Customer Delight vs. Customer Effort
May20

Customer Delight vs. Customer Effort

There are two camps forming.  Both are waving the customer experience flag with great conviction.  Thousands of support leaders are choosing sides and donning the colors of either Customer Delight or “The Effortless Experience.”  Before taking your long sword off the wall, however, let us consider the critical lessons we need to learn from each to create the perfect balance! There is great power in delighting customers.  Doing so on a regular basis can turn them into an army of word of mouth ambassadors for your brand.  And unlike your internal marketing team, they’re paying you!  Steve Denning systematically articulates in his article why those organizations who do not sustain customer delight as a focus are missing the mark.  In the book, “The Customer Delight Principle: Exceeding Customers Expectations for Bottom-Line Success” authors Timothy L. Keiningham and Terry Vavra demonstrate how mere satisfaction is not enough.  It takes more than modest approval to retain customers, as 60% of those who leave a vendor report being at least satisfied. A study into customer effort brings clarity to this otherwise confounding statistic.  In the book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty,” The Corporate Executive Board * notes that even the almighty Customer Satisfaction Score (the holy grail of customer support metrics) has an astoundingly low connection with loyalty.  A typical customer does not expect to be astonished on every touch point with the business. They simply want to reach a resolution as quickly and easily as possible. Therefore, we need to reduce the amount of effort required by the customer.  Actions to reduce channel switching and guide customers to the best resolution path are what foster a successful partnership.  Find out more here.  Business leaders who invest innumerable resources into fostering customer delight universally are seeing very little return on this investment. How do we reconcile this? We must create an effortless experience interspersed with pinnacles of customer delight! There are touch points in every CX journey where customers expect the extra mile.  We need to identify a handful of touch points and roll out the red carpet in these areas.  Even as we work to manufacture these summits, we can still cater to several “effortless” principles – including guiding the customer to the best resolution path.  If we know we will not create a good resolution experience for a problem using social media for example, then why would we guide our customers there?  Equip them for success and give them the right solution at the right time.  Having fantastic support channels is better (from both a delight and an effort standpoint) then having a large number of channels. One of...

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The Customer-Centric Ambassador Program
Apr17

The Customer-Centric Ambassador Program

Maintaining a customer-centric focus should be a priority for every group in your organization.  A simple concept in theory, but as soon as the water gets rough we tend to batten down the hatches and retreat to our internal comfort zones.  It may be time to deploy your greatest resource for customer-focused evangelism – your very own support team. Allow me to present an exciting new arrow in your quiver, the “Customer Ambassador” Program!  There are so many ways to implement this concept, but you will soon see why it is essential for both your service analysts and the larger organization. What is it? This is a program by which each analyst is assigned to represent the support group to another department within the company.  Look for opportunities to collaborate and improve the customer experience.  I have seen fantastic projects conceived and executed as a result of this cross-pollination.  Set basic guidelines on how much time per week can be allotted toward these activities, and allow creativity to guide the rest! How Your Team Benefits: With the amount of time your analysts spend on the phone, they are likely to start viewing their headset as a prison shackle.  Set them free!  Through career coaching with your analysts, you likely know what aspirations/interests/aptitudes your employees have.  Begin to expose them to the right departments and people.  I’ve worked with several analysts who had interest in another group, but after getting their feet wet, they realized it was not a good fit.  Creating learning moments such as this can save an individual years of side stepping away from their optimal career path.  On the other hand, there have been several excellent connections made through the program that have resulted in exciting promotions and new opportunities.  In addition, your team will be exposed to the larger organization in a powerful new way.  We often challenge our reps to think beyond their current role and become more strategic, but fail to equip them with “big picture”  knowledge.  If you are their only connection point to events outside the department, creativity will be stifled.  Give your analysts the chance to see the larger picture for themselves!  They are likely to come up with solutions you would have never conceived. How the Company Benefits: What could be better than having a passionate, customer-centric ambassador in each area of your business?  There is no better way to achieve a widespread understanding of customer needs. As a leader implementing this program, you are no longer the sole customer advocate to the larger business.  You equip your team with a compelling story, develop that story through key metrics,...

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“Your Title”…and Customer Advocate!
Apr12

“Your Title”…and Customer Advocate!

How to fight for your customers and win. In my second job out of college, I went to work for an internet start-up.  Not one of the ones who made it, unfortunately, but we had a good run. I started there doing marketing research, but within a month or two, the company was big enough to require a full-time Customer Service Rep, which I became.  Within another few months, they asked me to lead the team of support reps that we were hiring, and as a 23 year old new to the work-force, I jumped at the chance. Around the time that I became the manager of the team, the company founders decided that they didn’t want us to merely provide service or support – because those things can be either good or bad.  They wanted us to provide satisfaction.  And so we became the Customer Satisfaction department. A few months later, we got business cards.  I hadn’t been in a role that really merited cards before, and I was so excited to get them. When they arrived, I opened my box, and here’s what they read: Manager of Customer Satisfaction and Customer Advocate I went to show them to my friend in sales, and I said, “Isn’t this great?  They just totally get what I do.  I AM a customer advocate!” Then he showed me his new card, which read: Regional Sales Associate and Customer Advocate The company founders, being customer focused as they were; felt that everyone in our company, regardless of their specific job, was employed to help our customers.   So everyone had cards that showed their title, and ended with “…and Customer Advocate”.   After my initial disappointment of not being “special” and “understood”, I realized what a terrific gift I, and everyone in the company, had been given.  We were all empowered to make the right decisions for our customers.  And we did.  It was an exciting time.  Going into work was fun, and I never dreaded picking up the phone or checking e mail, because I had all the tools and permission I needed to make my customers happy.  And I’m happy to say, that’s exactly what I did. Sadly, like a lot of internet start-ups of the late 90’s, the company didn’t last.  But the founders of that company gave me experience that I’ve carried with me in the 15+ years since I left our crowded, chaotic office space. With every company I’ve joined since, I’ve worked to promote my customers’ needs.  In some companies, that has been easier than in others.  But my managers, and more importantly, my customers have always appreciated...

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Customer Centric Lessons from “Divergent”
Apr07

Customer Centric Lessons from “Divergent”

While it may not carry quite the same professional relevance as the DiSC test, the personality factions from Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” are a fascinating study of human behavior.  We all of us have a default frame of mind by which we approach the world, and chances are, it is one of the five outlined below.  By viewing our support centers through the “Divergent” lens, we are likely to learn something new about our analysts and ourselves.  The following is a brief commentary on each faction complete with tips on how to succeed with it’s membership.    Dauntless – Who above all else value bravery. The Dauntless have an insatiable desire to be the hero.   They often build extra urgency into situations that do not require it in hopes of saving the day.  Even when they have nothing to do, a dauntless will act extremely busy.  It is all part of keeping up the appearance that their services are in special demand.  Being treated as just an average member of the team may cause them to undermine your leadership. How to succeed with a Dauntless – If it is danger they are looking for, give it to them!  Who better to manage critical  situations?  They will tenaciously pursue a resolution and fight for the customer.  They are not afraid to step on the occasional toe to get what is needed.  Offer frequent alignment checks to establish top priorities and prevent them from getting carried away in their own passion.  When they try to take on an unnecessary burden by themselves, remind your dauntless that many would-be heroes have shown their true colors as goats.    Erudite – Who above all else value knowledge. Erudite pursue learning with an avaricious vigor.  Within a knowledge centered support environment, information is the ultimate currency.  In this way the Erudite are rich.  They will dive head first into a set of release notes…the very same document that everyone else opened up for 20 seconds, skimmed the first paragraph, and closed forever.  While they may know more than others on your team, they have a tendency to be self-serving. In their continual quest for knowledge, they may consider it a hindrance to slow down and educate others; whether verbally or in the form of public knowledge base submissions. How to succeed with an Erudite – Challenge them to admonish the rest of the group with the information they are receiving.  See “The Real Rock Star.”  As they demonstrate efforts to learn for the greater good of the team, reward them with exposure to exciting things.  As you prepare our metrics, challenge them to review the numbers...

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Are You A “Dome Light Driver?”
Mar29

Are You A “Dome Light Driver?”

Take a moment to envision your company as a moving vehicle; a car traveling rapidly down a dark and unfamiliar road.  How difficult would it be to make even a short journey without relying on your headlights?   They provide illumination right where you need it, revealing the dangers of the world  around you.  Now imagine making this trip with nothing except your interior dome light.  You wouldn’t be able to see anything past your own dashboard!  It’s alarming to think how many of us try to guide our business with nothing but the dome light. What should serve as the headlights for your organization?  The voice of the customer.  It is our customers that give us the intelligence to move forward.  We must be actively engaging our customer base, not just soliciting information, but acting on the trends that surface and demonstrating a partnership.  When we retreat into our office buildings and make assumptions, poor decisions are likely to follow. As a support leader, there are several ways to turn on the high beams for your organization: Stand in the void – have the courage to become the voice of the customer.  Don’t just pass along user feedback…make it compelling and actionable.  You can expect limited results from simply throwing feedback over the fence.  You have to be the hero for your customer and have the tough conversations.  If you do not fight for them, no one will.  Do not let your business take the road of convenience and mediocrity. Place a premium on metrics that paint a picture of customer success and engagement, vs. control over agent behavior.  Let your dashboards tell the rest of the organization how you are helping the customer to win – not just who took the most calls or came back late from their lunch break. Know thy customer – A support interaction is like a marriage ceremony.  In order to create a blissful union, the analyst must be an expert in two areas.       1) The products of services you offer   2) The needs of the customer, both expressed and implied.  Most of us work tirelessly to train analysts on internal offerings, and never once help them think like a customer!  This makes a meaningful exchange of information difficult.  Insist on “customer centric” training not just for the support team, but for anyone involved in the strategic design of products and services. These actions will help you navigate the precarious roads ahead with full visibility.  How refreshing it will be for your customers to work with people who care about them and consistently demonstrate how valuable they are!  Talk about...

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The Effortless Experience
Feb28

The Effortless Experience

Still relying on customer satisfaction scores  to measure loyalty?  You may be spinning your wheels. When fostering customer loyalty, a common ambition is to exceed expectations and “dazzle” the customer.  However, compelling new evidence shows that surpassing expectations on support transactions has virtually no relationship to customer loyalty! In the book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty,” The Corporate Executive Board * notes that even the almighty Customer Satisfaction Score (the holy grail of customer support metrics) has an astoundingly low connection with loyalty.  Net Promoter Score was only marginally better.  We have seen this principle confirmed in my own organization using lean/six sigma principles. If we can no longer trust basic, universally accepted metrics, what should we do? Dixon’s research shows that a Customer Effort Score has a high correlation with loyalty and is a reliable predictor of customers’ future spending decisions. A typical user seeking software support does not expect to be astonished; the customer simply wants to reach a resolution as quickly and easily as possible. Therefore, we need to reduce the amount of effort required by the customer. Two key actions are recommended: Prevent channel switching. More is not necessarily better. Channels such as the resource center, LinkedIn, Facebook, live chat, email, phone and user communities are great, but we should not advise customers to use them if they are not the best resolution path. Customers want to be able to solve their problem quickly and easily.  Consider your highest volume generating issues.  Over what channel can you best resolve that problem?  How can you direct the customer to that channel at their time of need? Apply next-issue avoidance. In many cases a customer issue may appear to be resolved when in fact there is an underlying unmet need. For example, the customer may not have clearly articulated the concern, the issue may have multiple layers of complexity, or there may be system workflow challenges. When the customer has to seek additional help, a high-effort response often is required.  By anticipating common issues, we can reduce effort, resolve issues more quickly and consistently create win-win scenarios. While the primary burden of establishing an effort score my fall to the support organization, all areas of your business should be asking, “What can I do today to reduce effort for the customer?” * The primary principles covered here are from The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Dixon, Matthew, Toman, Nick and DeLisi, Rick.   Share...

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