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What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for one another. — George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

The role of our businesses is to make something less difficult for someone else. If we are producing a physical product, its job is to help our customers accomplish a task more effectively or at a higher quality for a lower personal cost. If we run a service, the same rule set applies. If we sell something to another business, we do it to help them produce something better or service their customers more efficiently. When we do a good job reducing our customer’s effort, we can profit greatly and our competitors will quickly copy us. Thus, always working to improve our understanding of where effort is being expended and finding clever ways to reduce or remove it is the never ending game of business.

Reducing effort becomes a more important factor when the sale is less urgent for the client. It becomes a critical component of building customer loyalty. In other words, the less intrinsically motivated your customers are to get something done in the context of your business, the more important it is to pay attention to how much effort they have to exert to accomplish it. Effort is that first major barrier to overcome and the more you reduce what your customers have to expend to do business with you vs. your competition, the more likely they are to give you a shot.

We all put off and avoid things that are complex, time consuming, annoying or remotely painful. We will procrastinate the complex to accomplish the trivial so that we feel like we accomplished something. We are all lazier than we think we are and it’s inherent in human nature. This is why it is so important to think of effort as a key component of the loyalty building equation.

If we want people to accomplish something, we should spend 95% of our energy making it easier to do and the other 5% making it fun. If you are building any digital experience for your customers, you can change the game by reducing effort. Here are four ways that your software product teams can factor effort out of the equation for your customers.

  1. Reuse: Don’t make them re-iterate. If there is something that you already know from your previous interactions with a customer, don’t EVER ask for it again. If they are a first time customer, ask them for their zip-code first and look up the rest of the address. No one should ever have to type in their city and state again. While you are at it, look up the zip-code from their IP address and default it for them.
  2. Predict:. Look around the corner for them. If there is something that you can infer or deduce from data that you have about others, that will help your customer make better choices, do it. “People in your situation generally make choice [B] because….” If there is something in the future that you can see coming, help them see it too.
  3. Simplify: If you have to write a manual, you have failed. Be a fascist with the simplicity of your user interfaces. Reduce the number of graphical elements. Reduce the number of unnecessary screens, swipes, clicks and fields. If you can remove a step, do it. Remove the unnecessary for them. If you can do without a piece of data — do without it. Do not send out incessant surveys in the name of the NPS (Net Promoter Score.) Surveys are selfish when they are abused.
  4. Personalize: The more specific the tools are to your consumer’s role, their learning style, what you know about them and even their station in life, the less effort they have to expend to accomplish goals within your ecosystem.

Attention is really scarce and if your customers are willing to give it to you, you should be treating it like gold.

When you follow these simple steps and help your customers get through any process quickly and with reduced effort, you build their confidence in their decisions and overall confidence in your firm. This confidence, in and of itself, reduces the effort that they have to spend, making their life easier, and in turn helps you earn their loyalty.

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