Workforce Optimization Featured Article

Separating Good Customer Effort from Bad Customer Effort

February 28, 2014

When companies look for metrics to measure in terms of their customer support offerings, it’s generally agreed (in theory, if not in practice) that quality based measurements are better than quantity-based metrics. This means, for example, that it’s better to measure first-call resolution, which is a measure of quality, over average handle time, which is a measure of quantity and may not be reflecting a good customer experience.

For more forward-thinking companies, one of the metrics to keep an eye on is “customer effort,” which is defined as the amount of work and time a customer has to put in to get a resolution to a problem or answer to an inquiry. The conventional wisdom is that customers will always choose the option that involves the least amount of effort. It doesn’t matter how great your product is: if customers feel that it’s too big a bother to do business with you, they won’t.

But it’s also important to differentiate positive customer effort from negative customer effort. The latter, of course, involves frustrations and road-blocks customers have to climb over to get answers. The former reflects time that customers want to put in to interacting with your company: think of some of the more effective social media marketing campaigns that actively engage customers. James Pacey, Analytics Manager for NICE, recently noted in a blog post that cultivating the positive customer effort can pay off.

“There are, of course, times when customers willingly expend significant effort to interact with companies,” wrote Pacey. “The sidewalk campouts on iPhone (News - Alert) launch days or the waiting lists for the latest Ferrari are notable examples. However, in these cases exceptional product design and marketing are more than sufficient to outweigh the nonmonetary cost involved in obtaining them. Some might even argue that the customer effort only serves to enhance the aspirational aura that surrounds products like these.”

One of the first interactive social media-based campaigns the marketing world observed came in advance of the release of the movie, “The Golden Compass (News - Alert).” Legions of new Facebook users were encouraged to take tests to find what their “daemon,” or animal spirit companion was, sharing the results with friends. While many more clever campaigns have followed, it remains many people’s first experience of being willing to expend effort on what was clearly a marketing campaign.

The obvious goal, of course, is to provide customers with value for their efforts, whether it’s in the form of entertainment, social cache, rewards or discounts, a bit of fame or an opportunity to show off. This is the place where psychology meets marketing meets advertising, and getting it right could produce large rewards. Getting it wrong by making customers jump through hoops for the convenience of the contact center or the organization it supports, can have equally large costs. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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