The Problem with Many Customer Experience Measurement Approaches


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“It happens all the time.”Hotel Manager Note V2

Recently, I stayed in an upscale chain hotel that I often book when traveling.  when I entered my room, I found a card with a note from the hotel manager:

“My name is Karen M., the General Manager of the hotel.  Whether you are here on a planned journey or something unexpected, I want to make sure your experience exceeds all expectations.  My hope is that you will contact me directly to discuss or reflect on your stay at our hotel.”

The start of the note is really welcoming.  The GM wants to make sure my experience exceeds my expectations.  The second part is a little awkward.  Why does she hope I will contact her to discuss or reflect on my stay?  Is it to see how things are going for me?  Is it to help me if I run into any issues or problems? Or maybe it’s so she can identify any issues and continually improve the quality of the property and performance of her team?  Is it because she wants me to come back the next time I’m in town? My guess, and I don’t think I am alone in this assumption, is it’s none of these based on the rest of her note.

“Very soon you may receive a survey opportunity regarding your experience at the property.  If you can’t mark excellent for every question, I want to know about it.  As our guest, your feedback is central to our success, and we appreciate you taking time out of your visit to let us know how we are performing.”

Oh, I get it now! The reason she is writing the note and the upshot of her concern is not whether my experience has exceeded expectations, nor is she trying to address any issues that arise.  She wants to make sure I give her excellent ratings on the customer satisfaction survey because her bonus depends on it.  Sure, maybe she wants to make improvements too, but based on my experience, this approach defeats the whole purpose of what the customer experience measurement program and the attached incentives are trying to achieve.  Customers often do not take kindly to motives that don’t seem pure.

When I mentioned it to several of my colleagues, their response was “It happens all the time.”

This reminds me of an old story about two up and coming comedians.  One met the manager of the comedy club and told him all about how funny he was and his ability to make people laugh.  The second one told the manager a joke that made him laugh hysterically.  Guess which one convinced the comedy club manager he was funny?

The best way to show customers of a hotel, a bank, a car company, a restaurant, etc. that you care about them and want to exceed their expectations is by doing it, not by saying it and certainly not by making customers feel like they can’t or shouldn’t provide feedback on a survey if they think things were less than excellent.  In fact, for those who have experienced problems, this approach may make them angrier than they would have been otherwise.

There is nothing wrong with mentioning that you have a survey process or asking customers to participate in order to provide valuable feedback, especially if as a manager you want the unvarnished truth, both good and bad.  However, once you start mentioning that you want certain scores, you begin to cross the line. While there is no overt pressure in this note (there is plenty of overt pressure out there too), it introduces the idea that the score is important to the manager and makes me question her motives.

What should companies do?

  • Make it clear that any communication to customers regarding survey ratings and efforts to “chase” scores will result in disqualification from the bonus/variable compensation
  •  Design measurement and bonus systems to reflect larger business objectives.

Focus on three outcomes and align your incentive programs accordingly.

  1. Was our reputation protected?  Hopefully there were no major issues or problems or if there were any, the issues were resolved appropriately.
  2. Did the service/product deliver on our promise?  This is sort of a minimal threshold.  If a team isn’t delivering on the promise made to customers, the foundation of the brand is undermined.
  3. Were customers’ expectations exceeded?  It’s hard to grow a brand organically without continually doing things to impress customers, especially in industries that are mature, with well established competitors like upscale hotels.

So, why do companies tolerate chasing a score that seemingly “happens all the time”?  Some may think it’s ok.  Some think that simply getting great scores will result in business growth.  Others may be unaware or blind to the extent that score chasing is occurring.

Companies need to align measurement and reward programs to encourage their unit managers and teams to deliver awesome, expectation-exceeding service, instead of telling customers that’s what they do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Allenson
Michael is Founder of CXDriven. Formerly he was Principal CX Transformation Consultant at MaritzCX where he led a global team that consulted with clients on how to better leverage their customer experience management programs to drive business success. A frequent writer and presenter, Michael is passionate about helping companies leverage customer intelligence to take action that creates lasting customer relationships and sustainable improvements in growth and profitability. Over a 20+ year career, he has consulted with numerous Fortune 500 companies and their leadership teams on how to uncover superior insights and turn them into action. Prior to his role at MaritzCX, Michael was a Senior Consultant for Maritz Research, Technomic, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates.


  1. From my perspective, you’re definitely on the right track in terms of a) how many companies can rig, game, and manipulate the transactional experience research system to generate more favorable responses and b) the need to meet, or exceed, customer experience expectations – without problems or complaints, and on a consistent basis.

    This was covered quite extensively in my 2011 book, The Customer Advocate and The Customer Saboteur. From Chapter 3, dealing with experience, authenticity, and trust:

    “How does a bank, or any company, develop and sustain customer advocacy? It’s really fairly straightforward. In all the messaging to customers and prospects, companies need to set and then reinforce the promise (and premise) for what will be experienced in touch points, and in all experiences over the long-term. Then, they need to deliver at a rate and level which at least meets, or preferably exceeds, what they have promised in the messaging.

    Business consultant and author Rick Barrera has hypothesized that progressive banks such as Commerce (now a division of TD Bank, and taking the TD name) can create a brand which, uniquely demonstrates high customer loyalty behavior in this sector. They have achieved this success in an industry noted for fairly antiseptic, passive customer experience creation. Where larger and better funded competitors often fall short or fail by having a disconnect between promise and delivery, Commerce Bank has broken through functional brand promise clutter with value-add benefits and solutions which appeal to customers on an emotional level. Customers seem more than willing to trade lower savings account and CD rates, and higher loan rates, for these benefits. It’s a winning strategy, but it takes focus and discipline (overall and at the branch level), plus a deep understanding of what resonates with customers. That understanding first gets applied to general and specific customer messaging.

    Commerce, a regional powerhouse headquartered in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, represented an easy banking example of overpromise and overdelivery. All of their communications to customers and prospects reinforced the bank’s bold brand promise: “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” Their well-trained branch staffs, seven day and extended hour service, and local community retailing (non-banking) orientation proved out the messaging overpromise through service overdelivery. Like T. Scott Gross’ mantra of ‘positively outrageous service’, now seen in places like Southwest Airlines’ advertising, Commerce set itself up to succeed or fail through higher order promises not made by other banks. Then, Commerce built loyalty by doing even more for customers, i.e. creating even more attractive experiences, than intimated in the messaging.

    Marketers have always been concerned about whether the chicken or the egg came first, or the cowboys or the saloons. When assessing the behavioral impact of experiences over an extended period, this evaluation needs to begin with the overarching message, i.e. how the brand or product promise is initially communicated and received. Then, with each succeeding customer engagement and contact, the messaging must be there to reinforce, sustain, and hopefully grow the relationship.
    Companies rightly believe that customers gain experience with their enterprises entirely through people, products, and services. It’s the word ‘entirely’ that’s at issue here. Important as people, products and services are, organizations often don’t have enough awareness that what is communicated to customers, and how, where, and when it is communicated has an equal, if not greater, behavioral impact. For notable example companies like Wegman’s, The Container Store, FedEx, Amazon, Southwest Airlines, IKEA, and Zappos – those organizations known for consistently delivering a positive ‘branded customer experience’, this concept is already well-known. All have shining corporate reputations for customer-centricity. For other organizations aspiring to deliver an out-of-the box, differentiated, certainly non-commoditized customer experience, this is a critical pay-attention point. Layers of communication are about consistency, relevance, authenticity, and trust, key elements in how customers see the supplier


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