The unexpected consequences of customer measurement

Updated: May 9, 2019

Our Senior Consultant Graham Allinson asks, "Measuring how well we’re performing for customers must be a good thing, right?"

Well, yes. But it can easily lead to unexpected consequences. In the worst case, this can mean creating negative experiences for customers…the very thing you’re trying to stop.

A recent experience of mine brought this to life.

Having moved house, I was happy to receive an offer for a free training session at a local fitness studio. I enjoyed the session – in my own sadistic way, having (allegedly) burnt over 1,000 calories in 50 minutes. However, I felt the high monthly fees weren’t justified based on my alternative options.

After the session I received a Net Promotor Survey (NPS), asking me ‘on a scale of zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?’. Based wholly on my issue with value for money, I scored them a four.

A short while later, I received a text from the Studio Manager. Apparently, I’d misunderstood their criteria. What they considered to be the correct criteria for me recommending them was the session itself and overall experience, so value for money shouldn’t factor. This led to a long back and forth over text, with the Studio Manager trying to justify their pricing and get me to consider submitting a new (higher) score. What was initially a ‘ok, but not for me’ led to frustration towards their brand. Safe to say I didn’t change my mind.

Although I can’t be certain – it seems clear what’s at play here. The local studio can’t do anything about their pricing, but they are measured on their NPS score by head office. Rather than accepting feedback, learning from it and moving on, this results in ‘fighting’ customers for a better score.

These types of issues are common. Others include telecoms engineers telling customers that the score they’re about to give them will impact their bonus, and local branches competing against each other rather than trying to improve together. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, we’re constantly bombarded with customer feedback surveys that are overly complex, irrelevant, or ask us to repeat things they should already know; resulting in more negative experiences than positive ones.

These examples highlight the fact that being truly customer-led is easy to say, but hard to do. Whilst the desire to gather feedback is a great start, it’s important to take time to think through the approach and the impacts it might have.

One technique that may help is conducting a ‘pre-mortem’; using prospective hindsight to identify the reasons it might fail. It’s useful to think from both the customer and colleague lens:

· Customer – e.g. what will they think and feel about the experience? How might it frustrate them? Will they believe we’ve acted on their feedback?

· Colleague – e.g. how might this approach (and any incentives) impact colleagues? Does the approach help gather honest feedback that’s swiftly acted on? What’s the worst possible outcome?

What’s equally important as gathering feedback is how an organisation is set up to listen, act, learn and respond to feedback in a timely way. But it’s worth the effort; getting this right helps you earn more customers decisions in your favour – a clear path to commercial growth.

Graham has been a Senior Consultant at The Foundation for 2 years, previously working for Capgemini Consulting's Customer Experience and Analytics practice. Graham's other pastimes include practising his climbing technique, and escaping London life for the countryside.

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