Customer effort is good: How successful brands make their customers sweat
This is the second piece examining why customer effort is a good thing. Read part one: Why brands must stop trying to eliminate customer effort.
In the last article, we explained how the work of Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman demonstrates that human beings only remember two moments of any experience - the peak and the end. The problem of an effortless experience is that insignificant peaks and ends are generated, while using large amounts of resources to eliminate customer effort. You are simply wasting your company’s resources as the experience is not remembered by your customers. An effective experience has to be remembered.
Allowing pain or imperfection focuses on the critical few moments - peak and end. This approach creates a memorable experience with significant pleasure peaks, while spending fewer resources.
And great brands have one thing in common: they make customers sweat.
- IKEA makes customers sweat with DIY services to generate unmatched pleasure on good value for money.
- Starbucks makes customers sweat with premium pricing and waiting time to create extraordinary pleasure with their “new coffee experience” and the Third Place.
- Louis Vuitton makes customers sweat with the different service levels to deliver unprecedented pleasure with exclusivity.
- Southwest Airlines makes customers sweat with no meals, entertainment, upgrades or reserved seats to offer knockout pleasure with cheap airfares.
- Jiro’s sushi restaurant makes customers sweat on most aspects of the dining experience to render the utmost pleasure with the best sushi in the world (see my article Sukiyabashi Jiro: Make the World's Best Sushi by Creative Aggravation).
By making customers 'sweat' - allowing Good Pains - resources can be channeled to their Branded Pleasures. That is why IKEA, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, Southwest Airlines, Sukiyabashi Jiro and other great brands are able to deliver a highly memorable and branded experience.
Don't get me wrong! Customer effort could be a good metric
Despite my emphasis on the potential damages caused by customer effort score (CES) in driving an effortless experience, I do totally agree with the CES creators that customer effort score is a good metric when using in a service environment driving effortless service interactions.
In the last article, I said "Deploying customer effort score could be destructive: use CES as a key metric for your critical touch-point experiences." But it could be equally constructive if you apply CES in non-critical touchpoint experiences.
Take, for example, a banking experience. When withdrawing cash from an ATM machine, doing a simple online transaction, or calling hotline to report loss of the credit card, customers simply need a frictionless or an effortless experience. No more, no less.
The majority, say 90% (just a ballpark figure, it varies from industry to industry, and company to company) of the interactions with a brand fall in that category: customers don't need any significant pleasure peaks, they merely want to ‘get things done.’
Don't get me wrong! CES could be useful: CES is the right metric for a pure service environment and the non-critical 90% touch-point experiences.
Adopting CES blindly is a wrong strategy
For the remaining 10% interactions are the true differentiators of a brand – touchpoint experiences that deliver their promises and drive customers to buy from them in the first place – e.g. the IKEA in-store. Unless your brand values are about effortless, faster and easier, like Amazon.com, McDonald's or Seven Eleven; otherwise, CES is definitely not the right metric to use.
I understand that the customers’ bar of unacceptable levels is ever rising; customers tolerate less and less in terms of inconvenience and slow speed. Even IKEA has added shortcuts and fast lanes for checkout at some of their stores. However, slightly raising the pain points in order not to drive customers away, is entirely different from driving full force for an effortless experience. Don't mix them up.
Strategy is about resource allocation. The effectiveness of a strategy is judged largely by the effectiveness in resource allocation. Adopting CES is not only a bad strategy - put your resource in poor use - it's a wrong strategy. It is wrong because it delivers the opposite of what you desired: drives a disremembered experience, damages your brand loyalty, and reduces customers' pleasures. Instead of a win-win, it becomes a lose-lose outcome for both customers and your company.
Perhaps you should ask yourself this: Why spend monies and resources to strike for an effortless experience - at the expense of a memorable experience, your brand loyalty and customers' pleasures - just for the sake of enhancing customer effort score?
My two cents advice
Here is my two cents for different scenarios that you may encounter:
- Let's say effortless is your brand promise, then CES is a perfect metric for all your touch-point experiences, no matter critical or non-critical.
- Given that your brand values have nothing to do with faster or easier, if you are already deploying CES, you should seriously consider narrowing down the scope to cover only the non-critical 90% interactions.
- If your company is thinking of adopting CES as a key performance metric for the critical 10% touch-point experiences, you should pause and spare a thought for: "What are my brand promises?" before a final decision is made.
- When your major rivals have applied full-scale CES in their CX, and their brand values are unrelated to effortless, you should do two things: open a champagne to celebrate and pray that they never get their hands on this article.
I do believe, that it’s simply a matter of time, before the sensible leaders are able to rectify their mistakes with the aid of common sense and critical thinking: to stop pursuing frictionless unmemorable experiences (the flat red line) and start creating Good Pain and branded pleasures (a dynamic blue curve).