Customer and operating scores -- Aligned, or like ships in the night?


The rise in BI software and scorecards for business reviews makes senior managers more interested than ever in linking customer scores to operational ones. "Since we invest in tracking certain operational KPIs, let's make sure the metrics relate to what customers want," one customer process manager in a global enterprise told me. I couldn't agree more, and will simply share here four precepts for undertaking such alignment or linkage.

Do expect the right customer sentiment data to align with related operating measures.
It may take exploring, mixing and matching to find alignment. Managers over customer functions should help identify internal metrics which possibly affect certain customer ratings. Analysis of data must often allow for lag time between the service experience and customer perception scores. The fact is that perceptions stem from customer experiences, which are in turn the outcomes of processes. Execution and measurement naturally precede the impact upon perceptions of customer audiences.

Do expect that some internal metrics will correlate more strongly than others with customer sentiment. The difference in correlation across measures is hopefully less about unveven quality of internal data but points instead to the experiences that customers care most about. When an internal measure is found to be a leading indicator it enables better tracking of improving operating areas in ways that please customers.

Don't expect every internal measure to correlate with customer sentiment. Certain items measure cost or risk managment more than customer value. An example would be the number of calls handled per hour in a call center -- an efficiency that customers may not see or care about, but which helps bottom-line performance. Metrics that help the business hit financial goals are keepers, whether they correlate with customer scores or not.

Do expect the alignment to indicate needing new or different internal metrics.
What would you conclude when customers are unhappy about, say, deliveries being late, yet internal on-time delivery scores are very positive? To me, it implies re-checking how the internal metric is measured, since it obviously was not from the customer's point of view. What the customer cares about most can at times be very hard to measure internally, such as installed core product performing at the level the the customer expected. Ideally, you devlop ways over time to measure internally what matters most to your key customers.



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