I originally wrote today’s post for Medallia. It appeared on their site on April 28, 2022.

Metrics are always a hot topic among customer experience professionals – and among others in their organizations who love to track them, namely executives. The most-frequently-asked questions are always, “What’s the best metric to use?” or “Which metric should we use?” The next questions is then, “How do I improve the score?” I’ll address both of these in this post.

Which metrics to use?

You can’t take a broad brush stroke when answering that question. You’ve got to consider a few things: What are you trying to measure? What are you trying to understand? What are your corporate goals, e.g., referrals, repeat purchases, etc.? What are your desired outcomes?

Let’s take a look at a couple of metrics and when or how you would use them. Note that these are not internal metrics (e.g., retention, CLV, Customer Health Score, etc.) about the outcomes you’re seeing as a result of the experience; these are metrics that tell you how customers score the experience with your brand.

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): This metric reflects how happy or satisfied customers are with a certain aspect of the experience, of the overall experience, or with the brand. I like to advocate for this equation: Expectations – Performance = Satisfaction. Customers have expectations, and how well you perform against them leads to some level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): This metric is used to measure the amount of effort a customer believes he/she has expended in the course of interacting with your brand. It’s typically used in the contact center to identify how much effort the customer put forth to get an issue resolve or a question answered.
  • Ease of Doing Business (EODB): Most commonly used by B2B businesses, its intent is to determine how difficult or how easy it is to interact with your brand overall. It’s more of an overall metric, whereas CES is specific to a particular interaction, namely with customer service.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): This metric reflects how likely a customer is to recommend your brand, product, or service to someone else. If referrals are what your business lives and dies by, this is your metric; otherwise, there are better metrics for you to use.
  • Star Ratings: These are synonymous with online reviews. While there’s no metric per se  based on a specific question, customers rate the experience from one to five stars. It’s a simple and effective way to find out how customers feel about your app, website, or product. (Just be sure to include an open-ended question for feedback about the rating.)
  • Usability: This one is an ease of use or ease of task metric, but it’s an important one to capture and track to ensure customers are able to use the app, website, or product in the manner in which they need to.
  • Task Completion: This metric measures if customers are able to successfully complete whatever it is that they wanted to do on your app or your website.

Again, notice that these are all customer-reported ratings or measures, not your internal metrics. (To some degree, they all give us a sense of whether the customer was satisfied with the experience or not.) These metrics can, however, be linked to your internal metrics to ensure that the customer and her experience are tied to business outcomes, e.g., renewals, referrals, CLV, etc.

How to improve the scores?

Here’s what happens when we start talking about metrics: Too many companies focus on moving the needle rather than on improving the experience. Too many conversations start with, “How do we improve the metric?” not with “How do we improve the experience?”

Focusing on what it takes to move the metric can be detrimental and cause inappropriate behavior, gaming, and other undesirables that derail from the purpose of listening to customers. And it does nothing to improve the experience – for the customer or for employees. When you focus on the metric, you do different things and do things differently than when you focus on improving the experience.

A metric is just that, a metric, a way of measuring your progress. And while it’s good to gauge your performance, the movement of the metric is an outcome down the line – the first area of focus ought to be: what’s going on with the customer experience and how do we improve it? If you make the metric the endpoint, you’ll fail at the journey.

So here’s how you must use metrics: to improve the experience – continuously! Focus on the experience, and the numbers will come.

Act on your feedback to improve the experience

The metrics that you’re tracking come with a wealth of other data. (They do, right? You’re not just asking one question, are you?) Here are five steps to take to go from data to insights to action.

  • Analyze the data. Analysis takes many forms because there will be many different types of data to make sense of. You’ll need a way to crosstab, predict, identify key drivers, and prioritize improvements with survey data; mine and analyze your unstructured data; and track, review, and prioritize social media inputs and influencers. You’ll conduct linkage analysis to link customer and employee data, customer feedback with operational metrics, and all data to financial measures. And you’ll need to conduct a root cause analysis to understand the why behind it all.
  • Synthesize the analysis. Once data has been broken down and analyzed, it’s most useful for the recipient when it’s been transformed into insights. Put all the pieces of the analysis together to tell a story, to put it into context for those who need to act on it – a story that can be easily understood and translated into a better customer experience.
  • Socialize the insights. Those insights and their corresponding stories must be shared across the organization and in such a way that people know what to do with it. Insights and resultant recommendations must get into the hands of the right people who will do something with them.
  • Strategize. The right people who will do something with the insights must then define the  strategy or the action plan. It involves both tactical (how you’ll respond to each and every customer) and strategic (how the business will respond, including operational, product, and process changes) measures. This is where we begin to turn insights into action.
  • Operationalize the insights. Each department takes their plans for how they will take action, makes improvements, and informs customers about those improvements. Then you’ve got to close the loop on your own change management process: track and measure your efforts in order to maintain a continuous improvement cycle.

What’s critical to success when it comes to customer feedback metrics? Doing something with what you’ve heard and learned. When you do, you’ll gain a competitive advantage. We know most brands listen to their customers through surveys or some other methods. But not everyone acts on this feedback. It’s a shame. Image what the customer experience would be like if all companies acted on feedback.

I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. ~ Elon Musk

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 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash.