Crash Course on "Customer Experience" Metrics

So if "customer experience" is defined as the sum total of all the interactions that a customer has with the organization, how do you go about measuring it?  As a customer you have an emotional gauge that reflects your sentiment toward a product / service (and toward the organization behind it), but it's difficult to put a meaningful, actionable number to it.  My personal "customer experience" would, for example, reflect finding exceptional marketing collateral, but enduring a pushy sales person … then loving the product for some months, and then struggling to get a problem resolved through the call center.  In this example, my overall customer experience reflects a mix of both positive and negative interactions with the business.  How does the business put a number to it?

Two of the most common approaches involve "satisfaction" and "loyalty".

Customer Satisfaction is (CSAT) typically addressed with a question like "Overall, how satisfied are you with XYZ, Inc."  Critics of CSAT will argue that that the results are often devoid of emotion.  The customer may be perfectly satisfied with you, but then move to a competitor for no particular reason.

In 2003 Fred Reichheld introduced the concept of measuring loyalty using the question "How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?"  The responses of this question are used to calculate the Net Promoter Score (NPS).  NPS is meant to measure not just satisfaction, but loyalty.  In theory, a merely "satisfied" customer could leave you at any moment, but a customer who'd willing stand up and vouch for you is unlikely to defect.

While satisfaction and loyalty are used as "proxies" for customer experience, they don't seek to directly measure the customer experience.  To more specifically measure customer experience, in 2007 Forrester Research developed the "Customer Experience Index" (CxPi).  The stated objective of CxPi is to help organizations benchmark their customer experience against competitors within their own industry and even across industries.  Forrester sought to identify the key drivers of the customer experience.  As a result, the CxPi is based on customer evaluations of an organization's (1) usefulness / meeting needs, (2) ease of use, and (3) enjoyability.

The three questions behind the CxPi are:

  1. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how effective were they at meeting your needs?
  2. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how easy was it to work with these firms?
  3. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how enjoyable were the interactions?

Whether or not you agree with the validity or usefulness of these approaches (CSAT, NPS, and CxPi) and the methodologies behind them, one of the advantages is that each has some critical mass / industry acceptance that allows companies to be more easily compared.  (And obviously each one can be tracked internally to determine if you're improving or not.)  All of these metrics provide a "moment in time" snapshot of customer sentiment, but you DO have to ask additional questions that help you to learn what actions you can take to improve.  If you can't identify the key drivers behind the experience, measuring the "overall" score is pretty much limited to an academic exercise.

So what do you think?  How useful and helpful are CSAT, NPS, and CxPi  for evaluating the customer experience?  Are there better ways to evaluate / quantify / measure the customer sentiment and experience?