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CX Metric Obsession

As a people we are obsessed with metrics. In our professional lives we fret over revenue, gross profit, contribution margin, market share, sales efficiency, churn, and countless other behavioral and financial measures. In our personal lives we perseverate on our BMI, our blood pressure, weight, HDL, and heart rate. We carry devices in our pockets and purses and even wear things that help us gain instantaneously access all kinds of metricized information.

We measure to understand.

We strive to understand so that we can control.

Sadly, measurement by itself doesn’t enable control.

I have been measuring things for nearly 25 years. If measurement were a crime, I would be on the FBI’s most wanted list. I have made a career out of measuring stuff; mostly consumer stuff.

On the plus side, I have helped clients understand what would be impossible to understand without metrics. It has allowed me to provide evidence compelling enough to make pugnacious attorneys pipe down and sheepishly shuffle through their briefcases in an attempt to conjure a retort. Numbers can be powerful stuff. They also can be a deceptive mistress, making us believe in a precision that sometimes doesn’t exist, or purporting to measure things that they don’t.

Almost every time leaders in an organization want to fundamentally change their customer experience program, the very first thing they do is to either create or redesign their measurement system. That’s not a bad idea. After setting up governance, journey mapping is one of the first steps you should take in setting up a new CX program. Establishing consumer expectations and those important “flash points” along the path help ensure we are measuring the right things, at the right time, and with the right people. Jeannie Walters even recommends doing a competitive journey map, which is also pretty righteous.

There are a few more steps, but let’s fast forward to having the measurement system up and running. Like a Swiss watch, it’s measuring what it should, when it should, with whom it should. Dashboards are created. Fancy analytics are executed. Insights are discovered and disseminated. All is right and happy in Researchville. Sadly, if your organization was an athlete, you just spent a bunch of money on an expensive but sophisticated watch with little focus on the training and exercise regimen to make you run longer and faster. Measurement is a small part of the larger CX ecosystem.

As a career metrician, I am here to tell you that we sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time on CX measurement, to the detriment of the real focus on jobs—making the customer experience better.

We have many tools at our disposal to make the customer experience better. Some of those are technological. For example, improving the user interface for placing orders or fine tuning your supply chain to reduce customer wait time. Embracing omni-channel concepts between sales and service as well as online and physical outlets. These are technologies applied to improve the process which can have a dramatic and immediate effect on the customer experience. These can take you a long way and are very important. Some of my colleagues might go so far as to say this is all you need to do. Make it easy through technology and the rest takes care of itself.

I think that’s overly ambitious. We all know intuitively that cyborgs are not good at customer service—yet. The real atom to split in CX lies with humans. They are the convenience store clerk, the waiter, the baggage handler, the delivery person, the receptionist, and a host of other customer-facing people that fuel a large and growing service economy. They are the very real day-to-day human face of your brand. They should take a front stage in your CX investment.

So how do we split the CX atom? First, we ensure there is complete buy-in consistently across the senior echelons of the organization and a commitment to invest the time, money, and energy to focus on the customer experience. With that necessary prerequisite in place, we attract the right people by running inspirational organizations doing amazing things. We carefully select people into the organization—not just for knowledge, skills, and abilities, but for the raw talent that both complements and supplements the organization’s customer-centric culture. We ensure that we provide proper training and tools so that those people can get their work done efficiently and effectively. With good people, training, and tools we can give employees discretion over decisions that will deliver immediate value to customers.

Finally, we nurture and sustain a culture where people like their jobs, admire and respect the customer focus of their management, and are proud of their organization and what they do for it. This is the sum total of the organization’s brand, which is a mirror reflection of the company’s culture.

Sounds simple eh? It’s not. Very few have managed it. I think Zappos, StarbucksUSAA, Trader Joe’s, and Disney theme parks have it down pretty well. Some of the best I see are a number of small “Mom and Pop” businesses that seem to really have it figured it out. I guess it’s easier to standardize and reinforce your brand and values when you are working with your Dad, Aunt Sue, and your cousin Joey.

It is incredibly hard to change a large company to be more customer centric. This is because culture is such a pervasive and persistent force that infects every part of the organization. Many times large companies have to unlearn bad habits which is harder than learning new habits in the first place. That’s why start up-cultures have an easier time getting it right than larger more mature organizations. Many have big company disease which, while not a terminal condition, it is certainly serious.

So let’s make sure that our psychometric measurement is good, we are making good use of the ubiquity of unstructured text data, and we are collecting our operational, behavioral, and financial metrics. Let’s spin that Bayesian multinomial logit model and semi-autonomous agent-based neural nets to derive new insights. There is truth in the saying that what does not get measured, does not get done. Unfortunately, we get so busy with the former part of that sentence that we do not spend enough money or effort on the latter.

Let’s make sure we are focusing on getting the insights out there, clearly communicated with the right tools to take action. Let’s make sure our processes are customer friendly and easy for customers. Let’s make sure that we get the right people and arm them with the right training and tools to be the awesome people they are. Let’s create the proper governance and reward structure to reinforce those things that are important in creating an incredible experience. Finally, let’s help guide and nourish a culture of customer centricity by living it at every level of the organization. Then we will be giving the non-measurement aspects of CX the attention it deserves.