Just how “effortless” is CX when served on a silver platter?

One would think that the more you’re in contact with a customer, the deeper your relationship will grow. The opposite is true.

If a customer comes into contact with you directly, the likelihood of you retaining their business decreases fourfold, according to research by the Corporate Executive Board and presented by Matt Dixon, the best-selling author of “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.”

This is because a whopping 84 percent of customers value ease of use and low effort over channel choice. Dixon’s research has left him with the overwhelming conclusion that excellent service is not delightful. In fact, it’s a key driver behind disloyalty.

Reducing the customer’s effort increases loyalty and reduces attrition. Low-effort means that they shouldn’t be hearing scripted agents or having to repeat themselves. They shouldn’t have to jump channels or endure countless transfers.

The CEB conducted a series of surveys that found that 88 percent of low-effort customers increased their spending and 94 percent who had  low-effort experiences were more likely to repurchase later on, Dixon says. So, how do you reduce customer effort?

The Three Pillars of Effortless Experience

1.) Channel Stickiness. Self-service is where it’s at. Customers don’t really want to talk. Agents are aware of this fact that holds true across ages and  demographics. But because customers are still picking up the phone, senior executives are reluctant to acknowledge this shift in channel preference.

It’s true that telephony wields the lion’s share of first contacts, but this is unfortunately due to the lack of other viable options. Most callers (58 percent) first attempted resolution through self-service options and another 25 percent were online while also on the phone with the agent in an effort to learn how to resolve the issue themselves in the future. The customers want fast resolutions without having to jump channels.

2. Next Issue Avoidance. The worst question you can ask a customer is also one of the most common closers, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” Dixon says this question sends two bad messages to the customer – that they are being rushed off the phone, or that the agent may be missing the deeper issue at hand.

Think of it this way – if you were measured by first-contact resolutions wouldn’t you avoid asking other issues exist? When asked in the study whether a first-contact resolution had been achieved, 77 percent of companies believed that it had. Their customers didn’t agree — only 40 percent felt their issue was entirely resolved.

Callbacks for repeated issues are a byproduct of both explicit and implicit issue failures. Fifty-four percent of explicit failures are because the agent failed to resolve the issue in the first place. Implicit failures arise because the agents failed to see the adjacent issues at hand, or the problem behind the problem. Ask your tenured customer service professionals to help identify the chain of “problem events,” so that you can think ahead of the customer, not alongside of them.

3. Mismatched perception of effort. Consider the behavioral economics of your organization. If the agents are advocating on behalf of the customers, then they are also empathetic to their upsets. One hotel chain told its front-desk workers to move out from behind the service counter to physically stand next to the upset client. This nonverbal communication led to a decrease of 77 percent in customer effort for the hotel. 

The same goes for the spoken word. We’re all aware that words hold weight, Dixon says, but are you aware of what you’re saying? Delivering bad news in a positive way is at the cornerstone of customer effort perception. This is where Disney is exemplary. For example, when a park visitor asks a Disney employee when the park closes, they respond, “We’re open until 9 p.m.,” instead of “It closes at 9 p.m.” This simple shift to positive language led to a decrease in customer effort by 73 percent.

How to emote authority – a quick reminder

“When I first met you, I thought you were kind of a b*tch.” Am I allowed to say that on LinkedIn? Regardless, friends and coworkers say that to me. This reminder of my inability to make a good first impression shows I have a lot to learn.

My “softer” side is something I need to address, but we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about the benefits behind asserting authority. The ability to command a room – be it at a party or in a boardroom – is not innate and can be  learned.

This morning, I overheard a conversation between the deputy divisional director and a sales guy at my company. He told the newbie, “I can tell who will be successful by the way they walk around the office.”

Here’s what he meant; and here’s what I do.

Make your body big by having your shoulders back. When  you sit down at a meeting, place your elbows on the armchair and spread out your materials to make sure they cover a large area.

Make your body high by sitting up straight – in meetings and while at your desk. Shoulders back and chin parallel to the ground. This little shift makes youlook authoritative even if you don’t feel authoritative. Fake it ’til you make it.

Take the dominant seat – I always sit at the head of the table in meetings. It’s important to be able to have a line of direct eyesight to everyone in the room. It shows them that their opinions are valued. Conversely, if I’m not leading the meeting, if I’ve made a mistake and need to apologize, or if I just need to show respect in general, I will sit next to or beside that person. This shows that I know my place in the hierarchy, am willing to learn and respect them.

Don’t move out of the way of others. There are obvious exceptions to this rule (i.e., you’re the one ‘merging into the lane’ or if you’re a man confronting a woman or if you’re a human being at a crossroads with a pregnant, elderly or disabled person.) These exceptions notwithstanding, don’t let someone take you off your path. In America, we walk on the right and pass on the left. I don’t scurry, so if someone is confused by this I will simply slow my pace or stand there until they figure it out. When walking around the office, walk with a purpose. Ask yourself, “where am I going?” I don’t mean literally to your desk or a conference room. I mean where are you going in life? That will determine how you walk and no one should stand in that path.

Get up. If an email conversation goes beyond three volleys of responses, then don’t respond. Get up and go talk to that person. It’s all too easy nowadays to not have a face-to-face conversation, which actually makes it easier for you to stand out and assert your authority. By getting up and looking someone in the eye you are more likely to temper misunderstanding. This also shows that you aren’t afraid to tackle issues head-on, which is very powerful behavior.

Stop wearing headphones unless you’re writing or researching. There is no reason for it. And do not, for the love of all things beautiful, walk around the office with your headphones in your ears. We’re too old to be carrying around an adult version of a blankie.

Timeliness. Sh*t happens (again, am I allowed to curse on LinkedIn, I am new to this), but if you wake up earlier and arrive at the office before 9 a.m., it sets the tone for your entire day. You will feel in control of what happens to you. Instead of feeling flustered and agitated, this time will allow you to mentally plan out the course of your day. Start by making your bed. Even if everything else goes wrong you will still feel that you’ve accomplished at least one thing. General McRavengave this advice in an excellent anecdote:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

That’s some powerful sh*t.

St. Patrick’s Day cookies, anyone?

How cute is this St. Patrick’s Day greeting from my former co-journalist, Liz Coe, and me? Six years ago we were working at the Loudoun Times as the education and business reporters. I miss those days. (I baked green cookies today, in case you were wondering). Happy Luck of the Irish to you all!

Liz and Hannah
Six years ago, I was the Business Reporter and Liz was the Education Reporter at the LoudounTimes.com

Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe*:

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Ingredients for the topping:

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat the over to 350 F, and butter and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter — in spoons or slices — and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner’s sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsifted confectioners’ sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.

Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Makes about 12 slices

*From “Feast” by Nigella Lawson.

Tips to avoid the #Millennial meltdown

Oh, Millennials, what are we going to do with you? Everyone wants to #reach you, to #engage you and to get you to spend your #money. Why, oh why, won’t you just tell us what we can do for you? Oh, what’s that you say? You mean you have been telling us this whole time? Huh ….

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Open your ears, the Millennials are talking, says Melvin Greer, Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin and author of “21st Century Leadership.” A majority of Millennials — 59 percent — turn to their trusted network of friends and family as the primary influencers when making a purchase.

Millennials don’t just use products and services; they are the products and services they use. The generation associates a part of themselves with thCCW Millennials THUMBNAILeir preferred brands and is hyperaware of how a brand not only meets their service needs, but also their personal needs. Because they have such
high expectations for hyper-personalization, they therefore require mass-customized experiences.

Millennials are digital natives accustomed to having any kind of information available to them at any time. Instead of worrying about meeting these high expectations, consider using their knowledge and ideas: ask them what they want and they’ll give you the exact products and service ideas they want to buy
from you. It could be as easy as that.

If you’re wondering why you should jump through hoops for the youngest purchasing generation it’s because once you’ve got ‘em, they’ll be yours
forever.

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Trust in brands and institutions are waning across the generation. They are well-trained in sniffing out inauthenticity and need to believe that a company has integrity to follow through with what they say. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important to be aware that Millennials are at the top of this reciprocal ecosystem. They will represent almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. They will also represent about $1.4 trillion in spend – about one third of all retail sales projected for that year.

You may see them as one small fish, but collectively, they are all sharks in a large network that wields the power to create or kill your company, Greer says.

Millennials are a viral group that can lead to large-scale changes in the future of consumer behavior. You’ll be taking the reigns alongside them if you find the sweet spot at the center of mass customization, authenticity and technology.

Retail’s much-needed secret weapon …

In a crowded, competitive market, predictive analytics is emerging as a secret weapon to gain insight from data.

If you’re looking to become an indispensable partner in driving profit through world-class insights and analytics, you must harness the data to identify and understand market trends. Only then can the strategy to monitor the risk landscape be defined. That’s when you’ll be able to reduce losses and remain competitive.

The yellow brickPredictive Analytics The Secret Weapon Infographic road to the Gold Standard.

Data within retail is still not being fully leveraged as a determination of real behavior. Instead, it’s stuck in the days of providing summations of customer preferences. You can find new ways to engage your customers by bringing insights and analytics in-house.

This is a case study of the route taken by ConAgra, as presented by Chris Ciccarello, Senior Director of Customer Analytics at the previous Shopping Experience Transformation event.

Start with building data capabilities.

ConAgra put its minds to identifying the analytical possibilities by:

  • Identifying affinities for cross-promotion and shelving
  • Evaluating store layout and assortment
  • Reviewing store and customer segmentation
  • Predicting shopping behavior
  • Collecting shopper dynamics for testing
  • Segmenting and targeting shopper offers

Gather the community.

Hire the people with existing expertise. They should ideally possess:

  • A mix of IT and business knowledge
  • Business analyst experience
  • Experience with transaction-level data
  • Ability to create data visualizations
  • Are an enthusiast of data and technology

Key questions for IT:

  • Does IT have a strategy to handle Big Data?
  • Are they a partner or a profit center?
  • Are they flexible with different approaches?

Key questions to answer for IT:

  • How big are the datasets?
  • How long do they need to be stored?
  • What are the query speed requirements?
  • What tools are needed to analyze the data?
  • What security is required?

Cluster stores for layouts/assortments.

Geography should not play a role in store clustering because store proximity doesn’t necessarily equate to the similar shopper behavior. Tips:

  1. Group stores together that have similar shopper buying patterns
  2. Create assortments, space and flow to match the products that are most important to the store’s shoppers
  3. Allows the stores to have a common feel but also be tailored to the community
  4. Reduce Out of Stocks and excess inventory
  5. Customize Signage and messaging to capture the shopper’s needs

Press the launch, then sit back and watch the analytical platforms.

Finding the pot of gold.

  • Returned distribution after delist
  • Kept private brand business despite lower comp bids
  • Won new private brand category bid
  • Saved items from getting downsized
  • New insights on trade promotion behavior
  • Understanding coupon redemption

New big data sets + the right people and systems + analytical execution = retailers’ boosted volume and profit + more satisfied shoppers.

The CX Edge: Customers are King

Nearly 90 percent of CMOs report that building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus of their departments’ strategic and competitive vision for 2016, according to a recent Forbes study.

Building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus for many strategic and competitive visions this year. This is why the latest data and analytics technologies was at the top of almost every discussion at the CX Impact event in New Orleans, as attendees learned the tools to build credibility and long-term relationships with customers. This CXImpact Report, that summarizes what it takes to make your CX strategy next level, shows you how.

Four pro tips on media partner outreach

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: Media partners are not the media. They can be, but are not exclusively. There is a greater network of publications, associations, groups, LinkedIn members, etc., who also have a vested interest in the topic you’re writing on.

If I conduct an interview or create an infographic that has value, why shouldn’t it be of value to others, too? I’ve identified my media partners before I even create the content because there’s really no point in content if it isn’t being seen.

It’s a no-brainer that external partnerships with media partners are integral to promotion. What’s more is that the result could be that you’re PUBLISHED!!! Or, you go viral.

infographic-outreach

Pro Tips:

1. Email individually. You can bcc, but I prefer to send people the same email individually because I am personally very good at sniffing out mass emails when they hit my inbox: and then I straight up ignore them. There are usually no more than 20 media partners per topic, so if you copy and paste the same message into separate emails it doesn’t take too long. I just sent this same message to 9 media partners in 7 minutes. Easy.

2. Make the subject line clear. I use the subject line and the first sentence to state immediately that this is content that I am giving them. Again, to abate the spam issue, I want them to know right away that this will benefit them, then I go into how.

3. Conversational. That goes without saying – I’m a human, they’re a human. I’m just a human who has created content that I am proud of and I would like another human to post it to their website and social media. This usually works out because most media partners are looking for free content whenever they can get their greasy fingers on it.

4. Find the media partners. Search out the appropriate media partner companies first and then go to their website to find the appropriate contact. The job titles are usually editorial/pr/communications/media related.

Bonus tip:

Follow-up. No deaf ears accepted. I plan to follow up with those who haven’t responded within the next week. I will not be ignored.

Listen. Learn. Write. Repeat.