Yesterday’s exceptional customer service experience can be today’s escalated complaint. Customer expectations frequently shift according to changing social and economic influences. That’s why we need a new approach to anticipating and measuring customer experience.
But first, it’s important to define what we mean when we say “customer experience.” Gartner defines customer experience as the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.
A five-layer matrix to measure customer experience
An exceptional customer experience starts with setting customer expectations, delivering the services or products, and finally, measuring how well we’ve met those expectations. The classic customer experience measurement model that I follow consists of a linear five-layer matrix:
- Employee engagement
Providing consistent quality that aligns with your customers’ expectations is the foundation of your customer experience and the customer experience measurement matrix. Suppose an airline keeps losing its customers’ bags, or a restaurant tends to omit items from to-go orders. In these cases, you have a quality issue and dissatisfied customers no matter how skilled your customer service team.
Customers also perceive quality differently depending upon your brand’s price point. Customers of a budget airline would rate the quality of their experience by different criteria than those flying on a high-end, chartered private jet, for example. Although quality is subjective, customer service metrics that measure quality include many service operations metrics. In a contact center these metrics are often around call resolution time, average call handling time, and average call waiting time, etc.
The customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is one of the most critical customer service metrics in customer experience measurement. You ask the customer, “Are you satisfied with our products or services?” with an option of yes or no, or rating their satisfaction on a scale of one to five or one to ten.
When your products or services no longer align with evolving customer expectations, CSAT scores will start to decline, even as your quality measures hold steady.
Once you have satisfied customers, the next layer is measuring loyalty. But it’s not as simple as just asking, “Are you going to leave us?” or “How likely are you going to switch?” You can ask customers about their loyalty directly, but people aren’t always comfortable answering truthfully.
Indirect measurements like churn rate and the propensity to buy additional products or being heavy users of your service are better indicators of loyalty. Also, the lower the customer effort – the more you make their lives simple and convenient – the less likely they will switch.
Not all organizations can make it to the advocacy level. Who gets up in the morning, turns on the tap, and says, “I love my water company. I’m going to tell everyone how awesome they are.” It may not be the best metrics for a water company, but for many other industries, this is the sweet spot that shows you are creating an exceptional customer experience.
Enterprise service teams have widely adopted the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology as their primary customer advocacy metric. You’ve likely seen NPS surveys pop up at the end of online chats, orders, and phone calls. They ask a straightforward question of your customers: “How likely would you be to recommend the products and service to your family, friends, and colleagues?” You also see advocacy in action in business-to-business (B2B) software industry’s case studies and business-to-consumer (B2C) online reviews and ratings.
How engaged your employees are with their job, how they feel about their customer interactions, and their perception of their work’s importance are significant drivers of customer experience excellence.
We’re seeing this measured directly through employee engagement platforms and the use of Pulse Surveys and Employee Net Promoter Scores. In a customer service team environment, the principles of improving employee engagement often include these dimensions:
- Reputation – self-image and self-perception within a group
- Choice – the freedom to make choices
- Mastery – continued development of meaningful expertise
- Relationship – connections with colleagues
- Equity – the workplace is safe and fair and they will be treated impartially
We can also measure employee experience through indirect feedback, such as sentiment analysis of voice and written interactions and technology usage changes that signal disengaged employees.
How customer experience measurement is evolving
Most of the matrix elements should be familiar to veteran customer service teams. However, the inclusion of employee engagement as a critical component of customer experience may be a welcome change for some, and becomes more important in the post-COVID world. Research from Gallup and others has shown the value an engaged employee base brings to an organization’s bottom line. Our most recent State of Service report validated this from the agent perspective, with 79% of agents reporting they see a link between their work and business performance.
Another recent change in customer experience measurement reflects the fast pace of change in the marketplace. Organizations that previously conducted large annual customer survey projects are now rethinking that approach. Now, event-triggered NPS surveys and single-topic pulse surveys provide the real-time feedback we need to adapt our customer service delivery to meet customer expectations quickly. Indirect feedback generated through sentiment, speech, text analysis, and customer journey insight also become important input for organizations to manage their customer experience.