor and customer service “highlights” can help customers make better buying decisions and help reduce service contacts.

2. Identify sources of friction and increase first call resolution.

Confusing policies, redundant requests for account information, long wait times, labyrinthine phone trees—all these sources of friction drive customer inquiries through the roof and lead customers to reach out through multiple service channels. What complaints are you getting most often on the front line? Share that data across the organization to minimize customer effort and frustration.

3. Align your channels.

Customers see brands, not channels. They expect universal access to their account information, consistent answers, and seamless cross-channel fulfillment and/or issue resolution. Any daylight between channels will create a high-effort customer experience that no one will be eager to repeat. If you’re an omnichannel retailer, you need to understand where the gaps are; ongoing performance measurement is key.

4. Consider tech investments.

Creating an effortless customer experience doesn’t require a huge investment in new systems and technologies. There are simpler, less costly ways to determine what’s working and what customers would like to see. Self-service tools, CRM, POS, and other technologies that expedite service and resolution are worth considering, but input from your customers should light the way.

5. Empower employees at every level.

A Lexus customer was surprised that service department employees weren’t empowered to give him, a longtime customer, a break on an $800 cupholder repair. These employees didn’t even have access to his nearly 25-year history with the brand. So the customer had to reach out to a sales rep and the service department manager and make his case for a price break. In the end, Lexus reimbursed him for the cost of the repair, but the process for this was full of friction.

Above All, Know Where You Stand

What’s really happening in your contact centers? What’s driving sales—and empty carts? How well are your agents performing in specific areas of service delivery? What is your first call resolution rate and do you know how to improve it? Answering these questions will help you create an effortless experience.

If you want decisive answers, we can help you uncover them. Send us a quick message, and we’ll explain how.