Monday, November 20, 2006

'Big Ideas' Must Be Rigorously Measured

Last Friday, I clipped a BusinessWeek ( article that listed a “set of integrated business disciplines” that create “exemplary customer experiences”. The disciplines include customer-facing “moments of truth”, well articulated brand values, close integration of technology and people, “co-creation” of experiences with customers, and an “ecosystem approach” to encompass all related products and services. (See “The Importance of Great Customer Experiences and the Best Ways to Deliver Them”, available here.) It’s a bit jargon-heavy for my taste, but does make the point that there’s more to Customer Experience Management than direct customer / employee interactions. Of course, that’s a key premise of our work at Client X Client. It was particularly on my mind because I had just written about a survey that seemed to equate customer experience with customer service (see my entry for November 16) .

Later in the weekend, I spent some time researching Web optimization systems. As I dug deeper into the details of rigorous testing methods and precision delivery systems, the “integrated business disciplines” mentioned in the BusinessWeek piece began to look increasingly insubstantial. How could the concrete measurements of Web optimization vendors ever be applied to notions such as “moment of truth”? But, if the value of those notions can’t be measured, how can we expect managers to care about them?

The obvious answer is that “big ideas” really can’t be measured because they’re just too, well, big. (The implication, of course, is that anybody who even tries to measure them is impossibly small-minded). But that won't do. We know that the ideas’ value will in fact ultimately be measured in the only metric that really matters, which is long-term profit. And, since business profit is ultimately determined by customer values, we find ourselves facing yet again the core mission of the Customer Experience Matrix: bridging the gap between the soft and squishy notions of customer experience and the cold, hard measures of customer value.

My point is not that the Customer Experience Matrix, Client X Client and Yours Truly are all brilliant. It’s that working on “big ideas” of customer experience doesn’t exempt anyone from figuring out how those ideas will translate into actual business value. If anything, the bigger the idea, the more important it is to work through the business model that shows what makes it worth pursuing. Making, or even just testing, customer experience changes without such a model is simply irresponsible.

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