Stop holding your employees hostage to your metric

You check into a lot of hotels as a consultant. I’m in a hotel almost 200 nights a year. Those of us who make our living on the road have some pretty consistent needs. We want a clean room. We want the hotel to honor our preferences for room type (bed size, high floor or low floor, near to or away from the elevator). I stay wherever my clients put me. Of course I have a preferred brand, and a preferred hotel — but in this line of work you end up with a lot of varying levels of status across a lot of brands. 

The year of #NailtheCXBasics

I could write about hotel experiences for an entire year – perhaps 2020 will all be travel, but 2019 is the year of #NailtheCXBasics. We’ve been writing about the things we know to be tried and true. Theories we’ve either proven or disproven in our world of being focused on customer experience transformations. 

We’ve talked about where to start and how to prioritize.

We’ve covered language and how to talk to executives about Customer Experience.

We’ve talked about setting strategy, and finding the right measures.

Deadly sins of CX execution

This month, we’re going to talk about something that I believe is a #CXEDS (Customer Experience Execution Deadly Sin) and something that also fits into our Nail the CX Basics theme.

The CXEDS are things that we all experience and see. They are things that get blasted all over social media. They are most often horrific stories of guitars being broken, or female doctors being told to cover themselves up on airplanes. They generally are evidenced by really bad behavior by a person or a group of people representing a brand. They are the examples of where the best-laid brand and customer experience strategies fail when they come to the intersection of the people you have delivering them — and the culture you’ve created.

The one I want to tackle this month is how you implement your customer experience metrics. Last post, we talked about my thoughts on NPS. For years, I’ve been a proponent of finding the #MetricThatMatters. You can read about it in that link, or search any of the videos of my speeches on YouTube if you want more, but the moral of the story is that every company needs to find a rallying cry metric. One that applies to everyone. One that everyone understands how they can influence. That’s the metric that matters. 

For years, I’ve believed that people truly do what is measured and incented. 

And about 24 months ago, I realized that I was only seeing half of the picture. 

What I’ve come to understand is that people do what is measured, incented AND modeled and communicated.

This is where we come to the Customer Experience Execution Deadly Sin.

For the last 10 or so years, we’ve been seeing an increase in the prevalence of this behavior. It is primarily tied to companies who have instituted NPS as their Metric that Matters (something I don’t believe is the correct choice for many). So all arguments about NPS aside, the issue is in how this has been rolled out.

It happens at BMW, Hilton brands, McDonalds and Delta, among hundreds of others. It is the moment when you are greeted with — or exited with — some version of the statement: “Please rate me a 9 or 10 on the survey you’re going to receive. And if you can’t, please tell me NOW so I can fix your perspective.”

BMW does it at many of their dealerships when you’re picking up your car. Delta does it on most of their flights. McDonalds franchisees print it on their receipts. And Hilton, well — just look at the picture of what greeted me when I checked into one of my most recent hotel rooms.

The thing is, I don’t find fault in the BMW employees. Or the Delta crews. Or the McDonald franchisees. Or the managers of this Embassy Suites. I find fault with the executives and the Customer Experience teams at these companies. 

Ouch. There. I said it.

You’re doing this all wrong guys. You can’t just pop in a metric, tell everyone that their pay depends on it, and magically expect people to deliver on your strategy. These are all examples of a metric implemented the wrong way. 

Think about it for a moment. Of course as an employee, who now has a metric that drives your compensation, you would try to manipulate the outcome. How do you do that? You appeal to the empathy of your customer. You let the customer know that their apathy towards a brand could hurt ME — ME the person who tried so hard to deliver a fabulous experience! You let the customer know that THEY — yes, THEY — are responsible for your family’s livelihood! I can totally guilt you into giving me a 10. Let me show you the pictures of my family, my pets, my whatever. 

What you’ve done though, as a company, is completely skewed your results. And frankly, you’ve made it really hard for one of your customers to tell you what it is that they really feel about/want from/need from you. You’ve shot yourself in the foot. So your NPS score goes up, and your retention continues to slip. Your NPS score holds steady, but your employees aren’t loyal or engaged. 

When you’re building a metric that matters, and then rolling it out to the entire organization — you need to make sure that it is something your employees can impact. My advice?

  1. Figure out what your metric that matters is. What do your customers truly need and expect from you? And then rally the executive team around that.
  2. Roll it out in such a way that first, your executive compensation is impacted.

    Once you’ve got the attention of the decision makers:

  3. Listen to what your customers are telling you and make the appropriate changes to your products, your processes, your operations.

    Checked off all three of the above?

  4. Now it is time to start communicating it like mad. Why should I as your employee care? How can I help? What do you expect from me?
  5. Then roll it out and tie it to everyone’s compensation.

Make sure your executive team is modeling the metric’s behaviors — and your teams will find the places that they can, too.

Stop penalizing your people, leaders. Most of the things that your customers dislike about your brand aren’t person-specific. Occasionally, you’ll have a bad seed — but there are tons of ways to figure out who they are and deal with them without harming the entire culture.