Attempting to measure the customer experience with a single metric such as customer satisfaction or customer advocacy is overly simplistic and risky. Instead, companies should dig deeper and establish a portfolio of measures that can determine how each touch point contributes to the overall experience.
The Total Customer Experience is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
The customer experience is a complex process that can consist of multiple touch points; a process that can be broad, long-running, span multiple channels, and can be influenced by any combination of internal and external factors. Effectively measuring the total customer experience requires a more acute understanding of its individual parts.
The customer experience process does not begin and end at a store, sales representatives, web site or call center. It extends from the moment the customer becomes aware of your company and is comprised of multiple independent interactions, transactions, and contacts along the way.
Each customer experience is made up of any number of touch points and customer encounters, each of which should be measured independently to determine their contribution to the overall experience. An issue encountered at any one of these points can dramatically influence the overall experience.
For example, the quality of an automobile is an aggregate measurement of the quality of the individual parts combined with the integrity of the overall design and assembly process. If any one part fails to perform properly, the overall perception of quality is diminished. Likewise, even if every part is perfectly manufactured but isn’t arranged or assembled in a useable manner – the perception of quality will suffer. Only when quality manufacturing is guided by quality design will the experience truly be maximized.
Although overarching metrics such as customer satisfaction and customer advocacy are quickly becoming standard metrics in today’s companies, attempting to measure the customer experience with a single metric can be overly simplistic and risky. Effectively managing the customer experience requires effective measurement and management of a portfolio of metrics that will provide insights into what is – or is not – working.
Identify Your Touch Points
The customer experience is a collection of touch points encountered by the customer that includes the attraction, interaction, and cultivation of customer relationships. Touch points may include advertisements or promotions, online and in-store shopping experiences, transaction and bill processing, and post-purchase delivery, usage, and support.
The total number of touch points that the customer encounters goes well beyond the point of sale. Establishing an accurate inventory of all of your company’s touch points – both intentional and unintentional – can mean the difference between success and failure.
Defining when and where the customer experience begins and ends is perhaps the most difficult task facing any business. Too often, companies define the lifecycle and customer touch points too narrowly, leaving critical elements of the customer experience to chance.
A touch point is defined as any customer interaction or encounter that can influence the customer’s perception of your product, service, or brand. A touch point can be intentional (an advertisement) or unintentional (an unsolicited customer referral). In this era of broad customer skepticism, the unintentional touch points often matter the most. Which would you trust more: a company’s ad pitch or your best friend’s personal referral for a product? Both are touch points, but one carries much more value than the other.
When your business interacts with a customer, it’s often easy to overlook what is really going on; you are touching them in many, perhaps subtle, ways. When it comes to customer experience management, the right touch can make all the difference. To do it right, you must first identify all of your potential touch points and then work to measure and optimize each one.
Measure Individual Touch Point Effectiveness
Each customer touch point is typically designed for a specific operational purpose. An advertising touch point may be designed to build brand awareness or to identify prospects. A point of sale touch point may be designed to execute transactions. A call center touch point is designed to resolve customer issues. Each touch point is unique and contributes to the overall customer experience in different ways.
Effectively measuring each touch point requires a holistic approach to understand the contribution to both operational and customer relationship objectives. For example, the operational side of an advertising touch point may be measured in terms of a conversion rate. The customer relationship side of the same touch point may be intended to influence the customer’s perception or awareness of the company’s brand.
Measuring the effectiveness of each touch point should balance both operational and customer experience objectives. Operational metrics are typically easily identified, while customer relationship metrics can be elusive. Ideally, timely and recurring customer feedback is collected and compared to operational results to provide a more complete picture. In doing so, companies can obtain a better understanding of how each individual touch point is contributing to the overall experience.
For example, let’s say a business establishes a goal to achieve a 5% click-through-rate (CTR) with their pay-per-click campaign. If the actual campaign achieves 100% of that goal, they might consider it a success. However, customer perceptions might not be so rosy if the ad promised a product, promotion, or discount that isn’t readily available or is difficult to obtain. As a result of customer confusion and aggravation, the company may achieve only 50% of their revenue goals for the campaign.
Measure the Overall Customer Experience
In order to effectively measure the overall customer experience, companies must accurately measure the contribution of each individual touch point as well as the overall level of customer satisfaction and advocacy. At times, the results of one touch point may have an unanticipated affect on other aspects of the experience.
Consider how the individual touch points associated with a fictitious product launch might impact the experience at an electronics store:
- Product Innovation: A key manufacturer is developing a leading-edge product that will be innovative in the marketplace. The media learns of these developments and publishes reports that an amazing new product is coming soon. Consumer excitement and anticipation is driven to extremely high levels, although actual ship dates remain unknown. (Score: 10/10)
- Electronics Store: Employees at the store and call center are inundated with inquiries about the pending new product but are unable to provide any additional information regarding availability nor can they accept pre-orders. (Score: 3/10)
- Marketing: The product launch date is set and marketing begins to actively promote the new product and its innovative features. Consumer anticipation is again driven to new highs as the launch date approaches. (Score: 10/10)
- Product Purchase: On launch day, consumers flood the store and web site to get the new product. Those customers that are fortunate enough to purchase one are extremely satisfied. (Score: 10/10)
- Out of Stock: Initial euphoria quickly turns sour as the store runs out of stock and thousands of customers are turned away without one of the highly coveted and heavily promoted products. Customers are told to check back again in a few weeks. (Score: 1/10)
For a handful of customers who were able to purchase the product, they are extremely satisfied with their experience and are willing to tell all of their friends about their latest purchase. Conversely, however, many other customers who were turned away empty-handed are now frustrated and highly dissatisfied with the experience.
Relying solely on customer satisfaction or customer advocacy measures may not illuminate how each touch point contributed to the overall experience. Simplistic customer satisfaction and advocacy scores may mask the underlying factors that either contribute to or detract from an exceptional customer experience.
Evaluating how each individual touch point contributes to the overall experience in this scenario can help to identify specific areas for improvement. While touch points 1, 3 and 4 scored high, touch points 2 and 5 clearly have room for improvement.
Focusing only on an aggregate metric without understanding or managing the contributing factors can yield unpredictable results. Companies seeking to improve their overall customer experience should establish customer experience measures that correlate individual touch point results to overall customer experience measures.