The Effortless Experience

Why are customers much quicker to punish companies for bad service than to reward them for good service? It’s this mystery that authors Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick Delisi set out to solve in their book, ‘The Effortless Experience’.

The authors analyse extensive research to determine which elements of the customers’ interaction with companies have the biggest effect on making people more or less loyal.

The authors define loyalty in terms of three specific behaviours:

  1. Repurchase – customers continue to buy from your company
  2. Share of wallet – customers buy more from you over time
  3. Advocacy – customers say good things about your company to family, friends, co-workers and others.

According to their research, any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty. And the specific things customer service does to drive disloyalty among customers are largely associated with the amount of work – or effort – customers must put forth to get their issues resolved.

Companies tend to grossly underestimate the benefit of simply meeting customer expectations. In a world in which customer expectations are significantly inflated and seemingly on the rise all the time, what they found is that customers are in fact quite happy to simply get what was promised to them. If there happens to be a problem, just resolve it quickly and easily for them.

In this excellent, thoughtful easy-to-read book the authors share case profiles in a large call centre environment of companies that are doing things in the right way – that is, improving customer loyalty by reducing effort. They also share tools and templates that readers can use to make similar progress in their own organisations. While the emphasis is on large call centres there are lessons in this for driving customer loyalty and reducing negative customer reactions for any type or size of organisation.

A word of caution though. The authors do try to create a stir and sensationalise their findings by saying, “Instead of asking your team to delight your customers, ask them to make things as easy as possible for your customers – and do this by focussing on a small set of actions, such as avoiding situations where the customer is likely to have to call back.”

They are quite right in my view in focussing on identifying the touchpoints and redesigning and managing the experience to reduce or even better eradicate unnecessary effort. However, this does not have to be instead of asking your team to delight your customers”.

Effortless Experience CoverA reviewer on Amazon (Steve Curtin) puts the case for both delighting customers and reducing customer effort better than I could in this excerpt below from his review:

Consider the following paragraph from Chapter One, he says,
"But as powerful and compelling as (legendary customer service) stories are, what if you checked back with those same customers a year or two down the road to see how much more business they're bringing you? Because the data shows that in the aggregate, customers who are moved from a level of `below expectations' up to `meets expectations' offer about the same economic value as those whose expectations were exceeded."

Imagine applying this logic to your marriage: "Honey, from now on I'm going to focus on meeting your expectations as opposed to exceeding them. I read this great new book called The Effortless Marriage and I'm now convinced that there's no real value to exceeding your expectations by `delighting' you with love notes, roses, and that sort of nonsense. So, what's for dinner?"

In The Effortless Experience, the authors rebuke those service providers who ‘delight’ their customers (for example, by expressing genuine interest in them or providing them with a pleasant surprise) as misguided. Instead, the authors advocate for reducing customer effort. As most reasonable customer service professionals understand, it doesn't have to be one or the other (delight customers OR reduce customer effort). It can be both.

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email