Effortless customer self-service is the key to customer loyalty

Customer loyalty isn’t about delighting customers but reducing the customer’s effort. Learn how to align your customer strategy around delivering effortless customer self-service.
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customer self-service

In a recent post on the five key imperatives for creating effortless customer self-service, Greg Pal hit on a very important point, customer loyalty is not built by delighting customers, but rather from reducing the customer’s effort to solve a problem.

The truth is, in an effort to delight customers, many businesses actually fail to deliver when it really counts. Whenever I visit my bank’s local branch, I am truly touched by how friendly and attentive the staff is to me. There is always bottled water and snacks, and somehow, even between infrequent visits, the branch manager seems to remember me. The experience in person is truly great.

However, when my card was declined while traveling, I had the opposite experience. I had to initiate a call and navigate a frustrating, multi-tier, touch-tone menu to solve the issue. To make matters worse, I selected the wrong option and had to be transferred. In the end, I spent a total of 15 minutes on the phone trying to unfreeze my card so I could pay for dinner.

Despite my bank’s best efforts to delight me for the past few years, after just a few minutes, I was left feeling extremely frustrated and dissatisfied with our relationship. As it turns out, this is indicative of a bigger challenge that businesses face. According to a recent study highlighted by Harvard Business Review, 84 percent of customers said their expectations were not met during their most recent interaction. That number is truly astonishing and shows that many still have not figured out the perfect formula for success.

A recent Forrester report by Kate Leggett, “Demands for Effortless Service Must Influence Your Customer Strategy,” explains and addresses this very issue. According to Forrester, superior customer experience comes down to three things. Customers want accurate, relevant and complete resolution of their problem during the first interaction. Customers have little tolerance for long or difficult service interactions. Instead, they seek out and reward companies that offer effortless customer self-service.

My experience would have been dramatically different if I would have received a call from the bank, as soon as my card declined, connecting me with an agent or a self-service application that could resolve my problem in well under five minutes. So how do businesses pivot to address growing consumer expectations for effortless customer self-service? Forrester offers up some suggestions:

  1. Guide customers to the path of lowest effort. That does not always imply guiding them to a specific channel. It’s the company’s job to ensure that regardless of the channel, the path to resolution is as easy as possible.
  2. Architect infrastructure to support cross-channel communication. One thing that will consistently increase effort is when channels are in silos. Basically, nobody likes to repeat themselves so it’s important to make sure key information follows the customer across channels.
  3.  Standardize the service experience across communication channels. Customer service is only as good as your weakest channel, so it is critical to deliver a consistently effortless experience across all channels.
  4. Empower agents to support customers fully. Agents need contextual information about current and previous transactions and customer interactions.
  5. Invest in knowledge management. Important information that can be used by customers, agents and self-service systems often resides in many different places. Setting up knowledge management systems will allow agents to better support customers and customers to self-service across multiple channels.

Notice that none of these suggestions focus on exceeding customer expectations. So, stop trying to delight your customers! Instead, align your customer strategy around delivering effortless customer self-service and your customers will not only be delighted, they will be loyal.

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Demands for Effortless Service Must Influence Your Customer Strategy

Learn what customer service experiences inspire loyalty and which are likely to drive them away from this complimentary Forrester report

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Konstantin Khitrik

About Konstantin Khitrik

This was a contributed post by Konstantin Khitrik. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.