I originally wrote today’s post for StellaConnect. It appeared on their site on July 13, 2021.

You’ve probably all heard – or read about – the Bain statistic from 2005 that goes like this:

80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customers agree.

Bain calls it the delivery gap; I refer to it as the customer experience perception gap. Call it what you will; it’s a disturbing statistic that is still relevant today, 16 years later. The numbers may have shifted a little, but the story and the reasons behind the gap are still the same – and are still perpetuated – today.

While the statistic is interesting, it’s the reasons behind the statistic that are the real story.  There are two key reasons.

1. Executives are growth-focused.

Companies focus disproportionately on acquisition over retention, directing their attention away from their current customer base. They do whatever they need to do to bring new  customers in: discounts, free shipping, coupons, freebies, promotions, etc. Growth is sexy, and CEOs love to talk about growth. They love to talk about the new customers that came in last month. Conversations sound like this: “Hey! We acquired a thousand new customers this month! We must be doing something right! We must have a great experience!” But they never talk about the thousand customers that also left at the same time.

When you focus only on acquisition and growth, you do things differently and you do different things than when you focus on the end-to-end experience. That means you need to focus on retention more and level that disproportionate split.

2. Executives are metrics-focused.

Companies focus more on collecting and analyzing data ad nauseum, as well as on metrics, than on doing anything with the data or doing what it takes to improve the experience. Actually, let’s be real; it’s all about metrics, metrics, metrics. They focus on NPS or CSAT and on moving the needle on these metrics. There’s bad behavior just to move the needle. We’ve all seen it; car dealerships are the prime example.

When you focus on moving the needle on your customer experience metrics, you do things differently and you do different things than when you focus on improving the experience, which ultimately leads to moving needle.

Ultimately, both of these reasons focus on metrics. How do you move past that metrics focus? Here are some ideas.

1. Rally the troops. It’s fine to track your customer experience metrics; they just can’t be the only reason you listen to customers. So, capture feedback and focus on  improving the experience, not on the score. Analyze and operationalize the voice of the customer, and use it to improve products, services, and processes. Share the feedback, and use it to rally the troops around the customer, not around the score.

2. Think big picture. If you’re focusing on the metric, you’re likely doing tactical things to move the needle; you’re not stepping back to look at the big picture or thinking strategically to not only improve the overall experience but also, ultimately, to the grow the business. Thinking big picture means pausing and asking: Do we know who our customers are? Do we know what problems they are trying to solve or jobs they are trying to do? Have we inventoried our touchpoints? Do we know what interactions happen at each touchpoint? Have we mapped the journeys through various touchpoints?

3. Don’t forget about the people. When you focus on the metric, you forget about the people. Seriously. You’re so fixated on the number that you forget the reason behind the number: the employee and the customer. Use the voice of the customer to design and to deliver a great experience. Build a culture that facilitates and enhances the experience, for both employees and customers. Remember that when you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers, and the business will win.

4. Look at the numbers later. You can look at the numbers at some point because they’ll be an indicator for you as to how well the business is doing, but if you look at the numbers every day, if you start every meeting with metrics, if it’s all you talk about, it will just drive you nuts. If you track the metrics daily, you’re not thinking strategically; you’re only thinking about how you can move that number today or tomorrow. Don’t be short-sighted!

5. Share customer stories. To add to a point mentioned in #4, don’t just talk about the metrics; talk about the people behind the metrics. Don’t start meetings with your latest sales figures or NPS; instead, start your meetings with customer stories, either successes or failures. Bring the human back into the business. Put the focus on the customer, not on the numbers.

Doing what you need to do to keep your customers is different from what it takes to simply move the numbers. Focus on listening and understanding customers and then on designing and delivering an experience that meets their needs and expectations; when that happens, and only then, will the numbers come and that customer experience perception gap close.

Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers. -Simon Sinek

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2021, she wrote the manuscript for her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture that Drives Value for Your Business, which will be available in early 2022! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.