There was a time, not that long ago actually, where a company’s service goal was simply to satisfy the customer. A satisfied customer meant that an organization was doing their job, doing it well and usually, those companies could count on customers to remain loyal and happy. Today, things are very different. As customers, we can pretty much get whatever we want, whenever we want it. The product or service offered by a company can barely serve as a competitive differentiating factor and just satisfying the customer isn’t nearly enough to attract, acquire and retain them.
Today’s consumer expects to be satisfied, at the very least, and many organizations have successfully realized that in order to rise above and stand out from everyone else, they need to deliver great customer experiences. Companies are taking a close look at their customers’ journey, identifying all the touch points along the way and the opportune moments where they can improve and enhance the experience. One factor that can sometimes be overlooked however is Customer Effort. Customer Effort in its simplest terms is defined as the amount of effort a customer must expend to do business with or get support from a company, meaning, if the customer perceives the effort as too great, then their experience won’t be. Case in point…my mother-in-law.
“I don’t care, I hate it and I want you to put it back to the way it was!”
My MIL is a terrific woman. At 79 years old she reads voraciously, has a thirst for knowledge, possesses a knock-out memory of world history and is fully on top of current events. She travels the world, is a Canadian Bridge Life Master, an excellent cook and don’t even get me started on her baking. She and my FIL don’t sit still a lot, but when they do, they like to watch television.
Being the planner that she is, every week my MIL sits down with the TV guide (I didn’t even know they still made TV guides) and circles all the shows they’d like to watch. Then, with converter in hand, pointed at the TV screen, she programs her PVR to ‘tape’ all of their shows so that when down time comes, they’re all set.
My MIL is a smart woman, but technology, as I’m sure is the case with many senior citizens, completely stupefies her. It’s enough of a challenge to get her to turn on her cell phone and keep it on (which she won’t do and it’s infuriating, but that’s a rant for another time) that you can imagine how long it took her to learn how to ‘tape’ her TV shows and to use the PVR. Over the years there have been several phone calls of “I want to…, How do I…?” made to us, her assorted grandchildren and her cable provider.
Through step by step instruction, demonstration and explanation she finally got it. She knew how to ‘tape’ everything and even learned how to manage her settings to tape all new shows only, on this date, on this time, on this channel. She’d mastered it, and it only took her a year and a half.
Then, just the other day, it all fell apart. She called me and was very upset. She told me that her cable provider changed everything on the screen, she didn’t know where her shows went, she didn’t understand what she was looking at, and she had no idea how to find anything. She told me that she called up her cable company and told them something was wrong with her guide and that she was informed by the CSR that “the cable company had performed a systems upgrade to the user interface in order to make the experience better for their customers”. She heard, “the cable company…gurgle briggle gurp plurp fwap…for their customer”. Her response? “I don’t care, I hate it and I want you to put it back to the way it was!”
After, I explained to her that they can’t put it back and she said, “I know, that’s what the kid on the phone said”, sounding terribly defeated. I told her she could call us anytime and we’d walk her through whatever she wants to do on the PVR and she said, “Thanks, that’s also what the kid on the phone said”. And there lies the problem.
I believe for many, this upgrade is quite welcome and has improved the customer experience. I use the same provider and sure, it took a couple of uses to get used to it, but that was it. I’m very comfortable with technology, and have come to expect upgrades and changes implemented by companies to make it better, bigger, faster, brighter, on a somewhat regular basis. But what about the older generation, where the idea of email still amazes them and computers still make them nervous?
My MIL tells me how she was told not to be afraid of the computer, that she won’t break it and she can’t break the internet (I told her it’s true, Kim Kardashian keeps trying – MIL didn’t get it). She also told me that she doesn’t want to feel left behind and more importantly, seniors don’t want to feel foolish. She told me that she doesn’t want to have to call her cable provider every time she wants to ‘tape’ something and that all of these advances in technology have made things more complicated and harder for her, not easier.
According to a Statistics Canada report from July 2015, nearly one in six Canadians (16.1%)—a record 5,780,900 Canadians—was at least 65 years old. What if all of these advances to make things easier have only resulted in making things harder for them? And what if this demographic, who has a significant market impact, aren’t taken into consideration when organizations develop their customer experience?
My MIL told me that the changes her cable provider made has caused her nothing but frustration – frustration in not knowing how to use her TV, frustration about having to call and sit on hold to wait to speak with someone, frustration that no one offered her any literature or a video to watch on how to learn the new format, frustration that this company has now made her life more difficult.
In the case of my MIL, the cable provider’s upgrade and customer experience improvement completely backfired. Instead, the changes have had a significant negative impact caused by the dramatic increase of customer effort required on her part. It’s important for companies to really look closely at customer effort and to measure it. New changes may look great and do terrific things, but if the customer has to work too hard to enjoy those changes, then all the improvements may be for naught, possibly causing an opposite, negative effect. As for my MIL, she’d told me she’ll be changing providers and will pick the next one based on which one looks easiest to use. She’s really quite aggravated and disappointed by her cable provider and as many unsatisfied customers do, she’s sharing her tale of discontent. She lives in a small town and along with her many talents, she is also a great talker and has told her story to everyone who will listen about her exasperating experience. As for her cable provider, lucky for them that she hasn’t been able to figure out Facebook yet.
Want to know more about Customer Effort, what it means and how it directly impacts ROI? Want to know how to provide an excellent Customer Experience that positively impacts all of your customers? Give me a ring and let’s talk some more. 905-477-5544. www.myCSPN.com
Laurie Waldman is the Director of Strategy and Branding of CSPN and is part of Dolly Konzelmann's team. Dolly Konzelmann is the President of Cutting Edjj Consulting (CEC) and The Customer Service Professionals Network (CSPN). With over 20 years in the customer service industry, CEC and CSPN are considered among the most comprehensive consulting, coaching and training companies in Canada and abroad. Providing services to organizations of all sizes and public workshops to individuals, CEC and CSPN use a results-based partnership approach to develop and deliver customized solutions that meet an organization’s unique business needs and resolve their most significant issues, helping them to create a lasting competitive advantage. CEC and CSPN are recognized by the HRPA and RIBO and offer an array of services including training, consulting, assessment, conferences, studies, networking events and accredited designation programs governed by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification