Why Delighting Customers Might Be The Wrong Strategy for Businesses?

According to most research, when it comes to customer service customers are more loyal to companies that go above and beyond. But research by Matthew Dixon, co-author of The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, has shown that exceeding expectations during service interactions makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply reducing effort. In other words, in order to achieve customer loyalty businesses need not to delight but reduce the amount of effort a customer must make to resolve their issue. According to the authors, the idea of making things effortless can be applied to all aspects business, from customer acquisition to care and retention. Let’s explore why companies should focus on creating an effortless and frictionless experience.

Mitigate Disloyalty by Reducing Effort

Dixon’s research aimed to find the connection between customer service and loyalty. Additionally, according to his findings, highly satisfied customers were not necessarily loyal customers, but highly dissatisfied customers were very disloyal and tend to share negative word-of-mouth.

Dixon’s findings have shown that customers who faced low effort getting their problems resolved were 94% more likely to repurchase again and 88% more likely to increase spend. On the other hand, if customers experienced high effort when dealing with customer service issues, they were 81% more likely to provide negative word-of-mouth. To put this in context, customer will be more loyal to a brand that minimises their need to switch service channels or repeat calls when trying to resolve their issues. All customers really want then is simple and quick solutions.

Whether it’s on the phone or through self-service options, some of the issues that affect the customers ability to resolve their issues effortlessly include:

  • Repeat contacts
  • Channel switching
  • Transfers
  • Repeat information
  • Generic service
  • Policies and processes customers have to endure

Based on these issues, the more effort customers have to put into when solving their issues, the more disloyal they will be to the brand.

How To Create An Effortless Customer Experience

When it comes to service, companies can create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. Matthew Dixon’s recommendation to stop trying to delight customers is not the mantra we are used to, but also comes as a liberating solution for companies that have been struggling to delight. But how can businesses create an effortless customer experience? Simply: Remove obstacles. According to Dixon’s research findings, there are several recurring complaints about service interactions, including three that focus specifically on customer effort — repeat contacts, switch service channels and repeat information.

Businesses can identify obstacles their customers have to endure by understanding the customer journey they offer. The customer journey mapping can provide great value in helping businesses understand what effort customers have to put into at each touch point and reduce it.

Next, Dixon advises businesses to always tailor their conversations to the customer. They can do this by training their customer support team to always listen to the customer, identify their conversation style and adapt their tones accordingly.

Finally, companies need to identify the service channel switching that creates hight effort for customers to solve their problems. Some switches might make sense and improve the customer experience, while others will create frustration. For example, a support CRM can notify companies when a customer has complained via social media. The company can then immediately call the customer to inquire more about the issue and resolve it. This can be an example of what an effortless customer experience can look like. However, if customers cannot get their problems resolved via phone and are forced to send an email after hanging up with the agent, then that adds more effort and frustration.

Companies will be able to reduce these types of effort and measure the effects with a new metric, the Customer Effort Score (CES).

Introducing The Customer Effort Score (CES)

Dixon says there is only one question companies need to ask customers after a service or support call:

How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?

CES is then scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort). Customer service organisations can use CES, along with operational measurements of such things as repeat calls, transfers, and channel switching, to conduct an “effort audit” and improve areas where customers are expending undue energy. Based on this metric, companies can know if the customer effort was low or high and thus detect potential disloyalty.

According to Dixon, the CES outperforms the Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction measures in prediction behaviour. In the service environment, CES’ ability to capture customer impressions at the transactional level (as opposed to NPS, which captures more-holistic impressions of a company) and its ability to capture negative experiences as well as positive ones, can be great facilitators to businesses when predicting customer behaviour.

You can read more about the Customer Effort Score here.


When it comes to customer service, research has found that companies can create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. As a result, instead of trying to delight customers and exceed their expectations, businesses need to focus on creating an effortless customer experience. Matthew Dixon’s research has shown that delight happens makes customers only marginally loyal. Creating an effortless experience, on the other hand, leads to customers being 94% more likely to repurchase. Therefore, in order to achieve customer loyalty businesses need to reduce the amount of effort a customer must make to resolve their issue.

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