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4 Things You Missed From the Ever-Evolving Effortless Experience: An Audience with Matt Dixon

Posted November 18, 2020 - Updated May 19, 2022
Matt Dixon

Do you know what it takes to give your customers a truly effortless experience?

Truthfully, businesses routinely make a few common missteps when trying to deliver their versions of effortless experiences. The end result? Sometimes they end up shooting themselves in the foot. That’s according to renowned CX expert and bestselling author Matt Dixon, known for his 2013 book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.

In a recent virtual chat with TELUS International, Dixon told us how the notion and experience of customer effort is changing, and what it means for companies looking to deliver revolutionary CX.

Over the course of the session, Dixon discussed the four pillars of an effortless experience from his 2013 book and how they’ve changed in the seven intervening years, particularly in the context of COVID-19. He also debunked common myths that turn industry notions of customer delight and loyalty on their heads. He showed why reducing customer effort demands both a data-driven approach and a hard look at how companies treat their customer service employees. And finally, he discussed why the language we use when speaking with customers is one of the greatest changes we can make to improve CX.

Here are our four top takeaways from Dixon’s chat with us.

1. Delighting customers doesn’t pay

Company leaders tend to believe that rectifying a problem requires “delighting” the customer — that is, going above and beyond to solve the issue and leave the customer with a positive lasting impression of the company.

Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t really pay off, says Dixon. This was perhaps one of the most controversial conclusions of Dixon’s book back in 2013, and it’s still true today.

He says many companies easily make the leap from customer delight to customer loyalty, as if delivering “wow” experiences gives companies the right to “build a moat” around the customer and not only demand that those customers will continue buying from the company, but that they’ll also be transformed into brand advocates.

However, data collected by Dixon and his team showed that in fact, customers more often prefer consistent, predictable service to intermittent “wow” experiences. And it doesn’t really help companies to occasionally go above and beyond either. Instead, these “wow” experiences can serve to recalibrate customer expectations even higher, which ultimately sets companies up for CX failure down the road. This revelation led the team down a 10-year research path that ultimately led to the publication of The Effortless Experience.

2. Solving customer effort starts with solving employee experience

Sometimes a problem feels so big that we can’t see the forest for the trees. This is often how companies view customer effort, says Dixon: that reducing effort requires costly investments, process re-designs, policy overhauls, and potentially million-dollar consulting engagements, when really it’s some of the most inexpensive, immediate, impactful changes that can make the biggest difference. “I think people get focused on the big rocks instead of looking at the nagging pebbles in the shoe,” he says.

Instead, it’s important to look at the more nuanced elements of customer effort. In the discussion, Dixon talks about how only one-third of a customer’s perception of effort is directly linked to the steps they had to take to get their issue addressed. The other two-thirds is about how they feel about how their issue was ultimately handled. And how they feel about their interactions with customer care employees directly relates to how empowered they actually, truly are to help them.

“It’s really hard for your reps to make it easy for your customers to do business with you, if you make it hard for your people to work for you. And, so, we’ve got to understand where our reps are getting stuck and what are the high effort moments for them,” says Dixon.

3. Don’t get hung up on metrics

First Contact Resolution (FCR), Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), Average Handle Time (AHT) — these metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs), don’t tell the whole story of your customer’s service journey or their needs. The search for these metrics — especially CES, usually collected via a post-service survey — also usually introduces more effort into customer interactions. Dixon says only about 10–15% of people answer those surveys, and those are either the lovers or the haters, but rarely the people in the middle. Yet, companies often base important business decisions on those results.

They would have better results if they did a better job of using the CX interaction data they’re already collecting to tweak their customer service strategies, says Dixon.

“Low-effort companies […] think about forward resolution: ‘how do I not just solve this issue, but forward-resolve the next issue?’ We call that idea next-issue avoidance,” says Dixon.

4. COVID-19 magnifies cracks in companies’ CX foundations

At the start of the pandemic, companies experienced two fundamental shifts simultaneously.

The first is that they got inundated by a surge of urgent customer service requests from people in emotionally charged, precarious situations. For instance, laid-off workers calling the bank or utility company for mortgage or bill extensions. These issues often couldn’t be resolved through self-service, which meant sometimes spending two or three hours on hold — time that only increased customers’ anxiety.

The second is that customer service employees got sent home, where they were suddenly left without the immediate, in-person support and help of their colleagues and managers. And the longer customers waited on hold, the more angst-ridden exchanges became.

Dixon says this exposed the difference between how some companies say they empower their employees, and how some companies actually, truly empower them to use their language and discretion to help customers. And language in particular is a hugely important part of the equation, Dixon says. By training employees to use advocacy-based language — or, ways for them to convey to customers that they are on their side — companies have noted major changes in how customers perceive effort.

Looking to reduce customer effort?

If Matt Dixon’s research has you convinced of the value in reducing your brand’s customer effort, reach out to our team of experts. We’ll work with you to design, build and deliver customer experiences that exceed expectations.

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