The Easiest "Ease of Doing Business" Score
Why Every Organisation should have CPX in their Annual Report
The “Only” Thing You Need to Measure May Be Easier Than You Think
Customer Experience remains a hot topic in business and a strategic focus of organisations who therefore look for ways to measure it. Top of the pops seems to be Fred Reichheld’s Net promoter Score (NPS) idea. Others recognise the Customer Executive Board’s concept of a Customer Effort Score (CES) while many companies use satisfaction surveys. We think it’s great that organisations care sufficiently about their customers and customer experience that they invest in these mechanisms and we have written many books and papers on what works and what doesn’t.
What all these mechanisms have in common is that they depend on some form of customer feedback. Unfortunately, this has spawned what we call “survey mania” which has led to some “survey fatigue”. In many organisations getting customers to take a survey seems to have become an end in itself. The irony is that measurement of customer experience has started degrading the experience. Even short surveys add time and effort for the customer. These processes have also added cost and at times, complexity.
This paper is about a technology lite, survey free mechanism that provides a clear indication of effort and the customer experience. We are aware that analytics technologies can assess the experience without needing surveys but that is a separate topic for another paper. In this short paper we will explore the measure of the total of customer effort that Jeff Bezos at Amazon once labelled among their most sensitive customer measures. This mechanism is simple but very powerful and we call it C per X or Contacts per X.
CPX is a measure of how easy an organisation is to deal with. It tracks the frequency and ratio of contact as a measure of effort for the customer. A low CPX means a low effort business whilst a high CPX means customers have to work hard to get stuff done. To give a simple example: if Insurer ABC requires 5 contacts per claim, they are far harder to deal with than Insurer XYZ that needs only 2 contacts per claim. It’s also highly likely that Insurer ABC is experiencing higher costs per claim than XYZ.
In this paper we’ll explore:
· What CPX is and why it’s so important?
· Why it is harder than it sounds?
· How to use it?
What is C Per X and Why is It Valuable?
The idea behind C Per X is that many contacts that customers make with an organisation are types of failures. In many instances they call, email or chat because something doesn’t work. In other instances, it is because something doesn’t meet their expectations or because they haven’t used the self-service or digital alternatives. We are not talking here about things like sales calls that a company really wants to happen but the contacts that neither the company nor customer wants (unless the organisation has a strategy of making all sales digital, in which case even a sales call could be seen as a type of failure). Understanding the volume of these annoying contacts and or the workload (the volume multiplied by the duration) gives a clear indication of customer effort for a business. The contact volumes and workload provide the C in C per X.
Most organisations are changing in size and either growing or shrinking and therefore the volume of contact and its trend may move in line (or not) with the change in size of the business. The idea behind the X is to find a factor that can be used to normalise the volume of contacts in a given period for changes in business volumes. In an airline it might be number of flights booked, in a bank it might be number of accounts and in Amazon it was “number of orders” and then became “unit of order”. By comparing the volume of the right contacts to the right X, we get a ratio that expresses “how hard a business is to deal with” and better still we can trend it week by week to see if the business is getting harder or easier over time. This mechanism has no surveys and costs almost nothing to calculate. It’s also easy to benchmark within and across industries.
Taking a simple example: if a bank grows customers, accounts and calls and emails as follows:
Measure Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Customers 1m 1.5m 2m
Accounts 2m 3.5m 5m
Contacts: Calls and Emails 2m 3m 4m
It looks at first like customers have doubled and contacts have doubled so that effort is unchanged. But if accounts are used as the key X measure, as they indicate the amount of business that a customer does with the bank, it becomes clearer that this bank is getting easier for its customers as the Contacts per account ratio is falling year on year.
Measure Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Contacts per account 1 0.86 0.8
In businesses with significant seasonality, using the right “X” also helps show how the “proportion” of effort is trending even if volumes are up or down in a given period. This simple measure can therefore provide an insightful view of the collective effort in all customer experiences and the trend week by week.
Harder than it sounds but also more insightful
What makes this hard, is working out what to include in the calculations. On the Contact side of the equation (the C), the problem is deciding which channels of contact and then which types of contacts to include. For example, many organisations now have chat and some have chat bots automating the interactions. If we want to measure customer effort, then both need to be included, in theory. It gets harder depending on what the contact is for. For example, if a sales process has been designed so that the company “closes the sale” through some form of chat, then these contacts may be positive outcomes that shouldn’t count in a CPX calculation. Similarly chat bots may be being used to “get my balance” and be a low effort mechanism that the company is promoting. In that case we wouldn’t include them as an effort measure. But if the chat bot is answering questions like “how do I do X” or “where do I find X” then these are effort contacts and should be included.
Separating the channels and contacts into manned and unmanned may be another way to add insight. For example, an organisation could track “Manned contacts per account” but still combine the two for Total contacts/account as an overall effort measure. This will help track whether the automation is replacing contacts or possibly spawning more!
The second complexity is picking the right “X” to represent business volumes or changes in the business. Amazon switched from contact per order (or in their case 1000 orders) to contacts per unit of order when they realised that they were getting more and more multi-unit orders that were a better indicator of business growth. It can add insights to have different Xs in different parts of the business if these can be isolated. Contacts per claim, for example, can be a key measure of the effort in a claims process in insurance while contacts per 1000 bills may be a great way to measure parts of a utility business.
A last complication is to add an effort indicator such as durations of the contact as well as volumes. If all the calls are getting longer, then effort may be increasing even if the volume doesn’t change. Tracking durations from a customer perspective is complicated by the different “stages” of their effort. For a call it could include their IVR navigation times (how long customers spend in the IVR) as well as their wait times and talk time with an agent. However, an organisation may settle for talk times as an effort measure as that aligns with the cost for an organisation. Email and chat “duration” are also hard to measure as handle times are often not tracked. Including some of this effort or an approximation may be better than no measurement. For example, a calculation of “Customer Hours/per claim” can really illustrate effort for the customer without troubling the customer and could include their time to complete a form, call, email, chat and navigate the process.
How to Use It
An appropriately measured CPX provides a great measure of how easy an organisation is to deal with. Tracked over time it shows the impact of design improvements, changed products and changed services. It can also be used as a collective measure across a business to mobilise all those who are responsible for customer effort and satisfaction. It can be the “joint measure” that helps motivate executives to take action on customer issues.
Boards, shareholders and regulators should all seek this measure. We find it strange that boards are more interested in how quickly calls are answered (many do monitor service levels) than how often customers are being made to call. In some industries regulators measure wait times but not CPX. Once we tried to persuade a complaints body to publish complaints per 100,000 customers for their industry as a key league table. They published the volume of complaints per company, but it meant nothing without an X, like number of accounts, which would have enabled comparison of the rate of complaints between businesses of very different sizes.
The other valuable aspect of CPX is that it measures cost. Tracked the right way, CPX can provide insights on the drivers of costs as well as the sentiment of customers. Using effort measures such as manned contact duration as well as volumes give an even clearer indication of cost impacts. A 20% reduction in Contacts Per X will produce a proportionate cost saving as well as happier customers.
Like any macro measure, CPX raises questions that are required to be explored further to give the correct insight to drive change. Companies need to understand why CPX has fallen or risen.
Organisations need to be able to drill down into questions like:
which channels are rising or falling
what are the changes in the drivers of contact within those channels, and
is volume or duration changing and why?
Understanding the contact drivers is the subject for other papers and books (see the book The Best Service is no Service or our white papers on that topic).
We look forward to the day when companies start marketing and promoting how easy they are to deal with via CPX measurement. Wouldn’t it be great to see a campaign that says “Join XYZ bank, the easiest to deal with…” This is such a powerful measure - we hope it gets used more soon.
In this paper, we hope we have explained why CPX is such a valuable measure. We just don’t understand why more organisations don’t use it. We do recognise that it is harder than it sounds but we are happy to discuss how to put it in place and use it to make a real difference in a business. For more information email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03 9499 3550 or 0438 652 396.