In his last article, Shaun Smith looked at the impact of AI on customer experience and this seemed to generate some interest, so this article continues the theme. In a world of cut-throat competition and similar product offerings, it is the customer experience that sets a business apart. Yet in the race to harness AI and reduce labour costs, brands risk undermining their uniqueness and creating homogenised experiences. To manage this dilemma CX professionals must understand the psychological principles that guide customers’ perceptions. One such principle that we often use in our work is the ‘Effort Heuristic’.
Understanding the Effort Heuristic
Effort Heuristic is a psychological term which implies that people generally tend to value things more if they perceive that more effort has been put into making them. We prefer to call it, ‘A Labour of love’. This concept comes from the notion that effort is closely related to quality and worth. The premise is simple; if a customer believes that a business has invested a significant amount of effort into a product, service, or experience, they are more likely to appreciate and value it. For example, some years ago a Japanese manufacturer of high-end bespoke bicycles found that customer perceptions of quality went up if they delayed delivery by a week. The customer believed that greater effort was being put into making
The Role of Effort in Customer Experience
- Attention to Detail
A customer’s perception of effort is often tied to the attention to detail. When businesses go the extra mile to ensure that every little aspect of their service or product is polished and presented beautifully, it sends a signal to the customer that significant effort has been put in. For example, the beautiful Apple product packaging, a handwritten thank you note, or a meticulously designed interface can be indicators of effort. The personally signed welcome note from General Managers in some luxury hotels is an example.
- Exceptional Customer Experience
Another arena where effort shines through is in customer service. Quick responses, genuine care, and finding solutions that go beyond the call of duty show that the business is willing to invest effort into satisfying the customer. For example, a hotel might not only handle a complaint about a noisy room by apologising and moving the guest but also provide a complimentary room upgrade or bottle of champagne. We often advise our clients to, ‘fix the customer experience, don’t just solve the problem’ thus creating a positive memorable moment rather than a negative memory.
- Customisation and Personalisation
Today’s customers crave personalisation. Tailoring products and services to the individual needs and preferences of customers shows that the business is ready to invest effort to make their experience unique. For instance, offering personalised product recommendations based on past purchases or providing customisation options can significantly enhance the customer experience. We trained the booksellers in Waterstones to attach handwritten recommendations to their favourite books to dramatise this.
- Creating Memorable Experiences
Businesses that make effort to create unforgettable experiences reap the rewards of differentiation and customer loyalty. By focusing on experiential elements such as ambiance, storytelling, and emotional connections, businesses can make customers feel special. For instance, Chef Patron, Tom Sellers of the London based ‘Restaurant Story’ literally tells the story of his life through an immersive gastronomic journey through tastes, smells, and presentation taking a minimum of three
hours to do so. This requires effort from both the restaurant and the guest enhancing the sense of occasion accordingly.
- Transparency and Education
Effort is also perceived in the transparency and education a business provides. When a business takes the time to educate its customers about the intricacies of a product, its origins, or how it’s made, it can heighten the perceived value. For example, a coffee shop that educates customers on different coffee beans, their origins, and the roasting process shows effort and creates a more valued experience.
- Seeking Feedback and Continuous Improvement
The lazy way of gaining customer feedback is to send out a survey after every transaction. This requires effort from the customer to respond, but very little from the supplier, since it is largely CRM driven. This leads to customer irritation meaning that the final touchpoint is a negative one. Far better for an employee to occasionally call the customer to personally inquire if they were satisfied and seek feedback. This requires effort from the business but relatively little from the customer and so creates a final touchpoint which is both memorable and positive.
Practical advice for executives
What do we advise our clients? To capitalise on the Effort Heuristic, businesses must first identify the areas where effort is most visible to the customer. They must then allocate resources and people to ensure that these aspects are not just delivered but exceed customer expectations. Where effort is invisible, or not valued, for example, checking a current account balance, then AI can deliver the experience. This is just one practical example of the principle of ‘High Touch/High Tech’ that we mentioned in my last blog.
The simple fact is that when brands demonstrate a ‘labour of love’ customers are more likely to love the brand back.