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Be Careful What You Measure

Posted June 9, 2016 in Customer Experience, Living the Brand

Everything you measure tells a story. Those stories influence every aspect of your business – from the C-suite through the frontline – because they send a message about what’s really important to your organization. What employees believe is important to the organization informs their everyday behaviours and decisions, and ultimately affect the human interaction customers have with your brand.

A quick Google search turns up many well-intentioned posts on how to monitor customer experience success. These articles list things like response and resolution time as the key metrics for measuring customer experiences. While it makes intuitive sense that responding to customers – and resolving their issues – as quickly as possible is an inherently good thing, it sometimes isn’t. And this is the very reason organizations need to think twice about how they measure their customer experience.

Understanding the impact of what you’re measuring is critical to delivering exceptional customer experiences. If what you’re measuring doesn’t drive behaviours that are consistent with your experience purpose, your organization will deliver broken customer experiences.

Metrics Drive Behaviours

The first step in customer experience measurement is finding a KPI that tracks whether outcomes – ones that are aligned with your experience purpose – are occurring. No matter what experience you ask employees to deliver, ultimately they will focus on the behaviours that you reward and recognize.

Consider a financial institution with a brand promise to “Help you succeed financially.” The main KPI of this financial institution is individual sales targets (new account openings, new credit cards, etc). In short, while employees do attempt to help customers succeed financially, they are also measured on how many products and services they sell. The more sales a front-line employee makes, the more recognition they receive.

This is fundamentally a great brand promise and a good metric, but  measuring only sales does not ensure that the organization is delivering the ideal experience of helping customers succeed financially.

Internally, this KPI exists to increase profitability. But externally? Asking employees to increase their individual sales – when the best long term solution for the customer might not involve an immediate sale – is not aligned with the brand promise. The financial institution promises their customers one thing, but their KPIs tell employees a completely different story.

If the organization tells its employees that the brand promise is to help customers succeed financially, but penalizes them for not pushing the sale of new products, employees receive mixed messages – and will default to what personally rewards them most.

As a result, a fundamentally great brand promise is undermined by behaviours driven by measurements that are misaligned with the ideal experience of helping customers succeed financially.

Measure What’s Important

So how do we know that the financial institution’s KPI will result in poor customer experiences? The metrics you measure are what drives the behaviour of your people – not what you tell them to do.

The organization can tell its employees, over and over, that the brand promise is to help customers succeed financially. But at the end of the day, if the organization is measuring – and more importantly, rewarding – individual sale targets during interactions, then that’s undoubtedly what will influence employees.

To drive behaviours that keep the brand promise, organizations must start with the brand in mind and connect what they measure with their experience purpose.

A great example of an organization that made a brand aligned KPI adaptation is Four Seasons. In the past, Four Seasons believed part of offering excellent service meant any resolutions came from a management level – so they measured how dutifully housekeeping team members elevated service requests. However, the time it took for management to solve problems only increased customer frustrations, reducing the benefits of manager involvement.

Providing customer resolutions from managers was not aligned with the Four Seasons’ promise of excellent service. In the end, Four Seasons empowered their housekeeping employees to make service resolutions and switched their KPIs to measure their ability to solve customers’ problems. Why? Because metrics drive behaviours.

The changes better aligned with Four Seasons’ promise of excellent service, and led to higher customer satisfaction ratings – and more loyal relationships with the brand. The new metric continues to drive brand aligned mindset by rewarding behaviours consistent with the brand promise.


The biggest mistake with customer experience measurement is using metrics that don’t help you deliver your brand promise. When KPIs are not aligned with your organization’s experience purpose, you’ll end up delivering an inherently broken customer experience because employees will not understand what’s truly important to your organization.

Organizations have different values, goals and brand promises. Response time KPIs might drive the correct behaviours for one organization, but not for another organization. To deliver your ideal customer experience consistently, connect your measurement to behaviours that truly deliver your brand promise in every interaction.

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