Read Along – ‘The Effortless Experience’- Chapter 8

“Effort Beyond the Contact Center”

Non-contact center applications of the Low Effort concept-

Customer Effort in Retail

Most critical factors when it comes to customer effort in retail environment are

“Navigability” – How easy it is for customers to find what they are looking for

“Issue Resolution” – How easy it is for customers to get help solving some problem.

Customer Effort in Product Design

Simplicity of design and ease of use really make certain products stand out in a crowd.

  • Apple’s ease of use is legendary.
  • Bose is another consumer electronics company that just ‘gets’ the idea of low effort. They put simple color-coded tags on wires that match the color of the jacks they plug into. Easy stuff!
  • TurboTax uses intuitive, plain-English, question based approach to helping taxpayers do their taxes.

Customer Effort in Purchase Experience

Decision Simplicity – Simplifying a consumer’s purchase decision

comes down to 3 things-

  • Making it easy for consumers to navigate information about the brand
  • Providing information that is noteworthy
  • Making it simple for consumers to weight their options

Effort should be reduced throughout the customer life-cycle.

Reducing effort in pre- and post-sales customer touch-points has measurable loyalty impact.

***

The Best companies Live low-effort.

Top brands are adopting the principle of a low-effort experience across multiple facets of their business, from product design to the sales experience.

***

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 3

“The Worst Question a Service Rep can ask”

Repeat contacts are the single biggest driver of customer effort.

First Contact Resolution (FCR) is used to help assess performance. CCompanies regularly boast FCR rates of 70-8-% or higher. But when you ask customers how well companies are doing, you get a completely different answer (about 40% resolution in the first contact)

So, it turns out that the concept of FCR fails to account for the host of other related issues that cause customers to call back.

Implicit issues transcend the original customer-stated need. These repeat contacts happen fir two main reasons-

Adjacent Issues – downstream issues that might seem unrelated at first, but are ultimately connected to the main issue.

Experience Issues – emotional triggers that cause a customer to second-guess the answer given, or double check to see if another answer exists.

Going Beyond First Contact Resolution

Next issue Avoidance – Companies need to arm reps with shareper diagnostic skills and tools that can help them “forward-resolve” the next likely customer issue.

Companies trying to improve next issue avoidance (not just FCR) should track callbacks- any repeat contact by the customer, within a specified time period.

Rules – to balance the simplicity of forward resolution with effectiveness and avoiding confusion that forward resolution of adjacent issues might create-

Rule #1: Down One, Not Two – Trying to forward-resolve more than one step at a time might overwhelm the customer. Stick to one – only the immediate adjacent issue.

Rule #2: Pick Winners – Adjacent issues have to occur at least 20% of the time to qualify for forward resolution.

Rule #3: Don’t forward-resolve complex issues on the phone – For more complex issues, instead of confusing customers trying to explain over a phone call, follow up over a simple e-mail with details.

Measuring Next Issue Avoidance

Simple Metric – Track repeat calls from any customer within a seven-day period.

Points to Remember:

  • Don’t just solve the current issue, head off the next issue.
  • Measure callbacks, not just first contact resolution (FCR). The best companies also assess whether the rep solved the stated customer issue, as well as forward-resolved adjacent and experience-related follow-up issues.

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

Fighting Defect Clusters in Software Testing

Defects tend to cluster in some areas of the software under test. It may happen due to higher complexity, algorithms, or a higher number of integrations in a few constrained segments of the software.

These defect clusters can be tricky, both to find and to deal with. Testers need to be on constant alert for ways to isolate defect clusters and devise ways to overcome them, fight those defects and move on to new clusters.

In my article for Gurock blog, I discussed some ways to fight Defect Clusters in Software Testing:

Locating Defect Clusters

Most defects tend to cluster in certain areas of your software. It is one of the seven testing principles. Many testers intuitively know of these defect-prone areas, but we can still strive to be on the lookout for clusters of defects in a number of ways, like utilizing

Metrics

Using metrics like defect density charts or module-wise defect counts, we can examine the history of defects that have been found and look for areas, modules, or features with higher defect density. This is where we should begin our search for defect clusters. Spending more time testing these areas may lead us to more defects or more complex use cases to try out.

For example, the chart below shows that Module 4 has the most defects, so it would be smart to continue concentrating on that module in the future.

History

Use the defect management system and the history of the software to go through older defects, and try to replicate them in the system. You will get to know the system’s history, where it broke and how it works now. You may learn a lot about the software and find many new areas to test.

Experience

A tester’s intuition, experience and history with the product is by far the best way to find defect clusters. Lessons learned by experienced teammates should be shared with new coworkers so that the knowledge can be passed on, utilized and improved upon by exercising these defect-prone areas with new perspectives.

Fighting Defect Clusters

Defect clustering follows the Pareto rule that 80% of the defects are caused by 20% of the modules in the software. It’s imperative for a tester to know which 20% of modules have the most defects so that the maximum amount of effort can be spent there. That way, even if you don’t have a lot of time to test, hopefully, you can still find the majority of defects.

Once you know the defect cluster areas, testers can focus on containing the defects in their product in a number of ways. Continue Reading—>