Your KPIs aren’t as important as your Customers’ actual experiences

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Let me be scandalous for a second here (okay, it’s not nearly as scandalous as I sometimes get in real life, but bear with me):

Stop looking at your scores.  Just stop.

I can hear old bosses (who hired me for my analytical acumen) and even former professors (who instilled that acumen in me in the first place) cringing.  I have former students and cadets who may think me a hypocrite.  This may seem to run counter to all the articles I’ve written and videos I’ve produced about the importance of quantifying your CX initiatives.  How, after all, are we supposed to communicate to our organizations how important Customer Experience is if we can’t (as you’ve always lectured to us, Z, that we must!) draw clearly-understandable connections between our CX efforts and the bottom-line of our organization?  Don’t you need scores and metrics for that?

Well, yes, of course.  Don’t stop collecting and setting goals for your CX KPIs.

But ask yourself this question:  What do we concentrate on more:  Our scores, or our Customers’ experiences?  What’s more important to us:  A good (be that defined as improved from the last quarter, better than our industry average, or even hitting some arbitrary goal) NPS value, or truly better Customer loyalty based on mutual respect?  Are our numerical goals keeping us from appreciating in the real world how our Customers are interacting with our brand?

It’s all too easy to get ourselves wrapped up in the ‘numerification’ of what we’re trying to accomplish in CX:  better C-SAT, better NPS, better CES.  You name the top-level KPI, and someone, somewhere, will make that the goal.  Hit it, and it doesn’t even matter what it represents, or how or what you sacrificed to get there.  (And don’t tell me you’ve never been aware of inflation, manipulation, or some other form of shenanigans to ‘hit the number’ whether or not it’s reflective of the actual experiences of the Customers…and in some instances, it makes those experiences worse.)

Here’s a little secret for you:  If you take care of your Customers, your NPS will be fine.  It may not be the number you want it to be, but it’ll always be what it is.  After all, Esse quam videri.  Or, in other (English) words, if you want to change perception (the score), change reality (the experience).

I was once asked a brilliant question, to which I gave an answer that I’d hoped would rise to the occasion:  If you could ask only one question on a Customer survey, what would it be?  My answer:  “What sucked about your most recent interaction with us?”  No scale from 1 to 10; no “very-much/somewhat/not-at-all” gradient; not even a drop-down box offering suggested (by us, of course, from our perspective) responses.  Nothing quantifiable at all, for that matter:  just an open text box (no limit on characters, please!) allowing our Customers to have at it.  Naturally, we could go back in and quantify in gross terms:  How many responses had to do with our IVR?  How many with our agents’ knowledge?  How many with our agents’ clarity?  Then for that matter, sub-categories within each of those.  This would give us an idea of what we can do to positively impact our Customers’ experiences.  (If you insist, we could even use those numbers as the quantifiable metrics we want to improve.)

But at the end of the day, this allows us to actually look at what we do and how it impacts our Customers when they interact with us rather than the tendency to view numbers simply as a way of measuring where we are (albeit, perhaps in comparison to where we’ve been).  That perspective about what we do gives us a better starting point in determining what we can do to change and improve.

Take a look at a top-line CX metric.  What does that tell you?  What does it tell you that you can do?  Now, look at a huge pile of Customer feedback straight from their experiences.  You’ve got something there…something you can do something with!  In the end, it’s about action (tell me what I can do) instead of standing there static (tell me where I am).  One’s powerful, the other is passive.

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