The best way to understand digital customer experience is to measure the effort people need to make to complete their top tasks. 

Not being able to complete your task is the ultimate failure when it comes to customer experience. However, best practice is all about reducing time-on-task. The top digital brands, from Amazon to Google, are relentless in their focus on saving you time.

My two favorite times in Ireland are St. Patrick’s Day and summer. We just love talking about the weather, which is strange, because it’s always pretty much the same: raining. If you were an Irish weather optimist and you searched for “Dublin weather” five years ago on Google, you would get a series of search results containing links to websites that dealt with weather.

You would consider your experience a good one if the first result was good. You’d click on that result and get to a page that would give you the weather. I calculated that such a task took roughly 20 seconds from when I started typing in the search query to getting the weather information. I calculated that roughly four of those seconds were taken up by the downloading of the pages. That left 16 seconds for typing, reading, clicking, etc.

That’s an 80:20 split that we have found again and again when it comes to task measurement. If a typical task takes 60 seconds, then roughly 12 of those seconds will be taken up by the downloading of the pages, but 48 seconds will be taken up by reading, typing, clicking, etc. So it’s great to have fast downloading pages. 

However, if you really want to reduce customer effort and increase overall performance, then reduce the amount of effort that is spent reading, typing and clicking, because that’s where 80 percent of your performance budget lies.

About two years ago, when I typed in “Dublin weather” the actual weather itself appeared on the search results page. Because Google knows we’re not looking for search results. We’re looking for answers. The task time had dropped from 20 seconds to nine. 

What was a good experience five years ago is a poor experience today. Manage the task. Not the format. Not the channel. Not the device. Not the content. Manage the task.

Today, if I start my search in the Google Chrome browser, by the time I have typed in “Dublin wea …” the essential weather information pops up. I don’t have to download any page. The task time has now dropped from nine seconds to five seconds. We want answers in the fastest possible time.

The only thing not expanding today is our time. We put great value on anything that saves us time. Amazon knows that. Amazon is obsessed with our time. It is relentless in their pursuit of getting us what we ordered in the fastest possible time.

“Amazon is getting more items to the front door in as fast as an hour, increasing its shipping costs 43 percent in the third quarter to $3.9 billion,” The Wall Street Journal stated in October 2016. “We acknowledge that’s expensive,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky stated. But “customers love it.”

Reducing customer time and effort is the secret to digital success. Measure the benefits that accrue from reducing customer effort. That’s the pot of gold at the end of the digital rainbow.