Friction Harms Your Brand Loyalty: Part II

As we promised, this piece tackles the elusive concept of customer expectations and how companies should calibrate the level of effort expended so that they end up creating these amazing customer experiences throughout the customer journey, in every channel.

We know that customer expectations and customer experiences are inextricably consequential to one another, they are constantly evolving together and adjusting. However, from a psychological point of view, expectations can be present even in the absence of an experience that can regulate them. For this reason, the quality of our first interaction with a brand, organization, service or product is so important. Practically, this moment defines the parameters in which our relationship can evolve and grow.

For example, if I go to a new coffee shop and wait in line more than I’m used to because they’re understaffed that day or I can’t get my Costa Rica mocha latte because they don’t have it on the menu, then I feel disappointed and my overall experience is rather bad. Chances are that I won’t be coming back, right?

But if it’s my favorite coffee shop and I have already rated it according to my previous experiences to 5 stars out of 5, then I might not fuss too much about today’s inconveniences, and just overlook them. This is how, as a consumer, I end up momentarily adjusting my expectations to compensate for the lower experience. Next time, I’ll still choose the same coffee shop, but I will surely remember my previous experience and will be ready to tax them if something similar happens again.

After all, we are creatures of habit and once we’re used to a certain type of experience, our expectations will not go lower.

The lesson here is that companies need to know their customers better and anticipate what they want, but most importantly, they need to discover the fine line that separates loyalty from disengagement. Do you know how much effort it takes for your customers to give you up and choose the competition?

As it turns out, the effort that customers expend while doing business with you is the nonmonetary cost of consumption. And the relationship that expectations and effort have is this: everything else being equal, the more effort an individual exerts, the more they will expect in return. This phenomenon happens because as with every cost, there is both a trade-off (e.g. `if you make me wait in line, then your coffee must be worth the wait`) and the desire to minimize it (e.g. `I love your coffee but if you make me come late in the office every day, I’ll find faster service`).

Just as spending more money might increase the perception of value, it is also argued that customers might value a product or a service more if they must put more effort into acquiring it or using it. However, this generalization must be taken with a grain of salt. If the product/service does not meet or exceed their expectations, but has a high effort cost, chances are that your customer base is dwindling as you’re reading this.

So, what is the best way to ensure a great customer experience other than measuring the exact level of customer effort expended? This assessment gives you practical data about where customers find it difficult to interact with your organization. You can quickly act on that touch point, process, or channel to make all the necessary adjustments for either reducing the effort or for somehow changing customers’ perception about the trade-off value.

Next week we will talk about when you should be using CSAT or NPS and when it’s best to choose a customer effort assessment tool, like EAS (Effort Assessment Score). To top it off, we’ll finish with a few insights about our newest case study from the banking industry!

Until then, remember to keep it easy!

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