What does it take to give that ‘Extra’ bit of effort?


There’s a great deal of noise in customer experience cyber space about customer effort at the moment – whether the science and research (Harvard Business Review 2010 ‘Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers’) is sufficiently compelling to inform organisational customer experience strategy or whether it is in fact worth paying any attention to.

Often the best way to test a new bit of thinking is to apply it to reality.  So here’s my Christmas (better late than never) customer experience story.

My daughter was desperate for a Barbie Typewriter this year, so off I went to Toys ‘r’ Us to get her one, throwing in a few other items for the boys whilst I was there (including a £10 drum for the 1 year old, despite an agreement with my better half to not buy him anything as Christmas is somewhat wasted on the under 2’s).

Christmas day arrived and Gracie was delighted to get the typewriter.  Not so delighted, however, when it didn’t work.  On closer inspection I noticed it had been used (rather a lot).  The stickers were worn off and there were parts missing.  I distracted Gracie with the rest of the presents and told her we’d take it back to the shop when it opened – to which she replied, ‘how do you know where Santa got it from?’ (Ahem)

The 1 year old opened the drum, took one swipe with the drum stick and managed to push the stick right through the surface. Another one to take back.

So on Boxing Day, I pootled in to Toys ‘r’ Us with both toys and laid out my experience with the toys. The shop assistant tried to look shocked, but was very quick to say I could have both items replaced.  No apology though.  Effortless service? Well, so far 8/10.

I demanded an explanation as to how a used toy could have ended up back on the shelf to be bought by an unsuspecting customer, but was offered no reasonable explanation, just an assurance that this must be a one off.

Gracie was delighted with the exchange, however, we opened the ‘new’ drum, only to find that this one ALREADY had the drum surface broken through!  A SECOND example of a used toy ending up back on the shelf.

I marched back to Toys ‘r’ Us.  Same girl behind the counter.  Placing the Drum on the counter I said, ‘you’re not going to believe this’ and showed her the drum.  She went very red, apologised (somewhat unconvincingly) and said she would get another.

Again, I demanded to know how broken toys end up back on the shelves for customers to buy, but was informed it was just a massive coincidence that this happened to me twice.  Forgive me for my cynicism here, but really?  A massive coincidence?  Effortless service?  Now down to 4/10 – I had to return to the shop twice.

Effortless - Childs Toy Robot - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I get home to find my sons new gun (from Toys ‘r’ Us) isn’t working with the batteries bought from Toy ‘r’ Us.

I stampede back up to the shop, (same girl behind the counter looking as if she was going to run).  I show her the toy and explain the situation.  She takes the batteries out and puts in new ones and the toy works. I tell her the batteries were bought from Toys ‘r’ Us and can I have a new set (of 16, which is what I bought) as the ones I bought are clearly dead. Except I haven’t brought the whole lot back, just the four that are in the toy.

Now here’s the thing – given the situation, what would any reasonable empowered customer focused shop assistant do?  What would you do? Here’s what happened.

Shop assistant: ‘I’m sorry, you’ll have to bring all 16 batteries back for me to change them’.

Me: You’re kidding me, right?

Shop Assistant: ‘No.  I can’t (won’t) change them without you returning them.’

Me: So this is my THIRD visit today returning toys that had been bought already broken/not working from your shelves and you are now asking me to go home again to get the batteries (worth £8.99) to prove they are all dead (even though you have four in your possession that clearly are)?’

Shop Assistant: ‘Yes.’

I don’t ask for much and I wasn’t even expecting anything more than an exchange of toys in my previous two visits despite Toys ‘r’ Us clearly being at fault, but I would have thought that given all of that, my custom might just have been worth more than or as much as £8.99 for a new set of batteries. Clearly Not.

For 3 visits, no apology and the cost of a set of dead batteries (£8.99) that would mean me making a FOURTH trip to Toys r Us in ONE DAY…effortless service – 0/10.

So whilst the debate about customer effort rages on, I really hope that companies start to focus their teams on just doing whatever makes it easier for the customer, because this is really what it’s about.


Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement


Blue Sky Performance Improvement


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2 Responses to “What does it take to give that ‘Extra’ bit of effort?”

  1. Kev Urwin-Barclays Wealth Says:

    Hi Sal. Great Blog again.For a number of reasons I’m now glad that I don’t work at Toys R Us!!
    I’ve had an experience over the last couple of months that got me thinking about the power of customer feedback and the effort needed to provide it. British Gas sent an e-mail saying that my latest bill was ready to view. I went in and found that they’d left me a message (that I’d only see if I logged in) saying that they were putting my monthly payments up by a whopping 23%. I wanted to check my account but they were having technical difficulties and I couldn’t. I sent an e-mail with 6 questions on, they replied answering only 1 and told me that the increase came about as they had reviewed my account and made some calculations so it must be right.
    Then at the bottom of the e-mail they asked me to complete a Client Survey on line.
    I completed the survey trying desparately to score more than 1 (out of 5 on any question) and adding comments. When I could get the details I needed I went back and said that I didn’t see that the increase was justified and that they should not take the additional money. They agreed.
    Since then:-
    They haven’t responded to my survey comments even though they were very low scores.
    They increased the payment anyway
    When I complained they apologised and put the payment back down, probably.
    I asked them to escalate my complaint, they said they had; I haven’t heard any more from them but they did ask me to complete another online survey.

    So I’m now left thinking what is the point in a customer survey when you ask the Client to complete before you have answered the question in hand. Going back to your previous Blog, it felt like a line that they put at the bottom of every e-mail. I’m not feeling valued, however I think I will continue the battle to see where it takes me. Unluckily for BG I will use this at work when involved with Client Survey work and probably tell a few more people the story.

    Thanks again


  2. Sally Says:

    Thanks Kev – glad you liked the blog!

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