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Customer Delight vs. Effortlessness: What’s More Important?

Madeline Jacobson
4 mins
customer delight at easy hotel check-in process

Most customer service departments would probably say that one of their primary goals is to make customers happy. But what does that mean? For some, it’s focusing on customer delight—going above and beyond to “wow” customers with grand gestures like gifts and discounts. But others maintain that simply meeting customer needs as efficiently and effectively as possible is the key to driving customer satisfaction.

So which approach—customer delight vs. effortlessness—leads to customer loyalty and enhances customer lifetime value? Below, we explore how the two compare and which to prioritize in your organization.

What Is Customer Delight?

Customer delight is the goal of exceeding (rather than simply meeting) customer expectations. To delight customers, companies and brands often try to create over-the-top, “wow” moments. This can look vastly different from business to business, but it could include efforts such as:

  • A hotel providing warm cookies each night for guests
  • An airline adding thousands of free frequent flyer miles to a customer’s account after a flight delay
  • A retailer reaching out with a complimentary gift card to show customer appreciation 

These efforts are designed to make customers feel good and appreciated. By creating remarkable customer service experiences through spontaneous gifts, outreach, or discounts, brands hope to drive customer loyalty and word-of mouth referrals.

What Is Effortlessness?

Effortlessness is the goal of creating low-effort customer service interactions. Low-effort doesn’t refer to the energy that customer service reps put in; it’s about making the interaction as simple as possible for the customer.

For context, a high-effort interaction might look like this: the customer has to wade through a lengthy and complex phone menu to get to the right department, gets transferred between several different reps (each of whom ask the customer for their account number and a thorough explanation of the issue) and at the end of the call, no one is able to provide a resolution, so the customer is required to contact the company again.

An effortless experience, on the other hand, removes barriers from the transaction, making it simple for customers to get their needs met. There are many components of creating a low-effort interaction, including resolving issues without transferring the customer between reps and departments, simplifying the process of getting in touch with support agents, and providing simple, succinct information.  

Which Is More Important: Customer Delight or Effortlessness?

While dazzling customers with over-the-top customer service efforts can certainly make them feel good—and maybe even encourage them to tell their friends and family about the experience — it doesn’t actually drive lasting loyalty.

In their book “The Effortless Experience,” authors Matthew Dixon and Nick Toman reveal that creating above-and-beyond customer service experiences doesn’t improve customer loyalty any more than simply meeting customer needs. When a company fails to meet customer expectations, however, it almost always generates disloyalty.

The book also points out that customers who call support centers are actually less loyal to begin with. Customers who initiate an interaction with service departments are actually four times less loyal toward the company than other clients. Essentially, the customers who are seeking a resolution to an issue don’t really want to be “wowed”—they just want their issue to be resolved.

Unfortunately, that’s often where it gets worse. Customers routinely encounter inconveniences like transfers between multiple agents, being asked to repeat information, agents having incorrect information, and complex processes. Rather than receive a straightforward resolution, they are left feeling frustrated. 

By removing those obstacles and prioritizing effortlessness, you can generate customer loyalty and a wealth of other benefits. Gartner research shows that low-effort interactions drive repeat purchases and increased customer spend, while high-effort interactions lead to increased negative word-of-mouth and overall disloyalty.

Ultimately, if you prioritize effortlessness in your customer service interactions, you will reap the rewards.

How to Create an Effortless Customer Experience

Fortunately, you don’t have to retool your entire support organization to create a more effortless customer experience. Start with these simple but key strategies to remove obstacles and streamline customer interactions.

Empower Reps With Accurate Information

One of the biggest drivers of customer dissatisfaction during support interactions is getting transferred between agents or departments. In many cases, this is because agents simply don’t have access to the right information—so instead, they have to send the call to someone else who may have the answer.

That’s why it’s critical to empower agents with accurate, up-to-date information. With a searchable knowledge management platform, for example, reps can easily find best practices, training documents, troubleshooting information, and other common questions and answers related to customer issues. With this knowledge, reps will be less likely to need to transfer the customer to another department and better equipped to resolve the issue at the first point of contact.

Enable Self-Service Options

Increasingly, customers want to be able to resolve issues on their own, without contacting a support department at all. Take advantage of technology that allows you to provide self-service options to your users, such as a customer-facing knowledge base. Rather than having to wait on hold and potentially get transferred between departments or reps, customers can use the knowledge base to easily find solutions on their own timeline.  

However, make sure that customers can address an issue from start to finish within that one self-serve option. For example, users can often only get so far by engaging with a chatbot before they’re prompted to email or call a live representative. In the end, this may only increase a customer’s frustration.  

Keep It Simple

Research from Gartner found that one personality type—referred to as a “controller”—delivers the best low-effort customer service and performs 10% better than other agents. What sets them apart? They are problem solvers who provide quick answers. To replicate this success, encourage your agents to keep their language simple, positive, and straightforward, and respect customers’ time by reducing unnecessary pleasantries, which can muddle and delay a productive conversation.

Over the past several years, companies have been encouraged to go above and beyond to delight their customers. However, if your goal is to drive customer loyalty, creating an effortless customer experience will move the needle much more effectively. Make it easy for customers to do business with you, and they will come back time and again.

June 23, 2022

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