thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer Effort

By on November 17, 2010

Reach_lrg3It’s good that the world is paying more attention to the amount of effort that a customer must exert in order to do business with us. Nevertheless, there is still a lot more that companies should be doing.

Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” (Dixon, Freeman, and Toman in the HBR, July-August 2010) introduces the concept of the Customer Effort Score (CES), which is measured by a single question, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” The scoring by the customer is done on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).  Although the background research was carried out by The Executive Board with call center customers, this process of making interactions easier and less time-consuming for the customer should be obvious for all of the functions of any business.

The opportunity, however, is to tackle these ‘effort’ challenges for customers proactively. Why should companies have to ask their customers how much effort was required? Don’t they know already? After all, they created the system that the customer is encountering. Aren’t they observing their customers’ experiences? How about adding a little design thinking, please. And, as online purchases become more commonplace, all forms of customer experiences—both personal and “self-service”--have to be deeply understood and questioned rigorously by the companies who expect their customers to use them.

A better measure of an organization’s focus on customer success is how customers perceive their Return on Effort. What value, in other words, is the business providing, taking into consideration what was delivered to the customer and how easily it could have been gotten from the competition?  Plus, really customer-centered companies are also looking more broadly than their narrow business model to discover innovative ways to make life, in general, easier for their customers, even if those solutions are above-and-beyond the products and services that they sell.

High-performing companies are always searching for ways to design more user-friendly processes that are more intuitive for their customers. That should be the top priority every day, because it will pay off with happier, more loyal customers in the long-term.  This goal of reducing customer effort can best be achieved in a “question-everything” organizational culture. Don’t wait for the customer to ask about it or give you a low score. You should know already.


One Response to “Customer Effort”

  1. [...] writing a letter takes the most effort.  So why does it feel like companies reward a high level of customer effort with a low level of response, and vice versa?  Shouldn’t my decision to take a lot of effort [...]

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