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THE Customer?

From time to time, we feature guest posts from our member network.  This post comes to us from Jenna Heller, who resides in New Zealand.

THE CustomerNo doubt you’ve spent a fair chunk of time talking about ‘the customer’ in order to improve ‘the customer experience’.

We say these phrases without thinking about them much – but we should start to pay closer attention to the subtle messages they convey. You may not even realize that these phrases could be holding you back from customer experience success.

So what’s wrong with saying ‘the customer’ or ‘the customer experience’?

It’s simple: Customers are not things.

They aren’t just market share percentages or net numbers at the bottom of your balance sheet each quarter.

Consider these examples:

  • You pull out the chair for your friend.
  • You say to me, “Allow me to introduce you to my friend.”
  • You invite your in-laws to join you for dinner.

You don’t pull out the chair for the friend. And you don’t say, “Allow me to introduce you to the friend.”  You also don’t invite the in-laws to join you for dinner (or maybe you do!).


When we interact with people we genuinely care about, whose opinions and thoughts matter to us, we use possessive pronouns like ‘my’, ‘your’, and ‘our’. Only objects are preceded with the impersonal ‘the’ – ‘the chair’, for instance.

Yes, there are times when we find ourselves saying: the family, the wife, the in-laws etc. When we do that, though, we make the intentional choice to put emotional distance between us and them. Read More »

Customer Service in the News | Week of July 15th

Posted on  16 July 13  by 



    • A new company seeks advice on how to provide excellent customer service from its start [Washington Post]
  • Hallmarks of social customer service [Econsultancy]
  • Different corporate approaches to using social customer service [Forbes]
  • Survey reveals customer service reps are among the least satisfied workers [Staffing Industry Analysts]
  • Housing website Airbnb reorganizes to improve customer service efforts [TechCrunch]


Is Your Website Guiding Customers To Lowest Effort Resolution Paths?

Posted on  12 July 13  by 


This is part three of CEB Customer Contact’s blogs on service web page designs. 

figuresonarrows-image-300x300So we have a new puppy in the house. And we’re kind of obsessed with her.  Any of you who have ever raised a puppy know that they don’t know very much at the beginning, and training not only takes a lot of patience, it takes bribery with treats guidance to show which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

You know who else needs guidance?  Customers who are trying to resolve service issues.  That’s because customers today have a wider variety of service options available to them than ever before; in fact, one of the primary ways that service organizations aim to meet the expectations of their customers is by providing new service channels and features while at the same time enhancing current offerings.  But it turns out that too much choice overwhelms customers.  And customers with too much choice wind up choosing sub-optimal resolution paths, thereby increasing their effort and the likelihood they’ll be disloyal.  Read More »

Evaluating if Customer Segmentation is Right for You

Posted on  10 July 13  by 


Balance Scale

A few weeks ago, my colleague wrote about the potential downsides of customer segmentation. Over-segmentation, or “muddy waters” segmentation, can leave your customers overwhelmed with a host of choices and confused about where they belong. Of course, no one should pursue that type of strategy. But that leaves me to wonder—should all companies pursue any type of segmentation?

The answer, in fact, is no. While customer segmentation sounds like it places customers into neat buckets, sometimes that’s not where they belong. As the old adage goes, if your company doesn’t need a segmentation strategy, don’t get one. (Ok, maybe I just made that one up).

To help you determine whether a strategy is right for you, we’ve created the following tool. In a nutshell, begin by considering these 3 issues:

Read More »

Planning for Sick Days

Posted on  9 July 13  by 


Sick dayAs contact center leaders know, there’s no formula to determine a sick day policy that is appropriate for all reps.  What feels like too few days for one rep can be too many for another, and especially as summer reaches its peak, “I’m not feeling well” can sometimes seem like a thinly veiled cover for “It’s too nice outside to come to work.”  Read More »

Customer Service in the News | Week of July 8th

Posted on  8 July 13  by 


newsHow to treat your employees like customers, too [Business 2 Community]

A story about the importance of personality-based service– or, just understanding your customers [Huffington Post]

What mobile means for your customer service strategy [ Blog]

7 ways to treat your customers well [LinkedIn]

Can Your Service Web Site Pass the Eye-Scan Test?

Posted on  8 July 13  by 


ist2_5414770_xxl_desktop_pcThis is part two of CEB Customer Contact’s blogs on service web page designs. 

Company websites are often the first place that customers go to self-serve. But, how often have you been in a web service situation when you’ve ultimately called the listed helpline number, to be informed that some obscure text on the website had the information you were looking for all along! The reason this happened–the website failed the eye-scan test.

Most customers spend just a few seconds at a company website before deciding to switch to another channel. So, how do you ensure that your service website successfully converts those critical seconds into minutes? In other words, how do you pass the eye-scan test?

Writing for the web isn’t the same as writing for print. Well-designed content ensures customers quickly find what they are looking for as they scan a page and decide its relevance. Here are a few tips on how you can design service-friendly web pages. Read More »

Unveiling the New and Improved Customer Effort Score™

Posted on  3 July 13  by 

Comment (1)

As a researcher, I often catch myself falling prey to the ‘shiny object syndrome.’  I’m excited by the latest bit of data or a cutting edge hypothesis, constantly thinking about what is the next big thing for our members.

Which has its merits – of course.

But, revisiting past ideas and refining those – well, that has merit too.  A senior leader at a large financial services company once told me, “Lara, I can’t shift my strategy 180 degrees each year. But when you provide insight around common themes and help me fill out another piece in the framework to provide top notch service…that’s what I find huge value in.”

Fair enough.  So, we decided to take a look at one of the best known pieces of our work – the Customer Effort Score, or CES.

To be sure, CES is just one part of a much larger body of customer effort work.  But, its simplicity and power made it easy to communicate across the customer service world.

A simple question, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” on a 5-point scale from very low effort (1) to very high effort (5), proves to be an extremely strong predictor of future customer loyalty – with 96% of customers reporting high-effort experiences becoming more disloyal in the future, compared with only 9% of those with low-effort experiences.

It is quick and easy for customer to evaluate, easy to implement across different service and survey channels, is easy to track over time, and correlates with business outcomes.

And with 61% of the CEB Customer Contact membership saying they measure customer effort (with another 24% planning to do so in the next 6-12 months), it is clear that effort measurement is more than just a fad.

Over the years, we have partnered with many service organizations to incorporate CES into their survey mechanisms – largely to great success.  But, as we rolled it out globally we found three key themes emerging that indicated room for improvement:

  1. Inconsistent Interpretation: Both the scale (where 1 is ‘good’ and 5 is ‘bad’) and the wording itself are open to customer perception, with some customers misinterpreting the scale and others feeling that the question was probing into whether they had done enough on their own before contacting the company.
  2. Uneven Global Applicability: Effort does not translate neatly into all languages, and in fact has different meanings based on cultural or regional significance.
  3. Lack of Benchmarking Capabilities: Due to the above, many companies adapted CES to fit into their customer base which meant that cross-company comparisons became difficult.

Given these findings, we went back to the drawing board to see if there could be a better CES metric that would keep the upsides of the first version of CES but also help close some of its emerging gaps.

We tested a host of different effort questions – everything from gauging customer expectations to time spent getting an answer –  across a sample of nearly 50,000 customers from a range of companies, industries, and regions.  And we found one measure that was head-and-shoulders above the rest.  In fact, it was nearly 25% more predictive of customer loyalty than the next best metric.

So…drum roll please…here it is – what we affectionately have been calling CES 2.0:

CES 2.0

Like its predecessor, it’s a simple question that has all of the same benefits for customers and companies alike.

And, it is 1.8x more predictive of customer loyalty than customer satisfaction (CSAT) measures – plus it is 2.0x more predictive of Net Promoter Score (NPS) than CSAT. Read More »

How Reps can Frame Information to Reduce Customer Effort

Posted on  2 July 13  by 


This blog is the second part of a series that will focus on behavioral economics and how research about human behavior and biases affect customers and employees in a call center context.Click here to read part one

It’s not fun breaking bad news to people, especially if the person receiving the bad news reacts poorly in response.  Unfortunately, sometimes reps are faced with such situations as part of their jobs, which can be stressful and draining.  As a result, companies risk losing not only unhappy customers, but also unhappy employees.

Frustrated ConsumerIs there a better way?  How can reps deliver bad newswhile at the same time not disappointing or angering customers?  Can reps deliver low effort experiences while simultaneously telling customers “no?”

Read More »

Humanizing the Customer Experience with IBM’s Watson

Posted on  1 July 13  by 


customer service homepage

Do you remember a certain supercomputer that competed on a certain popular quiz game show a couple of years ago?  And do you remember how CEB Customer Contact foretold of how this supercomputer would one day rule the world? Ok that 2nd part may not be true.  But 2 years ago we foretold about how this supercomputer would one day make its way to the Customer Service world.

That day has finally come.

Read More »