With new technologies and consumer trends, the concept of customer effort has evolved tremendously over the years. It is almost hard to believe that this is the same reality in which people used to look businesses up in the handy-dandy yellow pages. In the current day, customers cannot be bothered to exert any unnecessary energy, and why should they? It is the age of the consumer, which leaves the heavy lifting to the brands.
So what exactly is customer effort and why is it important? Customer effort is a measure of how easy it is for your customer to travel through the customer journey. Whether it may be interacting with employees or making a return, customers are looking for a frictionless transaction in which minimal effort is exhausted.
Measuring Customer Effort
Based on customer surveys deployed throughout the customer journey, businesses are awarded a Customer Effort Score that indicates how enjoyable it is to interact with the brand at various touchpoints. Questions may ask about any aspect of the journey, typically in anticipated areas of aggravation. Responses may range from ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, allowing brands to understand where their customers are struggling and to what extent.
As expected with the current customer landscape, effort is extremely important. A study by Gartner found that a difficult customer experience leads to a customer being four times as likely to be disloyal.  Whereas on the opposite end of the spectrum, following a seamless experience, the customer is 94 percent more likely to repurchase. The same study also revealed that a low customer effort reduces costs by 37 percent. 
How Can You Improve Your CES?
With some obstacles being unavoidable, such as physical limitations or certain regulations, achieving a perfect customer effort score can be near impossible. Yet, there are steps that brands can take to continuously lower their CES. Businesses must think beyond the measurement itself and examine all the moving parts that create the larger customer journey as a whole.
Anticipate Customer Needs
The key of CES is anticipation of pain points. Look at who your customer is and how they interact with your business. What are their daily struggles? What obstacles do they face? How can your brand improve their experience instead of complicate it? Considering the modern customer and competitors in the field, examine how your brand can meet customer expectations and then exceed them.
Examine What Could Be
Instead of accepting what is, go deeper to imagine what could be. Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, businesses are able to offer their customers services that were previously unavailable. Look at companies such as Panera Bread and Starbucks, who have implemented mobile ordering into their service. Not only does this provide a swift option for their customers on the go, it also reduces wait time for others. Additionally this leads to increased customer loyalty for those whom this service caters to.
Sometimes, in order to move forward, it requires one to take a step back. Evaluate the aspects of your customer journey that had been overlooked before. Look at barriers as opportunities. Get creative in your approach and do not simply accept a boundary for what it is. While simplicity and accuracy are highly important, do not be afraid to disrupt the current standard.
Look at Customer Effort at a Local Level
One approach towards CES that some brands fail to take is the local one. Location is a major determinator of the obstacles that your customers face. Those living in metropolitan areas in which most residents travel via public transportation may find it difficult to visit a store to pick up furniture. Companies who offer same-day delivery and pick-up return services in these areas have acknowledged their local customer’s struggles and provided solutions. Customers living in rural areas where the closest doctor’s office may be hours away may find it frustrating to travel each time they require medical assistance. In such cases, brands may look towards offering online chatting services or virtual appointments.
Use your Strengths
Though you may not be Amazon, every business has its strengths. For smaller companies, flexibility allows for innovation and constant readjustment to align with changing customer expectations. For brands with subscription-based models, it offers the ability to evaluate your customers over an extended duration of time, tracking each interaction and gaining a deeper understanding of the ways in which they use your products or services. Take a look at how your brand can use its unique features to offer customers an improved experience.
Continuing to Evaluate
Perfecting your customer experience requires consistent attention towards the issues that your customers face or could potentially encounter. As customers continue to evolve, new obstacles will continue to arise. Whether these obstacles are due to geography, lifestyle, technology etc., it is essential to keep your finger on the pulse on the issues that your customers face and the expectations that they hold.[1,2] https://www.gartner.com/en/customer-service-support/insights/effortless-experience/win-customer-loyalty
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