Bottom line: The goal of “delighting customers” is misguided; it is expensive, rare, and has virtually no impact at scale. Instead, focused on mitigating disloyalty (and bad word of mouth) by reducing customer effort.
To reduce customer effort, focus on:
- First contact resolution to avoid channel switching, transfers, call-backs
- Proactive “next issue avoidance” recommendations based on what most frequently causes customers to come back for service. Forward resolve only the immediate adjacent issue.
- Don’t forward resolve complex issues on the phone; though OK to do so via short, well-timed emails
- “Experience engineering” to provide personalized service and to lower “perceived additional effort to resolve” issues (= guiding customers using carefully selected language to feel pretty good about an outcome that most likely was not their first choice)
- Advocacy: demonstrating clear alignment with the customer and supporting them in an active way by understanding their primary motivation (ex: When asked for a dining recommendation, hotel concierge should first ask if business or individual or family?)
- Positive language: Don’t tell customers what they (your you) can’t do, tell them what they (or you) can do
- Anchoring: positioning a given outcome as more positive and desirable by comparing it to another less desirable one
- Not making the customer repeat information
- Boosting the “stickiness” of self-service channels (esp. web) by:
- Ensuring customers find the information they need, esp. via a guided experience
- Ensuring the information is clear (in customer, not company language; worded from the customer’s point of view; chunked; in active voice)
- Ensuring the phone number to call the company is easily found on the web (worst case, in the bottom right of the footer); incentive self-service, but don’t overtly discourage live service.
- Measure something consistently. Don’t become paralyzed searching for the perfect metric.
- Customer satisfaction is a poor predictor of loyalty. NPS is better but focuses on the entirety of the customer experience, not individual (“micro-experiences”) service interactions.
- Customer Effort Score: “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue,” after which the customer is asked to answer (on a common 1–7 scale used in most customer service surveys) whether they agree or disagree with the statement.
- Measure three things (a) Overall loyalty using a metric like NPS; (b) effort in service transactions using a metric like CES; (c) the customer’s service journey – how many touch points? Of what type? Via which channels? In what sequence?
- Set a seven- to a fourteen-day window for tracking call-backs.
- An average score is far less important than the distribution. Averages hide important discrepancies in data.
- customer preferences shifting away from live service; we are in the era of self-service first. Customers care far more about having their problem go away than about how they get to that outcome.
- Deploy incentive systems that value the quality of the customer experience over merely speed & efficiency. Do your non-customer-facing work as efficiently as possible so you can have more time to talk to customers who need your help.
- Email resolution is inefficient for nearly every issue
- Traditional niceness/concern/empathy has a neutral impact on loyalty
- Traits of great customer service professional: (a) IQ – advanced problem solving (b) basic skills and behaviors (c) emotional intelligence (d) control quotient – resilience. Control quotient is “unlocked” by three environmental variables: trust in rep judgment, alignment with company goals, a strong peer support network.
- Classroom training is ineffective other than for (a) onboarding (b) kicking off major new initiatives. Instead, focus on live coaching (integrated, proximate from managers or peers) and moderated online team discussion forums.
- Effort reduction is an experientially learned skill with no clear-cut rules or scripts.
- Narrowing your front line’s attention to a small set of high-impact things they should focus on is critical for getting early wins and ultimately gaining broad frontline adoption.
- Effort reduction lives or dies in the break room. Reps need to believe that effort reduction is better for the customer and how it’s going to make their own jobs easier.