How Premium Tech Support Reduces Customer Effort & Enhances ROI


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Online shopping continues to commoditize industries, rendering service as the competitive differentiator. In response to this shift, brands and retailers have come to believe that they can win sales and ongoing loyalty by “delighting” their customers. But a story in the Harvard Business Review is making smart businesses re-think their customer-facing strategies.

In the article, Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman write, “stop trying to delight your customers.” While it appears to contradict the idea of providing outstanding customer experiences, the co-authors open the door to new concepts that any consumer can understand and every brand should implement. The strategy of measuring Customer Effort is changing our industry, and a critical key to improving the pain perceived in tech support experiences.

Research by Dixon shows that more than 125,000 customers, 5,000+ agents and more than 100 companies teaches us that customer “delight” only happens 16% of the time. And chasing this rarely achieved “delight” increases operating costs by as much as 20 percent. Reducing Customer Effort is a more effective way to win the competitive battle for customer loyalty without washing away profit margins.

What is “Customer Effort?”
Simply put, Customer Effort is the amount of perceived work that a customer must exert to receive the desired service and resolution. This can include the actual time from start to finish, the number of times the customer is transferred. Additional effort isn’t simply an annoyance to the customer, it’s also a significant driver of disloyalty. Some of the most common elements that increase Customer Effort include:

• Numerous contacts: Customers want a “one-and-done” interaction with technical support or customer care. Additional interactions increases Customer Effort.
• Channel issues: Customers that interact via self-service many times don’t want to be moved to the phone. Those that call your center often prefer voice-based service, so don’t reply with an email. Any time you force a customer to switch channels, they experience increased Customer Effort.
• Restating information: Phone-based interactions typically begin with customers providing information to an IVR – and they don’t expect to be asked again by a machine or a person. If asked more than once, Customer Effort rises and loyalty fades.

Why Tech Support is the Worst Offender
Technical support is prone to the highest degree of Customer Effort and is one of the leading factors of service-based disloyalty. When a consumer device fails, customers turn to tech support to get their tablets, smartphones, printers, laptops and SmartTVs up-and-running again. However, these devices are often made by different manufacturers, potentially resulting in multiple contact points to effectively diagnose and remediate the issue(s). It’s a “perfect storm” of factors that nearly always results in heightened Customer Effort. Especially when tech support reps play the “blame game,” stating that their product is fine and that it’s another device that’s causing the conflict or failure.

Support-induced Customer Effort seems like an unavoidable issue, as no manufacturer can be expected to provide expert-level assistance for products from other vendors. However, a new service category has emerged that provides “one-and-done” tech support that not only greatly reduces Customer Effort, but also increases loyalty for all the manufacturers.

The Premium Tech Support (PTS) model provides service for all devices from all manufacturers, including out-of-scope and out-of-warranty issues, from one single support interaction. This paid service removes Customer Effort and delivers rapid satisfaction.

Research from Harris Interactive shows that 86% of customers will pay more for a product that provides better service. Simply put, consumers will pay to reduce tech support-based Customer Effort. And it’s working – Companies offering PTS are reporting far greater satisfaction stats than that of typical free support.

How to Track and Reduce Customer Effort
With a clear understanding on their perceived Customer Effort, processes can then be tailored appropriately. Measurement also provides a look into customer loyalty and an opportunity to improve Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

When measuring Customer Effort in tech support, poll customers on topics such as channel preference, issue resolution factors and their experience with the technician. It’s also important to directly ask about their perceived effort, and how they feel following the issue’s resolution. Surveys should be delivered in the same channel as the support. For example, phone support can be followed up with a brief, optional phone-based survey.

Consumers want a memorable experience when they buy, and a seamless experience when technical support is required. Multiple calls to numerous vendors has proven to erode or destroy customer loyalty. This is a complex problem that’s elegantly fixed with a PTS strategy. Vendor-agnostic technical support for the entire Connected Home increases loyalty and earns influence in future purchases during this critical customer touchpoint.

Kathleen Banashak
Kathleen Banashak is the Head of Global Client Support Services at Sitel. In this role, Kathleen is accountable for Global Client Services, with responsibilities that include spearheading "Voice of the Client" initiatives to ensure learning is close-looped, resulting in added value for clients and strengthened client relationships for Sitel. She has also has been instrumental in many significant, global projects - including leading the merger of Sitel and ClientLogic - resulting in a $1.4B industry-leading organization, managing Sitel's Global Support Services, and most recently, leading Site


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