Why can’t I get my sales to close? JOLT Rx can tell you
As we enter Q4, the pressure on sales people to get deals signed intensifies. So why are the sales that seemed like a perfect fit stalling?
October 17, 2022
October 3, 2020
One customer interaction can undermine an entire customer experience. One single, solitary phone call, chat message or customer support email can mean the difference between your customer’s positive perception of your brand and experience and their frustration with it, and eventual churn.
Especially the last part of that interaction. How did it go? Did you leave off on sound footing where you came to a natural closing or resolution? Or, did it leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth — and an unfortunate lasting impression for your brand?
"78% of consumers share
that a single customer service interaction permanently changed
how they felt about a brand."
In a recent study our partner, Qualtrics, poured through thousands of customer journeys focused on understanding contact center customer experiences through the lense of 2,000 customer perspectives and 100 contact center agent perspectives. Their findings confirm that a whopping "78% of surveyed consumers indicated that a single contact center interaction permanently changed how they felt about a brand."
We’re seven months into a global pandemic that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. You don’t want to be leaving your customers’ needs and experiences behind while you rush off to meet sales quotas or try zigging instead of zagging your product or service in an unstable market climate. We invite you to grab a cup of coffee or your favorite loose-leaf tea, find a comfy seat and get ready to anatomize with us, if you will, an effortless customer interaction.
Chapter 1: What is a customer interaction?
Chapter 2: What makes an interaction “effortless”?
Chapter 3: Typical components of an effortless customer interaction
Chapter 4: The quickest ways companies can reduce customer effort in their customer interactions
Chapter 5: Automate effort scoring and close the customer feedback loop to make every customer interaction effortless
Customer interactions come in many shapes and sizes these days — from the long and often drawn-out phone call to the quick chat message that you key in with all of your thumbs from your mobile phone on the way to pick up your kids from school finally (of course, never texting while driving!). But you get the idea.
What used to be just a visit to your brick-and-mortar or a phone call from a customer has evolved into a multitude of methods to interact with customers across a variety of virtual channels. Today's customers are engaging everywhere: from social media and open text messengers to live chatbots, email and SMS. Add in the tools your front-line staff use to respond (customer support ticketing systems and entire enterprise CRM solutions for the contact center), and you've got plenty of touchpoints where a customer interaction can potentially occur.
The first question to ask yourself:
How do you deliver on what you say you’ll deliver with the least possible effort for your customer?
And a customer’s journey (a.k.a. all the micro-interactions they have with your company across every channel, department and team) touches many parts of your business. From a customer service interaction over the phone with a customer care rep. in your contact center, to a live chat with your product support team online to a customer prospecting or account maintenance interaction via email with a business development manager or an account manager.
Even more, there are so many influencing factors that lead customers to choose a specific channel to communicate with companies:
In a post-COVID world where we’ve all been forced online, and with so many more ways to interact with your customers than ever… how do you know what you should be doing to keep happy customers happy? And what you should not be doing to keep them at all?
Providing an exceptional customer experience is supposed to be the one thing that encourages happy customers who are loyal more than anything, right?
Well, it’s half-right.
What the Effortless Experience* research (of more than 100 thousand customers) tells us is that “customers who are delighted are actually no more loyal than those whose expectations are simply met,” explains Matt Dixon, Tethr’s Chief Product and Research Officer, and one of the key researchers on the project. So, “actually delivering a good, straightforward, frictionless, effortless customer experience is what our customers are really looking for,” he goes on to say.
* The Effortless Experience is a trademark of Challenger, Inc. To learn more about Effortless Experience solutions, contact Challenger.
“Delighted customers are actually no more loyal than those whose expectations are simply met.”
Matt Dixon, Tethr
To sum it all up for you, two of the big takeaways from the Effortless Experience research:
In actuality, where the effortful friction is happening the most in your business is an even more surprising outcome of the research. “When we look at the impact of a service interaction on loyalty,” Dixon expands, “what we found is that a service interaction is almost 4x more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty.”
“A service interaction is almost 4x more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty.”
Matt Dixon, Tethr
Why? The seven critical drivers of high-effort customer interactions, and therefore disloyalty, tend to happen with frequency in a company’s service operations. This is where your customer care and support staff typically shoulder the burden of upstream and downstream business strategy, process and resourcing issues.
Effort drivers can come from every angle around your customer service delivery. A few questions to reflect on for your business:
Placing the burden of your inhumane or robotic service practices on them or forcing them into onerous and constraining company policies and procedures.
And don’t forget the overall hassle of having to call you in the first place! All of these disloyalty drivers make your customer’s experience worse, never better.
We suggest you start by looking at your customer service interactions — the stuff that's happening in the contact center or with your customer care and quality assurance or support teams.
As CX and Customer Care or Quality Assurance leaders, what questions should we be asking ourselves about “effort” in each of our customer interactions?
Our research reveals: if you want to improve your customer relationships, shore-up customer expectations, fine-tune your customer service operations or full-on practice the tenets of effortless service to re-architect an effortless customer experience from the ground up in your organization, you'll want to start with the smallest incremental component — the customer interaction.
And regardless of the scale of the initiative you want to undertake, effortlessness begins within each individual interaction. And an effortless experience is made up of hundreds and thousands of effortless customer micro-interactions happening at any given moment across every team and customer touchpoint in your org. So, let’s dig into the common components of an effortless customer interaction.
As humans we’re built to want to show and see improvement over time — in ourselves and in our relationships. So much so that forecasters expect the $38B global personal development market to grow by more than 5% over the next seven years due, in part, to the rise of advanced digital platforms for self-improvement, indicates Grand View Research's Personal Development Market segment forecast.
And it’s no different from our relationships with our customers. To measure our customers’ experience we look at two axes: Quality of the CX (represented vertically above) and Time (illustrated horizontally above). You can switch the Time axis out for many other measures to paint the picture of our customers' experience, including by industry, team, channel or platform or touchpoint in the customer journey.
The point(s) where those axes meet in the example graph above indicate the quality of a touchpoint, or customer interaction, in the experience over a period of time. The data will ultimately paint a picture of the ideal customer experience by touchpoint, or interaction, or the current customer experience by comparison.
The reality is that as humans who lead businesses, it’s as hard to see our own blind spots as it is to see them in our business. And it’s especially hard to see blind spots in each individual customer interaction happening across our business.
When you’re looking at the quality of a customer interaction over time, you’ll naturally see a rise in your customer’s expectations of your product, service or of doing business with you.
This rise can be attributed to market shifts, technological innovation, broader-than-ever access to information and sharing, domain maturation, and generational norms. Below are a few stats that sum up these ever-evolving shifts impacting your customer interactions and your experience as a whole:
So when you're tracing the reality of your customer's experience — interaction-by-interaction — it's easy to see how a gap can emerge between their evolving needs and expectations and what you're delivering.
So, how are you addressing that gap currently? Answer that question honestly.
Are you investing in coaching for your customer care and support teams?
Are you investing internally in the employee experience?
Have you built a customer experience technology stack that invests not only in listening, but also in closing the loop with customers?
And, are you getting a return on these investments?
Let’s face it, we’re all human. So, suppose you're not examining the micro-interactions (customer feelings and perceptions in response to agent behaviors) in your customer interactions. In that case, you're going to miss the nuances that can immediately elicit a customer's emotions and drive-up customer-perceived effort.
This scale measures low-to-high customer effort perception on the vertical axis happening over customer interaction flow. In the example above, we’re looking at the flow of a customer call. And what our research shows is that some common reactions/responses differentiate high-effort interactions with low-performing agent behaviors from low-effort customer interactions with high-performing agent behaviors.
Approximately a third of customers define effort around what they actually have to do to resolve their issue.
Two-thirds of customers base their perceived effort on how they felt when resolving their issue.
Effortless Experience research finding
Let’s look at two examples of high-effort and low-effort customer interactions below.
For each example, we'll break the call down into the three parts that are important to consider when analyzing the customer experience's quality and effort across your interactions: beginning, middle and end or what's often referred to as greeting, middle, closing.
First, let’s focus on the beginning of this example customer interaction shown above. Here we see the customer call starts well with the customer care agent making an apologetic acknowledgment of the customer’s pain point that probably sounds something like, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear you’re experiencing x.”
Next, what happens is the key points of differentiation between an effortful and an effortless customer interaction. It's where the customer gets real about how your company missed their expectations. And it’s here that we find low-performing agents identifying themselves.
Low-performing customer service agents aren’t skilled at handling the difference that arises when customer expectations don’t match up with experience. What they do instead is to defer, or avoid, the issue at hand. Acknowledging a problem, but actively avoiding addressing it with deferral is a sure-fire way to watch the rest of the interaction plummet into the depths of low-quality and high-effort.
By the middle of a high-effort customer interaction, what was acknowledged, but deferred turns into customer confusion. What that looks like in a customer interaction is the customer expressing something like, “I just don’t understand why your company cannot get this right.”
And what they’re met with in a high-effort experience is none other than equal confusion from the customer support rep. Agent confusion can look something like this: “Hmmm… you know, I’m not sure about that…” or “That’s never happened before. Can I put you on hold to figure x out?”
Now, what could be more frustrating than reaching out to a professional representative of a company — whose job it is to help you as a customer and help you understand — and being met with equal levels of confusion while they figure it out?
The end of a high-effort customer interaction is no different. Quality progressively plunges as the contact center agent escalates the call internally, feigning powerless to help the customer. Ultimately, like a deer caught in car headlights, their unfortunate tactic is to deflect.
Deflection has other names you may recognize, like “passing the buck” or “hiding behind a company’s policies.” What this sounds like is the contact center agent saying, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do to help,” or even “Our company policy prevents us from doing it that way.”
As a customer, you’ve likely experienced these unfortunate tactics yourself. So, how did you feel at the end of an interaction like this with a brand you trusted? Frustrated much? We get it.
It might surprise you to read this, but “I don't think service leaders need to be sold on the notion that issue resolution is important,” shares our SVP of Product Research, Ted McKenna. While we acknowledge that ROI is one of the main things call centers measure, often using a metric referred to as FCR, or first-call resolution, our research indicates it’s more nuanced than that.
What we've learned from dissecting thousands of customer interactions shows that the components of an interaction that have been long-considered as negative from a performance standpoint are the very choice points where your customer sales and service staff can completely turn an interaction around. (For example, these are things like asking probing questions and making the customer repeat information, allowing them to air out their frustrations or taking more time to handle the pain points the customer is presenting)
Not only is first-call resolution a bit unrealistic for both companies and their customer service and support staff, but it's also missing the bigger picture. Literally. From our perspective, and what we suggest companies do to help their customers avoid future issues, use a more realistic resolution measure that takes into account the themes across multiple customer points of contact and prepares customer care agents to actively listen and take an offensive approach. Using Next Issue Avoidance (NIA), customer service staff listen in the present while doing a bit of predicting the future downstream customer impacts that could trigger another call, chat or support case.
And using NIA may very well mean your support staff needs to dig in a little bit more deeply and a little longer to offer that kind of preventative guidance. We’ve found that high-performing sales, service and support agents get higher scores on these commonly negatively-weighted variables in a customer call (27% higher scores) while generally taking 5% longer on the call. Why? We’ll show you in the next example below.
Like we did in the high-effort customer interaction above, let’s break this low-effort example into its three parts (beginning, middle, end) and start at the beginning. What’s interesting to note about this one may have immediately become apparent if you’re looking at the call flow illustration above. What? Wait. So, an effortless customer interaction begins with the very things I’ve been coaching my customer care team, my call center floor managers and supervisors (or maybe even been coached myself!) to NOT DO?! What gives?
This is where the research gets exciting and might initially even seem counterintuitive to what you’ve learned about good customer interactions. In the customer call scenario illustrated above, the customer’s effort perception immediately takes a skydive. So, wait (you may be asking yourself)… let me get this straight — is this a trick example? Did you accidentally switch the high-effort and low-effort examples of a customer interaction?
Nope. We didn’t. In a low-effort customer interaction with a service rep. who is practicing Next Issue Avoidance, for example, you’re going to wade through the murk of the customer’s unmet needs well before you crawl ashore to the island oasis of customer happiness on the other side. (We all wish it felt like an island oasis right now!) The "murk" looks like asking your customer lots of questions and listening to their answers. Which might sound like, “Tell me more about what’s going on?” Or “What’s it been like for you?”
And to make sure you got it right, you may need to have them repeat some information to you, which can certainly end up creating customer perceived frustration at its lowest point because you're actually allowing the customer to get it all out on the table.
But, that’s all just before the dawn.
By the middle of a low-effort customer interaction, right when it seems the sun will never rise again on your island oasis of customer happiness, a high-performing service or support rep. with all the customer’s frustration out on the table will pull out two of the sturdiest skills in their toolkit. And no, they don’t involve busting apart coconut husks, digging up seashells or recovering old fisherman’s wire that’s washed ashore. They are advocacy and proactive guidance.
High-performing agents not only commit to holding space for the differences that can naturally arise when your customer’s expectations and your company’s actuals don’t line up, they embrace it. With all of the murkiest details of the customer’s frustrating experience in hand, they take ownership of the customer’s problem as if it were their own using the power of advocacy and guiding them toward a resolution.
The end of a low-effort customer interaction employs acknowledgment again, but it's not the kind you might be used to coaching or receiving. As the agent eases the customer's perception of effort, it rises steadily in this last service phase. A high-performing service agent isn't going to give empty "I'm sorries" to their customer. Instead, they'll more confidently acknowledge their shared relief at being able to work through the frustration and find a resolution. Assertive acknowledgment sounds like, "I am so relieved that we were able to work together to fix this issue for you today!"
What happens next might also surprise you, but in a low-effort customer interaction, the customer — feeling met in their moments of frustration — will give what we call promoter signals. These are verbal signals where relieved and unburdened customers then actively advocate for the agent or your company. Promoter signals sound like, “OMG, you were awesome! I am not going anywhere.” Or, “You got me, I’m a customer for life!”
The last quintessential component of an effortless customer interaction will focus on what we call drivers, or the events that elicit effort, disloyalty or increase business cost.
Understanding these drivers on your customer interaction and, ultimately, the driver themes across your customer’s journey creates the context for both the service agent’s behavior or the customer’s response. Drivers give your interaction traceable dimension.
They also give the interaction more traceable depth. Take the example of the seven key drivers of disloyalty above. Tracing these as structured customer data on your customer interaction will help you understand a lot more about the contexts and situations across your business that are currently (and have the potential to) increase disloyalty from your customers.
Now, take our five buckets of effort drivers: Customer sentiment, Call handling effort, Self-service effort, Rep-related effort, Non-service effort. You may notice how broad these buckets are, and there’s a reason. Our effort research has borne more than 50 different nuances of effort that can occur on an interaction and across a customer experience! Imagine diving 50 levels deep into all the shades of effort across your channels, stages in a customer service interaction, customer responses like Confusion, Frustration or Missed Expectations, and customer and agent behaviors like Channel Switching, Repeat Contacts, Proactive Guidance and Escalations.
For more on the how to get started reducing customer effort quickly and effectively, check out these tips from our Chief Product & Research Officer, Matt Dixon.
First, a word about the importance of measuring effort below in case you're still unconvinced.
If you’re still asking yourself why customer effort is an important measure for reducing effort in your customer interactions, let us explain. For starters (and enders) measuring customer effort has been shown to outperform the NPS and CSAT scores in predicting actual customer behavior. And what more do you want than to understand and predict customer behavior?
But at Tethr we take that effort scoring quite a few steps further than the original Customer Effort Score. Our platform removes the natural limitations of a survey-based score and increases your ability to score both effort and agent behaviors at-scale across all of your customer interactions. And our integrations allow you to automate internal and customer follow-up workflows across some of the industry's best CX and CRM tools (pssst... Qualtrics and Salesforce).
To calculate perceived customer effort and identify common themes and behaviors on the part of your agent, your business and your customer, start with your interactions.
We dive into the Tethr Effort Index (TEI) model's details, how we tuned it and a ton more in our Complete Guide to the Tethr Effort Index. But for our purposes in this article, let’s start simple with a single customer interaction.
First, it’s necessary to understand that “we built TEI as a disloyalty detector,” states McKenna, and “the research tells us it's the disloyal situations worth paying attention to — where negative word of mouth becomes an issue and customer churn becomes real.”
So, looking at the typical TEI distribution across a customer interaction, a score between 0 and 4 is what you want to watch out for. These are red-flagging your Difficult customer interactions, or those that indicate high-effort from the customer’s perception. Typically around 10-15% of customer interactions fall into this range.
On the opposite side of the range, and experience, are your effortless customer interactions, what we term Easy that fall into the 7 to 10 score range. These are the ones you want to sit back, listen to and learn from. What are the themes you’re seeing? The behaviors of your service agents? The perceptions of your customers implied in their tone and sentiment? And what can you put on repeat?
But what about those ~70% of Moderate scores in the middle, yellow range? “Moderate scores basically say it was neither great nor terrible with respect to perceived effort,” adds McKenna.
"While it's far more impactful to think about the best and worst customer interactions through an effort lense and how to replicate or fix them," explains McKenna. What he's found is that "when scores hover in the middle, it almost always means the agent isn't doing much to engineer a great experience. So, you want to ask yourself, why was that not an Easy interaction? What could have made it so?”
“While the Customer Effort Score (CES) is a better predictor of loyalty in transactional settings than the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT); understanding customer loyalty is about more than just the experience,” cautions McKenna.
“We recommend you continue using things like CSAT to pick up on positive CX indicators like product affinity,” he shares. Still, survey-based scoring methods have natural limitations as they rely on, well, someone putting forth the extra effort to complete a survey when they may just have told you their pain point over the phone, in the live chatbot or via the email they sent.
"96% of customers who’ve had a difficult, high-effort experience report back that they’re unlikely to repurchase, unlikely to spend more and very likely to spread negative word of mouth."
Matt Dixon, Tethr
Did you realize that the most widely-known survey-based methods for analyzing your customer interactions to get at customer satisfaction, loyalty or effort can actually drive more effort for your customer? Here's a quick look at the industry-standard measures, what they measure, how they're calculated, what that means and suggested uses.
Customer effort with an organization (short-term, per interaction)
(No. of satisfied and very satisfied customers / No. of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers
“On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, how easy was it to interact with (Company X).”
Short-term amount of effort a customer had to exert in a single interaction
Incomplete picture; use with NPS for a more holistic view
Customer satisfaction with products or services (short-term, per interaction)
(No. of satisfied and very satisfied customers / No. of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers
Or use this handy CSAT calculator
“How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the (X Product/Y Service) you received?”
Short-term customer satisfaction with a product, service or event in a single interaction or channel
Incomplete picture; tie to costs of product/service and ROI
Customer loyalty with an organization (long-term, all interactions)
(% of promoters - % of detractors) / No. of promoter responses or / No. of detractor responses x 100 = % of promoters or detractors
Or use this handy NPS calculator
“How likely is it that you would recommend (Company X/Product Y/Service Z) to a friend or colleague?”
Longer-term customer loyalty; indicates brand (product, price, service) ambassadors or brand detractors to other products/services
Experience as a whole, use with CES for insight into individual interaction trends
No matter which score you use, measuring customer effort is a critical component of building a successful, and effortless, customer experience. How do we know? Our research spells it out quite plainly. We’ve found that 96% of customers who’ve had a difficult, high-effort experience report back that they are unlikely to repurchase, unlikely to spend more and very likely to spread negative word of mouth. By major contrast, only 9% of customers who had easy, low-effort experiences say the same.
Perceived customer effort isn’t just about what they’re saying on the interaction. As we’ve demonstrated in chapter 3: the common components of an effortless customer interaction, it’s also about what they’re feeling and perceiving, what they’re doing, what the service agent is doing and what the context is within which everything takes place.
So, what do you do once you have all of this insight about your customer’s effort? In the same Qualtrics study, more than 80 percent of customers who’d had a high-effort experience wanted a callback so they could share about their experience. And customers the business intentionally recovered using a closed-loop action were found to be 2x more loyal.
“Customers who the business intentionally recovered using a closed-loop action were found to be 2x more loyal.”
You're going to need to do some automating to close the loop at scale. Luckily you can automate effort scoring using Tethr to surface difficult interactions at scale. Then, automate closing the loop on those difficult customer interactions in your service practice and with your customers.
Using scoring to sift out your high-effort and effortless customer interactions at scale is more than just a number on a call, chat or support case message. Taking chapter 4 a few steps further, here's a quick cheat-sheet on how we look at the effort on a customer interaction using Tethr's powerful conversation intelligence engine, AI and machine learning. And if you're checking off these same boxes, you can be sure to improve your customer effort score:
◯ Step 1: choose one service group in your organization; let’s say it’s your support team, to focus on initially. You may start with some theories that you’ll prove out using Tethr’s conversation analytics.
◯ Step 2: quantify your customer’s perceived effort across interactions. Utilizing Tethr’s subscription service of research-backed effort categories plus Tethr Effort Index, quickly surface all of your customer calls, chats and support cases scored as Difficult.
◯ Step 3: explore the themes in your customer’s perceived effort across interactions, agents, teams or any other custom metadata you define. You'll do this by choosing one or two of the most prominent themes, or drivers, you see in your VoC data. With Tethr's built-in customer effort score dashboards, you can visualize customer sentiment across effort and disloyalty drivers using our extensive subscription library of more than 50 effort-tuned categories.
◯ Step 4: using the latest agent-focused derivative of TEI, the Agent Impact Score (AIS), measure quality, improve rep performance and track changes in how your support team handles those Difficult customer interactions.
◯ Quickly find other customers who had similarly Difficult experiences
◯ Automate internal notifications across your business to track similar experiences across customers and teams
◯ Create automated workflows to head-off similar scenarios in the future by addressing specific customer disloyalty and churn drivers directly with your frustrated customers
Get the latest insights from the Tethr team and level up the metrics that matter!
As we enter Q4, the pressure on sales people to get deals signed intensifies. So why are the sales that seemed like a perfect fit stalling?
October 17, 2022
Need to keep a pulse on your CX metrics? Our new inbox insights feature sends reports automatically to every stakeholder who needs them.
October 5, 2022