I'll never forget sitting in a car dealership, waiting to sign paperwork for a new car. I saw a sign posted prominently on the wall that read, "Give us a 10! If you can give us a "10" we would love to have you fill out a survey." Nor will I forget the brightly colored note in the hotel room carefully placed by the telephone with a heading in big bold letters "We Strive for Fives!" While these slogans are catchy, the message is clear: don't bother giving us feedback unless it's a perfect score. In the courtroom this is called leading the witness; where you give hints as to how you want someone to answer your questions. The shortsighted local branches look great with positive scores, but customers are not necessarily satisfied nor are they loyal.
With the leadership of chief customer officers and other customer executives, many companies are recognizing that the key to their continued survival is a strategic customer focus incorporated into foundational strategy, board commitments, executive officer objectives, and company-wide compensation. The enabler of this strategic focus is a universal metric that enables baseline measurement, prioritization of resources, and marked improvement to meet objectives.
Yet there are at least seven big challenges in establishing a strategic metric upon which all are measured. I'm only going to mention three of them in this post. Visit this page for my full-length article that covers all seven and is the first of a three-part series on customer engagement.
Outcomes fail to impact strategic results
While it may seem obvious, it is worth reiterating: the universal metric must impact strategic results. What good is a metric that doesn't result in increased revenue, decreased costs, or mitigated risk? As well, the metric should be a leading rather than lagging indicator. Revenue and profit are lagging indicators-you don't know if you are successful until after the quarter closes.
Perceived inability to influence
This is perhaps the biggest challenge, and is certainly not limited to a customer-centricity metric. As laboratory rats in a maze will give up trying for food when faced with conflicting stimuli even in the face of extreme hunger, so will employees become disaffected when they cannot determine how their work influences the metric they are rewarded for achieving. People have varying degrees of influence over customers, which indicates the need for localized proxy measurements of both customer focus and the ability to enable the customer focus of others.
A major financial services company found that their well-intentioned use of an average call handle time metric backfired severely. Rather than solving the customer issues with readily available information, agents would hang up on customers as they approached their call time limit. Customers were forced to call back, destroying customer satisfaction as well as agent profitability. Without care, employees at all levels can be seduced by a number on a dashboard and lose sight of the real goal, that of increasingly enduring, profitable customer relationships.
Many corporate metrics such as revenue growth, earnings per share improvement, etc. have been around for years and people have forgotten the difficulty involved in their establishment. Now, as CCOs and other customer executives are beginning to make customer centricity a part of corporate strategy, it is important to anticipate these challenges in order to help the organization succeed.
What are you doing to overcome these challenges? Do you have a particularly good example of any of these challenges that you can share? Drop me a line. I'd love to include your story (either properly attributed or anonymized as appropriate) in my upcoming book!