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Avoid This Customer Service Mistake With Matt Dixon


In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Dixon from Tethr to reinvent what it means to delight your customers. Delight typically means going above and beyond customer expectations, so what is there to reinvent? Stay tuned to find out more.

How Data Drives Success

Here at Kustomer, we believe that data is essential to providing exceptional customer experiences and we know that a team without some sort of data organization is incomplete. For Matt Dixon, data drives success at Tethr. In a study they conducted, they found that many companies fall short when it comes to delivering a low-effort experience for their customers because they don’t have the right tools to make the agent’s job easier.

The reason Kustomer and Matt believe that data is essential to CX is that it offers customers a one-stop-shop kind of experience where they can quickly and efficiently get the necessary information and answers they need. Agents, on the other hand, need a tool that structures customer data in a way that makes it easy for them to understand customers’ needs early on. When agents are equipped with the right CRM and other data structuring tools they will be able to drive more success and loyalty.

Is Customer Delight Expensive?

To put it simply, delight can be expensive but there are ways to avoid the expenses that can come with it. When you think of delighting your customer, usually that entails mounds of agent apologies, long phone calls, and multiple points of contact through a prolonged period of time before the customer even feels any sense of delight with your brand. Through Matt’s research, he finds that customers are more likely to be delighted when they get accurate help right away, rather than being sent on a company-wide goose chase trying to find the right person to talk to.

Matt asks, “Well, how much does delight cost in companies?… Delight costs a lot of money.” It’s expensive because it takes up agent time, company resources, and possible product replacements.

If going above and beyond to delight your customer is so expensive, what can leaders do to save money and still be delightfully effective? Matt’s answer is to first give your customers a chance to self-serve and find an answer for themselves. Second, employees need to be trained to think ahead and solve problems that may arise before they ever do. The third is to use the appropriate language that gets straight to the point, but without forgetting the human element of CX. Lastly, Matt suggests hiring people who enrich the work environment and give direct answers to customers regardless of the customer’s situation.

The Power of Language in CX

Language is such a powerful tool when it comes to steering conversations with customers in a positive direction, even if the answer isn’t what they initially hoped for. According to Matt, they found that customers are happier and more delighted when given easy and helpful solutions. Rather than having agents apologize time and time again to upset callers, Matt’s research shows that it’s better to just be upfront and honest with your customers because they have lives outside of their phone call that they want to get back to. No one wants to stay on the phone with a rep for ages, listening to drab piano music and occasionally hearing the depressing line of “Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available operator,” every two minutes. They’re calling because they have a problem that needs to be fixed and the CX team’s job is to do that in the best way possible.

Simply put, Matt hopes agents and leaders won’t just “smile through the phone,” but will provide exceptional service through data-driven results.

To learn more about reinventing what it means to delight your customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Avoid This Customer Service Mistake with Matt Dixon

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
I welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We’re going to be diving in, talking about effortless customer experience, top trends in customer service, and what’s the latest and greatest to do that. We brought in a friend of mine, Matt Dixon. This one goes way back. It’s funny, I first saw Matt in his CEB days, if you didn’t know that name you probably heard of something called the Challenger Sale. The organization was just spewing forward truth. And so, I started just following everything those guys did. I was at a company called Inside Sales. And so, we tried to get Matt a few times to a couple of our conferences, meet with some of our clients. Challenger Sale was revolutionary. I still think it’s fundamental for any salesperson, sales leaders, when they think about the way they want to really run their business.

Gabe Larsen: (00:58)
However, I made a change to a company called Kustomer, as many of you know, and we really focus on the customer service, customer experience space. So, I was like, Matt, I called up Matt again and said, “Hey, why don’t we chat?” Because his other book, that was on my radar, and certainly I think a lot of people’s, was this idea of the effortless experience. And we’ll touch a little bit on that today. So I’ve reengaged. In fact, we never really lost contact. I just continued working with Matt. We’ve had him in a couple of our events. We’ve got a Kustomer conference coming up. We’re looking forward to hopefully having him there. I think he’s a great presenter, but the key is data-driven research, you know, you’re in customer services, you’re in sales. It’s just been notoriously “let’s make people feel good.” and I think CEB, Matt, they just brought such a different dynamic to let’s not do it that way. Let’s do what the data says. And the data was surprising in multiple, multiple ways. So, with that, let’s jump into it. Matt, thanks for being on the show and, how are you?

Matt Dixon: (02:05)
I’m doing great. I’d say it’s great to reconnect, but we never disconnected. So, it’s great to be on here thanks for inviting me.

Gabe Larsen: (02:13)
That’s correct. So, I wanted to provide just a little more of a personalized introduction but can fill in the blanks a little bit. Tell us what you’re doing now and give us a little more detail on your background.

Matt Dixon: (02:22)
Yeah, so I went from, I spent about 18 years at CEB and my focus areas were, for those who don’t know, CEB it was basically a for profit think tank, right? So, we sold research to big companies. I ran the research practices in sales, which is how we got to know each other. But also in customer experience and in customer service, and that world was more around the effortless experience. I left CEB about three years ago and joined up with a company called Tethr. Tethr is an AI venture, based in Austin. What we do is we help customers make sense of their unstructured data. So whether that’s data in Kustomer or whether that’s data from maybe your recorded phone conversations or chat interactions or other conversational data that, you know, many companies have recorded for years and captured for years, but they’ve never leveraged for any good purpose to really understand the customer experience.

Matt Dixon: (03:20)
And so that’s what we’re doing and we really focus on conversational data. So phone conversations, data from chat interactions, and so forth to really understand what your customers are trying to tell you about the experience they’re having, how much effort it was, what do they think about your products, what do think about your digital experience, and what do they think about the salesperson who sold them the service or about you relative to your competitors? So, it’s a fascinating space. I mean, I really look at this as kind of studying a lot of the concepts we brought forth, in Challenger and Effortless but using modern technology and the whole new data set.

Gabe Larsen: (03:57)
Interesting. Yeah. Tethr. Cool stuff. I think that’s a big need. Well we’ll dive into some of the use cases here as we get into it. So, let’s start big picture. I just loved, as I was saying in that intro, your push against the stuff, the softer stuff. It all started with your HBR article where you kind of went against this idea of delighting the customer. Touch on that briefly and let’s get into how some of those things have changed over the years.

Matt Dixon: (04:22)
Sure. So, the article you’re referring to, we wrote this article back in 2010. The book, the Effortless Experience came out a few years after that. This was a multi-year, probably 10 year plus research effort. And I think we kind of, at one point we just felt like we had enough for a book, and we pulled up and published the book, but the HBR article in 2010 was called Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. And as you can imagine, we’ve got a lot of flak from the establishment around that. The funny thing is that statement is still defensive, right? They’ll delight your customers. Oh yeah. Well here’s the thing is that, let me explain a little bit about what we found and then maybe go back to this idea of delight.

Matt Dixon: (05:03)
So what we found is, we went into this study with the intention of helping companies try to figure out like… this is right around the time that net promoter score became really popular. A lot of service leaders were asking this question of like, hey, we’re in a world where our customers think we’re all the same, like our products are commoditized. Maybe service is an opportunity for us to stand apart and to differentiate. And we all know in service the way that you do that is by providing delightful, over the top, kind of a wow moment to the customer. Like whether that’s the woman returning the set of snow tires at Nordstrom’s or it’s the 15-hour phone call with the Zappos rep where you can get into your life story and all this stuff.

Matt Dixon: (05:43)
Like this is the stuff of great press releases it’s stuff of legends, what we all aspire to like, we all know that’s the right answer. Our goal was to help big companies figure out, of all the things you could do to delight a customer, what are the best ways, the most leveraged ways to do it? And the thing we found, which turned what was supposed to be a six-month research product into a 10-year study, was that this whole strategy of delight was fundamentally flawed. The thing that we found right away was that customers whose expectations are exceeded in a service moment… so, when something’s gone wrong and the customer reaches out and they’re trying to get some problem fixed, those customers whose expectations are exceeded are actually no more loyal than those whose expectations are simply met. So they’re no more likely to keep buying from you, to renew at a higher rate.

Matt Dixon: (06:27)
They’re no more likely to spend more with you and they’re no more likely to say good things about you. So that was like for us, it was a showstopper. It was that we tried to get the quant guys to make that finding go away because it just didn’t jive with our whole goal of the study. And we couldn’t make it go away.

Gabe Larsen: (6:43)
Oh, so it’s the concept, yeah, like this delighting concept of the measurement of delight didn’t really have any differentiation when it came to any business outcomes. And so, all of a sudden it was like everything we’re focusing on doesn’t tie to what we all get paid on or care about.

Matt Dixon: (7:02)
Yeah. If you really get down to it, it meant that, you know, if you think about the day, and I think about your average customer service leader standing in front of the team at the pull up on Friday morning and pulling that rep up on stage in front of like hundreds of reps and in reading aloud a letter from a customer praising that rep for going above and beyond, diving on the grenade, you know, making the dive and catch and giving that rep a Starbucks gift card and a Lucite trophy and then telling everyone else go out and do the same thing, like delight them, hug your customers and then realizing like all this stuff you’ve been preaching is, it’s not paying off in the way that you expected it.

Matt Dixon: (07:40)
And so there’s really two big takeaways there. I think one was, look we generate a lot of good when we simply do what customers expect and we don’t get paid much more when we do more than what they expect. And so, when people start kind of wrestling with that and they kind of come down when they get down to it and people think about, okay, well how much does delight cost in companies? Delight costs a lot of money. That’s, you know, escalations to higher tiers of service managers and supervisors and so on and so forth. It’s refunds. It’s givebacks, it’s policy exceptions out of warranty service, you name it, all this stuff we do to try to love on our customers and they don’t return the favor. And so that was kind of a head scratcher for us.

Matt Dixon: (08:22)
Or head snapper really. And then we started to kind of peel apart the layers of the onion and we went from surprising news to kind of depressing news. And then we got to the good news later. The depressing thing was we found out that on average any service interaction, was four times more likely to make a customer disloyal than loyal. So, it’s not even that delighting customers doesn’t lead to loyalty. It was that on any day of the week, your average customer service interaction is four times more likely to leave your customer in a state of disloyalty. Now people hear that and what they say is, well of course because the customer is in a bad spot already. They’ve got a problem; they need help fixing it and so it stands to reason. But that’s all… the data says what the data says. We take the customer in a bad spot and by the way that we handle the interaction, we actually make it worse.

Matt Dixon: (09:05)
We kind of parse that apart. What we found was the things that drove that disloyalty effect, were the sources of what we call customer effort. So, it’s things like making your customer call you back five times again to answer, sending them to your website and then confusing them or giving them the run around or an error message and then they bail out and they have to pick up the phone and call. Not because they wanted to, but because you gave them no other choice. Transferring them from one department to the next. Making them tell their story over and over again. Treating them generically or robotically or just citing policies and obstacles to the customer that just feel to the customer like they exist for no better reason than to save the company money and to frustrate the customer. And so, we add those things up and we call those sources of customer effort. So, the punchline of the research was, look, it might feel good to want to delight your customers and wow them, but the far better strategy is, instead of trying to make customers more loyal by delighting them, try to mitigate disloyalty by reducing effort, by making things easier than you are making them right now.

Gabe Larsen: (10:05)
You know, it’s funny even as I hear that now, right? I mean that was 2010 you said was that came out a couple of years later. But I mean you’re still, and I don’t mean to dive into this, but I’ve just been having conversations lately about tiered service models, about president’s club, you know, red carpet, blue ribbon phone numbers. and I’m thinking you’re right, man, that’s… to your point, that stuff you found basically didn’t matter at all. That’s cause no matter, how do you go around , how do you talk to people who are all about the Delta gold phone number? You know?

Matt Dixon: (10:45)
So, I think, you’re hitting on really is sort of this, almost third rail topic, which is that, you know, most people will say, look, if the message here is like, let’s be average, that’s not super inspiring. If you think of the world’s best companies, like I don’t think we’ve described any of them as average. Right? So, the message for leaders was, look, it’s not about not delighting your customers, it’s about the way in which you do it and the places in which you do it. So, one thing to keep in mind is like, if you’re not delighting your customers with a killer product that’s differentiated in the market with a great value prop, a competitive pricing model, a great brand. If you’re a retailer, a great store experience, if you’re an airline, a great inflight experience, like there are awesome places to delight customers, and you should keep doing that stuff by all means otherwise, what’s the point of being in business, right?

Matt Dixon: (11:40)
But the place that you don’t really need to delight nor do you really want to delight is when things go wrong. So, when the thing you sold the customer doesn’t work and they reached out to you for help, that’s a time to play great defense. So, your company is spending all this money and all this energy filling this goodwill bucket of loyalty, right? Great product, great brand, great store experience, great pricing model, great value prop, great message. And the last thing you want is when that stuff falls short and the customer needs our help to get problems fixed, that you’ve basically drilled a hole in the bottom of that bucket and all that goodwill is lost. And so, you don’t need to delight in service moments. Instead what you need to do is make it easier. You know, your point about the gold, you know, the tiered level of service and the gold, the gold service line or the, United flyer, like the one case service line.

Matt Dixon: (12:26)
What’s interesting there is I do think, and some of the research bears out, a lot of the table is set, in terms of how customers are going to perceive the experience, almost before they even get on the call or get it, you know, engaged with the company. And a lot of it is informed by what we call the baggage they bring to the table. And as a company you have got to handle the baggage. And so, one of the things that we know is that customers, especially higher tier customers; think about airlines or hotels or other loyalty programs, have a sense of self-worth, often inflated, about how important they are to the company is really important to, even at a surface level acknowledge they’re treated differently. It doesn’t actually mean that the service experience needs to be that different. But some level of acknowledgement of like, Gabe thank you for being a 1K and a you’ve been a 1K for 15 years, we really appreciate that. How can I help you today? But the truth is, that easier service that you’re getting as a 1K or gold medallion or blue-ribbon customer, everyone should be getting that easy experience. The fact that only some customers get it and the rest of them get hosed is a separate problem.

Gabe Larsen: (13:36)
But that is interesting because it does, that is still the stuff that’s, you mentioned the Nordstrom tires, right? I mean it’s like the Zappos 15 hours, that’s not out of our system. I mean this stuff is not, I mean I know the books now, it’s getting to be a few years back, but making it easy, it does seem like that’s probably a better place to start. I’ve just been having so many conversations about these fluffy things. You really caught me off guard because I’m like, you’re right. That’s funny. I’ve been talking so much about that, those aren’t, that isn’t maybe the fundamental stuff. The second point though that you mentioned was on the service experience. Did I hear you right? You basically said any time anybody interacts it’s basically negative because you just don’t want to do that.

Matt Dixon: (14:30)
Yeah. I mean there was a book and I was like, it’s a great title, which is The Best Service Is No Service. And I kind of wish I came up with that, which is actually not a bad, I mean, by the way, we all know that’s, that’s not possible, right? Especially in a world of complex products that we’re delivering to customers. That integrate with other products. Sometimes those are other things we make. Sometimes there are, you know, other products that we don’t control. But the customers’ expectations are going up. Products are more complex, yet the services are wrapped around those. But you know, in reality, I think it’s pretty simple, it’s that your customer doesn’t want to be having the problem and they prefer to get back to what they were doing before, whether that’s back to their jobs, whether it’s back to hanging out with friends and family. They don’t want to have to engage with you. They don’t want to build a relationship with you and they certainly don’t want to do it in that moment when they just need the thing to get fixed.

Gabe Larsen: (15:22)
Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. So the problem, it makes perfect sense, make it easy is where you obviously, where brands probably need to go in order to kind of really get this what you would consider, what we all want, get to the end outcomes is really making it effortless, and make it easy. Watch out for focusing on things that don’t directly correlate with the outcomes you want. I’m hearing that. How do you start to then coach organizations to do that? So, I’m sure some of my listeners hopefully are like, dang it. Yes, we’ve maybe been focusing a little too much on some of these things that we know now don’t tie to the outcomes we’re really being paid on or want to drive from an organization. How do I start this journey? Or what are some of the baby steps you could coach them on? That says, guys, this is how you start to think about making it easier, or effortless for your customers.

Matt Dixon: (16:12)
Yeah. You know, so I remember I was presenting to an airline in Europe a couple of years ago and I showed them those drivers of disloyalty: repeat contacts, transfers channel switching, repeating information, obstacles in the way of the customer experience, treating customers generically. And the response from the leadership team was like we flew you all the way over here from the U.S. to tell us that these things are valid? We already knew that! And so, they’re like, Oh, how do we do that? Because we’ve been trying to get out of repeat contacts and tell us like, we all know this stuff is bad. Maybe they never thought of it in quite those terms and maybe they didn’t fully appreciate that.

Gabe Larsen: (16:53)
You do frame it different, right? Because it does, when you, there’s so many things going on in customer service and when you can kind of whittle that down and be like, guys, let’s hit the things that tied most of the outcomes we want. That does provide a different perspective. So given that I still think it’s right, I know repeat channel flipping is bad Matt.

Matt Dixon: (17:16)
So I think the cooler part of the research I actually thought was that in the study we were able to identify which companies in the eyes of customers get it right. So, who are the companies who actually deliver a low effort, frictionless experience, and what are they doing that’s different from what everyone else is doing and how can we learn from that? So, we basically found there were four pillars of low effort service. So, we’ll go through them really quickly. The first one was what we call a channel stickiness. But really what this is, it’s something we all know to be true, which is customers today want to self-serve. They want to use digital, they want to self-serve on the problems.

Matt Dixon: (17:52)
They like being in control. But a lot of companies struggle with this because what they find is, they provide more capabilities, tools, digital opportunities for their customers who engage and customers still call. And there’s a lot that goes wrong in terms of how those channels and options are set up, how they’re communicated, how companies prescribe the right digital experience to the customer. And it’s not, what’s interesting is, a lot of it comes down to like, it’s not actually about spending more money. It’s about thinking about digital in a streamline, user centric kind of way, really, to almost thinking like a design thinking type of approach. So, the best companies understand it’s not about getting your customers to go to digital. They already knew you had a website. They already knew you had an app, they already went, they already tried it, and then they bailed out and called because of the place you sent them failed.

Matt Dixon: (18:41)
So it’s all about creating a sticky experience. And so, we get down into a set of, and we can talk about this if you want, but set of principles around what does that, how do you get the customer to stay in that digital channel, where they want to be anyway. And by the way, it was cheaper for you as a company too.

Gabe Larsen: (18:55)
But all but ultimately it’s a kind of a design experience exercise around that digital interaction that if it’s winning, it’s winning. If it’s not, it’s not. You’ve got a double-click there.

Matt Dixon: (19:05)
Yeah, that’s right. And you know, a real quick example I’ll give you is, you know a non-technology example, but one of the places that digital really falls short, is communication of information. So, when we go to a company’s website and we go to their knowledge base, or we just simply click on the FAQs and the stuff feels like it was written by attorneys or the compliance department. And it gets loaded with industry jargon. It’s really confusing. And the companies that get this right, write for language simplicity. And they write with customer language in a way that is sticky and resonant because it’s not to suggest our customers are dumb people. They’re not, but they’re all attention deprived and so they’re not going to spend a lot of time waiting through jargon. They’re just going to pick up the phone and call. And so, if you want customers to use your FAQs and knowledge articles, write it at a level of like a fifth grade reading level in customer terms. So, it’s easy to consume. It’s bite sized and it’s sticky. So just one example there. The next pillar was something we called a next issue avoidance. So, you know, in customer service, everyone obsesses about this idea of first contact resolution, get to one and done.

Matt Dixon: (20:09)
That’s the gold standard, that we solve the customer’s issue in one contact. But low effort companies go beyond that. So, they, yeah, they care that they solve the customer’s issue the first time around, but in their minds, simply doing what the customer is asking for is not enough. You’ve got to not just solve the issue they call you about, you’ve got to also forward-resolve the issue they might call you back about. And so, a lot of that has to do with, we as companies, providing services and products to our customers, when a customer calls in about issue A, when we solve issue A, what are the downstream issues, B, C, D and E that stem from solving that problem? So, think about it. A simple experience I had is a story I tell when I present, about a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I broke apart my Dyson and I called up Dyson. It was a really integral part. It turned out it was a dust filter cover on the side of the vacuum cleaner. I rammed into my dining room table leg and it broke off. And I tried duct tape and super glue and none of that stuff worked. So, then I called up and the rep took me to the Dyson website. It got to the exploded diagram of the vacuum cleaner and she said, you need part 21 J. Now if we hit stop on this, or even if she had asked me, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” I would’ve said, yes. Perfect. Right? That’s the part I need. Thank you very much. But then she thought one step ahead for me. She said, you know what, I’m going to send you two of those.

Matt Dixon: (21:31)
And I said, well why? And she said, because in our experience, that part is really hard to install actually. And no offense, but guys tend to force it on there and when you do it, there are these little pins and plastic tabs. If you don’t get it on right and you break one of those, you’re back to the duct tape option which you already know doesn’t work. So I’m going to send you two now and if you get it right the first time, congratulations. If you get it wrong, then you have a backup. And I said, I was like, holy cow, that’s amazing. Doesn’t that cost you guys a lot of money? And she said, no, actually to be brutally honest, this phone call cost us more money than the second part.

Gabe Larsen: (22:03) No way.

Matt Dixon: (22:04)
Super cool idea and I, as a customer, would never know that. But Dyson, seeing this problem all day long, every day of the week, they do know that. And so, they’re in a great position to prescribe an experience and think one step ahead for me, which is great.

Gabe Larsen: (22:20)
So that’s kind of pillar two. So, pillar two is that kind of, you’ve got to go one step ahead, think one step ahead. Give me the next two. What’s the third?

Matt Dixon: (22:28)
The third thing is this idea of, you know, in service we all focus on teaching our reps kind of soft skills, right? Like smile through the phone, treat the customer as you would like to be treated. Those are all good things. Like I’m not going to knock it. My research didn’t show that those things are bad to do. You should do those things, but it’s not enough. And what best companies realize is that, you know, when you think about effort, part of the effort has to do with things that you have to do as a customer.

Matt Dixon: (22:55)
So I had to call back, I got forced out of the website and into the phone channel. I got transferred, I had to tell my story over, over and over again. But what we found was that’s only one third of the effort equation. Two thirds of the effort equation is how the customer felt about what they had to do. It’s their perception of the experience. And so, what that really means is when you get down to it, it’s about the language that representatives use in communicating a resolution to the customer and oftentimes communicating bad news to the customer. So, we tested a series of language techniques that have been written about in everyone from Robert Cialdini to (Daniel) Kahneman and others, really trying to look at language techniques rooted in human psychology and behavioral economics. Things like advocacy, proactive guidance, anchoring.

Matt Dixon: (23:39)
And what we found is the best companies are teaching the reps like, hey, don’t just be polite and smile through the phone, but when you have to communicate bad news there is a scientific way to do it that gets the customer to be more accepting of that answer, and perceive that it was actually easier than maybe it would be had you communicated a different way. So really, it’s about the power of language on that third pillar.

Gabe Larsen: (24:00)
Interesting. So then what’s four?

Matt Dixon: (24:03)
Four is all about, I think it’s all about the implications of if…. number one was like, hey, customers want to self-serve. We found in our research today, 80% of customers before they pick up the phone and call are going to go try to self-serve. And what happens in a world where we get good at self service, which most companies have gotten better at this, and the kinds of things that we as customers could do in self-service are way beyond what we can do even last month or last year.

Matt Dixon: (24:29)
Nobody calls to a call center to find out like if their flight is on time, nobody calls to find out where their package is, nobody calls to change their address or check their balance. We do this stuff on our own. But what happens in a world where the easy stuff goes away and what’s left for the live representative is the harder stuff, the more complicated stuff. So, in that world, it turns out we’ve got to hire a totally different individual and we’ve got to put them in the right environment. And even more, we’ve got to give them the right capabilities, the right tools, tools like Kustomer, so that they can engage with our customers. So, what we found is a couple of quick pieces there. One is, we did a global study of sales rep profiles. You remember Challenger, we found five types of sales reps. In Service, we found seven types of service reps. So, I won’t go through all seven. But I’ll tell you, there’s one that everyone jumps to. Remember everyone, all the sales leaders want the relationship builder. And it turns out the challenger wins. So there was a very analogous story in service. The one that everyone in customer service wants is the empathizer. Now the empathizer is your people person, right? They love on your customer. They sit on the customer side of the table. They hug the customer; they walk a mile in the customer’s shoes. What we found is that person dominates the current service population in big companies around the world. They are the most preferred to hire with the next open position by hiring managers, but they fall way short in terms of delivering a low effort experience.

Matt Dixon: (25:56)
The winner was actually one we call the controller and this is going to sound familiar to you being familiar with Challenger. This was sort of the sharp elbowed opinionated know it all of the call center. But they relish in their subject matter expertise and they love nothing more than that moment where the customer calls up, frustrated as they’ll get, having spent an hour on the website trying to solve this problem, they’ve made a big mess of it and then they call it in, in just abject desperation, and that rep says, you’re in luck. You got the smartest person in this joint and I’m going to take care of it. Their people skills may not be, you know, they may not have the warm fuzzies.

Gabe Larsen: (26:31)
But the effort, they solve the problem.

Matt Dixon: (26:35)
They solve the problem, they own it. And what it tells you is in a world where customers are trying to self-serve and they’ve already tried self-service and it’s failed, and then they pick up the phone and it’s the last thing they want to do is the last supportive last resort.

Matt Dixon: (26:46)
The last thing they want is an apology. And that’s what the empathizer leads with is a, I’m so sorry. You know, and then they start going through their checklist. What they want to do in that moment is to talk to somebody who’s smarter than they are about the issues they’re experiencing. But the other thing we found is, if you’re going to hire an army of controllers, you’ve got to manage those people in a different way because they won’t thrive in your classic factory floor contact center with scripts and checklists and handle time clocks. And by the way, the other thing we always tell leaders is if you really want to fix effort, you’ve got to understand that it’s impossible for your front line to deliver a low effort experience if you make the job hard for them. If you are a hard company to work for, and you’ve saddled your reps with old systems and old technologies, you know, if you’re not giving them a platform like Kustomer with the customers at the center, and I can see the whole timeline of interactions really easily and it puts me in the driver’s seat, I can’t overcome that.

Matt Dixon: (27:42)
Right. I can’t overcome the lack of that information, those capabilities. So yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (27:46)
Right. And you’ve got to be able to provide that, that that enablement certainly makes a difference. That’s funny. I’d forgotten that about The Effortless Experience. You did have the personas. That’s funny to hear you talk about both of them together. It’s the control, you called it what? The controller?

Matt Dixon (28:00)
Yeah, the controller. Actually that work there’s um… for listeners who want to check it out, there was an article we wrote an HBR in 2017 called “Kick Ass Customer Service,” which admittedly has the least Harvard business review sounding title of anything ever published, but it was their idea, not mine. But it’s all about those seven profiles. And then I wrote an article last year at HBR called “Reinventing Customer Service,” which is all about, you know, in a world of self service and higher customer expectations, we’re all focusing on effort. How do we fundamentally rethink the structure of the service organization? It is actually a detailed profile of what T-Mobile has done, with some really progressive work in terms of kind of turning their service model upside down. So I definitely encourage your listeners to check those two pieces out.

Gabe Larsen: (28:41)
Oh, I love it. Again, I think that kind of sums up the conversation, right? It is that word reinvention. We just need to continue to think about this differently. We’re still holding on I think to some older archaic ideas and it’s a fresh perspective. As we wrap here, wanting to just see if we can tie a couple of things together but then end with this, I know you’re at Tethr now and you’ve kind of brought this full circle with kind of an effort score. Can you tell us a little bit about how that kind of ties into the effortless experience? If someone does want to learn a little bit more about that or some of the work you’re currently doing, what’s the best way to do it?

Matt Dixon: (29:19)
Sure. So yeah, our machine learning at Tethr is all built off of and based on the research from Effortless Experience. So, in lay person’s terms for the non-data scientists or AI/ML people out there, basically our machine speaks effort, it understands effort. It is pre-tuned and programmed to start running calls and chats and other data through it to find those effort, high effort moments and those effort drivers in your conversations. One of the things that came out of the research was this idea of the customer effort score. And it was actually a sidebar in that original 2010 article. And we found in service environments, a customer effort score outperformed metrics like net promoter score and C-SAT in terms of predictability. Now it’s a cool idea, but I think what we found is, in the, call it 10 years since we, yeah 10 years since we wrote that article, the world has changed.

Matt Dixon: (30:13)
And one of the big changes is that customers don’t fill out surveys the way they did 10 years ago. And so, think about our desire, like if I’m a leader and I’m saying, hey, we want to reduce effort, what I want to do is understand how much effort did the customer have to put forth? How easy or hard is it to make this experience for them? Let’s ask them in our survey. But what happens if only 2% to 5% of your customers fill out the survey? You’re still wondering like where’s the effort coming from? Why, what’s happening? What’s happened over the past 10 years, this is what we’re really focused on in Tethr is we now have the ability to use machine learning to take unstructured data…. like think about that phone call we recorded, that chat interaction, that email exchange, whatever the customer conversational data is, data in Kustomer for instance… and teach a machine to score the level of effort without ever having to ask a customer to take a survey or give us an effort score.

Matt Dixon: (31:02)
Somebody said something to me a couple of years ago, which was one of the reasons I decided to go to Tethr, but they said, hey Matt, did you ever stop to think that the whole idea of asking a customer to fill out a survey to tell you how much effort the experience was is itself a high effort experience. And I was like, that’s totally totally true. We should not today, in today’s day and age have to rely on people filling out surveys to tell us this stuff.

Gabe Larsen: (31:33)
Like to tell us how they’re feeling. Oh man, it’s so true. I don’t feel that, I hate that stuff. I hate it.

Matt Dixon: (31:40)
Nobody feels it, you know the reality is like you might fill it out once and then the one time you shouted into the black box and the company never responds to you like you’re not filling out a survey again. Unfortunately, that’s the reality for like 99% of surveys out there. What we built at Tethr is something called the Tethr Effort Index, which is a predictive algorithm. So, it predicts the score a customer would have given on the survey without having to ask the customer to fill out the survey. So, there’s a few good uses of that, of really practical stuff. So, one is we’ve found on average about 15% of your interactions fall into that higher effort zone. We also know, we’ve looked at the correlations and we’ve started to study this in depth,those are the customers who are much more likely to turn out, much more likely to bad mouth you on social media or just you know, to their friends and family and its’ highly correlated with low conversion rate, low save offer acceptance. In other words, it’s highly correlated with all the bad stuff in our businesses that we want to avoid.

Matt Dixon: (32:35)
So the first to do there is if you knew across 100% of your interactions, your customer conversations, who are the 15% people who are going to turn out? Like, go out to those folks and actually, some research that Qualtrics put out recently suggest that that simple act of reaching out to the customer and finding out, hey something happened here. It wasn’t quite right. What can we do better to help us improve, is itself a real disloyalty mitigating moment even if you don’t give the customer anything away for free. And so that’s the first thing is like find those customers and go save those customers. Because keep in mind, of that 15%, a small percentage of them will actually tell you and fill out the survey and you’ve got all the other ones who will turn out. And you never know why. So, act against that.

Matt Dixon: (33:16)
The second thing is, you know, we know that our representatives are, there are behaviors when we write about this and The Effortless Experience that both reduce effort and also increase effort. So, who are the reps doing the good stuff that we want to pat on the back and who are the reps doing the bad stuff that we need to coach and get them better? And so, it gives you, tying it down to the agent level allows you to see who’s creating high effort moments and who is reducing them so we can get really actionable with coaching. And then I guess the last, the last piece we recommend is, there’s some stuff on there that you’re going to find that is not the job of the service organization to fix like problems with the website or problems with the product or the fact that the competitor’s product is outperforming ours.

Matt Dixon: (33:56)
But what this allows you to see is those systemic effort drivers that you can take to your business partners, that you can bring in to go work on eliminating so that those problems that ever happened to begin with.

Gabe Larsen: (34:07)
Matt that’s fascinating. I love the idea of actually, it does seem like that’s been amiss. We hit the effortless concept, but yet with the survey, we’re still doing that. Is there not another way to really figure out how people are feeling, their sentiment, and then figure out a way to get proactive to go outbound. So, I’m going to have to check out that Qualtrics thing. That does sound interesting. All right man. Well hey, really appreciate you joining such a fun talk track. Looking forward to working with you here in the future on different angles. Best way to get in contact with you, LinkedIn, anything there that you’d recommend?

Matt Dixon: (34:37)
So I always encourage, anyone, please, if you listen to the podcast, you like what you hear or you want to stay in touch, just shoot me a LinkedIn invitation. If you have a question, feel free to ask it. Ask it to me and I’ll do my best to respond. If you’d like to learn more about Tethr, visit us at Tethr.com. By the way, Tethr is T-E-T-H-R. Because we’re a startup, we couldn’t afford the extra vowel, so it’s spelled incorrectly, but that’s okay. It’s cool. That is what the kids told me at least, so it’s Tethr.com, and you can learn more about the Tethr Effort Index, learn more about what we’re doing or requested a demo if you’d like.

Gabe Larsen: (35:10)
All right, well, Matt, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (35:21)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.


Special thanks to our friends at Kustomer for their insights on this topic.
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