How to Stop Survey Score Addiction: Manage and Honor Customers as Assets


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Customers as Assets measure the impact of the end-to-end experience of your business on business growth. It measures what customers actually DID (via their behaviors), versus what they SAY they are going to do (via surveys). Measuring customers as assets illuminates how customers voted with their feet to a) stay or leave, b) get more or less from you, c) bring others to you. Most important, it shifts conversations about this work from the internally driven attention to achievement of sales or a survey score, to caring about customers’ lives. To caring about “why” customer behavior changed as a result of their journey with you.

Your opportunity is to gain leadership attention to this simple definition of success. To create desire for knowing and managing customer asset performance with the same rigor applied to sales, revenue, and IBITA performance. Honoring and managing the customer asset leads directly to those three results leaders care about.

Remove Survey Score Addiction by Adding Customer Asset Metrics

So often when executives talk about commitment to customer experience, they connect it primarily to survey score results. That is because, in the absence of other simple ways to measure progress, such as a united one-company tracking of customer growth or loss, that score is the one quantifiable measure of success. Getting good scores leads conversations rather than discussion of customers’ lives.

The end game becomes the score. Spreadsheets mire leaders down in calculations on lift required by survey question to earn increased scores. So embedded is this addiction, that many clients tell me; sending the survey, waiting for results and trying to get ‘lift’ on the score is the their complete customer strategy.

Just today I was in a meeting with the leadership team of a manufacturer company client. This quote came from our discussion of managing customers as assets as a shared responsibility of the leadership team: “We are so product oriented, we think of the product as the asset of our business. This is a critical shift because it causes us to think about the customer, the life of the person buying the product. This totally changes what we think of as success.”

That was a great moment. Of course there is much work ahead of that team now to quantify how to track and agree on the growth and loss of the customer asset. But the idea is now there and the transformation begins.

You can stop survey score addiction by engaging leaders to elevate customers as the asset of your business. And by creating clarity that your role is to work with them to unite the organization in growing this asset. Ponder this:

  • What would change in your company if every executive meeting started with “Did we earn the right to customer growth?”
  • Then move to specifics. By segment of your customer base, how many new customers were acquired, in whole numbers – volume and value?
  • Next, by segment of your customer base, how many customers did we lose, in whole numbers – volume?
  • And most importantly “WHY?” What did we do to grow or shrink this asset? Across the entire operation, not just in sales or service – but also as a result of the overall experience?

A lot different than looking at survey scores and discussing getting ‘lift’ on that number without talking about customers’ lives, isn’t it? And that’s the power of elevating and honoring customers as assets. It lays the groundwork to enable the work because it connects it to ROI and growth. It unites leaders.

Elevating Customers as Assets Diminishes ‘Leap of Faith’ for this Work.

Let me ask you a question: Is your job about getting the items fixed that emerge out of survey results? Are you seen as the ‘fix it’ person? If you are, then this work is still not thought of as a growth strategy. It’s thought of as a cost to the business. It’s seen as new work layered on top of the ‘real’ work (love that, don’t we?) Which may be why your place on the CEO agenda moves down and down the agenda, until sometimes it slips right off the page.

This lack of understanding of how to quantify success in this work drives survey score addiction. As a result the score becomes the standard bearer of success. And the work becomes every silo going into the dashboard to figure out what they can do to create ‘lift’ on the part of the score that their operation impacts.

It is why your job may be ruled by it right now. The only metrics considered an indicator of how well customers and partners are being treated are survey scores. Questions we asked customers after the fact about how we did. And how those scores stack up to competitors.

Customer Asset Metrics when embraced and communicated consistently across leadership shed a new light on why you are in business. In their simplicity, they drive action. You either keep or lose or grow customers or you don’t. Caring about that will change your leaders’ behaviors. It will help you transform your business.


  1. This is incredibly important for all organizations. And, as a subtext, it also addresses the issue of sensitivity, actionability, and granularity of what is being measured. On a prioritized basis, how will the insights and learnings impact customers’ perceptions of value and how will it impact their downstream brand perception and decision-making? it’s a waste of resources and focus for each employee, and each group, to be “chasing hot rabbits” because of a macro survey score. Unfortunately, this is something we witness every day with our clients.

    At all levels, and in all functions, of the enterprise, there must be a consistency and discipline around viewing/treating customers as treasured assets:

  2. Jeanne,
    Great post.  I totally agree with you that we need to use objective measures of customer loyalty (you call them Customer Asset Measures). I’ve talked about the limitations of self-reported customer loyalty measures; for example, we know that using self-reported loyalty metrics artificially inflates the importance the customer experience on customer loyalty. Also, in this Big Data world, we have the ability to more easily integrate objective loyalty measures into our CX survey analytics. Objective loyalty measures need to be our ultimate criteria.
    I think you’re right; using objective measures of customer loyalty measures will draw attention away from softer metrics to more objective, meaningful loyalty metrics. Additionally, using these objective measures can help how we analyze survey data by ntegrating your CX survey data with real customer loyalty behaviors.
    Thanks for your post.

  3. Hello Jean,

    Heidegger pointed out that you/i approach every situation with an already given ‘horizon of understanding’. It has to be so – it is the only way you/i can make sense out of the multiplicity that hits our senses.

    Yes, almost every manager, in every organisation, I have ever come across sees value in the ‘product’ that the company has invented/sourced, and sells. In the professional services business the product becomes the ‘quality of the people’ who interact with the customer. With this horizon of understanding ‘product’ is pretty much everything: ‘product’ is asset.

    I find you articulating the view that Peppers & Rogers articulated long time ago. The real asset is the customer. Actually, no! The real asset is the relationship you have built with the customer/s. Specifically, the learning relationship: through interactions you (the organisation) learn about the customer (and thus what matters to the customer) and the customer learns about you. Then you, both of you, act on what you have learned so as to meet each others needs. So the asset = the relating that occurs through learning/action. So back in the late 90s Peppers & Rogers introduced a distinct ‘horizon of understanding’.

    Yet every horizon of understanding is just that: one way to look at the situation at hand. Every horizon of understanding unconceals something and in that unconcealing conceals something else. So what does the Customer = Asset conceal? Let’s examine the etymology of the word “asset”.

    The source of “asset” is the French “assez”: enough. So let’s ask the question is it enough to limit our understanding of business to Customer = Asset? I say no! Why?

    1. Not every customer is an asset. For example, If you look at from a financial value perspective then some customers (in B2B, usually the biggest ones in terms of revenue) actually cost rather too much to serve hence leave little value on the table for your organisation.

    2. Product = asset. Customers do business with you because they have a need which is fulfilled by your product. So you better pay attention to product. You better make sure that the quality of the product is at least equal to your competitors. You better make sure that you have the right product available at the right places, You better make sure that the product is priced correctly. And you better make sure that the product is promoted adequately.

    Put differently, the horizon of understanding Customer = Asset as blind as the horizon of understanding that Product = Asset, or Employee = Asset.

    At your service

  4. Hi Maz
    You make good points above. Of course many other dimensions of business are assets. And yes all customers are not equal.

    The point of my assertion is to track the actual growth and loss of the customer asset as a metric of success for the business. Not to make the first and only metric that people change in customer centric work be the survey score, but first if the work yielded growth in the business. Growth in the customer asset.

    One of the dimensions of this is segmenting customers to know their value and to understand the growth or loss of high value customers. This math is not done consistently across most organizations which leads people to focus only on the survey score

    The last piece of this is to honor customers. Yes some are less valuable than others but businesses have many rules and policies in place which don’t honor the customer as an asset of the business. This notion is to honor the customer and the employee serving them


  5. Michael
    I’m sure you see survey score chasing every day. We find that this idea helps leaders connect this work to a return on investment and take it seriously as a growth strategy.


  6. Bob
    I advocate the use of multiple points of information to tell the story of customers’ lives in their journey with an organization. We always start that story with customer asset metrics but then build from there with multiple sources of customer insights aligned by stage of the experience. Then we use the survey data at the end to validate what the rest of the insights have illuminated. The convergence of multiple sources makes it easier to align leaders and emancipated the survey from being the only thing people focus on

  7. Jeanne,

    Yes. Taking different approaches of measurement (from different data sources) to tackle a problem is great. In the social sciences, we refer to it as triangulation. Looking at the whole body of evidence, rather than a single piece of evidence, provides a more reliable picture of what’s going on.


  8. Leave it to Jeanne Bliss to always start an enriching conversation and this one is yet another. The concept of moving the customer learning focus from measuring symptoms and intentions to understanding real behavior can dramatically alter the accuracy of insight that can lead to flawless execution. This conversation reminds me of the oft-repeated story of the three blind men encountering an elephant for the first time. We need new and varied customer insight tools to help us understand the “elephant” (aka, customer) and not just report on a snout that feels like a snake, a leg that just has to be a column, or a tail that surely must be a rope. Too many organizational leaders operate with a kind of customer blindness and data myopia that is borne of flawed yardsticks.

  9. Chip! You are the master of analogies! So glad we are on the same page with this!

    What I’ve observed is that so much crazy behavior ensues because of the interpretation of the survey score. And also from the ever increasing machinations to interpret and cross tab results. That is why we are having so much impact with as you say, measuring the end game vs the symptoms.


  10. I like these ideas a lot. Customers are inundated with opportunities to judge. It’s exhausting. Unless feedback is acknowledged and real change happens happens for the whole customer base.

    In addition to tracking wins and losses in the number of customers, more root cause analysis should be in every company’s DNA. Metrics should not only track financials as the ultimate result, but also track the progress of eradicating roots causes of issues. Few companies seem to be doing this to show the strategic connections between (a) employees’ work and (b) what customers see/feel and (c) what the company gets.

    2 related articles that may be of interest to readers:
    Exploring the Elusive ROI of Customer Experience Management
    Metrics for Customer Experience Management


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