3 Steps to Reduce Customer Effort

Think about the last time you contacted a company about an issue. Chances are good that you were asked repeatedly for the same information — either from an IVR, web chat, agent or other communication channel. Maybe you chatted online with an employee before calling for help. Or got transferred from one agent to another and had to tell your story all over again. It may seem trivial, but nearly half of customers who are asked to repeat themselves consider the experience “high effort.”

Interactions that require more effort can lead to frustration, reduced satisfaction and increased churn. Only 4% of customers intend to repurchase following high-effort experiences vs. 94% of customers with low-effort interactions. What’s more, reducing customer effort can lower your costs by 37%.

Here are three steps organizations can take to decrease customer effort — and rebuild customer satisfaction and loyalty.

1.    Remember Your Customers and Their Interactions with You

Your customers interact with you across a variety of channels throughout their relationship with your brand. As a result, customer attributes and behaviors often are stored in a variety of systems that are neither integrated nor easily accessible. And that’s why customers have to repeat themselves. This disjointed customer view is common. According to Gartner, 50% of large organizations will have failed to unify engagement channels by 2022.

By maintaining interaction context from one channel to the next, not only can you remember your customer across channels and over time, but you can use that information to address their issues and personalize your engagement with them.

2.    Anticipate Their Needs

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can help you predict customer needs. You can analyze web behavior patterns over time and in real time to determine the best response and engagement channels. In this way, the tools can identify customer’s intent and predict the perfect time to engage to achieve a particular outcome such as completing a form, purchasing an item, or getting answers to a question.

Sometimes the most empathetic thing you can do for your customer is to give the right help as quickly as possible. Fifty-five percent of customers will wait an hour or less to switch to a different channel if their issue is unresolved — increasing effort for the customer and the cost for business. Self-service and AI-driven chatbots and voicebots can handle many service issues, reducing customer (and employee) efforts.

These automation tools can deliver quick answers but might not be best suited for customers who are likely to churn. Some service issues require a human touch. You might begin with a chatbot and seamlessly escalate to an agent with full context, if needed. AI-driven insights can benefit employees as well as chatbots and voicebots.

3.    Personalize Engagement

With the ability to remember your customers and anticipate their needs, you can better personalize interactions so they never have to repeat themselves.

There are four questions to address in personalization.

Who is the customer? Know the customer’s identifiers across channels and devices, which products they have, and which segments they’re in. Knowing whether a customer is a VIP or likely to churn can guide you on how and when to engage.

How are you engaging? You can automate personalized interactions using a bot, SMS, email, other digital channel, or outbound call. Agents who can see relevant customer attributes, interaction history, segments, and journey information can handle the more complex issues and deliver proactive service.

What are you communicating? Using AI, you can put a customer’s behavior into context to determine the best response at the right time. If a customer pauses before completing a purchase, you might want to offer a discount. If a customer is searching for product help, you could direct them to self-service options.

When should you reach out? Depending on the customer’s intent, channel, and customer or agent availability, you might want to use proactive, real-time or asynchronous communication.

Proactive engagement isn’t just about reaching out to your customer before they reach you; it’s about reaching out at the very moment they need your help. Poorly timed “help” can increase customer effort. Imagine if the moment you walked into a clothing store, a salesperson asked you if you were finding what you needed. You would likely be annoyed. But that’s exactly what some chatbots do as soon as you enter a company website. AI-driven proactive engagement can predict the ideal moment to engage.

By following these three easy steps, you can reduce customer effort while achieving your business outcomes.

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