January 27, 2017

Defining Customer Success

Written by Deborah Rapsinski

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Your customers have in mind their reason for reaching out to your company well before they boot up their computer, take their smartphone out of their pocket, stop by your store, engage Google Home or Alexa or pick up the phone. Often, these drivers are predictable and you can anticipate their reason for contacting your company.  Other times, it's anyone's guess.  

Handling customer interactions with ease and grace will contribute to your customers' expectations of how easy it is to do business with your company, and whether that experience encourages them to remain loyal. Remember, each customer experience is either doing damage to your brand or helping to promote it.  

Attempts to Measure Customer Interactions

For decades, companies have been attempting to measure success of customer interactions, but it has been almost exclusively from the perspective of how the company might benefit. Was that call contained within the automated phone system, thereby saving a call getting to an expensive contact center agent?  Was the delinquent payment captured when the customer opened up the mobile app?  Would this customer recommend us to their friends?  Net promotor scores, customer satisfaction, loyalty and churn are just a few of the buzzwords we hear on the topic of metrics.

Successful companies prioritize measuring the performance and success of their customer’s interactions from the perspective of how it might impact their customer.  Sounds great, but how is this done?

How is This Done?

Surveying customers is flawed. The survey is either not timely or respondent participation is self-selected, and most surveys are still written to garner answers that allow companies to hear what they want to hear and actually mask issues customers may have had.  Success or containment metrics rely on some very heavy assumptions. Callers hang up when they have successfully received the information they need.  Customers exit their mobile application when they have answered their own question.  Web users stop engaging only when they get distracted and abandon the page to move on to something else.  

Here are some questions we can ask to start to peel back the layers and get a holistic view of the customer’s experience.  

  • How many of your customers on the phone are actually simultaneously navigating your website and struggling in both channels?  
  • If a caller hangs up, is it because their three-year-old is screaming in the back seat or is it because they are so frustrated, they give up?
  • Is your virtual assistant skill or action providing any real benefit to your customers?  
Correlating a customer’s experience across channels provides the greatest insight to the journey they’ve taken to get them where they are now.  

What Metrics are Truly Meaningful?

Of course, traditional key performance indicators (KPIs), like those that measure conversion or containment indicate the effectiveness of transactional self-service or responses to calls to action.  Measuring traffic to your site or inbound volume is essential as this is very often the denominator of other metrics’ calculations.

When it comes to the effectiveness of a self-service application from the user’s perspective, regardless of channel, perhaps the most meaningful metric is effort. Effort is defined by evaluating the user’s interaction in terms of positive and negative experiences. As the number of clicks through a site increases, so does the level of effort. The total duration a task takes contributes to effort – above a certain threshold casts a shadow of negativity over the experience while a quick and streamlined interaction greatly enhances a user’s perception of completing that task.  

Encountering errors clearly negatively impacts the experience.  As you can see, a lot of factors go into evaluating a customer’s effort when interacting with your company.  The most effective means for measuring effort is through scoring and weighting an index of factors.  

Utilizing customer-centric metrics, such as effort, combined with traditional KPIs will give a company the clearest insights to their customer’s success.  Keep these important guidelines in mind:

  • Consistent definitions of these metrics must be established upon deployment for tracking the data over time.  Ensure these definitions are usable for all different business groups expected to consume the data.  
  • Identify areas for improvement based on the quantifiable data, and better yet, correlate statistically significant metrics with qualitative data from user testing.  
  • Before the new or improved solution is deployed, baseline all metrics to enable a fair comparison of user performance before and after the change was made.  Without doing this, accurate evaluation of improvement and justification for the investment made in producing the updates is impossible.

Organizations must decide what metrics are truly meaningful in order to be successful. 


Deborah Rapsinski

Deborah Rapsinski is the Chief Customer Experience Officer at Think Tank Partners, a boutique user experience and business consulting company. She has extensive experience and played an integral part in the strategic design of large, enterprise level multi-channel service strategies and implementations in support of market leaders in the financial services, banking, health care, travel and hospitality and consumer electronics verticals. Deborah is a linguist by education and has worked in the speech industry since 1996 with companies including SBC TRI, Nuance Communications, and BBN Avoke.

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