• April 1, 2014
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Why Customer Experience Is a Bad Metric

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There are a variety of ways in which the editors of CRM magazine can learn which topics our readers are most interested in. One of them is to take a look at the best-attended sessions at our annual CRM Evolution conference. Last year, the session "Reinvent Customer Engagement" was one of them. So, a few months after the conference, Associate Editor Sarah Sluis connected with Paul Tedesco at RAPP Canada to talk about the session, which he led, in more detail. The interview inspired our feature story "The 4 Pillars of Responsible Customer Engagement".

While the idea of customer engagement is nothing new--companies have been engaging with customers since the beginning of business--what's different today is how companies are expected to engage with customers. This is largely due to the sudden popularity of new customer communication channels (such as social media and mobile devices). As a result, since last year, the topic of customer engagement has erupted like a geyser.

This year, we received more conference presentation pitches than ever before, and many of them focus on...you guessed it--customer engagement. This will be a hot topic during the 2014 CRM Evolution conference (www.CRMevolution.com) at the New York Marriott Marquis from August 18-20.

In a conversation I had with CRM Evolution Conference Chair Paul Greenberg about this year's session pitches, he posited that the importance of customer engagement will surpass that of customer experience. This is a pretty bold statement, especially considering the popularity of the term customer experience in recent years. After hearing his case and giving it some more thought, I concluded that he might be right. There's a subtle, but very important, difference between customer experience and customer engagement.

The problem with measuring customers' experiences as a benchmark for success is that you have to take into account customer sentiment at the time of their experiences. Take, for example, a budget-conscious customer who accesses his credit card account online and discovers that he exceeded his self-imposed monthly spending limit.

Even if the people, process, and technology behind this experience were flawless, it could still be a bad experience. Why? Because the information or knowledge the customer received was disappointing, leaving him stressed and depressed. And, while there's a lot a company can do to make a bad experience even worse (by not investing enough in the people, process, and technology), there isn't much it can do to make this particular experience a positive one.

In fact, according to CFI Group's latest annual Contact Center Satisfaction Index, a general sense of customer frustration about the economy can also negatively influence customer experiences. (Read the article "Contact Center Satisfaction Dropped 10 Percent in 2013," by News Editor Leonard Klie, for more information on this report.)

Customer sentiment, whether influenced by disappointing information or a widespread customer malaise, is often beyond a company's control. While it's nice to try to delight customers whenever possible, it's not always practical to factor this into your success metrics. A better benchmark to measure would be customer engagement, as it forces companies and customers to think about the interaction and not the feelings attached to it.

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