Client satisfaction thinking

To build loyalty, companies need to stop thinking “exceed expectations”
and start thinking “make it easy”.

This is the surprising central premise of a recent book called “The Effortless Experience” by Dixon, Toman and Delisi of CEB.

Loyalty and service commentators have claimed for years that the best way to create customer loyalty is by giving amazing service… Service so remarkable that it gets talked about and delights customers.

But what, the book asks, if this is just plain wrong?

The Effortless Experience argues that dazzling customers with over-the-top service is wildly overrated.

The book says that loyalty is a function of how well companies deliver on their basic promises. Beyond delivering at this basic level, a customer’s loyalty is no more likely to increase the more you exceed expectations.

Loyalty, they claim, is demonstrated by 3 customer behaviors:

  1. Repurchase
  2. Increased spend or share of wallet
  3. Word of mouth/referrals

So how do you get these 3 things to happen? Whilst the “wow experience” crowd has the right idea says The Effortless Experience, they are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Customers do want to have a good experience.  But what makes a good experience? Less effort.

This strikes me as being especially true in a customer service or support environment, and the book agrees.

What’s frightening is that they claim on average, customer service is far from being less effort/effortless – so it will most likely drive disloyalty. This stands to reason. If you’ve made the effort to buy something, that can often be a pleasurable experience. But if something goes wrong, and you have to divert some of your time to contacting that company to fix it, that is never effortless.

As a result, CEB’s researchers concluded that:

“Customer service interactions are nearly four times more likely to lead to disloyalty than loyalty. This is because 96% of customers who put forth high effort to resolve their issues are more disloyal, but only 9% of those with low effort interactions are more disloyal.
Creating low effort customer interactions is the clear goal for the service organization.”

So a huge takeaway for heads of Customer Experience, Customer Loyalty and Customer Service or Support:

Low effort service = high customer loyalty.

Many myths are busted by the CEB research, including the following fascinating juxtaposition which rings very true with me:

effortless experience myths survey

CEB’s research challenges much conventional thinking on customer loyalty

So what does all this mean for your customer feedback methods and surveys?

I think it has a number of ramifications. If you’ve just delivered the ultimate “low effort service” for your customer, you can’t then tip them into a 20 question survey. If you’ve solved their issue in one, or attempted to, you can’t ask them about it for minutes on end.

Over the years, the survey industry has created an atmosphere where it’s “OK” to ask customers to fill in huge questionnaires for even the most basic of interactions. This has to stop. It’s unrepresentative and about as far from “effortless experience” as you can get.

There’s lots to digest in the book but the key takeaways for me are:

  1. Customer service is more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty.
  2. Your customer service process, and your subsequent feedback process needs to be as light as possible. For most interactions there’s really no excuse for asking more than even one question about how you performed.
  3. The key to tackling the disloyalty any customer service interaction may cause is in reducing the effort your customer has to make, in every possible way you can.


I think The Effortless Experience is well worth a read for anyone creating or managing service interactions. Whilst I still think ‘delight and remarkability’ have a huge role to play in building a great customer company, this book reframes those words for me now.  ‘Easy’ has to come first – there’s no point adding a picture of a banana, or using jargony banter, at the end of an arduous customer process.

So start with making it simple and easy for customers. In fact, making something easy is the quickest way to make it delightful or remarkable. As Einstein said, “everything should be as simple as possible but no simpler.” That goes for your surveys too!

With thanks to our friends at Traction on Demand for introducing us to The Effortless Experience.

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