by Megan Power (@Power_Report) Effortless customer service. It’s such a cliché — but one not to be scoffed at. Consumers indeed rate their interactions with brands and services on how much effort they’re forced to put in.

Not rocket science

The more effort demanded of us, the more grumpy we get. The easier things are, the better the experience. It’s not rocket science. So, you’d expect that making life easier would be top of mind for every interaction and touchpoint on the customer journey. Not always. Take my experience at a local bookstore recently. I wanted to buy my daughter the next book in the Harry Potter series for her birthday but had forgotten which one I’d last taken.

Me to bookstore assistant: “With my loyalty card details, can your system show what book I bought here last time?”
Bookstore assistant: “No, we don’t offer that service, sorry.”
Me: “But if the system allocates points based on what I buy, then surely it records my purchases?
Bookstore assistant: “No, I don’t think so. But give me your details and let me try… Wow, here it is. I didn’t realise we could do this!”
What a win. It saved me a trip home and made my life a whole lot easier on that particular day. And that’s all consumers really want — to have a thoughtful provider reduce the effort needed to get something done.

That the bookstore assistant didn’t know what her own system could do to help a customer is a story for another day. I have to assume the store’s marketing team is mining that rich data for better customer insights.

Missed the mark

A major retailer also missed the mark on a simple query of mine last month. I sent the retailer a Twitter direct message asking it to confirm whether a particular sauce I couldn’t find on the shelves was indeed no longer stocked, as in-store staff had suggested. The response was to send me the number of its customer team who were “pros at sourcing”. It felt like a fob off. I didn’t feel like swopping communication channels midstream and I certainly didn’t have time for a phone call. Besides, my straightforward query didn’t warrant engaging with a call-centre agent. I wanted a confirmation, not a conversation. As in, “Yes, we still stock it and you can get it at XXX store” or “No, we don’t stock it anymore, as we couldn’t source the raw ingredients.”

I replied saying I didn’t have time to call and to kindly direct message the answer when they got one. I was asked for my telephone number and email address, with a promise to revert. I eventually got an email response — six days later. That’ll teach me for suggesting a phone call was too much hassle.

Not everyone, thankfully, makes me sing for my supper. My gap cover provider impressed recently when it sent an unsolicited SMS containing my beneficiaries’ names and birthdates, and a request that I give it the quick onceover for accuracy. It had been a few years since I’d signed up and it clearly wanted to ensure no changes has occurred since then. It didn’t require me to do anything if the details were correct. If they weren’t, there were clear, easy steps on how to rectify.

Doing the right thing

It was doing the right thing by its clients. Instead of relying on me to remember to update my beneficiaries — in the mad rush of life, few of us are that organised — it took the initiative instead. The company is looking after its own interests, too, in keeping accurate records but it’s doing something proactive to make its customers’ lives a little less difficult.

My feeling towards the provider, operating in a largely unpopular industry, is positive. So, when I’m next faced with a competitor’s marketing spin enticing me to switch allegiances, I’ll stay put, thanks. Tiny gesture, big impact.


Megan PowerMegan Power (@Power_Report) has nearly 30 years’ experience working in South African media, including investigative journalism and news editing; she now runs Power LAB, a strategic communications and customer experience agency focusing on customer journey audits, crisis readiness and brand reputation. Megan’s consumer column, The Power Report, ran weekly in the Sunday Times for six years and has now found a new home on MarkLives.

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