dinner table
May 18, 2016

A Customer Research topic to avoid at the Dinner Table

By Annette Franz

In a first for Customer Insight Leader, Annette Franz is back again for back-to-back guest blog posts.

I just couldn’t resist this one, on a dinner table conversation topic to avoid (or how to avoid becoming fixated with your Customer metric, rather than improving experiences).

Over to Annette…

The rules of etiquette state: never discuss certain topics at the dinner table.

You know your mom warned you about this one: never discuss money, politics, or religion at the dinner table.

With a hat tip to Joe Bruketta, I’d like to add another topic: VoC metrics. (Survey scales is another one of those topics, but for today, let’s just go with metrics.)

It’s almost impossible to get into a conversation about metrics where everyone agrees on which one(s) to use or which ones are meaningful or which one is “best.” Is it customer satisfaction? customer effort score? net promoter score? or something else? I’m sure you could poll the room you’re in and get a 50-50 mix on feelings toward NPS any day of the week.

Anna Post, Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter, suggests that when you’re pulled into one of these “unmentionables” conversations, you should:

  • Stick to the facts
  • Have an exit strategy
  • Know the purpose for the discussion
  • Know when it’s appropriate
  • Don’t assume you know the other person’s position

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when the “which metric” discussion is necessary. But, at the proverbial dinner table, perhaps the discussion should shift focus. Rather than debating the merits of the various metrics, how about this: talk about how a/the chosen metric drives employee behavioural changes, i.e., to focus on the customer, not to focus on improving the number, which happens all too often. Don’t make the metric the goal, make the customer and delivering a great experience the goal.

How do we avoid the metric being the goal rather than an indicator?

What conversations should we be having instead?

  • Talk about customers – and what your customers are saying
  • Make the metric the last thing you talk about – or don’t talk about it at all
  • Share what’s important to customers
  • Tell stories about customer successes and customer experiences
  • Focus on behaviours and what it takes to improve the experience
  • Share customer feedback and verbatims
  • Coach and praise based on feedback and the experience the customer had
  • Focus on business outcomes
  • Ensure that employees have a clear line of sight to the customer
  • And give them a clear understanding of how they contribute to the customer experience

Put the focus squarely on the customer. The metric is just that, a metric, a way of measuring your progress. If you make that the endpoint, you’ll fail at the journey.

Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory.” Emily Post

Thanks Annette.

To my mind, that’s sound advice for our conversations as customer insight leaders. Plenty of these tips also apply if we want to move into the world of designing authentic conversations with our customers or even venturing into co-creation.

Do you have any experience to share? Have you ever made the mistake of arguing about NPS over a good meal?