In this #SmallBizCX19 session, Adam Toporek defines the seven service triggers and explains how they can be used to create positive customer experiences.
He's our last but definitely not least speaker at #SmallBizCX19. He is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and frontline trainer, and he helps organizations get results by helping them think differently about customer service. He's a third-generation entrepreneur, as he mentioned, so he really understands the impact that customer experience can have on the bottom line of business. He's the author of "Be Your Customer's Hero", the founder of the popular "Customers That Stick®" blog. And he's also the co-host of "Crack the Customer Code" podcast. So, we are really excited to have you, Adam, this is awesome.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This is a cool event.
You're welcome, it's our pleasure. So, I'm going to start out with my first question. You've done a lot of amazing work that has contributed to the shaping of the customer experience industry as we know it today. One of your most influential product, projects being your book, "Be Your Customer's Hero". In part three of that work, you cover the seven service triggers, and these are also known as the hot buttons that set customers off. What inspired you to develop the concept of the seven service triggers?
So really, it comes from my background in small business. So it's perfect to be speaking with a small business audience, because it came from observation, seeing these things that seem to be repetitive feelings that customers would have, like being ignored, these types of things. And like looking at patterns in retail, in small business and seeing, "Okay, what are the common things that tend to frustrate customers, that tend to create those negative emotions?" Now, obviously, customers are human beings, everybody has their own personal hot buttons, right? So there's a difference between sort of personal triggers and common triggers. And in the end, you're working on it over time, thinking about it. I distilled it down to seven that I found were really prominent, that really were common across industries, across, you know, B2B versus B2C, just you saw I'm pretty much everywhere. And eventually, even though I came up with a concept sort of out of my head, we did do some research to verify whether this was true or not. And we found that they were all very pretty, very prominent.
Nice. So, I know the concept of the seven triggers is involved. So, definitely everybody today check out Adam's book. That'll give you some more insight because I know it's more than just a quick thing that we can talk about. But can you briefly go over what each of the seven triggers is for our audience just so they can get an idea?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, they're easy to distill quickly, but then digging in, of course, there's a lot of layers to it. So the first one is being ignored, which is they are all exactly what they sound like. I could just list them but I'll give you a little color on each one. First one is being ignored, which is you don't pick up the phone.
The retail store that doesn't say, "Hi", doesn't greet, doesn't acknowledge, right? Being ignored. Being abandoned is the next one. So being abandoned is very similar. We often talk about those from a technique perspective together, but the only difference is being abandoned, you've actually already had contact with the customer. So what's being abandoned? You never call back. Right? You say you're going to get a check on something and seven days goes by, they feel abandoned.
You never follow up.
Alright, you don't follow up, exactly. Next one is one of the biggest ones that I actually have an entire keynote speech just dedicated to this one trigger, it's being hassled. Now, frustration with what-- so much of what we know about emotion today, frustration is a key part of that. I think we'll probably dig into that some in this conversation. So being hassled all the different ways that you know, there's a lot of lenses we use this through friction and effort, right? Nowadays, some of these terms we use, they all end up resulting in a feeling of hassle, feeling of frustration.
Next one is being faced with incompetence. I had the hardest time with this one because I couldn't get it to get a nice little two word name. But it was more important to be accurate than have my little cute like speaker list that was perfect.
Faced with incompetence is exactly that when you go into a store, or you call someone, an agent on the phone, and they don't know what they're doing. Now, the layer of that is sometimes people don't think that the person knows what they're doing, even though they do, they just don't have the knowledge or don't have the power. It's not incompetence, it's a perception of incompetence on the customers part. But either way, whichever it is whether it's actually like, "I don't know what I'm doing. This is my second day and they didn't train me, and they put me on the floor. And now I'm trying to help you." Or, "Yeah, I would love to help you with that. I know exactly what to do." Other than, "I need the information from the warehouse and I don't have that information." Either way, it's the same for the customer. So we address it when we talk about sort of how to address that we look at it as that feeling of incompetence.
Next one is being shuffled, and that's what we all know, that's, "Oh, great. I just got to pass you to department X. Oh, not sorry, we're not the right one department? Why we're gonna send you to another department. No, they're gonna take care of you. No, sorry, that's not happening either." Right? That's being shuffled, being pushed around from email to, you know, to department, to the other business unit, whatever it may be.
Being powerless. Now, this is a big one, because it's a little counterintuitive nowadays. And the reason that's counterintuitive and I mentioned this in the book is there's a lot of talks nowadays about how empowered customers are with the social media and the fact that they can, you know, take anybody to task publicly. That doesn't take into-- okay, it's very true, but it doesn't take into account sort of the other side of it, which is, in a lot of industries, companies are getting bigger and there are fewer options. So, depending on the industry, you know, people feel trapped. They feel powerless. They feel like, "I can't move." Banking is a perfect example, and there are good banks and there are bad banks, but it's a pain to switch. Right? You have to be really mad, alright?
It's a huge hassle to do that. Yes.
But there's a million options, right? It's not like it's a monopoly, like the cable companies back in my day. I mean, you've got a million banks you can go to, but it's the switching costs are so high that they feel trapped. So that's powerless, and it's a terrible feeling for a customer to have. When we talk about emotion, it's nobody, right, we all want to feel in control of our own destiny. And the last one, and we can probably dig into this later, some is being disrespected, and it's just what it sounds like. There's a lot of ways you can make customers feel disrespected, and once you do, nothing else matters, I will say that. So those are the seven service triggers.
Awesome. It was interesting to hear you break them down. So, you've spent years working with customers and frontline employees of the seven triggers. Are there some of the triggers that you feel occur more frequently than others that you see more commonly among businesses that have customer service issues?
Yes. I mean for sure. And this was where it was interesting too after developing the triggers to do the research a few years later to see, "Okay, well, my gut is this is pretty common, this is more common", and to see which ones were the most common. So, the most common, and they're all within a very narrow range, let me be clear. It's not like, "Oh, 86% of people have this and 5% of people have this." The lowest of any trigger was almost two-thirds. We said, "Have you ever experienced this?" I don't remember the exact phrasing of the question, but essentially, "Have you ever experienced this?" and we defined what it was. Being hassled, being ignored, or being abandoned. The lowest one was being powerless, but that was still almost two-thirds of the people. The highest one was being ignored, that was 86%. We think we greet people well or answer the phone quickly or respond to emails, being ignored is the most common.
That does happen a lot though. I can't count the amount of times I've gone into a restaurant and no ones at the hostess podium.
And you see about a million servers or boss people or whoever walked by, and they see you standing there and no one says anything.
They don't acknowledge you, right?
Yeah. That is a huge one, I would have to agree.
So here's the interesting one, I'll throw this out for you. The number two one was one that's like-- ignored, I expected that rank pretty high, I wasn't shocked that that was number one. The number two one was being faced with incompetence.
That I was really surprised by, so people really don't feel what you know. We do customer service training, so that's a great number for us because we're like, "Hey, people really don't think your team knows what they're doing." But yeah, that was surprising that incompetence was the next one.
Yeah, that is surprising. I wouldn't have pegged that one. So, the seven service triggers imply that customer's emotions have a major impact on the customer experience. What role do customer's emotions play in the grand scheme of the entire experience, and how can the service triggers define a customer's journey?
So, emotions are sort of the ball game. And particularly if there's a strong emotion involved in an experience, that emotion tends to dictate how someone feels about the experience, there's a thing called the peak-end rule, which simply the most intense emotion someone feels tends to dictate their memory, the experience which dictates how they feel. So, emotion is incredibly powerful. And there was one study that Temkin Group did a couple of years back, it was pretty interesting. They compared groups that had a positive emotional experience versus a negative emotional experience. And the stats were like mind-blowing, somebody that positive emotional versus negative emotional were 15 times more likely to recommend. So that's Net Promoter, right, NPS. 15 times or 1500%, eight times more likely to trust, six times more likely to forgive. Now, we talked about reactive customer service, right? We talked about having to resolve an issue. One of the things is, are they going to forgive you? I mean, there's all these techniques we teach for how to do that, how to have those conversations, how to resolve an issue well? But if somebody's six times more likely to forgive you, how much easier is that job?
It's a lot easier.
Exactly. That's the power, right? And that's the power of customer emotion. So, when we look at how to the triggers impact that, the triggers are both a proactive and a reactive strategy. Proactive is we want to prevent the triggers. We don't want them to feel ignored, we don't want them to feel abandoned. Reactive is, "Okay. It's gonna happen." Right? The bigger the organization, particularly, "It's gonna happen sometimes," some people gonna get shuffled. So, how do we react? What do we do when that triggers get set off? From the standpoint of emotion, we're talking about preventing negative emotion, talking about not creating that peak of hassle, that sort of peak emotion that comes from hassle or from being disrespected. Because, you know, we did, I talked about that research we did, on being disrespected, here's what was interesting. So, we asked you how often does this occur? We looked at a lot of dimensions of it. But one of the things we asked was, "Which one's most important? Which one is truly a hot button for you?" Being disrespected was as big as the other six combined.
That's how powerful that is. It's one of the less frequent ones that people feel disrespected, but it's the most powerful one, meaning once it happens it's ball game. If you don't address how they feel, it doesn't matter if you resolve the issue. It doesn't matter if you get the product to them or fix the service or change the code they need. If they feel disrespected, you have to resolve that or you don't have a customer anymore.
Yeah, exactly, which that's probably hard to do.
Yeah, there's a lot of techniques for but it's, you know, it takes skill and it takes the right mix of people, it's going to also take the customer. Not every customer can be saved if you really, you know, something's happened to make them feel disrespected. But there's certainly a lot of techniques you can use to, you know, win the numbers so to speak, and gain a lot of them back.
So, understanding that seven triggers is extremely important for any team that wants to strive to provide superior customer service. Can you provide us with some examples of how to use the service triggers for creating a better customer experience design?
Right. So when we're looking at designing the touchpoints, you look at each touchpoint, you look at the most important touchpoints what we call pressure points, but a lot of people call moments of truth, and you can look at them through the lens of the triggers in a lot of cases. So, when you look at the greeting, we're immediately looking at ignored. What is our greeting? How fast do we answer the phone? How fast do we respond to a web inquiry? All of that is part of design, what are our service standards? And you can look at it, we use the triggers to sort of help inform that lens of what we know at, we don't want the customer to feel ignored. So how do we design the service standards like around our greeting and so forth around that?
Same thing with abandon. What's our callback time if we have to go check on something? How do we set expectations for that time frame? How do we set expectations so we can exceed that time frame, that's trying to put that making sure that feeling of abandonment is not part of the customer journey. And Hassle is the entire journey from beginning to end. You are looking like I said, I'm old keynote on hassle because it's so important and it is such a-- It's getting more important every year because people are more rushed and more stressed every year that goes by.
That hassled people are less tolerant of it. They're so used to instant gratification. They're so used to everything being easy, and sometimes people in my field call it the "Amazon effect" that just ability to click a button and have everything you want Immediately. So hassle, you're looking at the whole journey all the time. How do we make it easier? How do we make ourselves easy to do business with? And then disrespected? I'll take the hard one, I don't want to do all seven. But I'm sure you don't want to do all seven, but--
No, I would love you too, but-- [laughs].
It's alright. So disrespect is interesting because how do you handle disrespect?
Well, it's training. Because I mean, you can make someone be disrespected from a process. In fact, being abandoned can lead to disrespect.
But, If you don't, if you continue to not follow up with somebody and time over time, particularly in a relationship like a business to business or something like that, well, eventually that can turn into a feeling of disrespect. Like, "They just don't care about me." So with disrespect, it's training, It's understanding, one, how to talk to people in the begin with and not say the wrong things. And, how to speak with people in an emotionally charged reactive situation where it's really easy to not say the best thing, to not use the most effective language.
Right, that makes sense. So, it's really all about putting a plan in place and having a certain standard. It seems like proactively having a set of steps that you follow, and a standard that you follow for service. Like, it kinda reminds me of I constantly come back to, I used to work for Cracker Barrel way back, I used to be a server. And a couple of the things that I was just thinking about that you were talking about, I guess it falls under abandonment, and also making it less of a hassle. One of the standards we had it was called "one minute check back check down".
So, one minute after you delivered their food, you are expected to check, that was the standard, you are expected to check back within one minute.
To make sure that everything was to their liking, their steak was cooked correctly. And then you would say that "I'm not rushing you. This is just for your convenience, but I'm gonna leave your check here with you and I'm gonna come back to check on you as well." And then that way when they are ready, if they were ready before you had come back, they could go right to the register and check out if they wanted to.
See, that's fantastic. That's a great example, Jessica cause that's-- I mean, what are you doing? What is one of the most fun frustrating things in a restaurant? You waiting for your food, you're waiting for your food, it comes, it's wrong and you're sitting there while it all gets cold waiting on your server, your friends or your family are eating, and that one minute makes sure you don't sit there for too long.
Yeah, that's awesome. I never knew that.
Yeah, this one minute check back, check down, I'll never forget it. [laughs] I waitress there for seven years.
Oh, I won't forget that. [laughs] So what strategies or examples can you share with our audience that they can use proactively to prevent the triggers from occurring?
Okay, so one of them will do ignored and abandoned. This is a twofer because this technique really works sort of the help with both. It's two techniques that we combine called "assuring accountability" and "buy-in for response time". So assuring accountability is something that so many people don't use or afraid to use. And what assuring accountability is, "Hey, Jessica, I don't have the answer for you right now, but I'm gonna look into that with our accounting department. Now, I'm not sure if I'm gonna be able to get them. Usually, I can get them in 24 hours, but not all the time. But I promise you, I'm gonna get to the bottom of this for you, and even if I don't have an answer, I will make sure I get back with you. Is that okay?" Right. And that's assuring accountability is, and what the reason people sort of resist it is because they don't want to be responsible for the answer. And the key to assuring accountability is not taking accountability for the answer. Because often this is when you're having to disconnect, you're having to check with someone else, or having to research something. It's assuring accountability for the communication, for making sure you're gonna keep them in the loop. That's how they don't feel abandoned. They won, they don't feel that fear when you're breaking off. There's actually an interesting stat about call transfers where there's a spike in fear, literally fear. When call transfers go up in a contact center. People do not like being disconnected when they finally get somebody.
So that's assuring accountability and buy-in for response time is what I would have added on to the end of that. Which is, "Would it be okay if I get back to you by five o'clock tomorrow? Would it be okay if I get back with you by the end of the week?" And what that does is that gets them-- it gives them a firm timeframe, but it gets them to buy into it by just simply asking that question. And so many people don't do this. And when you combine those two, you assure accountability, say, "I'm gonna take ownership of this, I'm going to make sure you're taking care of. If I can't find the answer, I'll get back with you. Is it okay if I get back with you by five o'clock tomorrow?" That, imagine if you're the customer and you hear that? Are you worried or just--?
I think maybe I heard that like maybe once in my life, and I can't remember when it was [laughter]
Exactly and it's so easy to do because you don't-- the fear is, I mean when people just don't know the language have been trained on it, but the fear is, "I don't know when I'm gonna get the answer." Well, you're not gonna assure accountability for actually getting it. You gonna assure accountability for keeping them in the loop, making sure that you're on top of it. It's not gonna get dropped, it's not gonna get lost, as opposed to, "We'll all check on that for you. Thank you so much. I'll be in touch with you." When, how, why, who's getting back? Right?
Right. So you're eliminating all this doubt and uncertainty and that's what the key is. And all these triggers are about our instinctual responses and fear and concern and all that. Alright, so hassle. That's another one because I love hassle. I hate hassle, but I love talking about hassle because there's so much of it and is so easy to fits in so many cases. So, I'm gonna give you like three quick things you can do to address hassle proactively. First thing is the OG of hassle, sort of core sorts of most hassle is policies and procedures that we have put into place. Half of them had been sitting around for years and aren't even relevant anymore. And the bigger the organization, the more this is true for saying is you've got to purge your policies, you've got to look through all your policies and your processes from a customer-centric lens, from the outside in lens, and really say, "Why do we do this? How important is it? And is the hassle we're putting the customer through worth it?"
Right. Well, how would you feel if you had to deal with it?
Well, exactly. How would you feel? I mean you've got to walk through your experience. I mean, we do journey mapping, we do all these things, you've got to walk through your experience, and then also, of course, taught your customers about how they feel about it. But when you're looking at policies and procedures, so often the value to the organization is so small compared to the hassle to the customer. Now, there are some things where you're gonna do it no matter what. Like it's just too important, like a liability release, if you have it like the ice-skating rink, I don't know why that came to mind, right? You're gonna have people sign a release if they're gonna go get on little thin pieces of metal and play around on ice. Okay, that's gonna happen, right? You're not gonna eliminate that step. So, when you do have policies and processes, when you have these things that you have to keep, right, the legal team makes you keep it, or its regulation, you know, I just got through working with a Fortune 100 company. And they do industrial coatings and things and they have all kinds of regulations they have to workaround. So the question is, "Okay, if we have to do it, how do we make it easier? Can we prefill out forms? Can we have an FAQ that helps walk people through the steps? What can we do to make it as painless as possible if we have to keep it in?"
That makes sense.
That totally makes sense.
And the other thing and technology is like the two-faced you know, the Janice if you have an obscure reference of a hassle because technology is both, one of the best things for reducing hassle and as one of the greatest creators of hassle. And you've always got to look at your tech and ask which one it is, and how can we not make it the second one? Because so often, the forms don't work, the API's don't talk to each other. Right? There's all kinds of challenges, you're in a tech business, right? I mean, technology can be such an amazing way to reduce hassle. Obviously, Amazon has figured this out to a degree that we couldn't even conceive of a decade ago, right? But it's also we know when we go to the websites, and we can't find anything or they don't work with load slow or it looks terrible on mobile, all the way to things don't integrate. It's a huge source of hassle. So you've always got to be looking at the tech from both lenses.
Yeah, we're spoiled now, where we expect the Amazon experience everywhere we go.
Exactly. And you need any more? And how we're doing on time?
We're doing okay. Right now if anybody has any questions, you can ask them and we'll ask him, we'll ask Adam. If not, I do have one more that I have for you if that's all right?
Oh, of course, I'm here for you.
So, whether people like to admit it or not, we kind of talked about this before, everybody has a favorite team or a favorite color or favorite restaurant. Which of the seven service triggers is your favorite challenge to tackle with a client and help them tackle and prevent?
disrespected, it's by far the hardest. It's you're talking about a very deep-seated feeling, emotional feeling, the most powerful things we have or our connections with other humans. To me, the most powerful parts of most experiences are the human parts. They're also the most difficult when they go wrong.
Because here's the example I give is, we're not built for reactive customer service. Okay? We are not designed evolutionarily to get aggression to take, you know, get yelled at, screamed at, cussed at, and go. "Well, thank you, ma'am, I'd really love to help you with that." That's not a natural reaction. That takes training and language and skills, and disrespected is the height of that. And that's, and somebody, I mean, you know how powerful that is, and you saw just from the data, that it was more powerful than the pretty much the other six triggers combined. So to me, that's my favorite, because it's the one that people just like, "I don't even know where to start." And there are things you can do. There are ways to approach it, the techniques that we teach in training, that certainly can help you win a lot of them. Right?
You won't win them all when you're talking about being disrespected, but you can win a lot of them.
Awesome. Well, I just want to thank you so much for joining us today. I know you've got a busy schedule, and we really appreciate you coming on and talking with us for the end of #SmallBizCX. I just want to let our audience know, Adam was kind enough to provide us with the infographic for what are the seven service triggers. We are going to be sending up a follow-up email on Monday to all attendees to provide them with any resources that we've gathered today. I just want to thank you again so much, we really enjoyed having you on and we appreciate it.
Oh, well, thank you, Jessica. I really appreciate it. This was fun and I love talking about the triggers, and thanks to all y'all who are listening.
Thank you. I hope you have a great night.
You too. Thanks, Jessica. Take care.
Adam Toporek is an internationally-recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and frontline trainer who helps organizations get results by thinking differently about customer service. In this session, Adam will define the seven service triggers and explain how they can be used to create positive customer experiences.
"If there's a strong emotion involved in an experience, that emotion tends to dictate how someone feels about the experience, there's a thing called the peak-end rule, which simply the most intense emotion someone feels tends to dictate their memory, the experience which dictates how they feel."