The best laid schemes of mice and men / often go awry. --- Robert Burns
After completing your initial assessment and detailing your first SWOT analysis, you may now be chomping at the bit to tackle what you think are the most significant customer experience issues facing your organization. Perhaps you want to address an area of underperformance relative to a competitor, or your company’s executive is pushing you to develop a “wow” experience that will surely result in customers loving your company and buying more widgets. These may indeed be worthy CX aspirations, but I’m going to suggest that before going there, you first give some thought to one of those $64,000 CX related questions...why do customers defect from your company? Or, the converse of this question, why are customers loyal?
In their excellent book, The Effortless Experience, authors Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick Delisi make the convincing case that, “...the Holy Grail of service isn’t delight, but customer relief.” “The truest test of a company’s ability to delight,” they go on to say, “...is when things go wrong.” In a survey of 97,000 consumers who purchased products or services from over 400 companies around the world, Dixon and his co-authors found that, “there is virtually no difference at all between the loyalty of those customers whose expectations are exceeded, and those whose expectations are simply met.” (1) That’s a profound finding for several reasons, perhaps most notably, because it implies that spending time, effort, and usually (big) money to develop a “wow” experience, may not be so beneficial after all. As a corollary to this, the authors say, “...basic competence, professional service, , getting the fundamentals right...it turns out that these things really do matter, maybe even more than we’d led ourselves to believe.”
My epiphany in reading The Effortless Experience came from this quote on page 23, “...we pick companies because of their product (or service, or brand, or price - my addition), but we often leave them because of their service failures.” On the surface, this seems plainly intuitive, but think again about the organizational tendency to assess things relative to the “wow” experience. In other words, I would venture that many companies think their customers defect (if they even think about defection at all) because they just aren’t providing enough memorable, fireworks exploding, champagne popping experiences. Dixon and company conclude that, “...the specific things [companies] do to drive disloyalty among customers are largely associated with the amount of work - or effort - customers must put forth to get their issues resolved.” [emphasis mine]
Following on the idea that making customers work leads to disloyalty, the authors introduce the Customer Effort Score. The CES is phrased as, “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue,” and uses an agree / disagree scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is very low effort and 7 is very high effort. We’ll explore CES and other satisfaction metrics in future posts.
These gems from The Effortless Experience serve as the basis for my advocating the critical need to establish a robust and ongoing customer feedback system before venturing out to tackle other potential CX initiatives. If designed and used well, such a system should serve as your organization’s foundation for addressing the “service failures” that Dixon references as the principle reason for customer defection. We’ll begin developing our system in the next post.