Published in General

One Question that Leads to Misguided Customer Experience Management

The last time I checked, the reason we do customer experience research is to understand how  a company delivers a great experience to its customers.   We also want to understand what can be done to improve that experience, creating stronger customer relationships and in turn, stronger business performance.

Recently, my colleague Randy Brandt, published a blog arguing that Net Promoter Score (NPS), as well as Customer Effort Score (CES) are simple derivations of customer experience measures we have been using for a long time, and in their simplicity may not tell the whole story.

I agree with Randy’s point of view, but there is even a more fundamental point as to why this approach is quite flawed.

Make Customers Feel You Care About What Matters to Them

Like anyone else I’d guess, when I buy a product or service and the company reaches out to see how satisfied I was, the most important question I want them to ask is—“how did we do?”

It’s ok to ask me if I am likely to recommend their brand…but why? Is it because there is a statistical correlation between answers to this question and business  outcomes?  Asking “likely to recommend” is self-serving rather than something the customer cares about.

In the past month, I have flown on United Airlines for three round trips including 6 total flight segments.  After each flight I receive a survey invitation.  The survey is exactly the same every time. And every time the second question is the one I’ve shared with you below.  Regardless of whether I am happy or unhappy with them, I really don’t want to see that question 6 times in one month.united LTR question

Surely, there are measures of a customer’s own satisfaction that correlate just as well with overall performance.

Using Maritz’ CEBenchmarks  study of satisfaction across more than 40 different transactions covering 12 different industries, we find that the average correlation between likely to recommend and overall satisfaction is 0.86. A pretty tight correlation, don’t you think?

More Focus is Needed on the Entire Relationship and Customer Journey

If you really want to understand how to drive your business forward, you need to rethink how CE is measured and the approach you take to improve it.  Learning from one of Maritz’ luxury automotive clients is instructive.   The client recently began a program to measure customer experience performance across the entire customer journey, including a number of touchpoints.  Several touchpoints stood out as areas where they perform very well.

luxury automotive case study graphic

Interestingly, the two parts of the journey where they perform best are also the two touchpoints that are incentivized with channel partners (vehicle delivery and service visits).  The program has identified the need for greater communication at a number of other stages in the lifecycle.

Companies need to focus on the entire customer journey, not just a few touchpoints. While companies have good reason to measure performance of any given touchpoint to maximize its effectiveness, they should also monitor how they are performing in customer relationships, not just at a point in time, but throughout the customer journey.

The value derived from customer experience should be viewed as a two-way street.  Start by focusing on what the customer is getting out of his or her experience and how you can serve them better.  It’s okay to ask the customer about his or her willingness to recommend your brand, but maybe it should only be asked of those who have relatively high levels of satisfaction to begin with?  If you haven’t done a good job for the customer, then you haven’t earned the right to ask for a reference.  Asking someone who is less than highly satisfied if they are willing to recommend the brand may have the opposite effect, making them more dissatisfied for having been asked the question.