Lately, at Interaction Metrics, we’ve been discussing the difference between striving to optimize and striving to improve. Specifically, should you optimize your customer experience or improve it? I’ve come down on the side of customer experience optimization because improvement is just too vague.

For instance, many of us equate service and manufacturing quality with the Japanese Kaizen principle ‘strive for never-ending improvement’. Never-ending doesn’t feel like the best use of time.

Optimization, on the other hand, is concrete and has a precise target. You know you’re optimized when you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

Tech Support & Customer Interfacing Teams

For tech support, customer service, and other customer interfacing teams, customer experience optimization takes what you have in place and extracts its maximum value. But with improving, it’s hard to say where exactly you’re going or when you will arrive.

Investing in optimization makes sense. For example, if you’re already spending on costly staff along with software like CRM, knowledge management, and text analytics you want to know that you’re using those resources wisely.

As a rule of thumb, to ensure that the resources you have in place are being used for your company’s and customers’ greatest gain, invest 1 to 3 pennies on the dollar. For instance, if your tech support budget is $4,000,000 per year, add $40K to $120k per year to optimize.

Want to present the case for customer experience optimization? Learn about Interaction Metrics’ free mini-evaluations.

Customer Experience Optimization Advantages

Once optimized you’ll be able to prove you are:

  • Best in class
  • Serving your customers in ways that align with your unique brand
  • Committed to informing and connecting with customers in measurable ways

Sometimes I get asked, “Will optimized interactions become long and bog us down?” Absolutely not.

In fact, if you are truly optimized, sometimes interactions become shorter. That’s because while customers want a good answer, they also want you to value their time. Your customers don’t want answers laden with gratuitous questions and commentary. Modern people get things done!

However, if your interactions are already concise, optimization is about ensuring that each moment of your interactions serves a purpose. That purpose could be to:

  • Provide explanations that help beyond a single question
  • Create happy customers measured by satisfaction scores
  • Boost sales measured by repurchase rates

Optimization Requires Multiple Perspectives

The best optimization strategies employ multiple perspectives.

For instance, to optimize customer support efficiently, you need to know how you’re performing relative to your own standards for brand congruence, sales, and product information.

You also need to know how you measure against your customers’ perceptions and expectations (external evaluations). And you need to know how you stack up against competitors and comparable companies.

If you don’t have multiple perspectives, it’s easy to get a false read on how you’re actually performing. I’ve seen companies rest on the laurels of a good Net Promoter Score, but when upper management listened in on calls, they were appalled at how often those interactions failed to provide real value.

Setting Expectations for Customer Experience Optimization

At Interaction Metrics, we consider a company’s customer experience optimized when their interactions score at least 91 and customers rate their experience at 85 or above. Sometimes (albeit rarely) we find that a company is fully optimized out of the gate. Or, it just takes a few tweaks and they are optimized!

More often, however, customers rate companies as good but not great. And companies have staff who only sort of answer questions, don’t support the brand, and fail to connect with customers. In these cases, the best approach is measurement, followed by workshops, followed by measurement again—in rapid cadence. But once a company is optimized, interaction measurement only needs to happen often enough to ensure interactions stay optimized in the face of staff turnover, new products, and fresh marketing campaigns.

 Surveys are Communication Tools

But even when customer surveys show you are scoring in that 85+ zone, you still want to get daily feedback. That’s because surveys conducted properly gather information about which customers need callbacks, who needs an apology, what needs to be escalated, or who needs more information.

In other words, surveys serve their greatest utility when they are used as communication tools.  Keeping an open channel with customers is central to what it means to be optimized.

Milestones and Measurement

Just because you have CRM does not mean your associates are using customer information effectively. And just because you have staff in chairs taking calls does not mean they are clearly and proactively connecting with customers. Customer experience optimization gives you a clear path forward with milestones and metrics. So, lose the word improve and instead find out how optimized you really are!

Toward wisely used budgets and customer experience optimization!