Can you even measure it? Taken at face value, customer experience (CX) seems like a rather intangible term, one that you’d think could only be referred to anecdotally.

“I visited a website, I found what I was looking for, I purchased the item, I received it. All went smooth enough without any kind of hiccup or annoyance.”

You could therefore say I had a good customer experience, but how does a retailer or service provider really know?

We’ve just launched a fantastic series of briefings called Masters of CX which are all free to download and cover a range of topics written by six industry experts. 

My question above however goes right back to basics…

Certainly any customer journey can be tracked throughout the entire process, beyond even the ecommerce site itself, but there could be hundreds of reasons why I took a particularly long time on one product page or left the checkout only to return later that day or abandoned a basket forever.

You could just ask me what I thought of the experience, maybe via email or a post checkout survey, but there’s no guarantee that I wouldn’t ignore this especially if it was a lengthy questionnaire.

Customer experience also doesn’t have to refer to just one transaction. A whole lifetime relationship between a customer and a company can be measured under the CX banner. 

How do you keep a customer relationship strong?

I write the above hesitantly as again I fear I’m treading into pop-psychology terrain.  

  • You listen and you communicate with personalisation and relevance. If a customer has a query or a complaint, you offer end-to-end resolution quickly and with the same customer service agent.
  • You ensure customers understand why you’re different from your competitors and are therefore a unique entity that they’ll want to continue interacting with. 
  • You demonstrate how valuable you are. This value can be the connection that you’ve made with the customer, which drives further brand loyalty and higher customer lifetime value.
  • Be a human being. Again it’s that emotional connection that will foster true loyalty and keep customers coming back to you.

These are just some of the fundamentals when looking at modern customer experience.

Unfortunately it doesn’t help matters when there are so many quasi-philosophical explanations out there contributing to the nebulousness of the measurement… 

A customer experience is an interaction between an organisation and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind.

Well yeah, thanks for that.

According to Forbes “customer experience is today’s business benchmark”. If this is the case then there must be a proper method of measuring it.

Thankfully there is. The key thing to remember though is that in measuring customer experience, you’re no longer just measuring the impact of key touchpoints in the journey, your measuring the actual relationship between your company and the customer, and this can indeed be an entirely emotion based connection.

How to benchmark customer experience

All of the above can be used to improve the customer experience. Now it’s time to measure it.

One method is the Net Promoter Score. This is a customer loyalty metric based on one direct question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? 

  • Those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 are called ‘promoters’. Loyal enthusiasts who recommend your services, products or brand to other people and will continue to buy from you in the future.
  • Those who respond with a score of 7 or 8 are called ‘passive’. They are happy with your service but have no real loyalty to you therefore will likely stray. (I’m not entirely convinced we’re still talking about customer experience here).
  • Finally there are the ‘detractors’, customers who responded with a score of 0 to 6. These are unhappy people who don’t want to see your face again. (I’ll refer you back to my previous parentheses).

The final NPS score is then calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are detractors from the percentage of customers who are promoters. Promoters – Detractors = NPS.

According to Forbes companies like Amazon and Costco operate with an NPS between 50-80% but the average venture has an NPS of only 5-10% or even negative.

Further elaboration can then be asked of the customer if so desired by either party. This detail can further aid improvements to specific areas of the journey. 

This isn’t the only way to measure customer experience, there are many alternative systems out there using variations on the NPS question. 

Usercentred uses the following question for its B2B customers:

“Have you recommended our product to anyone?”

  • No
  • Yes, and this is how I described it: ______ 

It’s a subtle variation, but their argument is that by not using a 0 – 10 scale customers don’t have to think about where they fall on an abstract scale. It’s a simple yes or no question that leads directly to finding out whether customers are satisfied or not.

The list of benefits that customers elaborate on if answering yes can also help you better position your brand in the future.

Carlos Molina also mentions a few other similar approaches to NPS in his blog post

There’s customer effort score (CES) which measures the effort a customer must make to do business with a given company, in a bid to reduce that effort.

CES asks the question: “How much effort did your request take?” The customer scores the question on a scale of 1 – 5 (negligible effort to big effort.)

There’s also a customer advocacy is designed to measure the correlation between experience and business performance. The question asks “do you think your company does what’s best for you, or only what’s best for its revenue?”

Whichever way you measure it, improving customer experience should be the highest possible priority for your business, as it will not only ensure that your customers are receiving the very best service but also give you the competitive edge.

Future success will rely more and more heavily on genuine emotional connection as we move further away from a scarcity economy to a connection economy.

Further reading for beginners

During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too. 

The following related articles should help clear up a few things… 

Improve your skills further by attending our Festival of Marketing event in November, a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.