Just stop with the KPIs already

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Okay, so this is going to be controversial.  Scandalous, even.  But I’m going to come right out and say it:

Please stop with the KPIs.  Just quit it already.

Whether you’re using NPS, C-SAT, CES…whatever it is, you’re only hurting your own CX efforts.

And I’ll tell you why:  Because you’re not getting anything out of it.  Not out of your top-line metrics, at least.  If I ask you what your NPS tells you, you can probably go on about Customer loyalty, likelihood to repurchase, share of wallet, and many other great things that have come out of white papers and case studies over the years.  That’s awesome, and I’m sure the entire leadership team is intrigued.  You may have even validated those academics with evidence from your own organization.

But, if I ask you what it’s good for, I defy anybody to explain to me what you do with your NPS score.  That’s because, short of plotting it on a line chart to share with the C-Suite or shareholders, it’s nothing more than simply a snapshot in time of what your Customers think.  (I’ll even dispense with the accuracy of that sentiment based on survey methods and practices…that’s a topic for a whole ’nother day.)

What’s worse, if you’re the CX leader in your organization, you’ve likely dug this hole for yourself.  In order to get people to pay attention and to secure ‘buy-in’, you’ve labored to evince the “ROI of CX”.  (Even I’ve done it myself!)  So now that you’ve got everybody on board with “How’s our NPS?”, what do you do?  Well, I’ll tell you:  Just stop.

Stop chasing your number, especially if you’re doing it blindly and simply to hit a target.

Instead, dig deeper.  Keep asking whatever you feel is a good top-level KPI, okay.  But once you’ve figured out what it’s going to be (C-SAT, NPS, whatever), and before you send out your next survey, review and refine your amplifying follow-on questions.  If you’re stuck on what to ask next, try this:  “Why?”

The goal of your VoC program should be to identify what you can do better as an organization to improve your Customers’ experiences and bring them into alignment with your Brand Promise.  (The goal of your overall CX program, of course, should be to take that action.)  The only way to do that is to start with what’s upsetting them or falling short of their expectations.  Naturally, that requires investigating.  Of course, that investigation needs to encompass more than just surveys, but insofar as you’re intending to use them, don’t waste that effort.  Once you’ve got your Customers’ attention (and they’re willing to give you their feedback), don’t just “see how you’re doing” by asking that one question.  Find out why they scored you the way they did.  Ask what you could have done better, what they’d like to see from you, what needs you’re not meeting, in which ways you’re not delivering your Brand Promise.

Then (and this is most important of all):  Do something with it.  It goes without saying—or at least it should, if the purpose is to improve—that you’ll need something more than just the top-line number if you’re going to have any idea of how to improve your performance.  And once you have those insights, identify trends, major pain points, common themes.  If it’s your billing process that needs improvement, you’ll have to go down to the finance office.  If it’s delays in shipment, you’ll want to check with your supply chain.  If it’s overall reliability, you may need to have a conversation with the engineering or product teams.

And the conversations ought to go something like this:  “We’re finding that X% of our Customers are telling us that we’re falling short of our Brand Promise here.  Let’s see about how we can change how we do these things to better satisfy them.”  Notice there’s no discussion of the KPI there.  You’re able to actually point to a number of Customers who have complained about your product or service irrespective of even how they scored you on that top number anyway.  And now you’re enabled to target your efforts in order to fix those problems and make your Customers happier.  By the way, that’ll actually move the top-line KPI more than anything else.

Focusing obsessively on your top-line performance toward one overall KPI is a great way to lose track of what you can do about it in the first place.  The maniacal fixation on ‘where we are today’ is actually a distraction from what you, as a CX leader should be interested in and responsible for:  Improving your overall performance and Brand Alignment.  While the KPI is a lagging indicator of that performance, and of course what everybody else wants to know about, if you get too wrapped up in it yourself, you’ll never get down to the nub of what’s causing specific problems in the first place and therefore never be able to solve them.  You can’t fix what you can’t see.

So for goodness’ sake, stop looking at that top-line number and instead focus on something you can fix.

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