John Abraham

John Abraham, GM, Medallia Institute, will be hosting our upcoming Medallia Customer Experience Certification classes in Sydney (Oct 7-9) London (Oct 14-16) or Boston (Nov 4-6).

It’s that time of the year. Goal setting is in the air as companies prepare for year-end budgets and planning, and executives are asking: “What should we aspire to achieve in the next 12 months?”

Many dive straight into the numbers and their impact on customers:

  • What investments in products, services, systems, or people will enhance the customer’s experience in the next 12 months?
  • What decisions may impact customer experience negatively? Price increases? Tighter compliance procedures? New acquisitions or restructuring?

But before you run too fast toward forecasting, it’s worth stepping back to evaluate the health of your goal setting system. Is your current approach set up to motivate the right behaviors? In order to make sure it is, start with this four-point health check:

1. “Do employees trust the data?”

In healthy goal setting systems, employees believe that feedback is coming from the right customers and that the key measures align with operational reality. Most importantly, if goals are set by region, product line, or team, it’s important to check that the data is reliable at that level of detail. You should have sufficient sample size and representation to detect meaningful changes within the range of expected improvements.

2. “Do employees understand how their own actions impact the goal?”

Most companies start at the executive level, with key targets by business line or geography. But the work can fall short if it stops there. It is crucial to cascade these high-level goals down to individual teams. For client-facing teams, the relevant customer metrics may already naturally connect to individual employees or teams. Other functions (e.g., process owners or internal support functions) may have to align aggregate customer experience metrics with operational measures that are relevant to their day-to-day activity. The process of making these connections will solidify your plans and clarify the actions required of each team.

3. “Do employees believe that targets are achievable?”

For employees to be motivated by a target, they need to believe that it is achievable with the appropriate effort and planning. It also helps if the targets are perceived as “fair” across teams. A little data can go a long way here. For example, you may have evidence from your own company’s track record that suggests what level of improvement is realistic. It’s important to consider the starting point of your customer experience measure. Teams or operating units that start with a lower score typically will find it easier to improve than those who start with a higher score. Equally important, you should consider the cultural context and mix of business for each team. Don’t assume that business units in different countries should have the same absolute customer experience targets. Cultural differences in how customers use the numeric rating scale will be part of the picture, so it’s better to look for realistic improvements within each country.

4. “Does your company have the processes to drive improvement based on customer feedback?”

This last item is, in fact, the most important of all four. Why? Because the processes that translate customer feedback into improvement actions are at the core of what makes your customer experience tick (and tick up). All the metrics in the world cannot substitute for tangible actions: personalized dialogue to recover customers who are at risk; new systems that make it easier for customers to interact with you; better training for front-line service employees; innovative products or features that better serve the needs of key segments. A company that masters these processes will be able to drive customer experience metrics in the right direction. Those who do not will be stuck measuring an experience that fails to impress.

If you want to drive real and meaningful improvements to the customer’s experience and your underlying business performance, it’s absolutely essential to make sure your goal setting system is up to the challenge.

Photo credit: laffy4k