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Three Myths of Customer Experience and NPS Feedback


Don’t shoot the messenger – I appreciate this is sacred turf for many!

I was initially uneasy with the implications of this article myself. 

But after deeper thought, maybe there are genuine lessons we can learn here.

We have a laser focus (we hope) on the customer, their satisfaction, and most recently their “experience”, in interactions, processes and product/service usage.

There has been an explosion in the take-up of Net Promoter Score (NPS), as the preferred metric for measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. However, like any metric, it has its pros and cons.

  • NPS Pros – Simplicity, Speed of Assessment, Benchmarking, Loyalty Focus and Actionable Insights.
  • NPS Cons – Limited Context, Overemphasis on Promoters (over passives), Subjectivity, Cultural Differences, Lack of Predictive Power, Single Metric Focus and Proximity Response Bias.

That is clearly the subject of a whole separate discussion in it’s own right.

But what got me thinking was this.

An article in Management Today by John Sills entitled “The three myths that create poor customer service” is worth a read and some thought.

John argues that customers aren’t loyal, customer feedback is only hypothetical and bad customer service is more expensive than good service to provide.

Many of us might agree with the third point, but this tastes like unpleasant medicine!

The 3 myths below are illustrated by specific examples in the article.

  1. The myth of customer feedback – ‘At the end of the day, what consumers told us they would do, and what they actually did, were different things.”  
  2. The myth of customer loyalty, the belief that customers truly care about the organisations they use and are likely to stay with them for as long as they can.  
  3. The myth of return on investment (ROI) – the belief that in order to do something that makes things better for customers, you need to show that it is going to make you money. In reality, bad customer experience is really expensive to provide (and creates lots of ‘failure demand’), and so making things better for customers will create a more successful business.

While the functional experience for customers has got better, this has come at a cost, with a loss of the more human, emotional experience. Organisations have become increasingly faceless, unempathetic, and hard to contact (as the popularity of ‘DoNotReply@’ email addresses demonstrates), and despite the clear improvement in some parts of customer experience, customers are (according to the Institute of Customer Services) no more satisfied than they were a decade ago.”

That’s a rude awakening!

I encourage you to read the Management Today article here . . . . and then have a lie down  . . .

You may need to register but its free . . . If you don’t want the hassle, there is a summary below . . . .

The three myths that create poor customer service

Customers aren’t loyal, customer feedback is only hypothetical and bad customer service is more expensive than good service to provide, argues author John Sills.

by John Sills

A few years ago, the Trinity Mirror group made the decision to launch a new, regional print newspaper, the New Day.

For those of you who are familiar with the direction print journalism has been travelling in the past twenty years, this may come as a bit of a surprise. Not so for Simon Fox, the Trinity Mirror CEO at the time, who was bullish during a radio interview on the day of the launch:

‘This isn’t an idea we dreamed up overnight… It comes from deep consumer insight, talking to thousands of readers…’

In May 2016, the CEO was back on the airwaves, explaining why he’d decided to close the newspaper down. The reason given is insightful in itself:

‘At the end of the day, what consumers told us they would do, and what they actually did, were different things. We couldn’t persuade enough people to try the product and make it part of their daily routine.’

This is the myth of customer feedback, one of three myths that is getting in the way of organisations building genuinely valuable relationships with their customers.

Over the past twenty years, the way organisations have treated their customers has undergone a huge change. In some ways, the experience has improved: thanks to mobile technology and near-universal internet connectivity, we can do more things, in more ways, more quickly than ever before.

However, while the functional experience has got better, this has come at a cost, with a loss of the more human, emotional experience. Organisations have become increasingly faceless, unempathetic, and hard to contact (as the popularity of ‘DoNotReply@ email addresses demonstrates), and despite the clear improvement in some parts of customer experience, customers are (according to the Institute of Customer Services) no more satisfied than they were a decade ago.

So what’s going on here?

In my new book The Human Experience, I investigated what is it that makes a truly ‘human’ experience for customers, looking at the ways of working organisations need in place – such as colleague empowerment – and the behaviours they need to demonstrate for customers – such as being easily accessible, and taking real responsibility.

However, I also discovered three myths that seem to exist in organisations at the moment that convince them they are making things better for customers, despite the evidence to the contrary.

One of these is the myth of customer loyalty, the belief that customers truly care about the organisations they use and are likely to stay with them for as long as they can. Spoiler alert: they don’t, and they won’t.

The second myth is return on investment – the belief that in order to do something that makes things better for customers, you need to show that it is going to make you money. In reality, bad customer experience is really expensive to provide (and creates lots of ‘failure demand’), and so making things better for customers will create a more successful business.

The third myth is the one which The New Day fell victim to: The myth of customer feedback.

We’re living in an epidemic of feedback requests, unable to have any experience with an organisation without immediately being asked to rate, review and recommend. What do you think about us? About our products, our service? How likely are you to recommend us?

In fact, there’s never been more customer data coming into organisations, with search and social media information, as well as data from the digital experiences customers are undertaking, all feeding into a mass of information available to senior leaders, creating the belief that they’re close to what matters to customers.

But this is a mistaken belief. Because, as the New Day found, this kind of research doesn’t get you close to what really matters to customers, only to their hypothetical opinions of your products and services (and even then, only to the opinions of those who care enough to respond).

What’s needed is for leaders in organisations to explore and understand the ‘thick end of the wedge’, finding ways to stay close to what really matters in people’s lives and how they can be most useful to them.

In an ideal world – and a world of asking specific questions about news products and services – the New Day newspaper is a great idea. Rather than an onslaught of 24/7 news, I’d love to have time to when flick through the pages of a freshly pressed paper, sat at our breakfast bar and having an in-depth discussion about the day’s headlines with my equally interested wife.

But in the real world, there are kids to dress, dogs to feed, parents to medicate, work to prepare for, washing to put on, nuisance sales calls to avoid, school parent WhatsApp group threads to gossip on, cars to put petrol in, partners to argue with about why the car is out of petrol, toothpaste to find and kids still to get dressed.

Asking for customers’ opinions on every interaction they have with an organisation only serves to annoy customers and create an illusion of being close to what matters. It’s only by immersing deeply in customers lives to understand what’s really going on that leaders can work out how to be genuinely useful, and create that true human experience.

Sills writes regularly at johnjsills.com.