he ROI of Customer Experience: like fitness, it’s incremental & its value can't be singularly measured
“What’s the ROI of Customer Experience?”
I’m pretty sure that everyone I know who is involved in customer experience or customer service has been asked this question more than once in their careers – in more than one way.
One of our clients was recently called on to defend the company’s practice of monitoring and coaching customer interactions. It was costly, she was told, and too labor intensive. “We spent (big number goes here) last month alone on this,” a V.P. had said. “I don’t see any clear payoff to this. Do you?”
This isn't a new song
This isn’t a new song, and not unique to customer experience. I also used to hear it back when I was working for international agencies in the ad business, as people lamented the cost of their advertising.
It’s a conundrum to be sure. On the surface, these questions sound legit. A director or manager sees a need for improvement in their customer service, and wants to get some training for their team. Someone above them, responsible for the budget, is trying to allocate spending appropriately. They’re being careful. It only makes sense. Why wouldn’t they ask that question?
The question is flawed
There’s actually a very good reason for not asking that question. It is, fundamentally, flawed. To illustrate, try this:
Say to your company’s CFO:
“We spend a lot of money for people to produce those weekly and monthly financial reports. What was the ROI of producing last month’s financials?”
Say to your doctor:
“I’ve been taking those vitamins like you recommended. So tell me, what was the ROI of the vitamins I took this week?”
Neither your CFO nor your doctor will have an answer – and both will consider the questions ridiculous.
“So, what is the ROI of those push-ups you want me to do today?”
Let’s face it, if people approached fitness the way companies approach customer experience, Gyms would go out of business. “So, what is the ROI of those push-ups you want me to do today? Show me the numbers.”
The thing is, we all know that financial reporting, healthy eating and fitness are important. So is breathing for that matter. The same is true with customer service and customer experience for businesses. But none of these are singular things. They are incremental, which means that their value can’t be measured singularly.
The inability to measure in this manner in no way negates their value. As William Bruce Cameron famously said: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
There's a better question
There’s a better question when it comes to customer experience. One that all companies need to ask:
Are you in, or are you out?
Customer experience, like fitness, health and financial discipline, is only successful when there is commitment to doing it right. Real commitment, not lip service. These aren’t just independent activities, they are part of a cohesive success strategy.
Is customer experience worth committing to?
Is it worth it? For the vast majority of organizations, the answer is a long, loud, reverberating Yes. I’ve seen far too many success stories for it to be otherwise. There was the wireless company that moved from middle of the pack to market leader in gross margin in six short years. In the process, they reduced their customer churn and earned a coveted spot in Canada’s Best Employer list.
We worked with a small credit union that experienced unparalleled growth throughout the financial crash of 2008, at the same time creating unshakable member loyalty that continues to this day.
Then there’s the specialty manufacturing company whose customers enthusiastically supported them through myriad Covid disruptions and shutdowns. Against all odds, they’ve had their best two years ever.
All of these – and scores more that I’ve seen, have had one thing in common — a consistent and intensely passionate focus on their customers that extended throughout their organization. They didn’t focus on transactions. They focused on their journey. They decided they were in, not out.
So, how about you? Ready to do some push-ups?