To continue meeting customers where they want to be met, companies need to engage customers on a deeper level. They need to do it in lockstep with the digital trends now shaping business. The Internet of Things. Digital transformation and the proliferation of mobile devices. Companies that fall behind risk falling by the wayside completely, no matter their size or the strength of their brand (just look at what happened to Toys “R” Us).

Regardless of what motivates the call for reducing customer effort—be it survival, a genuine interest in customer well-being, or some mixture of both—getting to know customers better requires more than empathy. Today, even the world’s largest names are turning to things like customer journey mapping, scrutinizing their customer journey KPIs, and taking a long hard look at customer feedback.

Indicators of a high customer effort experience

As you hold up the mirror for your own organization, here are some things to look out for. Usually, these are signs of friction—obstacles, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies that are making it difficult for customers to succeed.

1. Customers say so

The best intentions are no excuse for ignorance. Though they don’t tell the entire narrative, customer support KPIs like NPS®, CSAT, and customer effort score can tell you a lot about where and when your customers are getting tripped up. Ignoring this feedback and failing to act on it is a mistake.

2. Silos abound

Here’s a newsflash: most people don’t arrive at a web self-service portal knowing what they’re looking for. Even if they do, they probably don’t know how to find it. If your knowledge is siloed in multiple wikis, for example, and you’re using a combination of tools like Salesforce Knowledge, Confluence, etc., customers might have trouble finding a clear path to what they’re looking for.

3. Support agents aren’t sticking around

In many ways, your agent experience is a window into the customer experience. Many of the quiet causes of agent turnover, such as ineffective onboarding and inadequate access to knowledge, also contribute to high-effort customer experiences. Makes sense: if internal employees can’t find what they need to achieve successful outcomes, how can we expect our customers to do so?

4. The call center is bogged down

Have you heard this one before? If only we could automate these repeat, low-level issues! It’s a common problem plaguing call centers of all sizes. Some companies will realize, for example, that they’re sending field agents out for calls that didn’t require field agents. Other companies force customers to call in for simple things like password resets, issues they could resolve on their own were the answers more readily available. These kinds of inefficiencies create frustration on all fronts.

5. Internal search is a running joke

Think of all those hours that go into search tuning, tagging, and article boosting, just to learn that a) the site search experience is returning bad results (if any at all) and b) support agents don’t use your search at all. If the experience is a laughable option for internal employees, imagine how difficult it is for the customers relying on site search to find content?

This is in no way an exhaustive list. But each of these symptoms will usually lead to friction points creating high-effort customer experiences. Relieving this friction has a variety of business impacts. For one, it’s a way to directly improve customer success/customer experience KPIs. More importantly though, a company that takes the time understand their customer pain points is one committed to taking better ownership of customer relationships overall.

Usually, this kind of engagement and goes hand in hand with low-effort customer experiences.