On the Customer Journey, the Path of Least Resistance Prevails

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In 2010, Harvard Business Review published research suggesting that lowering the amount of effort it takes for customers to get issues resolved has a direct impact on customer loyalty. Furthermore, the study concluded that efforts to exceed customer expectations were only marginally more effective at keeping customers loyal than being easy to do business with.

Whether or not you buy into using the Customer Effort Score (CES) methodology as a way to measure the effectiveness of your customer service initiatives, removing obstacles that prevent customers from resolving their issues quickly and easily is inarguably smart.

frustration on the customer journey

In a recent Forrester Research study, 73% of respondents said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service (Forrester: Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service). And according to a study by Oracle, 82% of people describe their buying experience as “taking too much effort”. Customers clearly value and reward ease. Moreover, removing effort can have a significant impact on your business in the form of lower agent costs, improved first call resolution (FCR), reduced call handle times, fewer transfers and more.

So what can you do to put customers on the path of least resistance?

#1 Don’t make customers repeat themselves
We all know the frustration of entering information into a self-service system like an IVR or even explaining a problem to a live agent, only to be transferred and have to start the conversation from scratch. It’s a waste of time for everyone involved. Having to repeat themselves multiple times to multiple people is the number one customer service frustration for consumers (2014 Aspect Consumer Experience Index). Solve the problem by using “context cookies” to deliver experience continuity. This sweet technology ensures context is maintained as customers move between channels. For example, it enables you to pick up where the customer left off in the event of an incomplete self-service interaction (e.g. the call is dropped) or when transferring to an agent for assistance.

#2 Fit into their lives
Consumers expect answers at their fingertips. Enable them to engage using the channels that are convenient and fit their mobile lives. Whether it’s voice, text, social, the web or even messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, meet them where they are for effortless engagement.

#3 Modernize your self-service options
Self-service is no longer a cost reduction tactic. According to IBM Retail Research, 72% of customers prefer self-service over picking up the phone and 91% would use self-service if it was available. It’s imperative that companies focus on well-designed, integrated self-service experiences that enable customers to get the information they need, when they need it, using the channels they prefer. Improve satisfaction and create stickiness with solutions that tap into customer data and business intelligence to deliver dynamic, personalized interactions that make getting answers and performing transactions as easy as possible.

#3 Get them to the right place, the first time
Nobody likes being passed from agent to agent and all the frustration that goes along with that. Use customer data, combined with contextual data from previous interactions, to make intelligent routing decisions. Further improve routing by using automated IVR systems to help clarify customer needs and prevent transfers.

#4 Predict their needs
Leverage business intelligence to predict why a customer is contacting you and tailor greetings accordingly. For example, do they have an open claim? Start with a status update. Did they recently place an order? Offer shipping information. Take it a step further by dynamically determining next-best-actions, including anticipating customer needs with proactive status updates, approval notifications, account alerts, renewal reminders and more. Enable customers to take instant action on outbound messages, from confirming an appointment to transferring to connecting with an agent for more information.

#5 Help agents help customers
Empower agents with the tools they need to quickly resolve customer issues. A recent Pelorus Associates study found that 74% of contact center executives believe that a better agent user experience is needed for agents to provide a better customer experience. Ensure a modern dashboard that makes it easy for them to find the information they need without switching between multiple systems. Integrate quality management software to quickly identify and correct issues that prevent customers from experiencing effortless service.

While a helpful, friendly agent is always a plus, customers today increasingly value ease and convenience. Unfortunately, too many companies still focus on making things easier for themselves than for their customers. In a world where customers are just a few clicks from your competitors’ products and services, removing obstacles is worth the effort.