Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 7

“Making Low Effort Stick”

Reducing customer effort represents a cultural shift in how your team engages with customers and how you’ll prioritise the projects you undertake. But while it’s easy to say, any shift of this nature is difficult to accomplish, mainly because change in a large organisation can be an arduous undertaking.

Taking First Steps

Have a compelling ‘change story’ to communicate Why the change is needed, and make the business case of change. It then becomes the backbone of all communication, training, coaching and general reinforcement.

The most Important Change Agents

Focusing efforts on Coaching instead of Training.

Coaching is —

  • Focusing on improving future performance
  • Ongoing
  • Equally driven by coach and coachee
  • Tailored to individual’s development needs

Two types of Coaching tends to occur-

a) Scheduled coaching – sit-down discussions with supervisor to review calls, discuss performance and take corrective action. This might be more punitive than developmental. Over-emphasizing on this type of coaching leads to lower-performing teams.

b) Integrated Coaching – On-the-job coaching, in close proximity to specific customer situations that the coaching is designed to improve. Supervisors who over-emphasize this type of coaching realise a lift of more than 12% in their team’s performance.

The best supervisors focus roughly 75% of their coaching on integrated coaching.

Make It Real

Use creative approaches to help teams quickly understand what qualifies as more or less effort for the customer.

>Sharing of personal customer experiences – Have teams share bad customer service experiences from their personal lives.

>Group quality assurance sessions– Prescreen old customer calls and discuss high effort instances to build awareness and socialise the idea of customer effort reduction.

>Customer Effort Diaries – Get together and share their specific stories – capture specific instances when each person felt they did a great job of reducing effort.

Key Lessons from Early Adopters

Don’t make Effort Reduction another ‘Ask’

Reducing the no. of things frontline staff are being asked to focus on means that they can make effort reduction more of a priority, not just another ask.

The commitment to reducing effort, and the permanence of that approach, needs to become a shift in expectations, not just a new expectation added to the top of the pile.

“In order to get new behaviours to take hold, old behaviours have to be retired”

Baby Steps

  • Start with a small number of ways to reduce effort to make the shift more tangible to your teams.
  • This way, people know precisely what to do, and they develop a more refined sense for how effort reduction works.
  • Supervisors also have a finite set of behaviours to coach for.

Narrowly scope initial pilot expectations for your teams. This may include forward-resolving a specific type of service issue, or using positive language techniques for some common issues.

Lay the Cultural Foundation

Effort reduction is not a quick-hit project. It is service philosophy.

****

Reducing effort is an ongoing challenge you will need to continuously support.

You need lots of top-down communication, good manager and supervisor support, and the right metrics.

Your priorities should be a great change story, significant coaching discipline, and clearly signalling the expectation that a low-effort experience should be the goal with every customer.

Making it easy for your teams to take the first steps towards reducing effort will ensure your likelihood of success!

****

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 6

The Disloyalty Detector – Customer Effort Score v2.0

Measuring customer effort shines a spotlight on the service experience and can bring new levels of claity to what we can do to improve it.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is a poor predictor of a customer’s intent to repurchase and to increase spend.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is a ‘big question’ that captures a customer’s holistic impression of their relationship with a company. The problem is it isn’t the best metric for understanding customer service performance at a transactional level.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES gives managers a simple way to understand whether they have accomplished low-effort experience from one interaction to the next, across different channels and divisions in their organisations , and over time. And, importantly, it offers a way to immediately spot customers at risk of defection.

CES metric is based on a statement “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue”

This is a survey question asked to the user at the end of an interaction. This new question CES v2.0 is more reliable and is less prone to misinterpretation as compared to CES v1.0 statement “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to get your issue resolved?”

When comparing CES v2.0 to CSAT, the effort measure is 12% more predictive of customer loyalty.

Systemically Finding and Eliminating Drivers of Effort

A robust customer effort measurement system consists of 3 parts –

Connecting Company Loyalty goals with Customer Service Strategy and Objectives

Effort should be measured consistently across channels and the sources of effort systematically monitored. This will allow your service org to continually determine ways ri positively impact enterprise loyalty objectives.

Use CES to assess the ease of resolution in post-service surveys. CES provides a powerful indicator of transactional customer loyalty, clearly highlights friction points n the customer experience, and helps companies to spot customers at risk of defection due to high-effort interactions.

**

Use an effort-measurement system. While CES is a powerful tool, there is no silver bullet when it comes to measuring customer effort.

The best companies collect data at multiple levels and from multiple sources to understand not just whether customer effort is happening, but also the root causes of effort.

**

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 5

To Get Control, You have to Give Control

For the company and its strategic financial interest, a lot is riding on the skills and abilities of each and every rep in the front.

So, the most common people-management strategy is to minimize the risk by keeping a very tight rein on everything, including companies mandating the exact words each rep must use in all interactions, looking at Average Handle Time(AHT), employing checklists for Quality Assurance (QA) and dictating their every move.

But these strategies of yesterday’s successful companies are fast becoming antiquated and are. no longer sufficient and even actively harmful.

The fourth pillar in creating a world-class customer experience is that low-effort service organisations run their operations very differently and manage their people very differently.

In a low-effort service org, reps determine for themselves how best to handle the unique issue being experienced by this unique person.

80.5% of service orgs say their rep performance has not improved noticeably over the past couple of years. The main questions here are-

  • How can companies position their reps for success in today’s world?
  • If we want to deliver a low-effort experience, what skills matter most?

The List of skills clustered into four statistically defined categories –

IQ
Advanced Problem Solving

Curious
Creative
Capable of Critical Thinking
Experimental
3.6 % improvement in CSAT or in Net Promoter Score
Basic Skills and Behaviors
Demonstrates Product Knowledge
Demonstrates Technological experience
Communicates confidently, clearly
Asks good questions
Capable of multi-tasking
5.1% better performance
EQ
Emotional Intelligence

Has customer service ethic
Extroverted
Advocates for the customer
Persuasive
5.4% performance boost
CQ
Control Quotient

Resilient
Able to handle high-pressure situations
Takes responsibility of own actions
Responds well to constructive criticism by managers
Able to concentrate on tasks over extended periods of time
11.2% increase in Rep’s performance!
Performance Impact of Rep Skill Categories

The impact of CQ is abundantly clear. It is what it takes not just to engage with one customer, but to be able to disengage immediately afterward to be fully effective with the next person. Quit Taking It Personally!

Boosting CQ

It’s not the training. It’s not the people. It’s the work environment those people are subjected to on a daily basis that enables higher rep performance, a lower-effort customer experience, and ultimately loyalty benefits for the company.

3 distinct keys to unlocking CQ

Trust in rep judgement

This has 14% impact on CQ.

Do your employees feel trusted?

Customers have different personalities, needs and expectations. When a company mandates that every customer call include standard, company-imposed criteria or questions, it eliminates the natural, spontaneous, human level interaction and replaces with a mechanical, rote exchange.

So, instead we need to

a) Eliminate the Checklist Mentality

b) Remove the Pressure of Time

Rep understanding and alignment with company goals

Employees are more likely to exhibit ‘discretionary effort’ if they understand the connection between their everyday work and the overall big-picture mission of the organisation.

Reps who understand exactly how customer service ties directly to customer loyalty, which ties directly to strategic and financial outcomes are more likely to take control over their own individual interactions.

A strong rep peer support network

This has a 17% impact on CQ but is also the hardest to achieve.

3 conditions for maximum benefits of peer support to be realised:

  1. Adequate time – Make it easy. to help & support each other. It is a part of job and not a burden.
  2. True Best-practice sharing – Share how best to serve customers in complex situations, not suboptimal shortcuts or work arounds
  3. Receptive reps – Enable reps to help each other without being controlled by management to ensure better receptivity.

CQ isn’t learned, it is enabled.

Most reps already have moderate to high CQ potential. The problem is that most companies inhibit it due to an environment of strict adherence- Judgement and Control are not welcomed in these environments.

“Give control to get control of the front line.

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 4

“Just because there’s Nothing You can Do Doesn’t Mean there’s Nothing you can Do”

The customer’s perception of the experience actually accounts for fully two-thirds of the overall effort equation. Means that how the customer perceives / feels about the interaction matters twice as much as what they actually have to do during the interaction!

A lot of interactions that don’t require a lot of exertion still feel like a lot of effort to customers.

Service orgs might be handling “easy” situations in the wrong way far too often.

Effort – is one-third “do” and two-thirds “feels”

Don’t over-invest in streamlining the physical side of the service experience. Instead, focus on the interpretation or “feel” side of the effort!

Soft Skills

Definition – A code of behavior created to consistently handle customer issues in a friendly, personable, and professional manner that reflects positively on the representative and the company.

They are not a choice or an option – to be applied with every caller, every time.

But Soft skills alone are not enough to move the needle on effort reduction.

In comes –

Experience Engineering

Definition- An approach to actively guide a customer through an interaction that is designed to anticipate the emotional response and preemptively offer solutions that create a mutually beneficial resolution.

‘Experience Engineering’ – means managing a conversation with carefully selected language designed to improve how the customer interprets what they’re being told.

So, sound experience engineering is designed to

  • Anticipate the emotional response of the customer.
  • Preemptively offer solutions that the customer will find agreeable.
  • Finding a mutually beneficial resolution to customer issues.
  • Mainly – when the customer is going to be told they cannot have exactly what they are asking for – easing them into the answer.
  • Arriving at true win-win outcome instead of paying customers with lavish givebacks!

Most companies’ initial forays into effort reduction are aimed at reducing customer exertion.

Can experience engineering be taught ? – Many companies are teaching their reps to do this in ways that are simple to understand and easy even for relatively inexperienced staff to use.

Reframing “No”

Using positive Language. Be truthful, but in a way that doesn’t trigger negative emotional reaction.

“Don’t tell the customers what you can’t do, tell them what you can do”

Positioning Alternatives with Customer benefits

Ask more questions. Do not put them on hold. Find the real motivations of the customer beyond the explicitly stated need. Work with them to present alternates.

  • Don’t be so fast with the “no”
  • Don’t encourage reps to try to explain their way out of a high effort situation.
  • Don’t take the customer’s request quite so literally.

Of those customers whose first request cannot be fulfilled, approximately 10% simply refuse to engage further. The rep does their best to suggest potential alternates using positive language skills. But if they don’t engage, it is the customer’s loss.

Among the remaining requests, a very high percentage of customers are willing to at least consider and even accept a different solution. And it can be achieved by a rep willing to keep the positive momentum going – buying time to learn more about the customer and not going straight to a ‘no’.

Personality-Based Issue Resolution

identify the basic personality characteristics of each customer in the moment, and tailor the interaction to that customer.

Personality Type
ProfileCharacteristic Traits
Actions to do
Feeler
Leads with emotional needs
“I need to feel good about my next steps”
Cooperative
Sensitive
Loyal
Invite their opinion
Provide Assurance
Show personal involvement
EntertainerLoves to talk and show-off their personality.
“Let’s have some fun”
Outgoing
Enthusiastic
Spontaneous
Maintain informal tone
Mention personal information
Focus on the ‘big picture’
ThinkerNeeds to analyse and understand
Take the time to fully explain the what and the why
Analytical
Thorough
Serious
Do not interrupt
Explain processes
Slow down conversation
ControllerJust wants what they want, when they want it
“Let’s cut to the chase”
Independent
Candid
Determined
Directly address issue
Speed up the pace of conversation
Provide clear timeline for result
Bradford & Bingley’s Personality framework

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Introduction

This is my first time reading a book on this topic – or anything related to customer experience at all. So I did not know what to expect. What wow’ed me the most was the first story in the Introduction part of the book itself – i.e. the story of ‘Joshie – the stuffed girraffe’

The story is about Joshie – a stuffed giraffe that gets left behind in a hotel room by a little kid who is later distraught about losing his favorite pal. The hotel Ritz Carlton not only reaches out to the family and ensures the safe return of the giraffe home, but also adds a bunch of ‘extended vacation’ pictures of Joshie enjoying his extended stay lounging around the hotel pool, taking a golf cart ride, having a massage, making friends with other stuffed animals and even helping the staff by manning a security room – much to the delight of the little boy and his worried parents!

This story has now set the bar for customer service in all industries the world over! You can read this story of customer delight in various posts on the internet like here or here or read the blog post below –

Reading this story makes you wonder – How do I get my people to go above and beyond like that? Why can’t our company be known for that kind of delightful service?

Well, this Introduction also sets a beautiful tone and level-sets us for what lies ahead in the book!

I sure hope we reach the answers to these questions by the end 🙂

Happy Reading!

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’

I started the ‘Read Along’ section on my blog last year with my series on the book ‘Agile Testing’ – a much coveted book for all testers. It was a fun way to learn, get back to my reading and also share it with my readers!

2021 started with me finding myself in a new job, an exciting new role in a brand new domain! So, I am taking the Read Along series forward this year by beginning a new book that not only is relevant to my current role and is a recommended read for the ‘Customers for Life (C4L)’ team that I am a part of, but is also super relevant to every software team working on developing software that not only satisfies but wows their customers!

The book is “The Effortless Experience” by – Mathhew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick Delsi

I will be reading the book and will post about learnings, things to remember & quotable quotes from each chapter as I progress. This is to hold myself accountable, as well as to help people looking for good reads or learnings. Hope this helps you. Have you read this book? Do share your thoughts & learnings too!

Here is a link to get your own copy if you would like to read along-

Here are the Chapter-wise posts on the book

Hope this series provides a useful overview and a fun learning experience for the readers!

Cheers

Nishi

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-17

“Iteration Kickoff”

  • Most teams kickoff their new iteration with a planning session. – where they discuss one story at a time, writing & estimating all of the tasks needed to implement it.
  • Task cards need to be written along with development task cards and estimated realistically.
  • When writing programming task cards, make sure that coding task estimates include time for writing unit tests and for all necessary testing by programmers.
  • Testers should help make sure that all necessary cards are written and they have reasonable estimates.

Your job as a tester is to make sure enough time is allocated to testing and to remind the team that testing & quality are the responsibility of the whole team. When the team decides how many stories they can deliver in an iteration, the question isn’t “How much coding can we finish?” but “How much coding and testing can we complete?”

Commit Conservatively – It is always better to bring in another story later than to drop a picked story.

  • Working closely with customers or customer proxies is one of the most important activities as an agile tester. Good communication usually takes work.
  • We want “big-picture” tests to help the programmers get started in the right direction on a story. High level tests should convey the main purpose behind the story.
  • Don’t forget to ask the programmers what they think you might have missed. What are the high-risk areas of the code? Where do they think testing should be focused?

When Testability is an issue, make it the team’s problem to solve.

One beneficial side-effect of reviewing the tests with programmers is the cross-learning that happens.

High level test cases along with executable tests you’ll write during the iteration will form the core of the application’s documentation.

People unfamiliar with agile development often have the misconception that there’s no documentation. In fact, agile projects produce usable documentation that contains executable tests and thus, is always up to date.

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-16

“Hit the Ground Running”

  • Testers in agile must be proactive. Instead of waiting for work to come to them, they get up and go look for ways to contribute.
  • Working on stories in advance of the iteration may be useful for teams that are split across different geographic locations. By working ahead, there’s time to get information to everyone and give them a chance to give their input.
  • If we make our iteration planning go faster and reduce the risk of the stories we’re going to undertake, it’s worth doing some research and brainstorming before we start the iteration.

The Pre-Planning Meeting

  • Go Over stories for the next iteration
  • The Product owner explains the purpose of each story – business conditions of satisfaction.
  • Team brainstorms about potential risks and dependencies, asks questions and figures out the simplest path.
  • Pull in customers to answer questions, get a better idea.
  • Experiment with short Pre-Iteration discussions and Test-Writing sessions
  • Invest preparation time when it’s appropriate. There is a risk to ‘working ahead’.
  • To go Fast – We need to Slow Down First!

Teams that are distributed in multiple locations may do their iteration planning by conference call, online meeting or teleconference. ( And Cut to 2020 – Coronian Times – Every one of us is doing that!! )

  • One practice that Lisa’s team used was to assign each team a subset of the upcoming stories and have them write task cards in advance.

(I, too, have used this practice – only the Task Cards were in fact story Sub-tasks being created in JIRA for our user story items created by the PO)

  • If the customers aren’t readily available to answer questions and make decisions, other domain experts who are accessible at all times should be empowered to guide the team by determining priorities and expressing desired system behavior with examples.

(I have experienced that – our Product Owners essentially did this job for us)

  • Examples are an effective way to learn about and illustrate desired functionality. Using Examples, you can write high level tests to flesh out the story a bit more.
  • Mock-ups are essential for stories involving UI or a report. Ask your customers to draw up their ideas about how the page should look.
  • Before the next iteration – triage the outstanding issues with the customer. Those deemed necessary should be scheduled into the next iteration.

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-15

“An Iteration in the life of a Tester”

  • Testers bring a different viewpoint to planning and estimation meetings. They need to be a part of the story sizing process.
  • The team needs to develop in small, testable chunks in order to help decide what stories are tentatively planned for which iteration. They keyword being ‘testable’.
  • If there are stories that present a big testing challenge, it might be good to do those early on.

Release Planning is the time to start asking for examples and use cases of how the features will be used, and what value they’ll provide. Drawing flowcharts or sample calculations on white board can help pinpoint the core functionality.

  • The agile tester thinks about how each story might affect the system as a whole or other systems that ours has to work with.
  • In agile development, Test Plan must be concise and lightweight., assessing testing issues, including risk analysis and identifying assumptions. The biggest benefit of test planning is the Planning itself.

This chapter shows examples of lightweight agile Test Plans created by Lisa and Janet that are very useful! Here is my take on creating a simplistic agile test plan using a mind-map-

Agile Test Plan – using a Mind Map

The chapter discusses about Task Boards and how they can be leveraged. Here is my take on using task boards by agile teams that I wrote a few months back –

https://testwithnishi.com/2019/07/25/4-ways-task-boards-can-help-agile-teams/

Agile metrics are key to measuring the team’s progress. Plan for what metrics you want to capture for the life of the release, think about what problem you are trying to sove and capture only those metrics that are meaningful for your team.

Here is something I wrote about useful and not-so-useful Agile metrics-

https://testwithnishi.com/2019/12/04/metrics-your-agile-team-should-should-not-be-tracking/

Don’t get caught up with committing to your plans- the situation is bound to change. Instead, prepare for doing the right activities and getting the right resources in time to meet the customer’s priorities!

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-14

“An Agile Test Automation Strategy”

Use the Agile Test Quadrants to help you identify the different types of test automation tools you might need for each project, even each iteration.

Test Automation Pyramid (introduced by Mike Cohn)

Lowest Layer- Bulk of automated unit , technology facing tests. Quickest feedback, code much more quickly using xUnit family of tools

Middle layer – Automated business-facing tests that help the team. “Are we building the right thing” Tests operate at the API, behind the GUI level. Bypass the presentation layer – less expensive to write & maintain these tests. Fit & FitNesse are good examples, written in domain language

Top Tier – Should be the smallest automation effort as they  have the lowest ROI. Done through GUI, operating on the presentation layer. More expensive to write, more brittle and need more maintenance.

The Test Automation Pyramid
  • Any tedious or repetitive task involved in developing software is a candidate for automation.
  • AN automated deployment process is imperative – getting automated build emails listing every change made is a big help to testers. It speeds up testing & reduces errors.
  • A fast running continuous integration and build process gives the greatest ROI of any automation effort.
  • Another useful area for automation is data creation or setup. Cleaning up test data is as important as generating it. You data creation toolkit should include ways to tear down the test data so it doesn’t affect a different test or prevent rerunning the same test.

What we shouldn’t automate

  • Usability testing
  • Exploratory testing
  • Tests that will never fail
  • One-Off tests
  • Plan-in plenty of time for evaluating tools, setting up build processes, and experimenting with different test approaches in the initial iterations.
  • If management is reluctant to give the team time to implement automation, explain the trade-offs clearly. Work towards a compromise.
  • We will always have deadlines, and we always feel pressed for time. There is never enough time to go back and fix things. During your next planning meeting, budget time to make meaningful progress on your automation efforts.
  • Good test management ensures that tests can provide effective documentation of the system and of the development progress