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’- Chapter 2

“Why your customers don’t want to talk to you”

  • 58% of call volume comes from customers who were on your website first, but still ended up having to call.
  • Customers who attempt to self-serve but are forced to pick up the phone are 10 % more disloyal than the ones who were able to resolve their issue on the portal of their choice.
  • The challenge is not getting the customers to self-serve , but to avoid channel-switching from self-service to phone call.
  • Companies believe that their customers want some kind of personal relationship with them. But the reality is that the customers already value the web as much if not more than the phone!

Self service places the customer in control, particularly when information that is confidential or potentially embarrassing might be exchanged.

The balance in favor of phone service even on the older age groups is far close to 60:40, rather than 90:10 or 80:20 ratio as many of us would have guessed. So, even customers who are the last to adopt self-service are much further along than most of us would have imagined.

The Channel Stickiness Opportunity

When it comes to how information is presented on the web, simplicity matters a lot.

It all starts with a simple question.

Examining three big channel-switching categories and ways to overcome those:

Category #1: Customers Couldn’t Find the Information they needed

Too many options put in front of customers exacerbate the channel-switching problems.

Customers are best-served by being directed to the lowest-effort channel and options to resolve their issue, even if that channel would not have been their first choice.

Ways to guide customers-

Ways to guide customers

Category #2 The Customer found the Information, but it was unclear

When customers who are trying to solve a problem don’t understand what they’re reading on a web site, they click the “contact us” button and end up calling.

Make sure your website and the content makes sense to the people on the outside as much as on the inside of your company.

Gunning Fog Index

Introduced in the 1950s, it is a benchmark for language simplicity. The scoring represents the years of education a person would need to comprehend a piece of text.

Use an online version to calculate the index for content on your website http://gunning-fog-index.com/

Rules to improve your website-

Rule 1 – Simplify Language

Rule 2 – Eliminate null search results

Rule 3 – Chunk related information

Rule 4 – Avoid jargon

Rule 5 – Use active voice

Category #3 The Customer was simply looking for a phone number

For customers who visit the website just to obtain a phone number, there are some subtle things that can be done to productively engage them.

  • Feature prominent links to the most common questions asked.
  • Move the contact us from th etop to th ebottom right of the screen.
  • Add to your knowledge base with words lie “simple”, “step-by-step” and “tips” to engage the newbies.

However, it is far better to incentivise self-service than to overtly discourage live service usage, or trying to hide the phone number.

The key to mitigating channel switching is simplifying the self-service experience.

Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 1

The New Battleground for Customer Loyalty

Defining Loyalty

in three specific behaviors

  • Repurchase – Customers continue to buy from your company
  • Share of Wallet – Customers buy more from you over time
  • Advocacy – Customers say good things about your product

Perceived vs Actual Impact of Customer Service on Loyalty

Companies grossly underestimate the benefit of simply meeting customer expectations.

Companies massively overestimate the loyalty returns from exceeding customer expectations.

Delight is Expensive

Delight is Rare

Delight is a tough target to hit with any regularity. However, basic competence, professional service and getting the fundamentals right are easier to achieve – and they matter more than we believe.

Findings from the Survey conducted by the authors on 97,000 customers of varying domains –

Finding #1 – A strategy of Delight does not work

Finding #2 – Satisfaction is not a predictor of Loyalty

Finding #3 – Customer Service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty

Finding #4 – the key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort

“If you are really serious about creating the loyalty outcomes that matter most to the performance of the customer service department and ultimately the success of your company, reducing customer effort must become the new centrepiece of your service strategy”

Wrong Loyalty Goal –> ‘You exceeded my expectations’

Correct Loyalty Goal –> ‘You made it easy’

The Four Principles of Low-Effort Service

  • Minimize channel switching by boosting the ‘stickiness’ of self-service channels, thereby keeping the customers from having to call in the first place.
  • When customers have to call – arm the reps to head off the potential for subsequent calls
  • Equip reps to succeed on the ’emotional’ side of the service interaction by using advanced experience engineering tactics.
  • Value the Quality of the experience over the speed and efficiency

Quotable Quotes

  • Loyalty is now primarily driven by a company’s interactions with its customers.
  • Customer loyalty is an ongoing relationship and the key, of course, is customer support.
  • Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are not the same, and are not even co-related!
  • Make things as easy as possible for your customers

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-8

“Business-Facing Tests that Support the Team”

A look at tests in Quadrant-2 – Business-Facing tests

Agile Testing Quadrants
  • On an agile project, the customer team and the development team strike up a conversation based on a user story.
  • Business-facing tests address business requirements. They express requirements based on examples and use a language and format that both the customer and development teams can understand. Examples form the basis of learning the desired behavior of each feature and we use those examples as the basis of our story tests in Quadrant-2
  • Business-facing tests are also called “customer-facing”,”story”,”customer” and “acceptance” tests. The term ‘acceptance tests’ should not be confused with ‘user acceptance tests’ from Quadrant-3.
  • The business-facing tests in Q-2 are written for each story before coding started, because they help the team understand what code to write.
    • Quadrant-1 activities ensure internal quality, maximize team productivity, and minimize technical debt.
    • Quadrant-2 tests define and verify external quality and help us know when we are done.

The customer tests to drive coding are generally written in executable format, and automated, so that team members can run the tests as often as they like to see if functionality works as desired.

  • Tests need to include more than the customer’s stated requirements. We need to test for post-conditions, impact on the system as a whole, and integration with other systems. We identify risks and mitigate those with our tests. All of these factors then guide our coding.
  • The tests need to be written in a way that is comprehensible to a business user yet still executable by the technical team.
  • Getting requirements right is an area where team members in many different roles can jump in to help.
  • We often forget about non-functional requirements. Testing for them may be a part of Quadrants 3 and 4, but we still need to write tests to make sure they get done.

There are conditions of satisfaction for the whole team as well as for each feature or story. They generally come out of conversations with the customer about high-level acceptance criteria for each story. They also help identify risky assumptions and increases team’s confidence in writing & correctly estimating tasks needed to complete the story.

  • A smart incremental approach to writing customer tests that guide development is to start with a “thing-slice” that follows a happy path from one end to the other. (also called a “steel-thread” or “tracer-bullet”). This ‘steel-thread’ connects all of the components together and after it’s solid, more functionality can be added.
  • After the thin slice is working, we can write customer tests for the next chunk.
    • It’s a process of  “write tests — write code— run tests — learn”
  • Another goal of customer tests is to identify high-risk areas and make sure code is written to solidify those.
  • Experiment & find ways your team can balance using up-front detail and keeping focused on the big picture.

Quadrant-2 contains a lot of different types of tests and activities. We need the right tools to facilitate gathering, discussing, and communicating examples and tests.

>>Simple tools such as Paper or Whiteboard work well for gathering examples if the team is co-located.

>>More sophisticated tools help teams write business-facing tests that guide development in an executable, automatable format.