We all love surprises – Except when we don’t
I’m fortunate in that I really enjoy my job. Part of it is the scientific side of me that likes measures, analytics, and reporting while another part is observing and trying to predict the unpredictable – human behavior. Most consumers and customers don’t go through their day thinking about why they consider a purchase, the process for brand selection, and the resulting satisfaction – or lack thereof – in their everyday world. Many don’t even do that for larger purchases. While there are teams of people behind every product trying to promise the world with their product, most consumers are oblivious to that ‘brand promise’….that is until it lets them down.
While shopping recently, I observed several highlighted promotions on shelves – that familiar red tag hanging below the price that is intended to draw attention. Frankly, even leading up to a holiday weekend, I was surprised by the overwhelming number of products on sale. That’s one of those that could be termed as a “good surprise.” However, I was focused on my mission. That’s when I was in for the “bad surprise”….most of these items really weren’t on sale. Once I noticed that one where I “could save nothing by buying in bulk,” I realized that there were more of these erroneous tags (I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that I wasn’t psychologically herded to the ‘sale items). The store manager was grateful to have this oversight pointed out, and removed the “non-sale” portion of the tags. Somehow, this made it through copy, setting, printing, review, distribution, and by the hands of the grocery manager, which probably depended on routine. “Surprise, we’re having a big sale! Bigger surprise, nothing is really on sale.”
What a dashboard can (and can’t) tell you
As an operations person, there are all sorts of quantitative and qualitative measurements that let me know if a job is getting done. I am an individual that believes that measures really are the basis for making improvements in any facet of the business. A quote attributed to Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”, is one that I feel should be displayed on the desk of every person in the organization. Sure some examples could contradict that, but you’ll never change my mind on that topic. It is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about CX dashboards, but what might surprise you is that I feel strongly about them for both the “good” and the “bad.”
A quick web search of the term will provide you with quite a few definitions, including all those instruments made available to the driver of a car. Refine that search to include CX dashboards, and you get a flurry of promotions about “real-time” and “insights”. I’m a huge proponent of dashboards. In keeping with the car analogy, you do need your instrumentation to be real-time and insightful. Many of those gauges can tell you to take action – like a tire pressure warning – and some even let you know what action to take (I take that low fuel light pretty seriously). It’s important to have them, and it’s important to have some consistency in what they display – especially if you have to share that information with some (another key feature of dashboards in my view).
All of the great insights provided on a real-time basis through a dashboard are exactly why they are so important and “good,” and at the same time, that’s also their downfall for me. As practitioners and even as those on the front-lines of CX, we too often manage to the dashboard. Sure it is important to keep everything “in the green”, but there are other actions that support the long-term health of our CX vehicle. Some things would fall under an “alert”, like when a tire goes flat. We quickly respond and take action to avoid further damage. A CX feature like closed-loop feedback is a great analogy to that.
Even with tools like dashboards and the ability to respond quickly to alerts, our CX vehicle can run into so many more problems. That squeaking of the brakes, do you know if that requires immediate action or can you wait? Just like a slight decrease in an NPS score month-over-month, was it a “bump in the road” or a sign of something more serious? Sometimes, you know you have to take it to a mechanic, plug it in and see if the machines can find something wrong with it.
CX – react versus predict
With all the tools that are available in the CX practice, we recognize the importance of CX in business, particularly in serving customers. Dashboards and closed-loop feedback are some of the features that work with every day, but that doesn’t mean we should only look at those features when making the customer experience a priority. For most of those metrics, they are set up for you to react and, in some cases, help diagnose. Like our car, sometimes we need machine learning to help predict things that may go wrong in the near future. At QuestionPro, we do that in the form of Push Metrics, using machine learning to observe data and push noted changes to users – sometimes they’ll be informational; other times they’ll help avoid a costly mistake. It can sometimes be a very simple view of information: a one-point drop in NPS might not cause panic, but the realization that this drop follows five consecutive months of one-point drops is a reason to stand up and take notice. Even more important, perhaps, is the drop is occurring on a dashboard metric that you look at the current status but don’t trend across time. Then several other data points often don’t show up in the dashboard but still may show itself somewhere in the data, perhaps even in disposition metrics. Knowing what is happening in all of them helps us predict what could happen and even find a way to take action – rather than just react, especially to a trend that’s been happening for six months.
When you think about the store that had a big sale without having any sale items, it wasn’t really a disaster – no one was left on the proverbial side-of-the-road without a ride. At worst, it may have been a little embarrassing, or some customers may have felt it was a nefarious plot (and the customer is not always right, but they are never wrong). Along the way, there were plenty of checkpoints that should have caught this oversight, but for whatever reason, it slipped by everyone. Human errors will always occur, and sometimes a process gets skipped (for a good or a bad reason), but generally, an operations process succeeds with more checkpoints rather than fewer. All the more reason, it is important to have dashboards, but also important to do more with your data than just collect it. You should occasionally plug it into the machine and see what you can predict.
Many out there in the CX practice are happy to talk about making a better dashboard. I firmly believe that businesses should invest enough time and effort into building a good one. At the same time, take a look at what you aren’t putting in your dashboard. To get a free assessment of ways to improve the actions you take from CX, book time with me here, with no obligation. I’ll even give you a free trial license to our CX software – all the features included.