Does it matter which customer experience metric you choose?


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Are you responsible for measuring the progress in improving customer experience? If yes, I’m sure you needed to come up with a rationale on which metrics to choose for this: Is it an all ubiquitous Net Promoter Score (NPS), the traditional customer satisfaction CSAT, or a more recent invention Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Is one enough or should you implement several metrics? Does it actually matter? Here, we discuss the two arguments: Pro and against.

Why choosing the right metric matters

Choosing the right metric matters to the extent that the metric must be meaningful to the specific customer touchpoint you’re wanting to analyze.

A metric such as the Customer Effort Score (CES), which measures the ease of the experience on a scale from Very Difficult to Very Easy, will be relevant for a touchpoint where the ease of use is the primary driver, for example when setting up a money transfer using online banking.

CES is ideal to use immediately after an interaction with a product that led to a purchase or subscription, or after an interaction with customer service rep to solve a problem. You can also use it to measure the aggregate experience someone has with your brand or product in general.

Your perception of something is your own view or interpretation of something. However, an attitude is closely related to actions or behavior. An attitude is often expressed, through words or behavior – and can be perceived by others.

Are you measuring perception or attitude?

Remember that when choosing a metric, you need to define between, for example, measures such as attitude and perception. Attitude is a mindset or a tendency to act in a particular way due to both an individual’s experience and temperament. Perception is our interpretation of a particular process.

As Bruce Temkin (Managing Partner of Temkin Group), writes: “CES is a perception measure while Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an attitudinal measure. In general, perception measurements are better for evaluating individual interactions.

So CES might be better suited for a transactional service while NPS may be better suited for a relationship service.”

So for example, when measuring experience in an expensive restaurant, it’s less about the individual transactions (ordering, eating, paying) and more about the how we feel after the fact.

So, a metric like CES won’t make sense here.

Is word of mouth marketing valid in your industry?

The metric needs to be relevant for your particular industry. For businesses such as restaurants and chiropractors, word of mouth is key. These types of services get recommended a lot, but it is not usually because of their price or ease of use, it is because of the quality offered or level of service.

When it comes to some financial services, we often see comments (as much as 10%) that say, “I do not recommend banks”. This seems to be based on the principle of not wanting to recommend banks. Could be due to historic or cultural reasons? For centuries people have been losing money because of failing banks.

So, some people may be using financial services but not actually fully trusting them. Also, in many cultures, talking about money isn’t something people do.

In my view, you can have a metric (such as CES or NPS) score to gauge how you’re doing and get a broad idea of if you’re going in the right direction or not. If not, there should be a system in place to give you a clear indication as to what is causing the problems.

And you should ideally have an automated system in place to alert the relevant departments as to which customers are at risk, what types of issues the business is having and what you can specifically do to improve CX.

So, it’s not just a case of having a metric, but how you use it and how you implement the feedback collected throughout the organisation.

Why CX metrics don’t ultimately matter

As the Temkin Group report’s State of CX Metrics, (2015) found, most organisations thought they were “good” at collecting and calculating CX metrics. Although their CX programs still faced a number of problems, which are quite common:

  • Limited visibility of CX metrics across the organization (58%)
  • Lack of taking action based on CX metrics (57%)
  • Poor communication of CX metrics (41%)
  • Lack of resources for tracking CX metrics (39%)
  • Too little compensation tied to CX metrics (36%)

The Temkin Groups report identified four characteristics that make CX metrics efforts successful: Consistent, Impactful, Integrated and Continuous. Then, when they used these elements to evaluate 200 large companies, only 12% had strong CX metrics programs.

So, even though your organisation might have a customer metric implemented, there is no guarantee that it is going to be what you need to improve your CX, or that it is working the way you intended. Or, that it helps you identify what specifically impacted your CX positively or negatively.

Ultimately the focus should be on the feedback itself and less on the score. As an example, if you did five things to try to increase the metric and it did increase, how do you know which of the things worked and got noticed?

The score alone won’t tell you. But the customer feedback will.

Whichever customer metric you choose to implement (and you may spend thousands on doing so, and training your whole company to adopt it and use it in their customer interactions), it’s worth nothing without analysing the customer feedback you’re collecting.

And you are collecting feedback, right?

As Bruce Temkin says: “The choice of a metric isn’t the cornerstone to great CX. Instead, how companies use this type of information is what separates CX leaders from their underperforming peers. There is no such thing as a perfect metric.”

So, in this case it does not matter, but how you use the information does.

In addition, as Michael Lowenstein, (Ph.D., CMC Thought Leadership Principal, Beyond Philosophy) writes, “none of these customer experience metrics takes brand favorability and volume/type of positive and negative informal online/offline word-of-mouth into consideration.”

There simply isn’t one metric that does it all, so using a multi-faceted approach to attack from all angles is the best way to go.

Do you know what your customers are saying?

Today, it’s essential to be able to understand customer feedback sentiment and importantly the impact of your customer feedback on your brand overall, including the bottom line metrics like revenue.

By not just collecting, but also analysing feedback, you get access to the real customer insights: What are the things that are holding our customers back? What’s driving positive customer experience, what delivers the wow moments?

My prediction is that in the near future, businesses will gather data and feedback from all types of interactions and marry them up with drivers of loyalty, and behavioural metrics, to then use predictive analytics to bypass these one-dimensional metrics.

Don’t stop measuring, but don’t put too much emphasis on whichever metric you are using. Focus on getting those deep insights and actioning them.

This article was first published here.

Alyona Medelyan
I run Thematic, a SaaS company for analysing customer feedback. We tell companies how to drive change to Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction and churn. Thematic uses proprietary word-class Text Analytics technology developed based on 15+ years of my research in NLP and Machine Learning.


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