Telefonica’s Jonathan Earle: Brands are missing out on sales by making it hard work for customers

As consumers we are balancing so much in our lives. Work, home, family, sports, social, the quantified self. We are cramming more and more into our day. People are more and more restless trying to multi-task as much as possible – keeping up with the Jones’s has never been so hard and relentless.

In tandem, barriers to entry for brands is at an all time low meaning it has never been easier for an entrepreneur or a company to develop a new product, service, application or experience and disrupt a new market in record time.

Even with all this choice, there are very few standout products or services. A common trait of the ones that are winning is a clear and ruthless focus on making it simple for consumers.

A 2013 book “The Effortless Experience” by CB shows there is a clear link between the length of time it takes for a customer to get what they want from your brand and high levels of dissatisfaction. Conversely, reducing the effort necessary and the pain points customers encounter drives fandom, which leads, in turn, to lower costs through reduced attrition.

There are a few standout examples of those that have focussed on effort reduction and driven results.

PayPal

Buying online with Visa and MasterCard can be a pain with online verifications but not only did PayPal revolutionise online payments, they also introduced a Customer Effort Score across the business. The payment service identified 20 existing customer pain points and on the back increased its Net Promoter Score by +8 points, while increasing transactional volumes by $2bn.

EasyJet

The carrier mapped the complete customer journey from walking into the airport to getting to the destination in order it could do everything to reduce the amount of minutes and seconds the customer takes to board the aircraft. This sounds obvious given its business model, but since the introduction of reduced effort its share price has increased from 29p in July 2009 to 1,850p in April 2015.

Ritz-Carlton Hotels

The chain allocates a budget of $2,000 to every employee, from supervisors to janitors to ensure they are able to solve any customer issues on the spot without having to escalate and celebrate when this budget is used.

Fidelity

The financial services firm uses the Gunning Fog Index, which measures the readability of English used, to calculate how easy its external communications are to read and understand.

Transport For London (TfL)

Its apps are designed to keep you up to date telling you exactly when the bus will arrive, saving you time at home. Travelling on public transport used to be a poor experience – it’s dramatically improving.

……..And one company that should focus on reduced effort.

EDF Energy.

As an EDF customer trying to sign up for a new online tariff, I received 9 communications over 5 different channels over the course of 2 weeks (from web chat, to the call centre, to written comms) and each and every one of those communications was incorrect. Incredibly, I know, I am still with the same provider (more fool me) but a utility, more than pretty much everyone else needs to look to differentiate and effort is a simple place to start.

Listening to your customers, understanding their painpoints, resolving to making it easier to transact and have a relationship with customers isn’t just some nice thing to do, there are clear financial benefits. Ignore all this at your peril.

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Even the most innovative digital businesses can’t afford to sit still for long, as the crowded taxi app market is now demonstrating, with brands forced to add new strings to their bow to differentiate themselves from a glut of competitors.

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