Every single customer service interaction has the potential to make or break brand loyalty. This is no secret. Just one bad customer experience can be enough to send someone in search of an alternative product or service; according to Gartner, simply requiring a customer service interaction increases the likelihood of losing the customer fourfold. Good customer service is the expectation, the baseline. Good customer service isn’t about winning loyalty, it’s about maintaining it.
If good customer service is expected, companies often conclude, then delighting customers by going above and beyond is the way to stand out and differentiate themselves. But is that what customers want? Well, no, not necessarily. A delightful experience may exceed a customer’s expectations in the moment, but that doesn’t mean it will win the brand loyalty points: Nick Toman, Group Vice President, Gartner, and co-author of “The Effortless Experience, Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty,” points out that 20% of customers who were satisfied with an individual CX experience were simultaneously planning to take their business elsewhere. If even the good experiences aren’t always enough to keep them coming back, what does it take to win a customer’s loyalty?
Customers Want Consistency Over Delight
While it may seem logical that going above and beyond for customers would win their loyalty, customers actually value consistency over delight. According to research from McKinsey, satisfaction with the entire customer journey was 32% more predictive of loyalty than satisfaction with a single customer service experience. Customers want to have the same level of care at every step of their customer journey, no matter who they speak to or interact with. Consistent, reliable customer experiences build trust and familiarity—two major drivers of customer loyalty.
Customers want to know what to expect even more than they want to be delighted. After all, delight plateaus. If a brand goes out of its way to look for opportunities to go above and beyond for customers, that level of service becomes the new expectation—at a significantly higher cost to the company. In its research, Gartner found virtually no difference in loyalty from customers whose expectations were met versus those whose were exceeded, yet exceeding expectations cost companies 10-20% more in operational expenses.
The Effortless Customer Experience
In Steve Krug’s classic manual on web usability, “Don’t Make Me Think,” the title is also his first law of usability. That same law can be applied to the effortless customer service experience, the interaction where the customer knows exactly what to expect: “Don’t make me think.”
Of course, any customer service interaction comes with its share of variables, and a customer may not be able to anticipate how their questions will be answered or the exact way in which their problem will be resolved. However, there are a number of factors that make an interaction seem effortless for the customer.
Effortless customer experiences often include:
- First contact resolution (FCR) and, beyond that, proactive next-issue avoidance, where potential future concerns are identified and addressed
- Personalization, such as recommendations based on order history or perks based on loyalty status
- Not having to repeat information, even if the contact involves a hand-off between departments
- The perception of an easy resolution from the customer’s perspective, regardless of what was involved
- Easily accessible self-service options for faster resolutions to basic queries, such as order look-up or address changes
- Equally accessible live customer service, for customers with more complex situations or who would prefer speaking to someone
- Clarity on which service channel is most appropriate for the customer’s current issue or situation
Why Chatbots Don’t Deliver an Effortless Experience
The promise of chatbot technology saw many brands downsizing their human workforce in favor of online chat applications and interactive voice response (IVR) menus. Chatbots seemed like a way to service customers while cutting costs. However, customers overwhelmingly hate chatbots. Why? Well, they aren’t effortless or consistent.
Brands looking to deliver an effortless customer experience won’t find it in chatbots:
- Chatbots can’t read a customer’s emotion or intent, two key factors in crafting a successful resolution
- Chatbots are limited in the scope of their abilities, able to perform only basic tasks
- Chatbots lack personalization capabilities, such as customized resolutions based on history
- Chatbots often make annoyed or upset customers even angrier, especially when there is no option to reach a live agent
How Agents Can Make Interactions Seem Effortless
Agents love to delight customers. Human empathy, the very thing that makes live agents irreplaceable, is the same thing that makes them want to go above and beyond to help. However, this can disrupt the consistency of giving customers what they expect. Instead of performing actions outside the norm, no matter how well-intentioned, agents should focus on making each customer service interaction seem effortless—and technology like attended AI and automation can help.
Think about the hallmarks of an effortless customer experience: Customers want their issue resolved quickly and they don’t want to have to repeat information. But historically, contact centers haven’t always delivered on these criteria. Agents must search through data, often in multiple tabs and databases, to piece together details of a customer’s history or remind themselves of a policy or process while the customer waits on hold. When handing off a case from chatbot to agent or escalating a case to another department, customers are often asked to repeat their contact information and details of the situation, sometimes several times. This does not feel effortless to the customer.
Thanks to AI-based automation solutions like Laivly, agents can surface information more quickly and automatically maintain real-time call summaries and action logs, reducing the time it takes to reach a resolution and minimizing friction for the customer. While the process may not be entirely effortless for the agent—they still need to monitor and approve any actions by the attended AI technology—the shorter, more streamlined interaction will certainly seem effortless to the customer.
Effortless Consistency Equals Loyal Customers
In a marketplace where customers have ever-expanding options, customer service is a key differentiator. Brands seeking to refine their CX results should consider augmenting human agents with technology like attended AI, which supports consistent customer experiences with a human touch, and ditching the chatbots, which tend to create effort for customers rather than remove it. Customers want a seamless experience that meets their expectations, and they have shown they will reward this with their loyalty.