Customer experience (CX) professionals love survey scores. After all, what tells you more about the customer than its own words? Survey scores offer numerical evaluations, analytics, and scores trending over time, all of which makes them, hopefully, meaningful.
CX professionals employ a net promoter score (NPS). It’s based on the question, “Would you recommend this product to a friend?” The answer is scored numerically, 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 is a Neutral; and a 0 to 6 is a Detractor. The score is calculated as percentage of Prompters minus percentage of Detractors. Therefore, 30-percent Promoters minus 10-percent Detractors equals an NPS of 20. The NPS can range from 100 (Apple, for one, is usually in the high 80s), to a minus-100, which represents a highly undesirable product or service.
Surveys have taken over the world of business executives, because a high NPS is strongly linked to superior outcomes. Companies tout their scores across websites, corporate reports, and earnings statements as a measure of their value to customers. Yet for executives attempting to assess CX, a sole focus on high survey scores can be misleading. Even if a company has a high NPS, its journey is far from complete.
Customer survey scores are an indicator of the delivered customer experience, but they’re potentially highly misleading. If few customers responded to the survey, the score might not reflect actual customer opinions. NPS surveys must have a high response rate of similar customer segments over time (six months-plus) to be truly meaningful. Survey scores also must reflect the full breadth of customer segments that an organization serves. If a company hears a lot from one segment and nothing from another, then it has a blind spot in the survey architecture. NPS surveys need both high and equal response rates from all customer categories to be truly meaningful.
A more telling metric for business professionals than NPS is customer loyalty. The customer-loyalty metric is simple yet telling: How many years has the customer been a customer? Longtime customers 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, dissuading customers from leaving, and ensuring that new ones remain. Finding customers that are both loyal and have a high NPS will provide critical insights into what the company needs to change to become more effective.
Another evaluation that’s difficult to quantify through surveys is how difficult is it for the customer to interact with the business. You need to look at abandoned form rates, dropped customer-service calls, low website return rates, and mobile app deletion rates as key indicators that company might be hard to do business with. The goal should be to make interactions fast, effective, and efficient. For example, you don’t want a customer to spend a long time on your website – you want it to accomplish its business quickly, then return more frequently to repurchase.
Businesses love mobile apps, website design, and other features that allow customers to gather and request information, find contacts, and purchase products. However, the future of CX design must lie in reaching out to customers so that they don’t need to come to your website. A digital and physical presence is essential to meeting customer needs, but a business that proactively contacts current and future customers based on analyzed preferences is offering a superior experience, because it entails less effort on the customer’s part.
For example, I rarely buy product from a certain outdoor company because of its high prices, and never visit its website throughout the year. Twice a year, however, it contacts me with a link to its annual sale webpage, and I almost always buy something on sale. This needs to be the future of CX interactions – based on customer preference, analytics, and proactive outreach.
A potential trap for businesses seeking to improve their CX is that they only look toward current realities. Future CX designs should incorporate a seamless digital experience, integrated human intervention, and advanced predictive analytics. It should be able to recommend specific products, alert customers to pay their bills before a late-payment fee, and meet them on their mobile, desktop, or other networked devices at the precise point they need advice or to make a purchase.
Surveys are a wonderful way to assess CX success, but they’re only one of a variety of tools for making the customer experience better. Delivering a great CX is more than a matter of a high survey score. It’s about creating long-term, repeat-purchase, and highly satisfying customer relationships for today and tomorrow.
Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, author, and adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.
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