Is Your Company Measuring the Wrong Things in its Customer Experience Program?

Does Your Organization Have a Customer Experience Program?

Thinking About It?

Your Customer Experience Program May Be Misled By Bad Metrics, says author Steve Walden

Your Customer Experience Program May Be Misled By Bad Metrics, says author Steve Walden

In today’s interview, Steve Walden, author of the new book Customer Experience Management Rebooted, argues that too often our corporate obsession with metrics in customer experience programs leads us astray. We end up focusing too much on improving efficiency, so we can “prove” the ROI, and lose sight of the actual customer experience.

Gaming & Gifting

There’s the classic example of call centers where staff are rewarded for “resolving” problems in the shortest amount of time, which typically leads to gaming the system by doing things like:

  • trying to avoid taking calls from customers you know are likely to be difficult, and
  • rushing customers off the phone before their problem has actually been resolved.

We’ve tried to get around such gaming with things like instant follow-up surveys on the customer’s experience with the rep. But that can lead to what Walden calls “gifting“: you feel sorry for the rep so you give them a good score even though your problem hasn’t been solved.

That leads into another measurement problem: NPS, or Net Promoter Scores.

Should You Even Be Using NPS?

Often, the post-call surveys are based on the NPS approach. They’ll ask things like, “Based on your experience, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

I’ve written extensively on some of the challenges with NPS (see, for example, Why the Net Promoter Score is Overrated (& What You Should Measure Instead)Are You Making This Net Promoter Score Mistake?, and Time to Stop Worrying About Your Net Promoter Score (NPS)?), and Walden points out some other problems with NPS.

In particular, customers aren’t rational, measuring machines. In the customer’s mind, experience is NOT the sum of all touch points. As Walden put it:

In a research project he did with a former employer, they found that 1/3 of those who gave a score of 9 or 10 (what NPS considers “promoters”) would “actively never, ever recommend the brand”!

In my own research when I was running Web Mystery Shoppers, customers often said they would not recommend a website or business to others, even when they were overall quite pleased with the experience. When asked why, they said it was because their friends wouldn’t be looking for a product or service like that!

Also, in poorly set up programs, it isn’t always clear whether you are being asked to rate:

  • the customer service rep you spoke to,
  • their ability to actually solve your problem, or
  • your overall view of the company or its products & services.

I’ve been having some ongoing challenges with Amazon (they are great if you are buying stuff from them, but trying to sell on their site, especially for Canadians, is a whole other matter). I couldn’t give an NPS that covers my divergent views:

  • Ability to actually reach a real human being who could potentially help: 1/10
  • The friendliness of the rep once someone did call me: 10/10 for today’s rep, but 2/10 for some of the first line, offshored call centre staff.
  • Ability or willingness of Amazon to actually solve the problem: 0/10
  • My overall views of Amazon from a vendor perspective: 4/10 (It’s only that high because they have such reach!)
  • My overall views of Amazon from a purchaser’s perspective: 10/10

Walden does acknowledge, though, that NPS can be a useful metric if your organization is still trying to get CEO buy-in, because it is so easy to grasp. It helps keep executives focused on the issue of customer service and the value of having a customer experience program.

What Really Matters Can Really Vary

In a survey customers may tell you that, for example, product variety is what matters most to them in their grocery store. But they may end up avoiding that store if they found another one with much better prices, or if the store with good variety has let its hygiene standards slip.

I may convince myself that I ordered fries instead of a salad because the salad looked bad, but probably I just really prefer fries!

Do you even know why you ordered this instead of a salad?

It is a question of what is salient to the customer at the time. What matters most in the moment? I’m not a fast food fan, but I’ll eat at McDonalds if I’m hungry.

It is also affected by your brand marketing efforts. Why would I choose McDonalds if I’m hungry and in a rush? Probably because (a) it’s easy to find one, and (b) I have memories of it being a fast, clean place (even though my more recent experiences tell a different story).

And customers aren’t great at telling you what’s really influencing their decisions. We are likely to rationalize our behavior after the fact.

I may tell an interviewer that bought the McDonalds fries because the salads looked bad that day. But deep down, the reality is that I actually love fries, and, since I was allergic to raw vegetables most of my life (yep, really), I’m not even in the habit of thinking about salads.

You have to dig deep to really understand consumer behaviour. That’s why any good customer experience program starts with customer research, often ethnography (i.e. watching how they really behave in their natural environment).

Also in This Podcast Episode

  • The use of “co-creation platforms” to help innovative ideas surface.
  • Challenges of  customer journey mapping, especially when things are changing quickly.
  • Why customer experience programs need to focus on building relationships, not numbers.
  • How the timing of customer interactions and questionnaires can affect the outcome.

Researchers Cited

So, final question to ask yourself:

Are You an Experience Brand or an Efficiency Brand?

Would your customer experience program and metrics support that belief?

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