There likely is not a contact center in the world that isn’t focused on improving the customer experience at this very moment.  There are, of course, many different ways to “improve the customer experience”, as that is a very broad statement!  Ultimately, though, whatever path an organization takes, the goal is generally the same- make my customers happier so they will be loyal to my business.  Through our years of research, we know that the best path to achieving that goal is through a low-effort customer service experience.  Put differently, customers are far more likely to leave organizations that make it hard to solve their problems or fulfill their requests.  High-effort service experiences create disloyalty. 

The thing about customer effort, however, is that it is in the eye of the beholder.  Effort is much more about the intangibles than anything else.  It comes down to the interaction between one customer service rep and one customer.  And when seeking to optimize that moment— that 1:1 service interaction—many customer service leaders focus their attention on how to improve “soft skills.”  Interestingly, when the goal is reducing customer effort, soft skills (i.e., being friendly, personable, and professional) actually aren’t a factor.  Statistically speaking, they have zero impact on actively reducing customer effort.  That said, a LACK of these attributes will certainly drive UP customer effort.  In other words, they are table stakes…it will hurt the experience if your team doesn’t have them, but it doesn’t actively improve the experience either.  Since you are likely screening for basic soft skills during your interview processes, you’re probably not hiring people who you think will be rude, and hopefully you’ve achieved these table stakes at your organization. 

Let’s pause a moment to think about why soft skills might not help actively reduce customer effort.  Our hypothesis is that ultimately soft skills are all about establishing a rapport and a relationship with the customer.  Again, rapport is table stakes.  BUT…your customers aren’t contacting you to make a new friend…they are contacting you to get their problem solved or inquiry handled.  The customer’s goal is an OUTCOME, not a RELATIONSHIP.

So what does it look like to take your team to the next level?  What are the skills that actively reduce customer effort?  Glad you asked.  In a nutshell, the skills your team needs are the ones that will enable them to take control of a conversation and show them how to guide the customer while anticipating customer needs and reactions to engineer a win-win outcome for the customer and the company.   We’ve blogged about many of these skills previously, and I’d invite you to dig in on skills such as:

When you train your people with meaningful skills that enable them to deliver different-in-kind service experiences, you’re not just going to see a reduction in customer effort, but you’re also going to see an improvement in your rep retention.  Because when a rep is practicing the low effort skills—which, by the way, are all about providing personalized service in a scalable manner—they feel more engaged with your company and with your customers.  The job becomes more enjoyable because reps are approaching every interaction with a human touch.

We work with companies from a multitude of industries who have seen these results in their own organizations after shifting their strategy to focus on Effortless Experience.  One financial services company, for example, reduced rep attrition by 46% in 18 months while simultaneously improving first contact resolution by 10%.

One healthcare company improved their Net Promoter Score by 10% while reducing voluntary attrition by nearly 9%.  In both cases, these companies put their people at the heart of their customer service strategy and saw the benefits almost immediately.

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff is Senior Vice President for the Global Client Success team at Challenger. She leads a team of professionals who are dedicated to demonstrating client impact and ensuring they receive value from Challenger and Effortless Experience products and services. The client success team is focused on anticipating customer needs, providing specific advice to the client, and driving outcomes for the sales and customer service teams we serve. Lauren was also a principal contributor to the 2013 book, The Effortless Experience (Penguin Books).