Article

Teodora Miscov
Teodora Miscov 18 August 2017

Is this The Age of Antisocial Customers?

Traditionally, businesses have always aimed to ‘delight’ their customers – and unknowingly pushed them away…

I vividly remember the first time I realised friendly service might not mean good service. A year ago, I went out to get lunch with a coworker at our usual place: a small cafe run by a lovely Turkish family. On this particular day, the owner was there and we cheerfully made small talk. He was incredibly nice, even going so far as to personally bring the order to our table - what we might call ‘going the extra mile.’ While afterwards my summary of the interaction was very positive, my coworker’s impression centered more around the words ‘awkward’ and ‘uncomfortable,’ decidedly followed by a stern “I am never going there again!”

This wish that Londoners share of being left alone is so common that there is an actual academic term for it – civil inattention, coined by Erving Goffman. So in a society where people go to such great lengths to avoid unnecessary social interactions that it needs to be studied, the question is bound to arise in marketer’s minds: Why do brands still think that building a personal relationship with their customers is key? Recent research reveals that there is no need to waste millions on such strategies, as there might be an alternative way of driving customer loyalty (and subsequently retention) that is both cheaper and easier.

The truth is that people condemn bad service more readily than they praise good service – it often goes unnoticed when it’s there, but when it’s missing it’s the only things customers see. Research done on a sample of 75K people highlighted crucial findings that have the potential of changing companies’ perception of good service. The classic goal of trying to ‘delight’ customers does not drive loyalty, but reducing their effort significantly does. Developing a strategy that stems from this piece of knowledge has been proved to improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

 

Companies might need to switch from the classic way of measuring customer experience by using Net Promoter Score or Customer Satisfaction (which 80% of customer service organisations currently use) to measuring a new metric: CES – Customer Effort Score. The assumption is that loyalty is closely linked to customer satisfaction, but in fact that is not the case. In the aforementioned study, 20% of the “satisfied” customers said they intended to leave the company in question and 28% of the “dissatisfied” customers intended to stay – so the be-all and end-all aim to satisfy customers isn’t really that effective after all.

Helping customers solve their problems quickly and easily seems to emerge as the most effective way of driving customer loyalty – as a result, removing obstacles that are in the customer’s way of obtaining what they need is crucial. And yes, sometimes being extra friendly, suggesting other products or driving them towards personal communication is considered an obstacle. More often than not, customers know what they want and simply want to get it.

Any attempts to ‘improve’ their experience, like Ocado’s “friendly” suggestions of similar products you might want to buy or hints to swap certain items for lower-calorie alternatives, are unnecessary and counterproductive. Forcing the user to go through 3 extra pages when all they want to do is finalise their order makes for poor UX – and even if they do end up buying something from the suggestions, the Customer Effort score has already increased considerably. In this sense, Amazon’s One Click Buy is in a totally different league.

The ethos of your company needs to be consistent throughout the experience you offer; and the best way to do this is to give customers what they want: valuable, rapid and effective service.

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