It’s Customer Effort, Not Just Customer Sat

We spend a lot of time talking about customer satisfaction but a lot less time talking about customer effort. Said another way, how much effort do your customers have to invest to actually get the satisfaction they are looking for?

  • How easy is it for customers to find your self service portal? Once they get there, how is easy is it for them to navigate and find the actions they are seeking?
  • After they open up a customer service ticket, how well do we do keeping them informed of the progress, or do we rely on them to continually check in?
  • When we improve our products, offer new versions or find common bugs, do customers have to seek out this information or wait until their product breaks…. or do we feed them this information proactively and not just via email?

Here is a recent example, of a situation where I had to invest significant effort to get some satisfaction…

In June 2012, I purchased some special hair care products on the Internet. I thought I had signed up for just the one month, introductory package, but apparently, in very small print, I had signed up for ongoing deliveries until I canceled.

When I got my first surprise delivery in early August, I called their customer service department and verbally canceled the subscription. I was told that I should have read the small print on the email, on the website etc, because I authorized this second delivery. I ultimately agreed to keep and pay for the second shipment, but clearly stated- cancel everything else.

About six weeks later I received another shipment. This one was bigger and the ticket price was $90! I called customer service again and waited on hold for 3 minutes. The person who answered could not help me and I was transferred to an account specialist. From there I waited on hold for 15 minutes (timed on my iPhone) and the person who answered said, “I can see that you called us last month, but there is no record of the cancellation. I can cancel the subscription now, but you will need to mail back the products to get a credit.” I asked them to pay for the return shipping, but they refused. I hung up the phone and my blood was boiling.

I contacted my credit card company and disputed the charge. I then went to the Better Business Bureau website and entered a formal customer service complaint against the company. About a week later, the hair care company contacted me and agreed to credit me for the products and pay for return shipping. (Why not let me keep the products for all the hassle?)

What an exhausting ordeal and the interesting part is, their hair products are awesome. I loved them and would want to keep using them, but since they have caused me so much time and effort, why bother.

The other interesting thing I discovered was that there were a bunch of other complaints against them on the Better Business Bureau website, about the exact same thing. This issue of not knowing you sign up for future shipments is very common, yet they have not changed their selling practices. Instead, they keep upsetting customers and requiring our effort to cancel.

  • Are you making it super easy for your customers to do business with you?
  • Are you learning from your mistakes, so they are not repeated with other customers?  Or, are you only reacting when you receive a customer sat survey with low ratings?
  • Is customer effort low, yet customer satisfaction high?
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