Guest: Matt Dixon, the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr, a company that uses software to mine insights from customer phone calls. Matt is also the author of several groundbreaking books, including “The Challenger Sale” and “The Challenger Customer.” Matt was also a keynote speaker at the 2019 CEO Coaching International Summit.
Episode in a Tweet: Customers don’t just want to be delighted; they want an ‘effortless experience’ when things go wrong too.
Quick Background: We all want our customers to be happy. But what happens when they’re not?
No matter how delighted your customers are when your products and services deliver as advertised, at some point, a shipment will get buried in a blizzard, software will crash, a green employee will say the wrong thing at the worst time … or a global pandemic will disrupt your supply chain.
According to customer service expert Matt Dixon, how your company addresses those bumps in the road is far more critical to generating customer loyalty than all those perfect, positive experiences the customer might be taking for granted.
On today’s episode, Matt discusses some insights from his book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty” that will help you refocus your customer service on what really creates lasting repeat business: quick problem solving and ease of use.
Key Insights on Creating an “Effortless Experience” from Matt Dixon
1. Create “sticky” channels.
Do you like being put on hold?
Neither do your customers.
That’s why, for most problems, customers turn to the phone only as a last resort.
“Today with digital technology, with apps, with websites, with virtual assistants, customers are far more likely to try a self-service option than to try a live-service option,” Matt Dixon says. “In fact, we found in our research, that customers are statistically indifferent when it comes to whether they self-serve on a problem, or whether they actually talk to somebody. More often than not, even when issues are urgent, customers are still going to try to self-serve on that issue before they pick up the phone and call.”
Customers like feeling in control of their options. If they think searching a well-curated FAQ page is going to help them quicker than a phone call, they’re going to turn there first. If having a text chat with a virtual rep will allow them to multitask while getting help, they’ll do that. And if your self-help channels are effective, customers will “stick” to those channels, which decreases the burden on your phone team and improves how customers view the quality of your service.
“Customers don’t want to go to digital channels and have a ‘choose your own adventure,’” Matt says. “What they want is to get guidance from the companies they’re doing business with, who see these problems every day and who can provide some really structured guidance around the easiest way to solve this problem, which may be a different path from solving a different problem.”
2. Master “next issue avoidance.”
Most companies think first contact resolution is the customer service gold standard. If the first person or online resource a customer turns to can solve that problem, mission accomplished.
Except in his research, Matt Dixon has found a follow-up step that only the best companies have really mastered.
He explains, “The best low effort companies don’t just focus on solving the issue that you call in about. They’re thinking one step ahead for the customer and resolving the issue the customer might call back about. The best companies and best reps understand that oftentimes solving one problem leads to other questions and other problems. And so they proactively take that extra time to alert the customer and address those downstream issues that the customer is not aware of because they don’t work in our company and they don’t know our products and services in the same way we do.”
Matt calls this this proactive follow-through “next issue avoidance.” Just like a good sales team knows what your best customers need before they’re shopping for it, your customer service team should be keeping your customer’s future needs in mind as well. That level of care and foresight can make your company so indispensable to the client that your prices become irrelevant.
3. Engineer a positive experience.
Matt Dixon says that the steps customers go through to solve a problem only account for 1/3 of how they evaluate your customer service. The other 2/3 comes from how customers feel about what they have to do.
“That perception has to do with the language that representatives use to communicate often bad news to customers,” Matt says. “We study language techniques and we’ve found that best companies are teaching their reps stuff that’s way beyond the basic soft skills training that most reps get, which is be nice to the customer, smile through the phone, thank her for her loyalty. It’s much more about using language rooted in behavioral economics and human psychology designed to get the customer to be more accepting sometimes of bad news. Just because there’s nothing you can do, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. There’s, in fact, a lot you can do to manage the customer’s perception of effort in that experience.”
Matt Dixon: The best low effort companies don’t just focus on solving the issue that you call in about. They’re thinking one step ahead for the customer and resolving the issue the customer might call back about.
One effective technique is to circle back to the idea of control and choice. There’s no fixing a late shipment that’s still buried in a blizzard. But your service rep can give the customer some power over how this problem is resolved by offering options: “I can process a 25% refund immediately, or I can offer you a 30% discount on your next order.”
4. Hire customer service “controllers.”
When your customers have problems, they don’t want to hear “I’m sorry.” They want fast solutions. And yet too many businesses still have key customer service positions staffed with what Matt Dixon calls “empathizers” who tend to lead with an apology rather than that fast solution.
“This is the people person, the person who loves the customer,” Matt explains. “They genuinely feel bad that the customer’s experiencing a problem. But it turns out, they’re actually not the best at delivering a low effort experience. That’s the ‘controller,’ a sharp-elbowed, opinionated know-it-all. They relish in their subject matter expertise. They know the company’s products and services. They’ve seen it all before. In a world where customers are trying to self-serve, when they finally give up and they pick up the phone, the last thing they want in that moment is an apology. What they want in that moment is to talk to somebody who’s actually smarter than they are about the issues they’re experiencing, somebody who can take them by the hand and pull them across the finish line to victory.”
- Make it easy for customers to get the help they need through the first channel they try.
- Solve the next problem before it happens.
- Don’t just empathize, control the problem and get to a quick solution.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.
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