How to Manage the Customer Experience

By Jeff Sauro

If you can’t measure the customer experience, you can’t manage it. Improving the customer experience starts with measuring. But you must be sure you’re getting the right measure (or usually measures) to manage. The right measure(s) will:

  • Identify problem areas

  • Track improvements over time

  • Be meaningful to the customer

The wrong measure(s) can:

  • Identify wrong areas of focus

  • Miss problems all together

  • Lead to unintended consequences

  • Alienate customers

Here are some different ways of thinking about measuring experiences:

  • Conversion rate versus number of conversions: Conversion rates are the central metric for testing better designs, ads, and campaign effectiveness. The ratio of total users who purchase, register, or click (convert) to all users who viewed the page is an effective ratio because you can compare low traffic and high traffic pages.

    While this is a convenient metric, the total number of conversions likely has a bigger impact on your bottom line than the rate. Wouldn’t you rather have 100 conversions from 100,000 page views than 10 conversions from 100 page views?

  • Number of clicks versus time to destination: When you’re trying to make a more efficient experience, reducing the number of clicks to accomplish a goal seems like a good way to measure. Putting all functionality and content on one page would certainly reduce the number of clicks, but that probably is not what your customers have in mind.

    Too much functionality or content on one page makes for an overwhelming experience; just make sure the paths customers need to complete a task are clear.

  • Call time or call satisfactorily resolved: Wonder why those often scorned customer service agents you call to complain to speak so quickly? If you want to reduce call time in a customer support center, you can instruct agents to get off the phone faster, but have you really increased service or quality if customers have to call back?

    Often a simple follow-up question sent via email can solve this problem.

  • Customer satisfaction as a bonus motivator: Many companies pay bonuses based on achieving and exceeding certain customer satisfaction goals. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, this can lead employees to improve their chances for getting the bonuses in ways that make measures less meaningful.

  • Likelihood to recommend or likelihood to repurchase: With the popularity of the Net Promoter Score, it may seem like word of mouth is the only measure you should care about. But if everyone already knows about and owns your product or visits your website, likelihood to purchase again might be a better measure of growth.

    For measuring customer loyalty, I recommend using both repurchase rates and likelihood to recommend. This provides a mix of both behavior and attitude.

  • On-time arrival versus on-time departure: Have you ever been on a plane that pulled away from the Jetway only for it to sit on the tarmac waiting for mechanical issues or other delays? You then arrive at your destination late?

    It’s likely that the flight segment still counted as an on-time departure. You can’t argue with the measure: The plane did pull away from the Jetway on time and that does mean something. However, that action just doesn’t mean that much to the customer sitting in the idled plane.

Measuring is good. Knowing what to measure is better. Finding the right measure means taking multiple measures and seeing which one best tracks customer sentiments and revenue.