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Want to Improve Your Return-on-Effort in Sales? Improve Your Buyers’ Return-on-Effort.

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An article to be published in the July edition of the Harvard Business Review shows the value of improving productivity in customer service by improving the Return-on-Effort for customers. It shows that delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty, reducing their effort (the work they must do to get their problem solved) does.

The authors’ research suggests if the concept of what it means to be productive is defined too narrowly, associated metrics will encourage the wrong things and productivity will be less than it could be. “Most customer service organizations still emphasize metrics such as average handle time when assessing productivity + Rep performance.” From a customer’s perspective, Reps focused on being fast make it tougher for customers to get their problems solved. For instance, “when an Australian telecommunications provider eliminated these types of productivity metrics from its frontline reps’ performance scorecards, handle time increased slightly yet repeat calls fell by 58%.”

We have seen precisely the same effects in B2B sales productivity. Processes which deliver a high Return-on-Effort for buyers win more business and speed up sales. When the norm from a buyer’s perspective is that Reps are too busy to be helpful, firms that figure out how to replace ‘busy’ with ‘helpful’ will win big.

I’m reminded, for instance, of the experience of one of our clients. He began using amacus to make judicious use of his own time and, at the same time, deliver timely, helpful, offers of help to every interested prospect. He stopped calling every prospective buyer. Instead, he focused on calling buyers who were potentially most interested in, and ready for, another conversation. After every sales conversation, he’d email to the buyer hyperlinks on details they’d requested. His messages were brief, to the point, and focused on getting each customer answers to questions they’d asked. He’d then leave them alone until they’d signalled their readiness for a callback. Buyers didn’t need to do anything different to send their buying signals. Every time a buyer clicked to retrieve info they’d requested, amacus would ring the Rep’s cell phone suggesting who he should now call back, and why. He’d call them back, ask if the info he’d sent was what they were looking for, and then, with the buyer, continue to get them the help they wanted and needed. Buyers rewarded his time and effort with theirs. The buyer Return-on-Effort was high. The Rep’s Return-on-Effort was remarkable: in his first 3 weeks use of amacus, with a 6 month sales cycle, he closed three new deals. It was no accident. I recall, for instance, the comment of a buyer when she got a call from an amacus user shortly after she’d begun reviewing a requested proposal. “Dave, I knew it would be you. You’re always there for me when I need you.”

Focus on making things easy and helpful for your buyers.
It’ll improve their Return-on-Effort. Then yours, too.

This entry was posted in Conversations, Metrics, Process, Productivity, Results, Return on Effort, Sales cycles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Want to Improve Your Return-on-Effort in Sales? Improve Your Buyers’ Return-on-Effort.

  1. Don F Perkins says:


    Spot on analysis of measuring true productivity in the realm of customer service. Indeed, great care should be taken in choosing metrics that encourage desired behaviours without negatively effecting other essential outcomes. As a consumer of these services, It's always been surprising how many support representatives are in such a hurry to close another support ticket that they often lose sight of their primary charter: my satisfaction as a customer.

    Though perhaps harder to measure, helpfulness and ease of use is definitely a great differentiator for any enterprise.

    Don F Perkins

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