Customer Effort in the Contact Centre

11th Jun, 2015
Read time: 2 minutes

Delighting customers is not enough

Your customers want to communicate with you through the channel of their choice at the most convenient time for them, with consistent service.

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) in 2010 challenged the notion that delighting customers would increase loyalty. This review built on 'Customer Effort' (Harvard Business Review, 2010) research suggests that what customers really want is to be able to achieve their goal quickly. It is important to make it easy for customers to engage rather than just reduce effort, which in turn delivers improved satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

Contact Centres report that they provide support on average to 4.7 channels. The trend of delivering service via multiple channels is increasing, which together with increased direct engagement from 'back office' business units, adds complexity to making interaction with their customers easier.

Reducing customer churn while increasing loyalty and repeat business is a priority for all organisations. Before starting to plan what you measure, it's important to check the measurements and business objectives you have. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can also contribute to increasing customer effort; for example, if there is a high focus on reducing handling time, this can result in agents responding only to the stated needs of the customer, therefore increasing repeat calls and increasing effort.

What is Customer Effort (CE) and how is it measured?

Customer Effort is a customer-related metric that measures how easy it is for customers to engage with your company. It is important to map both the customer journey and measure CE in order to understand the improvements necessary to 'make it easy' for your customers.

CE is affected by:

  • Technology - the choice of channel used
  • Process - agent restrictions versus empowerment
  • Agent skills - attitudes and understanding

Best practice for measuring Customer Effort suggests that providing a seven-point answer scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree) and asking customers at the end of any interaction the question "to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "The company made it easy for me to handle my issue"

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The key element is to find out why the CE score was given and then to take action to support it or make improvements.

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Guidance from experts agree that balanced metrics consider the customer journey as a function of First Contact Resolution (FCR), Customer Effort and Customer Lifetime Value.

Best practice suggests that FCR is an essential measure as it shines light on both the processes and outcomes. Scores can reveal if the contact centre is actually delivering answers to customer issues, which is what the customer wants. FCR is reported to be used to monitor performance in 67% of contact centres (November 2013), increasing from 58% previously. By 'making it easier' you will not only retain customers but also grow loyalty and by investing to reduce Customer Effort you will gain a competitive edge.

How do you currently collect customer feedback?

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Your customers will contact you with a goal in mind, by making this goal easy to achieve you will retain loyal customers. To ensure the best effect, make sure you consider the following:

  • Map your customer journey
  • Adopt Customer Effort as part of a balanced set of metrics
  • Harness processes and technology to capture scores
  • Introduce agent training to gain acceptance and use
  • Monitor, evaluate and implement a process improvement programme.

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