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Searching for a Silver Bullet?

This was the theme from many of the questions in a discussion around customer experience measures and metrics that I was involved in at the end of 2014.

It’s a good question to debate and discuss, and I’ll outline some of the points below, but it also goes to highlight a potential human weakness. That of the constant search for a ‘silver bullet’ solution to our problems and challenges and I’m certainly not exempt from that temptation either.

Did NPS create an unintended influence?

There’s the potential to cut this blog post short though by giving you the answer to the above question for which you’ve probably have already realised the answer, but I’m going to take that risk and I’m going to just come out and say it. There is no right measure or ‘silver bullet’ metric or measure in understanding customer experience. There, I’ve said it.

I think in that part this mind set, aside from the human condition aspect has been shaped and influenced by the rise and notoriety of Net Promoter Score over the last decade since it was first published in the Harvard Business review in 2003.
The article entitled ‘One number you need to grow’ massively appealed to the desire for a single solution and to boardrooms who wanted simplicity, ease of understanding and to a degree, certainty of sustainable business success through growing customer loyalty (and hence profitability) into the future.

This single question approach was adopted at lightning speed by organisations both large and small and worshiped devoutly and religiously as the answer to many boardroom prayers.

We tend to measure lots of what… But not enough why?

However, as with many things the reality was and is different. Yes it provided simplicity as a ‘one number’ approach but in isolation, it couldn’t tell you why things were the way they were without asking customers more questions.

It because an obsession for many. “What’s this month NPS score?” was usually one of the first questions to be asked when attending results presentations. If it was up – it was all good and backs could be patted with results being attributed to all the customer led initiatives. If the score was down, it was routinely dismissed for varying reasons including sample size reliability.

Whilst NPS has its place, it has not proved to be the silver bullet that many expected it to be.
Interestingly, and as an aside, researchers and academics have been unable to replicate the original work that purported to show the correlation between NPS, customer loyalty and business performance and it continues to be controversial. Not least because it’s proved to be no more effective at predicting future business success than measuring customer satisfaction has.

Selecting the right tool for the job

So if there isn’t a ‘right’ measure, then what is there?
For me, there’s a tool kit of measures and a measurement eco-system if you will.
I’ve reluctantly done my fair share of DiY over the years as a homeowner and recognise the need for the right tool for the job and a broad toolkit to get the job done. It’s the same for measurement.

Each (measurement) tool does a particular job or provides a dimension of insight into the customer experience. All the tools working together, dependently and independently in an organisation creates the eco-system that enables the organisation to both understand the customer experience and inform it.

Whether it’s NPS, CSAT, customer effort score, net easy, qualitative or quantitative data you collect or whatever the next shiny new thing is, they can all be used and should all be used when relevant and appropriate.

Different measures tell you different things and so it’s useful to have a holistic view of the customer experience which is often what organisations lack, rather than them thinking that they’re not using the ‘right’ measure. This narrow focus can also be drive by regulation and the regulators who often and rightly so have their own agenda which invariably may not be the same as the customers’.

Setting the measurement ‘solutions’ in context

There’s also the need for organisations to understand their process capability, and how effective the business is at delivering both products and services to customers to deliver on the customer experience that both the business strategy and the customer desires.

No Silver Bullet, but perhaps a 64 million Question

So next time you hear someone ask ‘what’s the right measure?’ it might be better to ask them ‘what aren’t you measuring?

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