You Think Your Customer Service is an Effortless Experience? It's Not.

You Think Your Customer Service is an Effortless Experience? It's Not.

When I talk to customer service leaders about how, specifically, they’re driving an Effortless Experience at their organization, I often hear responses, such as “I have my team reading the book,” or “We practice Experience Engineering,” or “We’ve actually begun moving to something like this,” or “We’ve got some folks who are doing this in pockets.” 

If you’ve described your customer service function like this (or something similar), I have something important, yet difficult, to say to you…you’re not providing an Effortless Experience.  You might think you are, but you’re not.  In fact, there are two common misconceptions that leaders typically have, which lead them and their teams - but not their customers - to think they’re Effortless.

Misconception #1:  Applying One Skill Makes You Effortless

Through our decade of research on the topic of customer effort, we’ve identified nine skills that we know lead to an Effortless Experience.  And if we can equip our reps with these skills, we can feel confident - and our reps can feel confident - that they can deliver an Effortless Experience, even on the most difficult calls.  These nine skills roll-up into three main categories: 

  1. Interaction Tailoring and Content Surfacing
  2. Experience Engineering
  3. Forward Resolving.

effortless skills chart

While I won’t go into detail on each skill here, it’s a good segue into our first misconception, which is that too many companies think that if their reps are demonstrating just one or two of these skills then voila, they’re Effortless!  It’s not true.  I hear the same sentiment even when a head of customer service tells me “some of their reps do it in pockets.“  Pockets do not equal Effortless.

One of the frequently overlooked steps to ensuring you create an Effortless Experience for your customers and to ensure Effortless becomes part of your group’s DNA, is upskilling reps on all nine skills.   

If that seems daunting, one of the ways to make it easier to consume is by teaching the nine skills by the three main categories outlined above.  Start with Interaction Tailoring and Content Surfacing, which include the first four skills, and then move onto Experience Engineering followed by Forward Resolving.  Don’t forget to also teach how the nine skills work together to deliver an Effortless Experience.

But to be clear,  just focusing on those nine skills isn’t enough. 

Misconception #2:  We’re Now Effortless Because We Say We Are

The second misconception, which is closely tied to the first, is that too many companies think becoming Effortless is just a flip of the switch. 

Companies think just by using terms from the book they’re creating an Effortless Experience.  However, it’s one thing to talk-the-talk; it’s a whole other thing to walk-the walk. 

One example that jumps immediately to mind is a firm that, on the surface, appeared Effortless.  They understood the concept at a high level, and used all the right terms (e.g., integrated coaching, acknowledging baggage), but when it came time to actually applying the skills and the framework, it was clear they did not understand what Reps and Sups actually have to do to drive an Effortless Experience.  

Focus on all the right things

Further, we’ve repeatedly seen organizations spend time, money and all sorts of resources on driving an Effortless Experience (so they’re doing something, which is a great start).  However, they’re wasting time and money by focusing on all the wrong things.  For example, one company that started their Effortless journey five years ago, began spending the right amount of time on coaching but were spending that time in the wrong way, which led to ineffective coaching.  

When you look at how the most successful companies are driving an Effortless Experience, it’s due to their sharp focus on changing mindsets and behaviors.  They’re truly transforming the function from top to bottom.  Put another way, they aren’t approaching Effortless like it’s a flip of the switch.  The way to drive this sort of transformation successfully is by pulling the three levers we see in the diagram below:

service venn diagram

Upskilling Representative: The first step is a focus on upskilling reps on a holistic skill set, which we discussed above.

Better Coaching: Next, ensure your Supervisors know how to correctly coach.  Easier said than done, right?  It’s astounding the broad spectrum of coaching (or lack of coaching) we observe within a single organization.  Frequently this is because there is no common understanding of what it means to coach or how to do it effectively. 

Before you embark on a coaching initiative, be sure you have one, consistent definition of coaching.  And be sure it involves embedding coaching in your day-to-day.  For those of you who struggle in this space, you’re not alone; research shows only 20% of Supervisors provide good coaching. 

Improved Evaluation: Last, but certainly not least, comes the performance evaluation piece.  In other words, you have to modernize your QA process.  QA is the glue that holds this transformation together.  The last thing you want, and we see it all the time when service leaders think they can skip past QA, is to upskill Reps and Sups but QA doesn’t come along for the ride. 

What happens then?  Your Reps have a choice – solve the customer’s problem or check the box on an antiquated QA checklist and get paid.  Guess which choice your Reps are going to make, every. single. time?

Building the Effortless Experience

You might be reading this and realizing this is you.  That’s ok.  You might be reading this thinking, “this whole Effortless Experience thing is a lot harder than I thought.”  It is.  It’s a big change for a lot of companies we work with. 

But nothing stops any of us from moving in the right direction.  Hopefully, the above points you in that right direction.  There’s certainly more to share – we really are just scratching the surface here. 

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