Making It Easy for Customers Doesn't Have to Be Hard

Practical advice on reducing customer effort, starting today.

by Jimmy Chou

The Corporate Executive Board’s Customer Effort Score is getting lots of attention. And rightfully so. The concept of customer effort just makes sense. Make it easy for customers. It’s tough to argue with that.

I see a problem though. Everyone talks about customer effort and the mechanics of the Customer Effort Score, but there isn’t much practical advice on how to reduce customer effort. Because it is so common-sensical, many organizations are at a standstill on how to actually apply this simple concept. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Let’s change that here by reviewing an example from a recent client engagement.

First, a little level setting…

What is the Customer Effort Score?

The Corporate Executive Board defines the Customer Effort Score as a measure for understanding how much effort a customer puts forth to handle her request. It is measured with a single question, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” and is intended to highlight areas where customers are expending undue energy. See “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” for more information. There’s also an updated version of the Customer Effort Score question.

What are the top drivers of customer effort?

Top Customer Effort Drivers with Metrics

1“Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”, CEB, HBR
2Customer quotes per SingleStone Customer Research Lab report on the impacts of customer effort to be released in June, 2015 

Let’s review an example situation focused on one of the effort drivers above, channel breaks


We worked with a client to observe and map the customer journey and noticed a couple of key points related to customer effort.

Customer Journey Map

  1. Customers were forced to switch channels eight times across their journey with the client (as depicted by the red channel break point symbols).
  2. Those channel breaks resulted in a significant volume of calls, and thus, increased operating expenses.

It was hard for the customer to accomplish what they needed AND it was more expensive to serve that customer. Lose-lose.

There is no better indicator for customer preference than customer behavior. You can survey and focus group all day long, but customer behavior is the only real measure of customer intent. In these channel break point scenarios, the customer has clearly expressed a preference for the digital channel. That’s where he started.

Through customer journey mapping, data collection, and root cause analysis, we were able to identify for our client the top reasons why customers started their journey online, yet ended up calling into customer service. One reason for this breakdown was that customers needed to clarify the information necessary to complete their claim. Information requests like this should be easy to access online, saving both customer effort and operational expenses. The fix was simple—improve the clarity of content of the claims section of the website. This small change dramatically improved the customer experience, resulting in lower customer effort, and consequently fewer calls and lower expenses. Win-win.

There were also longer-term opportunities to improve navigation and overall usability of the online claims process. The content clarity fix helped to inform and self-fund more complex opportunities. Another win.

There are a few easy ways to reduce your customers’ effort. These are just first steps, but they work. Get started. Today.

First Steps

  1. Map one customer scenario looking for current high customer effort areas. Channel break points are a great start. Other areas include customers needing to explain themselves multiple times, being transferred around, and needing multiple contacts to resolve an issue.
  2. Observe customers. Watch and/or listen to customers trying to complete a request. What is causing frustration? Why?
  3. Analyze the data. What are the highest reasons for customer calls? This is a prime indicator of high customer effort areas.
  4. Make improvements. There are usually simple process and procedure changes that can dramatically reduce customer effort. There will often be technology improvements as well, but start simple and gain momentum.
  5. Rinse and repeat. Go do it again. Get others in the organization to seek ways to reduce effort together.
    You’ll be amazed at just how much you can accomplish for your customer and your organization with just a little focus on reducing customer effort.

I hope you found this post helpful. It’s the beginning of a series of posts that will highlight some customer experience observations we see while working alongside our clients every day.

If you’d like to discuss customer effort and other customer experience challenges, please reach out. 

Jimmy Chou
Jimmy Chou
Contact Jimmy

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