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In an ideal world, dealing with your company should be an absolute breeze for customers.

From well-presented, easy to navigate premises or online stores, to smooth payment mechanisms and efficient communication, customers should face as few obstacles to their transaction as possible. Not only will this increase your sales conversions, it will also boost positive impressions and the likelihood of return trade.

Never has this been more true than during the current coronavirus pandemic. For months, there have been very few in-person shopping opportunities and even now that restrictions have been eased, many people will not feel comfortable returning to stores for some time to come. So, customers value efficient remote transactions more highly now than ever before.

However, there will be occasional situations in which customers have to expend some effort to get what they need. Perhaps they have to search around for a required product or service, or make contact with your company to ask a question or register a complaint.

Naturally, nobody wants to spend a lot of time or effort on engaging with a supplier or service provider, particularly during these stressful times when most people have additional demands on their energy. So, you should make it easy for customers to find their way around your website. Contact details should be clearly displayed, with a range of options available – both telephone and email contacts are the minimum many customers expect these days, with instant online chat services becoming increasingly popular.

However, research shows that customer effort is not the only factor that affects satisfaction rates. In 2015 a survey by Ipsos* revealed that the ratio of customer to company effort is three times more likely to affect the customer’s inclination to use the company again, compared to customer effort alone.

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In other words, a customer is less likely to mind making some effort to resolve an issue if they feel that the company has contributed the same or more effort.

So, if you receive a query or complaint, don’t underestimate the importance of responding to it as promptly and constructively as you possibly can! Even a negative situation could be turned around into a positive one, as long as you make it clear – through actions, not words – that you care about the issue as much as the customer does.

To make this happen, it’s essential that your staff have great customer service skills and efficient processes in place, so they can meet customers’ needs as swiftly and thoroughly as possible.

This could not be more important than right now, when both businesses and consumers are dealing with unprecedented disruption due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Most customers will understand that you may not be able to operate at your usual level during the current crisis. However, this may be the case for some time so, introducing interim measures to keep communication flowing should do much to help customers stay engaged with your business for the long-haul.

Mark Fryer

14th July 2020