Measuring Customer Experience from a 360-Degree Perspective

When we think about measuring customer experience, ironically, what leaders consider important may not be what customers say they want.

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As organizations design the experience they want to offer their customers, two important questions surface that all leaders should consider: How will your unique customer experience be measured? And will that experience align with your organization's brand promise?

Because these questions are tied to the unique value proposition of your organization, standard instruments may not apply. Organizations may need to tailor their measurement systems and tools to best capture the unique aspects of the experience they are striving to deliver for customers.

Many measurement techniques for looking at customer satisfaction involve asking customers directly: Were your expectations met? Are you satisfied? Will you recommend our products/services to others? All these provide important answers and implications. However, while it may be counterintuitive, asking these questions first might not be the best move. A better approach may be to first look at what the organization aims to deliver, and then ask, "Are we providing the intended experience?"

John might say, "Wow, I got great service after waiting 20 minutes in a long line." But Mary may think, "This is the worst experience ever because I had to wait for 20 minutes." Whose feedback should you value: John or Mary?

This example illustrates the considerable uniqueness in how customers perceive an organization's performance. In some ways, an organization might pride itself on its long lines. Their attitude might be, "We've got a great product and we're going to make it the way our customers prefer. If that means they wait around for a while, so be it." Thus, if we were to simply measure time to serve, one might think, "They're terrible; they take forever." But for the organization, speedy service is not part of the delivery promise.

When we think about measuring customer experience, ironically, what leaders consider important may not be what customers say they want. Those individualized perceptions make measuring customer satisfaction tricky. But shifting the focus to what brand or customer promise our organization is trying to deliver to the market makes it clearer what we should measure.

To effectively evaluate the customer experience, we need to adopt a 360-degree perspective on measurement. Let's survey our employees, our organization leaders and our customers. With these three voices, we can combine and triangulate the feedback to assess whether our organization is providing the desired customer value and experience.

Taking a 360-degree approach helps guide leaders when they have to make trade-offs around what the organization will or won't do for the customer. Hypothetically, let's say Starbucks is perfectly fine with long lines in favor of a highly customized service and product, while Dunkin Donuts is keener on getting people through the line quickly during the morning rush. In this scenario, if you are a devoted Starbucks customer, waiting is no problem; you understand that long lines go along with baristas handcrafting your beverage, while the theoretical Dunkin Donuts regular favors a quicker turnaround.

Let's take a closer look at why each of these three voices are important and how they can provide evidence on whether the organization is filling the brand promise.

Customers' Voice

We are all familiar with the typical customer service surveys that ask about a customer's experience with our service representatives, our e-commerce site, the returns process and so forth. We can tweak these legitimate survey topics to help determine whether the customer experience matches our brand promise. What we are trying to deliver is informed by what customers want — but it may not be informed by what every single customer wants, as the coffee shop example above indicates.

Most organizations already have numerous customer feedback surveys. Here are some common questions that target the customer experience:

• Did your experience meet your expectations?

• How satisfied were you with the experience we delivered?

• Was our team able to resolve your issue as you have come to expect from us?

• How can we improve your experience in the future?

Employees' Voice

Often internal surveys focus on employee satisfaction, such as "Do you like working here?" or "Do you get the direction you need?" However, employee surveys can also explore the intersection of customer experiences and brand promises. It should go without saying, your customer-facing employees know your customers best, from their pain points to their most frequently asked questions. Make sure you're doing all you can to gather this information.

Here are some questions to solicit employee feedback:

• Has our organization effectively equipped you with the training and tools you need to deliver on the promise we want to provide our customers?

• Do you see evidence that management is focused on delivering the experience that we claim to offer?

• Do you see dollars and budgets in the organization being aligned to the things that we say matter to us?

• What do our customers like most about doing business with us?

• What do customers complain about?

• What do customers say they value the most?

Leaders' Voice

Although customer service is essential to organizational success, leaders need to stay sharp and remember their role in customer satisfaction. Leaders have perspectives that may be similar to the employees but are not entirely the same. Some of the employee questions above apply to leaders, while others seek the unique management viewpoint:

• Am I reinforced for decisions that align with our brand promise or our desired customer experience over other company priorities or performance objectives?

• Does my performance assessment include delivering on our brand promise?

• Are we allocating enough money to support our customer experience goals?

• Have we empowered customer-facing employees to help solve customer issues?

Combining all three dimensions — customer, employee and leader feedback — provides more comprehensive insights into the customer experience. Consider examining your current efforts to evaluate how well your organization is delivering on the customer experience to add voices that can help confirm your brand promise is winning in the marketplace.

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