A decade ago, self-service meant clunky, error-prone options like self-checkout lanes at the grocery store that never recognized your purchase in the bagging area and complicated automated phone systems that put you in a never-ending loop of frustration. When trying to win customer loyalty, their creators definitely didn’t take into consideration any of the tried-and-true core principles published in the 1936 iconic book by Dale Carnegie “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
Thankfully, self-service technologies have come a long way in satisfying customer needs and enabling friendly interactions. This is true so much so that now consumers actually prefer to help themselves when given the choice – on the device they choose (phone, mobile or Web), when and where they want.
In fact, a CEB survey of 125,000 consumers, originally published in Harvard Business Review and subsequently published in The Effortless Experience, revealed a surprising insight: it’s not about delighting customers—but rather reducing their effort to get a problem solved—that inspires customer loyalty.
The research showed that exceeding customer expectations during service interactions (for example, by offering a refund, a free product, or a free service such as expedited shipping) makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs. Further, customers at “low effort” score companies – those that meet customer needs without requiring a lot of effort from the consumer – are 31% more likely to win repeat business. On the flip side, 96 % of customers at “high effort” companies are likely to become disloyal.
Regardless of how customers reach out to you to solve their needs or issues (phone, mobile or Web), our own analysis across billions of customer interactions, two decades of experience and thousands of customer deployments indicates there are five key ingredients to delivering intelligent, engaging, easy and time-saving self-service experiences. And the good news is they help both consumers and companies connect the dots and streamline the effort to get things done. Each of the following five imperatives for effortless self-service plays a key role in creating the secret sauce for customer loyalty:
- Intuitive first point of contact: Make the self-service experience natural and effortless, greeting consumers with a simple “How can I help you?”
- Turn self-service into a conversation: Infuse your self-service interactions with the warmth and ease of a human encounter, understanding their intent, not just their words.
- Get personal and be helpful: Recognize your customers and engage with them according to their preferences- letting them know they are important.
- Anticipate their needs: Know what your customer may want and provide it when and how they need it.
- Be consistent across channels: Give customers choices in how to interact with you and connect these interactions into a seamless conversation.
It is certainly a new era for customer interactions. As Jerry Gregoire, the CIO of Dell Computers has said, “the customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” Companies who succeed will be those who optimize their self-service experiences to balance technology efficiency with that human touch. By embracing these 5 key imperatives, businesses will emerge victorious in the customer loyalty game, with passionate, lifelong customers that keep coming back for more.
To learn more about how to win customer loyalty with effortless self-service, check out the upcoming live CRMXchange Webinar on December 16, 2014: “How Self-Service Can Win Customers and Influence Consumers – 5 Imperatives for Delivering Loyalty-Winning Self-Service Experiences.’