Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reducing Customer Effort Can Help Build Value for Your Brand

Cecelia MacLellan
Director, Contact Center Operations

Reducing customer effort is critical in our age; our time has become more valuable, in many cases outweighing the need to reduce cost. Reducing your customer’s effort (perceived or actual) can build significant value for your brand.

On a recent business trip I was presented with a unique opportunity to observe customer service and in particular customer effort in action.  Unfortunately the effort was mine and the service…

Here are the highlights of the scenario: 2 cancelled flights, 1 overbooked plane, a friendly contact center associate who booked me for the wrong day and 26 hours in a city which was not my destination.  I missed the meetings that I flew out on Mother’s day to attend.  I just wanted to go home.  As a bonus, when I called my hotel to cancel my reservation and shared that I was stuck in a different city the attendant’s response was – “It’s after 6 pm so you’ll have to pay for the night, you have to call before 6 to cancel.” 

Next day at the airport, I took my ticket to the attendant who let me know that I was in fact not booked for tonight’s flight but rather rebooked for tomorrow’s 6:00 pm.  After looking into my file she shared with me, smiling conspiratorially, that someone was getting a note on their file for that mistake. Being in the CS industry I said “I’m sure it was an oversight”, no she told me, he had you booked in business class – and that’s a NO NO.  What I heard in my head was “Who cares that you were booked on the wrong day, I caught someone giving away leg room and a hot towel!”

Seeing her as my only hope to get home I asked to be put on the next available flight.  I waited while she called her supervisor. Keep in mind there is a counter and 2 feet separating us at this point.  The conversation sounds like this “I have a customer here, and she says that she asked for the flight this evening but was booked for tomorrow, hmm OK, Thanks.

The attendant then moved forward 6 inches, I guess because I couldn’t hear her behind the invisible wall of Talking to my Supervisor and tells me “You are just lucky that my supervisor is in a good mood.” I didn’t really feel lucky at that moment.

As service professionals we hope that that we can be continuously learning.  Here is what I learned from the experience:
  1. Focus on the basics - Business Class would have been great, but I didn’t want to be wowed, I wanted to get to where I was going.  
  2. Make me feel valued - I wouldn’t be at your counter or on your phone if everything went as planned.  I don’t want to do extra work so please don’t make me feel I’m putting you out by asking for help.
  3. Let me know you heard me - The hotel reminded me to let the customer know you’ve listened, that you want my business.  I would have liked the fee waived, but that wasn’t why I was calling. Empathize.
  4. Present alternatives - If you “can’t” solve my problem the way that I want, present alternatives in a positive way, say no if you need too but please, don’t make me feel that it’s my fault (even if it was). 
Regardless of your industry or channel, following these four simple lessons will help to reduce effort for your customer and create a “stickiness” that low prices or quality products alone will not do.

Cecelia MacLellan began her career at Mediapro Teleservices as Director of Sales. Since then she has successfully navigated the customer service landscape in progressive roles as Senior Customer Contact Manager, Staples, Director, Customer Care, Staples Business Advantage and most recently as Director, Contact Center Operations, Staples Business Advantage.

1 comment:

  1. wow. Just wow.

    Amazing that in this era where customer satisfaction is a key metric for most companies, there are still industries that just don't put it all together- usually indicates a lack of alternatives/competition.