Applying Customer Service Metrics to Improve Customer Experience (CX)

Nov 3, 2016

Lately, I’ve looked at how a government agency measures a customer’s experience. It’s such a complex topic that I would need more than one blog to discuss the nuances behind it. In my last blog, I examined and brokedown three types of customer service metrics: customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES). This one is about identifying how easy it is to work with your organization and discover ways to improve service delivery.

Business target abstract illustration.

jauhari1, iStock, Thinkstock

Again, I spoke with Kelly J. Ohaver, Customer Experience Manager from the City of Centennial, Colorado to learn how to apply these measurements.

It’s clear to me that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Agencies vary greatly from each other–they have different missions, which means that they’ll offer different products and services, so a customer’s experience will be different, too. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles will take a different approach to measuring customer experience (CX) than the Internal Revenue Service, a public health agency, or a public works department in a small city; measurements will have to be tailored to each.

Data is the key and it’s the first part to measuring a customer’s experience. It’s best to start by capturing the voice of the customer through surveys. The data from the survey will show not only the big picture view of how customers interact with the agency, but a more granular portrait of the agency of product- or service-level interactions. It requires knowledge of surveying and data collection methods, but it’s worth the effort.

Incorporating CES into a survey involves two questions: one about the ease of handling an issue/concern and then a follow up request for specific details about what made it easy or difficult. Here is an example of how to structure these two questions:

  1. To what extent do you agree with the following statement: The City of Centennial made it easy for me to handle my issue?
  2. What specific technologies, business processes, and/or employee behaviors made doing business with the City easy or difficult?

Responses to the first question, “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: The City of Centennial made it easy for me to handle my issue?” indicated to Kelly customers’ perception of how easy it is to work with the agency and if there have been improvements in the perception or if it had dipped. Also, responses to, “What specific technologies, business processes and/or employee behaviors made doing business with the City easy or difficult?” shed light on what’s working well for the city or what’s failing. Used together, these two questions illustrate changes in perception over time, as well as provide an understanding of reasons for a change–and a road map for how to reduce customer effort and improve experiences.

The next part is parsing the data. Let’s see this process in action with how the City of Centennial, Colorado measures customer experience with its department of building services, which issues building permits and inspects construction projects for compliance to the International Building Code.

Kelly came to the City of Centennial in 2009. When she began overseeing surveys in 2013, the city’s customer satisfaction survey started using NPS and CSAT to measure what customers experienced when using Centennial’s building services. While the survey stayed the same in 2014, January 2015 marked a change because CES was now infused in the survey. Since the metric has a focused nature, it was added to catch longitudinal trends by capturing data over a period of time that would show a complete picture of customer experience.

The chart below shows the city’s customer experience data from the first quarter of 2013 to the second quarter of 2016.

Chart: Building Customer Satisfaction Rating.

The mixture of metrics allowed Kelly to glean some useful insights about a customer’s experience with this department. The data show that the customer experience scores dropped below the expected target rate during the fourth quarter of 2014. The scores continued to dip further in the first quarter of 2015.

The CES metric in the survey was the key piece to revealing the dip in customer satisfaction and to finding a path to resolving the issue. Data from the CES metric showed that the customers rated the staff and city as hard to work with, that customers were concerned with long hold times, and that the staff provided poor communication and feedback.

The data showed that customers want an easy agency to work with and the city structured its changes around this idea. During the third quarter of 2015, the following reforms happened:

  • The City of Centennial added two web links to provide quick self-service access information that is commonly requested:

  • It sent an email blast to existing repeat customers notifying them of these new features.

  • It added messaging to the phone system to help redirect callers who were on hold for either of these pieces of information.

  • It closed the department for a half day and conducted in-depth service skills training for staff in this department.

After these reforms were made, the customer satisfaction rating moved upward in the fourth quarter of 2015, giving support to the survey’s findings and the reforms to improve customer experience; it also gave credence to the idea that if it’s easy to work with us, the customer will be highly satisfied.

By measuring the customer’s experience, the City of Centennial was able to make tweaks and changes to improve how it provides building services, creating a dual benefit. This makes happy customers and it makes city services effective and responsive to the public’s needs. This is only one example though. Each agency will be different. I’ve learned a few things by looking at how an agency can apply these metrics to measure customer experience. I’d encourage anyone who’s doing this type of work to take a holistic view of the agency and its services, use mix of customer service metrics in a survey, collect and parse the data, and then use the findings to make changes that improve things for the customer and the agency.