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 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’- 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’- 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-

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-21

“Key Success Factors”

Outlining some Key success factors for Agile Testing –

Success Factor -1 Use the Whole Team Approach

When the whole development team takes responsibility for testing & quality, you have a large variety of skills sets and experience levels taking on whatever testing issues might arrive.

Success Factor -2 Adopt an Agile Testing Mind-Set

Use agile principles and values to guide you. Always try the simplest approach first. Experiment with new practices, tools, and techniques.

Success Factor -3 Automate Regression Testing

Use Agile Testing Quadrants and test automation pyramid to help you automate different types of tests effectively. Experiment with different ways of getting support from management and from team members to start some tiny automation effort.

Success Factor-4 Provide and Obtain Feedback

One of the most valuable skills you can learn is how to ask for feedback on your own work. Feedback is imperative for agile teams.

Success Factor -5 Build a Foundation of Core Practices

Continuous Integration process needs to be implemented, setup test environments and manage technical debt

Success Factor -6 Collaborate with Customers

Help customers clarify and prioritize requirements, illustrating requirements with concrete examples and turning those examples into executable tests.

Success Factor -7 Look at the Big Picture

Testers tend to look at the big picture, and usually from a customer point of view, which is a big contribution to the team. Plan testing to cover all angles. Use Exploratory testing to learn more about how the application should work, and what direction your testing needs to take.

************************

And here ends my ‘Read Along’ Series for ‘Agile Testing’ by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory. It sure was a fun and informative read and I learnt a lot from it! I hope this series helps someone read along chapter-wise or even someone looking for quick introduction to agile testing.

Happy Testing!

Nishi

Read Along- ‘Agile Testing’ Chapter-18

“Coding and Testing”

  • The beginning of coding is a good time to start writing detailed tests.
  • As testers think of new scenarios to validate with executable tests, they also think about potential scenarios for manual exploratory testing. Make a note of these for later pursuit.
  • Some quick risk analysis can help you decide what testing to do first and where to focus your efforts.

The Power of Three Rule – When unexpected problems arise, you may need to pull in more people or even the entire team. Tester, Developer and Customer (or businesspeople) can together decide on correct behavior and solutions.

Explore It!

As soon as testable chunks of code are available, and the automated tests that guided their coding pass, take time to explore the functionality more deeply. Try different scenarios and learn more about the code’s behavior. You should have task cards for tests that critique the product both business and technology-facing. The story is not ‘done’ until all of these test types are done.

If your exploratory tests lead the team to realise that significant functionality was not covered by the stories, write new stories for future iterations. Keep a tight reign on “Scope Creep” or your team won’t have time to deliver the value you originally planned.

Technology-facing tests that critique the product are often done best during coding. This is the time to know if the design doesn’t scale or if there are security holes.

  • MANAGING DEFECTS
  • Leaving bugs festering n the code base has a negative effect on code quality, system intuitiveness, system flexibility, team morale and velocity.
  • Strive for “zero tolerance” towards bug counts.
  • Teams have solved the problem of how to handle defects in different ways.
    • Some teams put all their bugs on task cards
    • Some teams chose to write a cared, estimate it & schedule it as a story.
    • Some teams suggest adding a test for every bug
  • The more bugs you can fix immediately, the less technical debt your application generates and the less ‘defect’ inventory you have.
  • Try making the estimate for each story to include (atleast) two hours or half a day for fixing associated bugs.

If a bug is really missed functionality, choose to write a card for the bug and schedule it as a story.

Code produced test-first is fairly free of bugs by the time it is checked-in.

  • The Daily Stand-Up helps teams maintain the close communication they need.
  • Use Big, visible charts such as story boards, Burndown charts and other visual cues to help keep focus and know your status.
  • Having story boards gives your team focus suring the stand-ups or when you are talking to someone outside the team about your progress.

Communication

  • Testers can help keep the iteration progressing smoothly by helping make sure everyone is communicating enough. They can help programmers and customers find a common language.
  • Use retrospectives to evaluate whether collaboration & communication need improving and brainstorm ways to improve.
  • Teams in different locations have to make a special effort to keep each other informed.

Build Process

  • Teams take different approaches to make sure their build stays ‘green’.
  • The build needs to provide immediate feedback, so Keep It Short.
  • Tests that take too long, such as tests that update the database, functional tests above Unit level or GUI test scripts, should run in a separate build process.
  • Having a separate, continual ‘Full’ build with all of the regression suites is worth the investment.

During the iteration, you are automating new tests. As soon as these pass, add them to the Regression Suite.

As you start the iteration, make sure that test environments, test data, and test tools are in place to accommodate testing.

You may have brought in outside resources for the iteration to help with performance, security, usability or other forms of testing. Include them in stand-ups and discussions. Pair with them to help them understand the team’s objectives. This is an opportunity to pick up new skills!!

  • Consider what metrics you need during the iteration – Progress and Defect Metrics are 2 examples.
  • Whatever metrics you choose to measure – Go for Simplicity!

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.