Reviewing “The Effortless Experience”


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This post originally appeared on the FCR blog on December 14, 2016. Click here to read the original.

I’ve often heard concepts from The Effortless Experience quoted in presentations, webinars, and blogs. Since it’s release, it has quickly become a must have on the bookshelf of any customer experience or customer service practitioner. That being said, I only recently read the book for myself and have to say, this book is packed with some pretty mind blowing knowledge.

Customer Effort

First, let’s talk about customer effort. The authors Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick Delisi of CEB introduce us to this concept. Applied to customer service, the more effort a customer has to put forth to resolve an issue, the less likely they are to be loyal to an organization. This not only applies to cases where customers have to call back multiple times, but also involves any time they try to resolve their issue on one support channel before having to switch channels. This even includes self service where customers attempt to find the answer via company website, phone IVR, or knowledge base and are unable to.

The authors “found that 96 percent of customers who had high-effort experiences reported being disloyal!” Customer effort is a big deal and it’s just starting to get our attention. Here are three concepts from this book that I found fascinating.

1. Experience Engineering

I’ve long been a proponent of finding ways to avoid saying words like “no” or “unfortunately” to customers but sometimes that’s easier said than done. When we truly have bad news for the customer, it’s difficult (feels impossible at times) to know how to break it to them the right way. As a frontline customer service agent, you only have to be the bearer of bad news a few times before you start bracing yourself for the customer’s negative response.

Dixon, Toman, and Delisi talk about the fact that two-thirds of the customer effort on any interaction is about how the customer feels versus what is actually done. They go on to say that our traditional “soft-skills” training in the contact that focuses on skills like empathy, listening, and just being a bit nicer to customers, doesn’t actually help if customer effort isn’t reduced.

In experience engineering, agents are “managing or engineering a conversation using carefully selected language to improve how the customer interprets what they’re being told.” They go on to give three foundational elements for experience engineering which include:

  • Advocacy- Taking clear ownership of the situation and partnering with the customer. It’s a “buck stops here” mentality.
  • Positive language– This means avoiding the use of stop words like nope, can’t, won’t, and unfortunately.
  • Anchoring expectations– This is about focusing on a couple solutions that are available to the customer and sharing the one that’s less favorable first so the second one will seem more desirable.

2. Identifying a Customer Profile

In addition to Experience Engineering, the book highlights a concept from Bradford & Bingley that equips agents with the ability to classify the customer into four different profiles. These profiles include The Controller, The Feeler, The Entertainer, and The Thinker. By understanding the customer’s profile, agents can tailor their approach and minimize the effort to resolve their issue.

To give you a couple examples, entertainers may just want to talk or vent about a situation and appreciate a listening ear. Thinkers on the other hand might have a variety of questions and issues they want to work through. Agents should be trained to recognize the profile of the customer. The book notes that these shouldn’t be permanent labels attributed to the customer as they can change depending on the situation.

3. Control Quotient

For any contact center interested in minimizing attrition of their staff and motivating their agents to do great work (pretty much all contact centers), this concept is invaluable. The authors studied a variety of skills possessed by contact center agents and the impact on overall performance. They grouped them in four categories: Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Basic Skills and Behaviors, Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Control Quotient (CQ).

Without going into elaborate detail on each of these, they found a minimal impact on agent performance for the first three in comparison with CQ. Skills that make up CQ include resilience, ability to handle pressure, taking responsibility for their actions, responding well to feedback from their supervisor, and the ability to concentrate on tasks for extended amounts of time. No doubt you’ll recognize these qualities in your best agents.

It turns out that CQ has a lot to do with the culture in your contact center. Companies high in CQ typically trust their agents to use their own judgement, have a clear sense of alignment with company goals, and have a strong support network among their peers. At FCR, we’re already big fans of the concepts of Autonomy, Purpose, and Mastery presented in Daniel Pink’s Drive and this aligns perfectly.

Measuring Customer Effort

You may be asking yourself, “How do I measure customer effort?” In this book we are introduced to Customer Effort Score 2.0, which is a simple 7-point survey question asking the customer to rate how much they agree or disagree with this statement: “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.”

For those who already use Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), have no fear! The book makes it clear that those gauge overall customer sentiment about the customer experience, whereas Customer Effort Score (CES) focuses on the “micro-experience” and improving each interaction. Rather than forsaking your existing surveys for CES, the recommendation is to consider adding it to your repertoire of metrics.

Finally, I cannot recommend highly enough that people in all levels of organizations take the time to read this book. For customer service representatives, supervisors, and managers alike, this should be one that you read and re-read as you aim to deliver effortless service to your customers. For my colleagues at FCR, there will be a copy of The Effortless Experience arriving at a contact center near you very shortly!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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