When I think about the “Perfect 10,” my mind goes back to watching Mary Lou Retton get a perfect score on the vault to narrowly win the gold medal during the 1984 Olympics. Well over 5,000 gymnasts have participated in the modern Olympic Games, yet there have been fewer than 50 perfect scores. That is fewer than 1%.
I recently spoke with a friend of mine who works for a consumer goods company. He said he had just accomplished a month where every customer experience (CX) score he received was a 10. It was the first time he’s attained the mark in the year he has been with the company.
When I mentioned he should be proud of such an accomplishment, he responded that it was more relief. He was one of the short list of individuals in the firm who had not achieved the perfect score in the past year and the pressure was on to attain that goal.
Pressure: Diamonds or Coal
Let’s talk about pressure. When carbon is subjected to pressure, it can undergo physical changes. Depending on the pressure, temperature and purity of the carbon, you can end up with either a diamond or a lump of coal. I think most would rather have the diamond, but there is a reason there were only 31 short tons of diamonds produced in 2019 versus 706 million short tons of coal.
A diamond is rare. It requires perfect circumstances, no impurities and an abundance of pressure and time. After they are formed, they are usually brought closer to the surface through a volcanic explosion.
That pressure towards perfection can have mixed results. It is the same way when setting goals surrounding customer experience. If the goal is simply perfection, you’re certain to get coal as a result. Achieving perfection is attainable, but you can’t just apply pressure to achieve it. You you need to consider the purity (a solid customer experience strategy) and the time needed to achieve the results (meaning patient managers). This will ultimately put all the pressure on the delivery team, and that will certainly have an impact on the employee experience (as my friend noted above). You may end up with the occasional sparkle, but you’ll usually be left with a lump of coal.
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Building Customer Experience Success With Imperfection
Despite my friend’s success that month, he had already decided to find a new role, and felt that many others would probably see themselves out through a revolving door of turnover at this company. It is a cautionary tale that, even when you think you are doing correctly, you may be overlooking a key element that introduces impurity.
One the other hand, you can actually build a world-class customer experience with imperfection. Sometimes you will fail the customer. But that failure can be recovered with closed-loop feedback, which can actually improve the relationship between your company and that customer, despite the misstep. Pressure applied correctly to employees with positive reinforcement and a clear vision can build a culture that revolves around the customer, yet recognizes that it takes collaboration — not competition — to keep the standards at the highest level for the customer.
If the focus is only on NPS or CSAT, then you are likely missing opportunities to dig for diamonds while you keep harvesting coal. A diamond takes purity, time and pressure — all in the very precise amounts. Do it right if you want your customer experience to shine.
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Ken has over two decades of experience in the marketing research, retail, technology, hospitality and transportation industries with a recent focus on financially linked business insights, SaaS deployments and CX consultation. This ties in with his long history of P&L responsibility and detailed understanding of improving business operations.