Published in Retail

The Other Half of the CX Glass


“When I did good, I heard it never. When I did ill, I heard it ever.”

This was the idiom on a placard that hung on my grandmother’s kitchen wall for over 30 years. I really didn’t understand what it meant when I was 8 years old, but it rings true now. As a species, we focus disproportionally on the bad, glossing over or ignoring the good.

Read the newspaper and you will see a disproportionate amount of bad news versus good. Wars, murders, theft, and other nefarious acts and subterfuge lead the headlines. Think about your own work situation. What is usually discussed around the water cooler? How awesome everything is going, or what is “wrong?”

In fact, a focus on the bad is only natural. Evolutionarily, we are wired to constantly scan our environment for danger (i.e., “what is wrong”) and to try to problem solve. That instinct kept our ancestors from extinction at the paws of hungry saber-toothed tigers and it is, in many ways, the essence of innovation. Find out what’s wrong, and fix it. However, we can get carried away with too narrow of a focus on “what’s wrong,” and not spend enough time looking at “what’s right;” and especially at “who’s right.”

Forced Epiphany
For me, the catalyst of this concept happened years ago when I was working on a program for a hospitality client. We were working through a dashboard design for their CX program. The main areas of the dashboard were to identify “performance levels” (i.e., how are they doing against goals), “opportunity areas” (i.e., what processes need fixing), and another for “hot alerts” (i.e., which customers are in distress).

The group was happily running down our “problem path” when, as usual, inspiration and clarity came from a new and unique perspective. A young new member of the team made a convincing plea that we were focusing too much on all the negative aspects and none of the positive aspects of what people were doing day to day. She asked, “Shouldn’t we have something in there about the good things people are doing? After all, isn’t a large part of the reason we conduct CX programs in the first place to affect positive change?” Point taken. I let that thought marinate for a while.

CX in Practice
Later, I had the opportunity to see how CX programs operated in the field. On many occasions, I was able to interview or sit in at bank branches, hotels, car dealers, restaurants, mobile phone stores, and many others, and I observed how the data was actually being used.

While there were some variations, the usual scenario at the unit level was this: once a day (or week) a manager of the store would gather up all the troops to review their results. There was no PowerPoint, no dashboard, no computer, no podium. We were in the real world, and survey results were reviewed by a busy manager with a piece of paper in front of a small crowd.

The first stop was invariably to review how close they were (or weren’t) to obtaining their goal. Sometimes the goal was based on NPS, or some variant of “would recommend.” More often it was a composite score. The chief concern was simple: are we making the goal?

After quickly dispensing with the good (or bad) news, the next step was to highlight the why. In my observations, some groups used performance improvement charts, but not as many as one would hope. Folks working in these settings are generally operationally minded, and like to jump down to the most atomistic level of the data: the individual responses, and, in particular, customer comments.

“Anna, nice job at reception. Mr. Parks called you out for going out of your way in hooking him up with that dinner reservation.”

“House cleaning, it looks like we are having some issues with restocking the bath supplies.”

That’s how it went – recognition of rock stars, and then usually identifying groups (rather than individuals) for the bad stuff. They spent about 10 or 15 minutes on that, and then moved on to other operational data that was indicative of the health of the organization. Watching the faces of employees during this was telling. Quietly whispering to one another during the problem bit, applause and backslapping during the good news bit.

What’s most interesting about this common in-store scenario is that most CX programs today focus almost exclusively on the “bad.” What needs to be fixed, what people need to be fixed, what processes need to be fixed, and what policies need to be fixed. That’s good and right. We need to constantly improve. That is, and should be, a big part of any CX system.

The Bad, and the…
Many programs lack focus on what is going right; instead, they just focus on which branch, dealership, or other retail outlet made “the score.” It’s larger than that. Focusing on which field fix seems to have resolved the problem – or what has been the most successful way to deal with a particular customer problem – can shine the light on what’s working. CX programs logged into best-practice knowledge-management systems allow other parts of the organization to benefit from their data and insights.

Most importantly, what is typically missing is a systematic way of highlighting which employees are really standing out. These are the front-line folks who make your organization run. They are, in many cases, the face of your brand. Making sure the good ones feel appreciated is critical in building a world-class, customer-focused organization.

Employee recognition has been around forever, but it is not commonly tied directly into our CX systems in such a way that it really links customer observations to individual employees. The common-use case is, as described, burrowing through comments to find the silver nickels that can then be used to recognize individuals. That’s not a bad approach, but it feels clunky and manual. Surely a more automated system that was directly tied to customers’ feedback can be established.

So let’s continue to create CX systems that seek to find the bad; those problems or euphemistic “opportunities” that need to be solved. Remember, though, that exclusive focus on the hammer conditions people to hate CX systems. So let’s take a more balanced approach and focus on the good things too, particularly your rock stars. Let’s try and prove grandma’s fatalistic maxim wrong once and for all.