Want Some Customer Experience Love? Learn To Love Numbers!

Combine Math & Creativity for Great Customer Experience (original photo source unknown, earliest reference online is at http://imgfave.com/view/949849)

Combine Math & Creativity for Great Customer Experience

They say that opposites attract.

Maybe that’s what led my artsy, creative, marketing side to fall in love with numbers.

OK, so I don’t really love numbers, but I absolutely love what they can tell me about consumer behaviour. And, as today’s guest, Stephan Sigaud, Customer Experience Practice Leader at TNS Americas, points out marketers and customer experience staff who don’t come to terms with the importance of numbers are going to see their companies wiped off the map by those who do.

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Act I: Learning To Cope With Numbers

I didn’t always have a good relationship with numbers. Somewhere around grade 8, like so many girls, I got convinced that I was no good at math. Fortunately, the handsome Mr. Roles, my high school calculus teacher, took the time to convince me not to drop his course after my first bad exam mark. I admit it: I was so thrilled that this dreamy fashion model of a teacher was spending so much time talking to me that I figured I owed it to him to give it one more try.

The man who talked me out of quitting calculus in 1976.

The man who talked me out of quitting calculus in 1977.

I got through, with a mark in the mid-70s, and it made me realize that if I tried hard enough, I could do advanced math, even if it wasn’t easy.

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Act 2: Statistical Persuasion

When I headed in to my undergraduate stats final exam a few years later, my term average was about 20%. I had an excuse: I was the Vice President, External Affairs of the University of Alberta Students’ Union, and had been really, really busy. So I’d missed a lot of classes. Like, about 90% of them. And I hadn’t handed in any assignments.

The prof had said at the beginning of term that our final mark would either be a weighted average of all our term marks and 25% for the final, or 100% for the final, depending which was higher. I figured I’d show up on the last day, get notes from someone, and study like crazy till the final exam. That should be good enough to at least pass.

When I got to the classroom door, I saw this note taped on it:

no need for class today

Oh, oh!

Yikes! I’d been to so few classes I didn’t know any of the other students, so I couldn’t even call and get notes from someone!

I got my nerve up and knocked on the prof’s door.

“Hi. Um, you probably don’t recognize me, but I’m in your stats class,” I said nervously.

Luckily for me, he had a copy of the student newspaper on his desk. A picture of me stared up from the front cover.

“Yeah, I know who you are,” he replied. “Haven’t seen you in a long time. When was the last class you attended?”

I told him. He took a deep breath. “Ouch! That’s even longer ago than I thought,” he said. He got up, went to his bookshelf and pulled down a half-dozen heavy statistics textbooks. He put them in front of me.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Take these books. For every five hours you put in studying between now and the final I’ll put in an hour helping you if you need it.”

I was so blown away by his generosity that I studied like I had never studied before. I did use some of his time, but nowhere near one hour to every five of mine. I got 94% on the final.

Later I went on to found a business (Web Mystery Shoppers Inc.) that is all about creating and analyzing customer experience stats for companies.  Clearly I got over my math phobia.

Act 3: I Have Seen The Future, And It Is Numbers

Why am I telling you these stories?

Because if I could learn this stuff, then so can you. And once you do, you’ll discover, as I did, that the marketing and customer experience insights you can get from data are so exciting, so important, that they are worth the pain of calculation. (And, if you are lucky, you can hire experts to do the actual number crunching and you just get to do the fun analysis part.)

Stephan Sigaud points out that from a purely statistical point of view our digital world is making customer experience the marketing battlefield of the future. Consumers can find out about bad experiences instantly, and it is easy to learn about competitive products and services. If your prospects used to have three choices and they now have six, by definition there will be a lower probability of them choosing yours. The only way to overcome those odds is by having the digital conversation about you be a stunningly happy one.

Competition on product features is getting harder – anything you produce will be replicated in a factory in China within days. Competition on price is a losing battle. Cornering a distribution channel is nearly impossible, thanks to Amazon. So all you’ve got left is what is arguably the hardest, but potentially most valuable, competitive advantage: customer experience.

Data Helps Your Customer Experience Cause

Understanding and using the data that helps you improve customer experience is key to:

  1. Attracting more customers.
  2. Retaining more of those you’ve got,
  3. Inspiring them to sing your praises to their friends and fans (i.e. increasing your Net Promoter Score).
  4. Convincing your CEO and other C-level skeptics that customer experience is an investment worth making, even though it takes time, money and effort to get all your data silos connected and to set up systems so your organization can learn from the data and improve its processes.

How Is Your Organization Using Data to Improve Customer Experience?

What challenges are you facing on the data front?

(First aired Oct 15, 2014)

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2 comments on “Want Some Customer Experience Love? Learn To Love Numbers!

  1. great story! About the stats AND the prof. And very true, there are stories in the numbers, if you can learn to see them.

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