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The myth of the CX single metric - Playing roulette with your customer relationships

Today I want to talk about the myth of the single metric. It is one of the most damaging forms of bad practice today. As with all my work I shall argue based on practical observation. Let me see if I can persuade any of you to argue your case or to change your mind.

As the editor of I frequently have to publish articles I really don't agree with but I feel that if I am being a responsible editor to provide a platform for the views of others. Of course I do dump the worst of the rubbish but I frequently find myself wondering how CX practice today is so full of stupid catch phases and bad ideas that are so out of date.

I find it frankly unbelievable that some of the most influential CX "experts" say things that simply do not make sense.

1 Different situations require different questions. This is "active" common sense. Sometimes you should to ask if some one was satisfied or how much effort something is. You might also want to ask hundreds of other questions and of course those questions all lead to a follow up question.....why what or how? Why was it an effort, or unsatisfactory, what did we do wrong, how did we let you down?

According to Institute of Physics the average car can have 50 computers in it. Those computer are connected to hundreds of sensors. You would not use a temperature gauge to check water pressure or a rain sensor to measure if the brakes are working. On a formula 1 car the can be up to 3/400 sensors.

We are more complicated than cars, and our relationships with customers are more complicated than that. The ability to predict the result of a car's journey on the racetrack is massively easier than predicting the customers journey. It therefore follows that a single metric will be wrong at least some of the time simply by using reason and logic. The chance of you asking the right question at the right time is massively reduced in terms of the basic almost the equivalent of playing roulette.

2 We have changed

The idea of the single metric was born at the beginning of the CX revolution in the 90's. Led by Fred Reichheld and the merry men of Bain.., started as the idea of the "ultimate question" and Net Promotor Score was born. This really was a revolution and has a good and bad legacy. It was (in part) about having a metric that was a compromise so we could tell the Board about our customer experience without allowing customers to be say what they think.

It was good because you could start a programme that was quite easy to understand so the importance of Customer Experience for anyone in an organisation. It was also good because it was a single metric. Everyone understood that. But times have changed. We have facebook LinkedIn and a million ways of expressing our opinions and we know much much more about behaviour since those days 20+ years ago.

We could have started by simply asking how customers felt about the product and service. If you think logically you can observe that the closer a question is to relevant information the more likely the answer is to be clear and actionable. It therefore follows that asking simple clear and relevant questions will lead to actionable results.

This was all pre digital so to some extent I recognise Fred as one of the dads of cx. He captured the spirit of a time. Now it is so badly delivered in so many cases I have found it has had a negative impact on customer emotions. Recently I was texted to ask if I would recommend the A&E I had been ambulance'd to after a 6 hour wait and while I was still having treatment in the A&E. I asked the fantastic ambulance staff which A&E would be best and they took me to the one with 6 hour wait rather than the one where they were no longer accepting patients. Also if you have a MEDICAL problem ask an expert not your mate from the pub! The experience was so bad and inappropriate I actually think that there should be an enquiry into the how this was deployed and the organisation who did it should be named and shamed.

The point is we just need to talk to customers about the feeling they have at various stages of their journeys - listen and then convert the answers into data later. Not get people to speak data. Then try to understand the data. Then play the data back to the client. We call that the whisper game.

The single metric is one of the most important myths that is peddled in the industry as current best practice when it has been out of date for 10 years. Ask any 2nd yr maths student to build you a model!

What do you think?

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