The Effortless Experience: Book Review

We all know the stories about Zappo' or Dutch and their extreme focus at customer service. The stories are often very inspiring and motivating (for marketers and customer service professionals). After reading these stories, I often get very much motivated to use these experiences in my daily job. But not all companies can differentiate with such extreme customer service. What if the holy grail of service for many companies is not customer delight, but customer relief? It's always good to see things from a different perspective. 
Besides that, to have a great customer experience (and conversion) in your digital channels you have to understand customer service! 

So I decided to buy a book about customer experience. "The effortless experience"  by Nick Toman and Rick Delisi. I've read it and below a short summary of my findings combined with my personal opinion and the relation with digital.

First the book starts with asking the question: what companies you do business with or buy from specifically because of the exceptional customer service they provide?
Then the follow up question is of course: what companies have you stopped buying from and refused to do business with because of the awful service you have experienced?
The second question is often much easier to answer then the first one.

This is in line with a recent study in China I published at my slideshare profile, where negative messages spread much faster at social media.

I sometimes buy with Coolblue, a company in the Netherlands which is know for it's excellent customer service. It's customer service reputation, might be a reason to buy there, but for me personally it is not my trigger to buy there. I bought a few products there this year, but I never needed the customer service department. So service for me, is not differentiator for buying at coolblue. 
They just need to meet my expectations in delivery, communication and quality. And they do.

Should companies try to create differentiation and build customer loyalty by delivering superior service?
The answer to this question is in the book. Below the key findings.

The book defines three definitions of loyalty

  • Repurchase - customers continue to buy from your company;
  • Share of wallet - customers buy from you over time;
  • Advocacy - customer say good things about your company.

All the things in a service interaction that could make customers loyal to companies, which ones actually do?

The authors did extensive international research to answer this question. They conclude the following:

  • A strategy of delight does not pay
International research among 97.000 customers says there is no difference between the loyalty of customers whose expectations are exceeded and those whose expectations are simply met! A delight strategy might cost a lot of money, but do you get the loyalty back? Not according this study.

  • Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty
In their research 20% of the customers said, they were satisfied by the service interaction, but at the same time they also were actually intending to leave the company and buy from somebody else.
Satisfaction does not always means loyalty.

  • Customer Service Interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
Customer Service is a strong factor in disloyalty! It might sound strange But often customer interaction might lead to disloyalty. Positive product experiences lead to loyalty.

Impact customer service at customer loyalty

A positive product experience has more impact on loyalty
then customer service

  • The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort
The customer effort is the important factor for mitigating disloyalty. (e.g. generic service, more then one contact to resolve the problem, etc) First Contact Resolution is key in providing service and loyalty.

The main argument in the book according to the authors is : mitigate disloyalty by reducing customer effort. That's the strategy you should handle.

Hej, customer effort, I remember, I wrote about it earlier, you can measure that :)
Read much more and the relation about customer effort score and digital marketing at the next page!

Why does a strategy of delight does not work for most company's?

  • It does not work because delighting customers is rare and it does not make customers more loyal;
  • It does not because customer service interactions are four times likely to drive disloyalty;
  • It does not work because it is not improving the customer effort.

Lowering costs by sending people to self service, in the long run, is not always that easy. The majority of calls at some big companies with self service are from people who already tried self service, but somehow they got stuck or cannot find the information at the website.

Customers who attempt to use self service but fail and then have to call, are 10 percent more disloyal then customers who are able to resolve their issue in the channel of their choice.

Key is: avoid channel switching for customers! 

How to avoid channel switching and by doing that, decrease the disloyalty?
It's starts with analysing data. If you have an integrated CRM/Website/Phone information system then you have the ability to analyse lot's of data and after that improve your processes and systems, but most companies do not have all of this integrated. Then this call script can be very convenient to reduce your channel switching customers and increase loyalty.

Decrease channel switching by asking a few simple questions
source: Fidelity

Customers want their problems to be resolved fast. 
And the channel preference that often is refered to in books as being so important for customer satisfaction?

The customer's don't care, the channel that helps them solving the problem the fastest way is important to the customer.

The book refers to some examples from Amazon where Amazon asks people questions and suggests the best channel of contacting for their problem.

Next issue avoidance in customer service

A lot of companies let their reps ask: "Did I solve your issue"  often the customer says "yes, I think so",  but just as often a few days later a new call is made about a related issue. 
So the issue was not solved. The customer could not know this related problem might occur, the company could know. FCR (First Contact Resolution) fails to account for those related issues.
So go beyond the FCR. The question agents should ask is "how can I make sure this customer does not call back?" Go from FCR to NIA (next issue avoidance)

Experience engineering

The authors refer to experience engineering for customer service reps and the importance to improve how the customer interprets what is being told. 

Often customer service reps, can't solve the issue right away but the importance is how to bring the (negative) news. 

Keep customers loyal! Lower effort translates to less disloyalty, which translates to strategic and financial success

Use Experience Enginering: Don't tell customers what you can't do, tell them what you can do!

Alternative positioning 

Alternative positioning, meaning never put customers on hold or give them a "background music"  while searching for details. Keep talking to them and try to find out the customer's real interests. By understanding the customer's background and context often very different needs emerges.

Control Quotient

How can companies position their reps for success in today's world?
Reps should have these skills

  • Resilent;
  • Able to handle high pressure situations without becoming burned out;
  • Takes responsibility for own actions;
  • Repsonds well to constructive criticism by managers;
  • Able to concentrate on tasks over extended periods of time.
This is called the Control Quotient. Reps take control over their interactions with customers.
You can "enable" CQ with most rep's but companies need to give control back to the rep's.

The message in high CQ organizations is: Do your non-customer-facing work as efficiently as possible so you can have more time to talk to customers who need your help. 

Customer Effort Score

As written earlier, a low customer effort score is very important to minimize disloyalty.
However the standard customer effort score models are often resulting in false positives or false negatives.
The book presents the customer effort score 2.0. This new metric is based at statements. "the company made it easy for me to handle my issue" for example. By re-writing the questions the results are much more reliable.

Conclusion Alex

I think the book The effortless experience is a very interesting and valuable book to read for everybody interested in customer experience marketing, customer service and digital marketing. It makes you think about other strategy's then only extremely focus at customer service. Lowering the customer effort and minimizing the disloyalty factor is of course something digital marketing and channel integration can provide an excellent answer to. Your web self service environments are very important to minimize the disloyalty. Constantly test and improve your self service environment by listening to your customers and keep in close contact with your customer service department.

Next Issue Avoidance is also something digital and especially e-mail marketing can help with. When customers bought an article and call your customer service department, ask for their e-mail address and sent them extra information via e-mail about the products they bought with the most common "next time" questions answered. I think even better is to optimize your e-mail and web contact strategy in the first place to prevent the first call at all. Of course cross en upsell is ideal in this situation. What if you can sell something additional to prevent a possible future problem!

The book learns that a perfect integration of CRM/WEB/CSD is essential for keeping the disloyalty low. If people use the chat version and they call the other day, their chat history should be known to the agent. Alternative positioning can also be used to update customers profiles, by asking general questions for interest, customer service agents can update a profile which later can be used to improve the web experience of these customers (if web/csd/crm) are integrated. If an agent learns that a customer is a frequent business traveler and usually does not travel privately, this information can help improving your tailor made customer offers at the web.

A low customer effort score should be a perfect cooperation between the customer service departments and the marketing/web department. Think about improving the on site search so customers find a solution to their problem fast. A FAQ tree that is fast and easy and integrated with web chat or any other channel that helps people to solve the problem fast. 
When you for example think about creating "communities" for customer self care. "Customer help Customers"  Think about this book. Usually communities (as setup nowadays) do result in a low customer effort score. This might lead to loyalty. 

I think in social media, customer delight (occasionally) might help to improve your brand reputation. So to completely ignore customer delight is not good, but it does not have to be your differentiator.

In your customer and e-commerce strategy, think broad. Don't try to copy Zappos or Nordstrom or any other company that is famous for it's customer experience. Think about your personal situation before you do so. Think about if lowering the customer effort score, improving the customer experience and solving's customer's problems fast is already enough for your service level and this gives you an opportunity to differentiate in another way.
Keep in mind that lowering the customer effort score is also "knowing what customers want and offering them this before they know". A perfect integration of CRM/BI/WEB is essential.

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar


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