Customer Experience: Moving Beyond Survey Scores
Customer experience (CX) professionals love survey scores. After all, what could tell you more about the customer experience than their own words and evaluations? Survey scores offer numerical evaluations, text analytics, and score trending over time, which makes them, hopefully, meaningful.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey question explained
CX professionals employ the Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is based off the question, "Would you recommend this product to a friend?" The NPS answer is a numeric response ranging from a 0 (no recommendation) to a 10 (strong recommendation). In the NPS world, a 9 or 10 score is a Promoter; a 7 or 8 score is a Neutral; and a 0 to 6 score is a Detractor. All companies want as many Promoters and as few Neutrals and Detractors as possible.
The score element of the NPS is calculated as follows: % of Promoters minus % of Detractors = Net Promoter Score (NPS). Therefore, 30% Promoters minus 10% Detractors equals an NPS of 20. The NPS score can range from a +100, to a -100 (a very, very undesirable product or service). Apple is usually in the high 80s, for example.
Survey scores and NPS have taken over the world of business executives because high NPS scores are strongly linked to superior business outcomes. Companies tout their survey and NPS scores across the pages of websites, corporate reports, and earnings statements as a central measure of their company's value to customers. For a company, the sole focus of high survey scores and high NPS scores is potentially misleading both for a company's executives and for a company to deliver a better customer experience. Even if a company has a high NPS, it means the company's journey is far from complete, and that it still must continue striving to deliver even higher levels of meaningful customer interactions.
Customer survey scores can be misleading with small sample sizes, low return rates, or poor survey design
Customer survey scores are an indicator for the delivered customer experience, but they are also potentially highly misleading. If a company has a high NPS score, but very few customers respond to the survey, the company has a problem because the NPS score may not truly reflect customer opinions. NPS surveys must have a high response rate of similar customer segments over time (6 months or more) to be truly meaningful. Survey scores also must reflect the full breadth of different customer segments an organization serves. If a company hears a lot from one segment and nothing from another, then they have a blind spot in their survey architecture. To be truly meaningful, NPS surveys need high response rates and equal response rates from all customer categories.
Customer experience seeks to build customer loyalty with high satisfaction
A more telling metric for business professionals than NPS is customer loyalty. The customer loyalty metric is simple: How many years has the customer been a customer? Customer loyalty is an amazing CX metric because keeping customers is one of the most essential business functions. Customers who are customers for years spend more, adopt more new products, grow more, and offer the best advice for how your business needs to change. Tracking customer loyalty will take the business down the path of churn reduction, preventing customers from leaving and ensuring new customers remain. Reducing churn and ensuring that new customers stay are vital CX initiatives. Finding customers who are loyal and who have a high NPS will provide critical insights about what the company needs to change to be more effective.
Customer experience seeks efficient, effective, and low effort customer interactions
Another evaluation difficult to quantify through surveys is how difficult is it for a customer to interact with the business. The overall goal is to determine how fast and how effectively customers can do what they need to do with your company. Business professionals must look at abandoned form rates, dropped customer service calls, low website return rates, and mobile app deletion rates as key indicators that the company may be hard to do business with for the customer. A company must have the goal of making it fast, effective, and efficient for customers to do what they want to do. To achieve a more efficient customer experience, some current metrics, such as time on your website, may need to change because you don't want a customer there a long time - you want them to accomplish what they want quickly and then return more frequently to repurchase.
Cx employs analytics to offer solutions based on customer demonstrated preferences
Businesses love mobile apps, website design, and other features their customers can use to gather information, request information, find contacts, and purchase products. However, the future of CX design must be in reaching out to customers so they do not even need to come to your website. A business's digital and physical presence exists to help meet a customer's need, but a business that proactively interacts with a customer or a future customer based on their analyzed needs and preferences delivers a superior customer interaction because it is much lower effort for the customer. I am a customer from an outdoor company that I love but I rarely buy anything because of high prices. In addition, I never visit their website through the year. Twice a year, the company proactively contacts me with the link to their "Annual Sale" web page. And I almost always buy something on sale. This must be the future of CX interactions based on customer preferences, analytics, and proactive outreach to meet customers based on their distinct preferences.
Customer experience must build to future customer needs
Companies must create a better experience for the customer today while they discover, experiment, build, and deploy a better future for the customer tomorrow. A potential trap for businesses seeking to improve their customer experience is that they look only toward today's realities. Instead, future-driven CX must improve the present while simultaneously designing, testing, and building for the future. Future CX designs will incorporate seamless digital experience, integrated human intervention, and advanced predictive analytics to recommend specific products, alert customers to pay their bills before a late payment fee, and meet customers on their mobile, desktop, and other networked device at the precise point they need advice or want to make a purchase.
Surveys are a wonderful device to help assess CX success, but they are only one of a variety of tools to truly improve the customer experience. Surveys must have both large recipient populations and large return rates, and businesses need to grow and maintain customer loyalty first, and then worry about Net Promoter Scores.
Finally, CX needs to enable more efficient, more effective, faster, and lower-effort customer interactions driven by digital, advanced data analytics, and a constant eye to anticipating and building for the customer's future needs. Delivering a great customer experience is more than a high survey score; it is a long-term, repeat purchase, and highly satisfied ongoing customer relationship for today and tomorrow.
Chad Storlie is an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and a mid-level marketing executive. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets), an Iraq combat veteran, and a widely published author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-960-1350.
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