Three simple tips to reduce customer effort

Stress is a part of everyone’s day, but companies shouldn’t be adding to that stress. In an ideal world, companies would provide products, services, and support so effortlessly that customers never need to contact them at all. Here are three simple tips to how you can provide an effortless customer experience.
In an ideal world, companies would provide products, services, and support so effortlessly that customers never need to contact them at all.

We have all been through that frustrating moment: a website or IVR asks you for a password and you have no clue what it is. You type or say a likely string of letters, numbers, and special characters, but it fails. Maybe you run around looking for the scrap of paper on which you scribbled it down. This experience is stressful.

Stress is a part of everyone’s day to be sure, but companies should not be adding to it. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, companies need to design customer touchpoints that minimize what psychologists sometimes call “microstressors.” In an ideal world, companies would provide products, services, and support so effortless that customers never need to contact them at all.

A recent Temkin report on Experience Ratings sheds some light into the companies and industries at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum, looking at the specific component of “effort” within those experiences. Temkin describes effort as the ease in which a customer can complete an interaction. While we agree with this stance, we would extend the goal to minimizing stress in general. Stress shares the similar physiological manifestations as effort, such as increased heart rate and increased sweating. One can think of heightened effort as a driver of stress, or at least being highly correlated with it.

And minimizing stress and effort is no longer a nicety, it’s a requirement for businesses to succeed in a customer-centric world. That’s because reducing customer effort has become imperative to achieving positive business results. Eighty-seven percent of consumers agree that customer service has a significant impact on their decisions to do business with a company.

A poor experience can easily be avoided by creating a seamless, effortless, and speedy experience for the customer. But that’s a lofty goal. How does one create an effortless experience?

Here are three ways we suggest approaching your customers to provide a stress-free journey and reap the positive business results:

1. Be conversational. Poorly worded menus can cause customers to end up going to the wrong place.ivr-exampleThat menu takes 26 seconds to play out. Even worse, imagine you were calling about a bank account you were trying to access online. Might you have chosen option 1 by mistake before hearing that option 4 existed? Imagine you had called to open a new bank account. Might you have chosen option 1 before hearing that option 6 existed? Say you wanted to know if your local branch was open. What option would work? Making such decisions takes cognitive effort and can lead you to the wrong self-service or call center agent.

Instead, whenever you have a problem or a question or want to buy a product, a conversational IVR allows you to simply ask the automated, conversational interface for what you want and have the system respond appropriately. And it should work the same, whether you’re on the phone, using a mobile app, or on a company’s website.

2. Get personal. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment where the consumer is overwhelmed by choices at every turn, personalized service is a necessity, no matter your industry, if your company is to survive and thrive. Revisiting the password example from earlier, one can also minimize customer effort by doing away with typed passwords entirely. Have you ever called a friend or family member who knows your voice so well that all you have to do is say “Hi” into the phone and they know who’s on the other end of the line (even without Caller ID)? In those cases, your voice is your unique identifier. That is the reasoning behind voice biometrics, which allows your customers to authenticate using the sound of their voice.

3. Measure how effective you are. It would be cool if we could regularly track a customer’s heart rate and pupil dilation as they interacted with an IVR, getting a direct measure of their effort level. For now, duration is a key factor in measuring effort. The number of steps required in a task and the difficulty of each of those steps can both be by tracking the amount of time a customer is on the phone with your company. Companies should make every effort to minimize a customer’s time on the phone with your IVR, your queue, and with an agent.

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It’s not about delighting customers—but rather reducing their effort to get things done—that inspires loyalty.

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Jonathan Bloom

About Jonathan Bloom

Jonathan Bloom is a senior user interface manager for Nuance’s Enterprise Division. He joined Nuance's team in 1999 as part of Dragon Systems where he was the company's first usability engineer. He has designed both graphic and speech interfaces for IVR’s, dictation software, automotive, and mobile applications. Jon took a detour for some time to work for a startup called SpeechCycle (now part of Synchronoss) where he contributed to the creation of an infrastructure for generating completely data-driven user interfaces. He lives in New Jersey and works out of Nuance's New York office. In addition to managing a team of senior designers, Jon also sits on Nuance’s Innovation Steering Committee and continues to design on his own projects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the New School Graduate Faculty. Jon is also a husband, father of two, self-published fiction author with a black belt in Isshinryu karate.