Jeff Toister recently had a blog on CustomerThink addressing the topic of customer delight (http://customerthink.com/customer-satisfaction-vs-delight-why-you-need-both/ ) and customer satisfaction. He defined delight as occurring when service exceeds expectations, and satisfaction occurring when service meets expectations.
His contention is that both metrics are needed. As he notes: “So, is customer delight truly a business imperative? Or, is focusing on customer satisfaction enough? The answer is somewhere in the middle. Delight and satisfaction actually co-exist quite nicely. In fact, they need each other.” He concludes by advising organizations to be consistent, and get the basics right. Little argument there, but the challenge in his approach is that the use of two metrics to evaluate experience and performance may serve to only confuse and obfuscate performance and experience initiatives. What, ideally, are we trying to achieve with customers?
My colleagues Tim Keiningham and Terry Vavra wrote the definitive work on customer delight, in a book published several years ago (The Customer Delight Principle, 2001), and in a number of incisive articles representing studies they had conducted. As they said in a description of their delight principle, “Delight-creating performance issues offer businesses a unique opportunity to surprise and elate customers, differentiating themselves from competitors. But they are only relevant if the basics are satisfied.” Their approach was, from my read, directed at customers in pain (whom I’d describe as negative and/or alienated), those merely satisfied (whom I’d describe as ambivalent), and those who are delighted (whom I’d describe as positive, advocating, or bonded). This is a more complete understanding of customer states following transactions and overall experiences, and gets us closer to a single metric or framework.
Let’s go a little further, and look at newer metrics: Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). Both have gotten a lot of attention, and a high level of application. And both offer more than their share of granular application (process, communication, positioning, etc.) challenges, which have been well-covered by many practitioners, myself included.
One of the better, and more accurate and insightful, recent discussions of NPS’s analytical and application issues comes from Jericho Consulting Limited, in Oxford, UK: http://www.jerichoconsulting.co.uk/nps-understanding-traps/ There is, first of all, recognition that recommendation is different than CSAT. As discussed on multiple occasions, CSAT is a far more tactical and transactional than experiential metric, better representing passive, benign, reactive and rational elements of value But, more important for initiative and management decision guidance purposes: “NPS certainly isn’t the same thing as Customer Experience. NPS identifies the fact that a business has a problem; however it doesn’t tell you why or how to solve the problem, which is the broader role of Customer Experience Management”.
The blog also contained some useful discussion of what occurs, or can occur, when the ingredient of CES is added to the customer experience metric stew:
“Another consideration is whether NPS is the best possible metric a business can be using. In recent years, some companies have been moving away from NPS and towards CES, which stands for Customer Effort Score. Advocates of CES argue that, rather than looking at the likelihood of the individual recommending the business, we should consider how much of an effort it is for a customer to deal with a business. In a world in which some people seem to have increasingly less time (cash rich, time poor!), it can be understood as to how the amount of effort that has to be expended by a customer can be considered to be a more indicative measure of their satisfaction. There are a couple of things to consider here. Firstly, in surveys that have used both techniques together, it has been found that the results tend to track/match each other. Secondly, it can be argued that the validity of each of the two techniques is reliant upon the nature of both the product being sold and the customer making the purchase. For a more generic, utilitarian product with fewer unique selling features, you can see how CES may be of greater relevance; whereas for something like a luxury product, NPS might be better. Likewise, for ‘cash rich, time poor’ customers, CES might be more relevant; whereas NPS might be a better measure for ‘time rich, cash poor’ customers.” So, now we need to consider not only what metric to use, but on what products and services to use it.
Delight, satisfaction, NPS, and CES – None of these customer experience metrics takes brand favorability and volume/type of positive and negative online/offline word-of-mouth into consideration. And, as many consulting organizations have determined, today these factors are critical for both understanding leveraging downstream customer behavior. Advocacy and bonding, principally based on positive/negative customer word-of-mouth and impression of the brand or vendor, has tremendous power and potential to create desired high-end customer behavior. Word-of-mouth, however, is a double-edged sword; and customers’ negative communication, as much as praise, can have a damaging effect on other customers and non-customers, as well as the communicating customer.
When we’re involved in presentations, forums, and webinars, this question often arises: Is there truly is a single metric, or a framework, which represents the most actionable, contemporary, and real-world, basis for managing, optimizing, and leveraging customer experience? After a decade of researching and validating the causative downstream behavior predictive powers of word-of-mouth and brand favorability drivers, and in many b2b and b2c verticals around the world, my belief is that it is customer advocacy and bonding. It’s also one of the most effective experience research and analytical templates for leading any enterprise toward higher levels of customer centricity.
I’m happy to engage in dialogue, and defend this position, with anyone so inclined.