Benchmarking for Customer Success: Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Customers

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Every company wants to be one step ahead of the competition. And increasingly, customer experience and customer success have become distinguishing differentiators for beating them. So, once you collect customer feedback and calculate an NPS, it’s very tempting to be lured by the question, “How does that compare to our competitors?” While this may be an interesting fun fact, this isn’t a question you should focus on — because unless you have competition within your accounts (more on this later), the answer is of no real use.

We’ve questioned the use using external benchmarks in previous blog posts, but we should highlight why looking internally for more context and clues for improvement is the best solution.

Why internal benchmarks for customer success make more sense:

1. Only your own data will point you to where your company is missing the mark.

A competitor’s NPS has nothing to do with the way your business performs. Looking elsewhere is a distraction from the specific items you need to change to impact customer success and satisfaction. Sure, seeing a competitor with a high score may propel your company to want to improve, but shouldn’t you strive to do that anyway? Creating internal benchmarks for success (as shown in the example below) will actually help accomplish the goal faster.

2. Internal benchmarks for different parts of the business tell a more complete story that help prioritize action.

Unless you’re really great at closing the loop with every. single. respondent. (and let’s be honest, this is really hard) to find out more about why they would or wouldn’t recommend you to friends/family, you need to ask more than 2 questions.

Your questionnaire should have customers rate specific parts of your company that give better insight into where they think you fall short and what you do well. For example, you could ask them to rate the Account Management, Ease of Getting Support, the Technology you provide, and/or Quality of Training.

With richer data, your team can look deeper into various segments of your business and understand where a breakdown in CX or CS is happening.

You can slice the data by Industry, Region, Product or by Strategic Accounts — however your business is structured– and get better insight into how your company performs with these use cases.

For example, How does one Strategic Account feel compared to other similar accounts?

The black line in the chart below follows the sentiment of your customer, Moonwalk LLC, while the blue bars represent the 14 other Strategic Accounts’ answers for each attribute. By benchmarking how similar accounts feel about various aspects of your company, you can see the gaps or parallels from Moonwalk’s point of view.

Moonwalk is much happier than other Strategic Accounts with Account Management. Why is this? They may not even have a different person managing the account — were their expectations somehow different? How were those set and maintained?
customer experience benchmarks

Visualizing these gaps within a segment can help your team prioritize what would make the biggest difference in customer success. While Tech Support doesn’t have the lowest score, the gap is wide enough that there are some mismatched expectations with the delivery of Support. Drilling into the specific account responses will help pinpoint who to speak with to discuss where the disconnect is happening.

This graph also shows that Training is a low point across the board. While the gap between accounts is slim, the score is low enough that perhaps this is a good place to start in increasing customer success overall with this segment? Check out other segments as well — there may be a trend there.

3. Internal benchmarks by segment bring a true apples-to-apples comparison of your CX.

The accounts in this group have had similar interactions with your company and can truly be contrasted. Depending on which product your customers buy, they likely receive different treatment. So lumping all customer feedback in one big group to improve customer success doesn’t really make sense.

Lots of companies are tempted to purchase external benchmarks to see how they compare to competitors. Not only are these pricey, they don’t provide an accurate parallel as the overall experience is completely different.

One instance where looking at external benchmarks would give an equal comparison, would be if you have customers that also use a competing vendor. This would qualify as competition within the account, so you’d want to know how your CX compares directly. Then, you ask them to rate you against their performance and it would be provide an apples-to-apples comp. Either way, this only applies to certain businesses and should be an add-on to a regular relationship assessment like depicted in the example above.

So there you have it. Benchmarking is just one aspect of feedback analysis that can help customer success teams to take action and get more insights from the data. This can also be done across the business, not just with individual segments. It can help uncover other leading indicators of relationship health like which customers have higher responses, more accurate number of contacts, or where there has been superior service.

And don’t forget to spread this information across the company! Product, Sales and Marketing can all benefit from this information to realign expectations from the onset. If you’re asking customers to take the time to submit feedback, don’t let it go to waste. Put it to good use by sharing the insights to find customers that fit your sweet spot and fuel future success.

See how the team at ShiftPlanning has been able to use feedback and internal benchmarks in our webinar recording.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The first thing I worry about is comparing your NPS with competitors. The NPS is a nothing score, and just answers the question of whether you would rebuy or recommend…gives you no further insight.
    Not looking at the competitors Customer Value scores is shooting yourself in the leg. You should not compare yourself with yourself but with others. Competition will not disappear, and they are there in the real world

  2. Sure, Gautam, comparing value with competitors is valid, I would agree. This article deals with data evaluating customer experience and success — things that should not be compared with competitors because the experiences are very different.

    By comparing gaps in your own CX, you can hone in on the areas for improvement and become better than the competition.

  3. While you’ve pointed out a common mistake that companies use external benchmarks that are incongruent with their own business measurements, I don’t agree with your argument that examining internal measurements is more useful than examining external ones. Why not both?

    In developing strategies and tactics, identification and exploitation of competitive weaknesses is fundamental. An entry-point for that analysis are industry benchmarks furnished by The American Customer Satisfaction Index (acsi.org) and Satmetrix. A company that examines only its internal measurements without context for how the industry performs is just as naive as one that looks only at competitive benchmarks without comparing its own performance.

  4. Thanks for the discussion, Andrew! Perhaps I should be more clear from the onset — This is really only meant in relation to feedback data, where questions have an internal focus.

    Market performance data is certainly important, but in terms of improving customer success or the overall experience, I don’t think that external data will help prioritize improvement, which is my main point here.

  5. This is a very useful post. The only things I’d add, consistent with Andrew’s and Gautam’s responses, are a) the value of going beyond internal benchmarking to include both industry and ‘world’ best in class comparisons (if your customer experience performance is mediocre and even the best performers in your industry are just a bit better, there will be little opportunity for improvement) and b) extreme caution when benchmarking against NPS, because it is too global in nature to be actionable3 at a granular level..

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