5 Customer Effort Villains and their Kryptonite


1.  Not Starting at Google

2.  Unguided Experiences

3.  Hard to Find Information

4.  Basic Support Submittal Forms

5.  Wounded Agent Experiences

“The less effort a customer goes through to do business with you, the better.”  — Shep Hyken

A growing concern for customer retention, expansion, and cross-sell opportunities is customer effort. This “effort villain” is out to get your customers at every chance. We know that the more effort a customer has to exert, the more likely they are to churn.

To battle this, Customer Effort Score was born. This metric is an excellent way to provide meaningful insights into the customer experience. But, at this point, it’s just a score to start your analysis of where things went wrong (or right) on your customer’s journey (adventure).

After a deep analysis of the millions of interactions we handle at MindTouch daily, we found there are five main areas that Customer Support and Success find as friction points, which increase effort and decrease loyalty.

Below we will dive into the five customer effort supervillains and the secret weapons to eradicate them.

1. Not Starting at Google = Bad

With Google in our pockets in the form of a smartphone, the modern day customer looks to self-serve over any other method. If they are looking to “Know, Go, Do, or Buy,” they want to be able to find it on their own. This applies to both B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) organizations. If you are trying to force your customer’s down a funnel for information that makes your company’s life easier, you are creating the first “effort villain” your customer has to face.

Instead, you need to create a content experience (marketing, product documentation, training materials, etc.) that is SEO-enabled. Optimizing your content for search allows your customers to easily find the information they need. This kills Evil Dr. Effort right at the start of your customer’s journey, allowing them to level-up their strength through the knowledge you provide.

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2. Unguided Experiences = Bad

Once your customer arrives at your site (considering you haven’t lost them to a blog, review, or competitor site due to poor content optimization), and if they don’t know what to do because there is no intuitive direction, analysis paralysis kicks in, and another effort villain is exposed. The problem here is, you have varying customer personas with a spectrum of strengths — how do you make it intuitive for every level of user?

Supercharge confidence through a guided content experience. Meet them at the front door and offer to walk them through the terrain. This tour can be anything from a useful live chat guide, a knowledge path, or even a walk-through. Since we know the customer is the hero in this story, be the Robin to their Batman by helping them see their blind spots.

3. Hard to Find Information = Bad

Now your champion customer is walking through your information with their chest puffed out and their cape blowing in the wind. They’ve got enough confidence to send you off to battle other fights around the site while they defeat their own villains. Just after they part ways, they realize they’re lost in a maze and don’t know where to go. Now your evil effort villain comes to visit them yet again in the form of confusion and frustration. Because they don’t know what you have, they often think that the content must not exist and instantly head to the bat-phone to call in support.

If you create an effective and efficient navigational experience, built on semantically rich content hierarchy, they will be leveled-up yet again, with information power and re-energized confidence in knowing how to fight their own fights. This not only reduces the effort villain’s power, but increases the chance that they will come back time and time again to level-up, reducing support costs as a byproduct.

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4. Basic Support Submittal Forms = Bad

Let’s say, on this rare occasion, your champion now realizes they’ve searched the entire site and they can’t find any more level-up opportunities. This is a perfect time for them to leverage a Support Ticket Submission Form instead of having to call in a favor, which summons the effort villain yet again (and increases support costs).

Make sure your Ticket Submission Form is dynamic. Just like your guided superhero experience, meet them there with added live support before they send an SOS your way. Since the statistics show that customer search and form submittal phraseology differ, you have another opportunity to deflect the ticket before it’s ever created. Ticket deflection is one of the best effort villain slayers you have in your arsenal, as it trains customers to search more effectively when rewarded with a positive result.

5. Wounded Agent Experiences = Bad

Okay, the final stage in reducing customer effort experiences. Your hero has taken their beatings; they fought through Google, sludged through unknown information territory, got lost, and finally has resigned to calling the Fortress of Solitude in an attempt to save their own life. The problem is, the person who answers the phone has no idea who they are or what battles they’ve fought, or how they can be of support to them. The Effort Villain strikes its deadliest attack: they convert your champion into an evil effort villain themselves. Now you have to battle their frustrations while attempting to rescue them. The effort grows exponentially.

Superheroes aside, I can personally think of nothing worse than dealing with a support agent who has to tell me to hold or ask me what I’m looking at because they have a different screen. Especially after already having been frustrated with my lack of success.

What one needs is a two-way crystal ball or the Seamless Agent Experience that both the agent and customer can navigate in tandem. The agent can see where the customer has been, what issues they’ve faced along the way, and where they are right now. This makes the customer feel like they are talking to someone that understands their journey as it puts the agent in a position of help, effectively enabling them with the ability to re-establish trust and confidence in the customer. Since the agent can view the information with as much ease as the customer, they can solve the customer’s problem and at the same time create knowledge that would help the next hero that comes their way.

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At the end of it all, we know it’s not the individual battles that really matter – what matters is the ultimate battle with the Customer Effort Villain and the stratagems we employ to save the day.

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