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October 2008 | Volume 11 / Number 10
Viewpoint: Voice of the Customer

Measuring The Customer Experience

If you’re like me, you run across white papers and articles every day that talk about how you can improve the customer experience. And while many have good concepts and ideas, none of them really talk about how you know when you’ve created an excellent customer experience.

Most of the time when I ask people how they measure customer experience, they talk about customer satisfaction surveys. Okay, that’s part of it, but they’re missing a lot of other information that provides a complete picture of what your customers experience when they deal with your company.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

One key task is to try to accomplish common tasks — what is the customer experience at some key moments of truth? For example, if you work for an airline, make a reservation, check in for your flight, and actually take the flight. Try a number of different channels. Where is the experience positive and where is it lacking? Think like a passenger — is the check-in experience easy and intuitive, are agents and others friendly and helpful, is the flight comfortable? Map each experience and list all the satisfiers and the dissatisfiers.




Building these customer experience maps helps you understand pain points as well as where you’re doing well. Take the satisfiers and dissatisfiers and score the experience. You can score the total experience, experience by channel, or by customer segment. Weight each element based on your customer interaction strategy. Consider criteria like branding, channel consistency, ease of use, or efficiency.

Other Measures

What else should you measure? Two kinds of measures make up the customer experience: emotional and practical.

Emotional Measures

There are lots of ways to gain insight into what your customers are feeling, including:

  • Customer satisfaction — gather it through good old-fashioned surveys or focus groups. Also get feedback from employees who work directly with customers every day — tap into your contact center agents, sales associates, branch employees. Find out what customers are saying to them.
  • Complaints and kudos — customers are happy to tell thousands of strangers about a problem, but often won’t tell the company itself. These types of toxic complaints should be monitored and responded to right away. Get a daily feed from a search engine, regularly check sites like complaints.com, criticzone.com, and planetfeedback.com.
  • Loyalty — Netpromoter scores are part of this equation, but check on how your customers really perform. What kind of customer turnover rate do you have? Which segments turn over the most? Which cost the most to support? How many and what types of customers actually bring in new business?
  • Brand appeal — if you’re lucky enough to work for Apple (News - Alert) or Harley Davidson, brand appeal is easy to see and measure. Others of us can search Facebook, My Space or other networking sites to see if customers have banded together to support the brand.

Practical Measures

Focus on indicators of customer success across all channels in order to understand:

  • What are customers trying to do?
  • How successful are they?
  • How easy is it?
  • Do they need help?
  • Do they use other channels before or after?

Most people gather these metrics on the contact center side, but few track them across channels. Some key measures include:

  • First contact resolution — not just in the contact center, but on a cross channel basis. How many channels did your customer have to touch to solve a single problem?
  • Channel completion rates — measure completions in the IVR, on the web, at kiosks, or other self service channels.
  • Usability — how well do your user interfaces mirror customer needs and customer centered processes? Aside from usability testing new or revised applications, track areas of success and failure. Monitor search success. Observe user interactions on self-service channels to see where they struggle, and get feedback from agents.
  • Quality Scores — if your quality monitoring program is truly customer- centric, scores can be a good indicator of the customer experience.

Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, but customer experience has enterprise-wide implications for how customers perceive your company and where you can improve that perception. I suggest that you develop a report card with some of your strategic measures, create a baseline, and identify all changes and benefits. Track and assign real value to improvements. That way you can understand how a better customer experience helps make more money, save money or avoid costs.

Elaine Cascio is a Vice President at Vanguard Communications Corporation, a consulting firm that specializes in contact center processes, operations and technology. She heads Vanguard’s self service practice. Visit www.vanguard.net or contact Elaine at ecascio@vanguard.net.

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