As our industry continues to shift toward a greater reliance on service-based pricing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how companies in general can improve their overall customer experience (or “CX”). In my research, I came across an article written in 2010 titled, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.” The gist of the article is simple: if we want to retain our customers’ loyalty, then we should focus less on trying to “wow” them and more on simply making it easy to do business with us.
In short, the article states that we can measure the effectiveness of our customer service by asking our clients one simple question:
“How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?”
Known as the Customer Effort Score (CES), this metric is rated on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the lowest amount of effort, or best score. As it turns out, a study of more than 75,000 people points to a clear correlation: those who reported the lowest scores (least effort) were the most likely to remain brand-loyal.
I couldn’t help but think about how our industry could benefit from a close examination of this important customer service metric.
Service – the Hard Way
Consider for a second what your customer’s experience might be like when they have an issue with their home technology. Upon discovering the problem, your client will likely make an attempt at self-service by performing some basic troubleshooting on their own. More often than not, these efforts will succeed only in running up the CES score, and not in actually resolving the problem.
Next, they will make a phone call or send an email to your team. Perhaps they’ll catch you at a busy time and have to wait, or worse yet, follow up before they get a reply. In many cases your initial reply will ask a few clarifying questions or even solicit their help in some over-the-phone troubleshooting, requiring them to (you guessed it) exert more effort before moving forward.
Now let’s assume that, in spite of the effort exerted, both the self-service and over-the-phone troubleshooting have failed to fix the problem. Now, it is time to schedule an on-site service call. Your client asks for tomorrow, but you’re booked. You suggest the following day, but they’re busy. And so the emails go back and forth until a date and time are agreed upon. Meanwhile, the CES score continues to climb.
Then you get to the site and determine that a network access point has failed. Unfortunately, you do not have a replacement in stock. A follow-up visit is needed, so the scheduling process with the client starts anew (more effort!). Eventually, you get back to the site and resolve the issue—that is, assuming your initial diagnosis was correct. If your initial diagnosis was wrong? Well… you know.
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s the billing to deal with. Do you get the billing done promptly? Does the invoice clearly present the charges for easy review? Do you have an online portal for payments, or do you require your clients to pick up the phone (again), or worse yet, mail you a check?
If the above reads like a long and arduous process, that’s because it is. How many clients has our industry as a whole put through this exact experience, often multiple times over?
If we want to stake our claim on providing a great service experience, then we simply must do better. Every single step of our client service process should be examined critically with an eye toward lowering our CES score.
Service – the Easy Way
Thankfully, recent advances have made available a variety of tools that can greatly lower this all-important service metric. Most prominently, the arrival of remote systems management (RSM) as a mature category.
In the above example, an RSM appliance could have alerted us to an issue before the client even discovered it, removing all of their self-service efforts from the equation. Beyond proactive discovery, we can vastly reduce, or even eliminate, the effort required of a client to participate directly in the troubleshooting process. And, if we do need to roll a truck, we would likely show up with a replacement access point in hand, eliminating 100 percent of the client effort related to a follow-up visit.
Beyond RSM technology, we can focus our communication techniques directly on the level of effort required of our clients. We can embrace multichannel customer support methods like text and instant messaging. Or how about embracing one of the many online scheduling tools that allow clients to select from available dates/times? How about online invoicing and bill-pay?
These are, or course, only a few examples. The point is that we should be thinking critically about reducing friction at every step of the customer service experience—from providing convenient means of initial contact, to ensuring quick and reliable response times, to providing visibility to the status of current service incidents, and making scheduling and invoicing as painless as possible. Because, as it turns out, keeping our clients happy and loyal has less to do with “wowing” them than it does with making their lives easy.