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PHOTO: Mike McCune

If you asked a group of CEOs what the secret to customer retention was, all of their responses would likely involve customer experience in some way. But if you asked them what they regularly do to improve the customer experience, their answers would vary.

It’s no secret that customer service is the end-all for a successful business, but if your customer experience (CX) model stays the same year after year, you have a problem.

Customer service isn’t going anywhere. In fact, a recent Walker Information study forecasts that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. So if you haven’t incorporated a customer service analysis into your annual business model review, it’s time to do so. Customer satisfaction has quickly made its way up the ladder as a priority, but with social media and the World Wide Web available at the click of a button, trying to stay a step ahead of our competition can get a bit overwhelming.

This fast-paced world we live in is always looking for bigger and better and the next best thing. And even if your company doesn’t sell life-altering products and services, you should still try to offer a stellar customer experience — because, I hate to break it to you, but that Happy Holidays postcard you send your customers once a year just isn’t cutting it on the great CX scale.

Here’s a look at four metrics that you should monitor on a regular basis to ensure that the customer experience your organization offers is always improving.

Related Article: Customer Experience Metrics, Through a New Lens

1. Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is probably one of the first things that pops into your mind when you think of ways to evaluate your customer experience, and it’s not a bad place to start.

An NPS is a great way to determine if your customers will purchase from you again. If they will, you can assume they were satisfied with their customer experience. But satisfaction isn’t what we’re looking for. An NPS score provides you with a single number that is supposed to be the tell-all to how your business is doing. But that’s not really the case, and your NPS rating definitely doesn’t provide what you’re looking for in terms of CX.

Let’s say your NPS is a six. Sure, a six is in the upper half of the NPS scale, which goes from one to 10. But it’s still four points away from the top. And that’s four points that your competitors could have on you.

While it’s great to have a general idea of your business ranking, what you really need to do is determine what’s keeping your customers from giving you a perfect score. That single number is an uncomplicated way to calculate your overall measurement and a nice fill-in on your strategic dashboard, but it won’t provide you with the leverage you need to enhance your customer experience.

Related Article: How to Measure Customer Experience Beyond Net Promoter Score

2. Customer Surveys

I think a customer survey is the best tool possible for learning not only where you need to improve, but also what you are doing well.

When it comes to improving customer service in the call center, data about the experience customers have when they contact your company is a critical piece of the puzzle, and the best data is the direct feedback you get via your customer survey. Making the most of customer survey results starts with analyzing the feedback you’re getting, and that means more than just determining whether the feedback is good or bad.

The worst feedback is no feedback at all. That’s the feedback you get from silent customers. A silent customer is one of the worst things possible, because a silent customer is probably no longer your customer at all.

Think about it: When you have a bad interaction with a business, do you immediately go online and fill out the customer survey and complain? You might do that — if the experience was that horrific. But it’s also likely that you will just complain to a few close friends and then move on to a different business.

So now that we’ve acknowledged the caveat that the most unsatisfied customers are the ones who won’t bother to fill out your survey, it’s time to talk about analyzing the responses you do receive. The benefits of customer satisfaction survey results are not confined to the insights they offer into specific aspects of the relationships between companies and customers. The trends in the feedback customers provide are also important.

A majority of the time, companies will look for one trend throughout the responses they receive from their surveys: Is the feedback good or bad? If it’s positive, they brainstorm ways to strengthen the trend and improve it over time. If it’s negative, they try to determine the root of the problem and go from there. Something is causing the negativity, and identifying that cause is the first step to eliminating it and terminating the negative feedback.

Companies that are able to spot and analyze these trends and then take them into account in their business operations are one step ahead of their competitors.

Related Article: Can Customer Surveys Advance What You Learn From Data?

3. KPIs

Every industry has its own set of KPIs (key performance indicators). So when you are trying to determine which KPIs to focus on, there’s no single answer. KPIs give you direct visibility into your data and trends, but at the end of the day you still need to take action to improve on your numbers and keep those positive trend lines moving upward.

When it comes to running a call center, there are dozens of KPIs that can help you track success. Whether it’s percentage of calls blocked, average time in queue, average abandonment rate or average speed of an answer, each indicator provides you with some bit of information that will help you analyze your customer service. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of those KPIs. But for the sake of time (and personal preference), I’ll weigh in on one we tend to gravitate toward in my company: customer fulfillment time.

Customers want you to fix their problems and questions immediately. It’s no surprise that 25 percent of customers give up because they’re kept on hold too long. But don’t let the duration of your calls alone control your thought process when you’re looking for ways to improve call center CX. The information your call center reps give to customers while they’re on the phone is equally important. Your customers want quick, effective calls that are straight to the point.

Related Article: Are Your Customer Experience Metrics Setting You Up for Success?

4. Omnichannel Metrics

Omnichannel operations are taking over the business world as we know it. Online, mobile, in-person, SMS, phone — the list goes on.

With so many channels available to customers at the touch of a button, a business’s ability to provide and optimize seamless customer service is paramount.

You’re probably wondering how you can continually improve your customer service with so many channels to think about. For starters, you need to remember that voice is still king. While it’s great that your customers have an array of ways to contact you and find your business, at the end of the day they want to talk to a real person.

Instant chat may be great medium for answering customers’ frequently asked questions, but a robot won’t be able to answer a specific question about a customer’s personally customized product. No two customers are alike, so it is crucial to have an easily accessible human available at all times.

  • Online: It takes 0.05 seconds for a customer to determine whether or not they like your website — and whether or not they’ll stay. Additionally, the average shopping cart abandonment rate for online is currently at 69.89 percent. So right off the bat this tells us a few things: one, that our websites need to be intriguing, appealing and hook customers in and two, that we need to somehow lower the abandonment rate. Whether it’s offering free shipping, increasing site load time or making the site easier to navigate, there’s always something you can do.
  • Mobile: Online and mobile go hand-in-hand. However, while mobile commerce accounts for an estimated 16 percent of total online sales, the mobile shopping cart abandonment rate jumps to 97 percent. So, if your website load time is over three seconds, your contact center team isn’t answering the phone in a timely manner and providing quick, sufficient information and your navigation isn’t as simple as the click of a button (literally), you’re basically out of luck.
  • In-person: In-person may seem like the simplest way to deliver CX and that could be true. When face-to-face with someone you don’t have to worry about whether or not your tone is coming off the wrong way or your connection is going in and out. However, there are still factors to be aware of. Your customers are coming to you because they’re looking for something, so don’t let them leave without providing a quick and efficient solution. If they provided you with their email address at then end of checkout, are you giving them a regular customer survey with incentives to fill it out? And the dreaded question — are they asking to speak with upper management because things aren’t turning out the way they should?
  • SMS/Phone: Whether it’s through text messaging or a phone conversation, customers are looking for answers fast. Most of the time, FAQs can be easily answered by pressing a specific number on their device — but make sure the option to talk to a live agent is always readily available. Your text message or phone call should make the lives of your customers easier, without annoying them. Sending appointment reminders, an incentive follow-up or even just a simple happy birthday text can do this.

Omnichannel may seem overwhelming, but when you look at it from the customer experience perspective, it’s quite the opposite. Comparing yearly or quarterly metrics to analyze your customer abandonment rate, website load time, customer retention rate and all the above will help you evaluate outstanding issues and improve customer satisfaction.

The second key point regarding omnichannel CX is that you need to stay up to date with the latest digital trends. That may seem like an eternal task, but it’s key to remember that as new digital channels emerge, so do new opportunities for customer experience. Your customers are looking for the latest and greatest, and they more than likely want it as soon as possible, so your ability to keep in touch with things going on in the world around you will help you build trusting, long-lasting relationships.

Related Article: Customer Experience Metrics, Through a New Lens

Small Customer Experience Changes Do Add Up

Customers want a flawless experience just as much as you want to provide them with one. Even as technologies change and new ones are created, customer service is something that will remain a priority.

While these four tactics barely touch on the basics, they’re a great place to start. Remember: Stellar customer service doesn’t happen overnight. Take time to dig deep into your CX model. What may seem like a little change can have a big effect in the long run.