The New Kid on the Block: Customer Effort Score?

Hi there! I’m Jo Hvoslef. In this article, you will get a peek into one of my projects, that I’ve done as a Management Trainee in Visma. Like most other, in my generation, I prefer low effort interactions with support agents when I’m using various software. These preferences are growing from businesses and their users as well. Therefore I’m happy to share how one company in Visma, with my help, created an implementation strategy, implemented and translated insight into actions, based on the customer-centric method Customer Effort Score.

According to research and advisory company, Gartner, reducing customer effort in customer interactions increases their loyalty. This claim is supported by a study published in Harvard Business Review called “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”. That study was the basis for my project in an accounting software company with 200,000 customer contracts and 450,000 customer interactions per year.

Simple, but insightful method

In this software company, which serves micro to lower SMB-customers, their current measurements didn’t give actionable insight to reduce effort. This is where I came in to help them plan a strategy and start implementing the methodology of Customer Effort Score. The study mentioned is actually from 2010, but the usage of the method seems to be growing rapidly, as demand for low effort interactions seems to be increasing.

But how do you do it? The methodology is simple, and pretty much alike the existing methods when it comes to collecting the data. Ask your customer after an interaction how much effort they had to put in to get their query solved from 1-5 (little to high), and ask how you can improve in a text field. You can read more detailed about it here

Decrease customer churn and customer service cost

By turning this new actionable insight into changes, you can reduce customer service costs and decrease customer churn. This requires that you establish mandates that allow customer service to add high effort interactions to the backlog of the product unit, and that they actually get prioritized.

But why should business leaders actually implement this? There are two reasons. Delighting your customers doesn’t build loyalty – reducing customers effort does, according to the study. It also states that when support agents are meeting the customers’ expectations, and not trying to exceed them, they are using the most optimal approach when it comes to loyalty, which is opposite of what must be the consensus. This change of attitude demands proper implementation.

Step by step implementation

I proposed a sequential implementation strategy divided into four phases: testing, implementation, reporting, and behavior. The purpose was to reduce the technical risk of the implementation in the beginning, then roll out the measurement in all channels, let management start acting on the insight and then change the training programs, team leaders’ follow-ups and guidelines for support agents based on this.

Getting the company onboard

Increasing the profitability of a successful implementation requires top to bottom-level support. It is important that the implementation does not move to the next phase before it is the consensus among the involved in the current phase that we should continue with the metric. Therefore the phases are divided into parts, where we start at management level and ensuring they all accept and support further implementation before it is time to close that phase and move to the next one. In this case, it would be moving on to the phase where the team leaders are trained to use the reporting to improve the results, and finally, the support agents are changing behavior based on training, incentives, and insight.

Is this high or low effort for the customer?

The outcome of the intital implementation in their chat system resulted in immediate changes the company’s support guidelines due to identification of significant bottlenecks to deliver low effort interactions. It also revealed weaknesses in their externally delivered CRM system that wasn’t as customizable as wanted. Lastly, the company recognized the value and today they are continuing the implementation of Customer Effort Score, and hopefully asking themselves in relevant settings “Is this high or low effort for the customer?” in the future.