3 Approaches To Measuring Customer Experience

Three different metrics approaches to customer experience measurement

Measuring The Customer Experience – 3 Ways

If the goal is to improve customer experience, then it makes sense to measure it, but it’s not immediately clear how to go about it.

In fact there is no RIGHT way. The better you measure something, the more costly the process becomes, yet the more you cut corners, the more misleading your data may be.

Here are three distinct ways to evaluate customer experience.

Through Observable and Quantifiable Metrics

One common way is to measure how well the company is doing in terms of very specific measurable variables, like wait time, or first call resolution percentages. The advantage of these metrics is they tend to be available to large companies already.

The assumption is that if you measure something like wait time, and improve it, then you have improved the customer experience.

That may or may not be the case. Since customer experience quality is a PERCEPTION on the part of customers, there’s no guarantee that measuring these variables (and improving on them) will have any effect on business outcomes (customer retention, profit).

By Asking Customers (Often Through Surveys, Interviews)

Since quality of customer experience is in the eyes of the beholder, it seems fairly obvious that another way of measuring it is to ask customers for their perceptions, either via surveys or interviews.

However, if you go that route you should know that creating surveys or interview questions requires much more expertise and experience than most “amateurs” have. Something simple like a minor change in wording, or the kind of rating scale used can completely change the results. Setting up a survey should be done by experienced professionals.

With surveys that use rating scales, there’s often not enough information to explain WHY the respondents chose their responses. That can make surveys less than useful as feedback you can turn into action.

Finally, there’s an assumption that there is a strong link between survey answers, and customer behavior (returning, buying, recommending to others), but in fact you can’t ASSUME that connection. To be truly useful surveys need to be validated in terms of the customer behaviors that benefit the company.

And that validation process, usually avoided, is costly and requires lots of additional behavioral data.

Look At Business Results

The final metric is not really a measure of customer experience at all. It rests on the assumption that as you improve customer experience, business results will follow — i.e. customer retention, amount and number of purchases per customer, cost of customer acquisition, etc.

So rather than measure customer experience quality, you just ignore those intervening variables and focus on the business outcomes.

This is best done when “researching” what works and what doesn’t work. For example, you can assess the value to the company of reducing checkout times by 50%, by measuring checkout times, and then measuring business outcomes, completely ignoring the issue of “customer experience”.

There’s a powerful logic to this, since a company’s success isn’t evaluated by how positively valued the experience is, but how profitable the company is. By focusing on a) variables that can be measured and manipulated by the company (e.g. wait times), and the business results desired, you avoid getting lost in rather problematic measure of attitudes and perceptions, which may or may not relate to actual consumer behavior.

There is little doubt that customers WANT more from the companies and company employees they deal with, than they did several decades ago. Part of the reason is that Western society continues to become faster, and more harried and stressful, and people have become less patient, particularly when making purchases. Convenience and speed are wanted, even demanded.

Curiously, though, while customers WANT more from companies in terms of customer service, they don’t actually EXPECT more. Thus there is a situation that we call the Customer Expectation Paradox that influences how customers behave during customer service exchanges, and generally makes providing customer service more difficult.

If you are wondering why customers want more, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. As companies have been less able to compete on pricing, they moved into providing more flexibility in some areas (for example, returning merchandise). Customers “got used” to this flexibility and started considering it as a “right”. The more companies provided, the more customers wanted.

Author: Robert Bacal

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