Customers Prefer Easy to Exceptional

Why do customers keep coming back? Exceptional service is often listed as one of the top elements in the loyalty decision, but this may not always be the case. Many customers would prefer that you simply make it easy for them to shop and answer their own questions.

The Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, conducted a study to find the relationship between customer service and loyalty. The 75,000 participants in the study had interacted with call centers or used self-service channels.

It turns out that making it easy for people has a much greater effect on future purchases and the amount spent than providing a “wow” service experience. Just 12% of the people reporting a “wow” experience indicated that it made them more loyal.

The resources allocated for customer service are better spent on streamlining the process so customers spend minimal effort to resolve issues. And 94% of the people who were able to resolve issues with low effort made additional purchases. The benefits of making it easy continued, with 88% increasing spending on future purchases.

One piece of conventional wisdom remains true – poor service alienates customers: 96% of people who put forth high effort for issue resolution are more disloyal.

The bottom line is that making it quick and easy for customers to resolve issues is the best way to increase loyalty and retention. It’s also the least expensive.

Companies seeking improvements in customer retention need to start with an evaluation of the self-service tools on their website. According to the study, 57% of the people who called the contact center started out on the website.

Providing the ability to resolve the most common issues at that first stop makes it easier for the customer and reduces costs. If done well, it also improves search engine optimization. Some items to consider:

  • Provide a comprehensive frequently asked questions (FAQ) that includes detailed answers, frequent updates, and good keywords. The call center is the best source for the questions. Requiring representative to log detailed comments when customers call provides historical data that can be used for mining questions.
  • Create how-to pages to help customers use products and services. They assist in the buying decision in addition to improving service. Consider including the information in the package with the merchandise as it eliminates a step for the recipient.
  • Add customer service contact information to every web page. Requiring customers with issues to click through multiple pages to get to the service telephone number increases their frustration. If you’re concerned about an increase in calls and costs, test it. Be sure to measure the length of the calls as well as the volume. Frustrated customers tend to spend time venting at the company’s expense.
  • Allow customers to check order status. Include expected delivery date and return information for each item. Sending email updates as the order status changes is a best practice, but they aren’t always received or read. Providing the information online reduces the WISMO (where is my order) calls.

While optimized service on the website reduces calls, it doesn’t eliminate them. When customers call, resolve their issues while they are on the line. Requiring them to call back or wait for a return call increases costs and reduces loyalty. To provide one-call resolution:

  • Allow representatives to make service decisions. Giving the people in the call center latitude to resolve issues is the best way to keep customers coming back.
  • Provide the training and tools needed for representatives to make good service decisions. Knowledge is power when used to resolve issues quickly and accurately.
  • Staff the service center with the best team members. Customer acquisition is too hard and expensive to waste by providing poor service.

Customer needs vary. Test and measure everything to insure that changes made reduce costs and increase loyalty for your company.

Remember that what works for your competition may not work for your business. Asking your customers for their input may help the process, but always verify their input with analysis.

Debra Ellis is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting (, which specializes in improving customer acquisitionand retention using marketing, analytics, service, and strategic planning.