A New Business Metric: Is It Worth It? – Forbes

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Gathering much-needed insights through traditional customer feedback channels such as generic surveys and customer focus groups can often feel like we’re seeking customer opinions through antiquated pen-and-paper methods. And while those have never been a great customer experience, many companies keep pushing the old feedback experiences, just in new packaging.

When you’ve been in the business of serving customers for decades like I have, you start noticing the gaps in your understanding of customer experience. You want to hear from your customers, and the reverse is equally true: customers want to know they’re being heard.

But with traditional research, once the questions are ticked off, the survey is submitted or the focus group ends, that’s it. Customer-company conversation: TERMINATED.

We all know that both companies and customers deserve better than that. I was recently interviewed by Mary Drumond, a fellow podcast host and CMO of Worthix, a company that specializes in creating conversations, rather than using old-fashioned surveys. She shared with me some of the ways they’re creating technology to bridge this customer-company divide.

By using an AI they call LUCI (which stands for Listen, Understand, Converse, Improve), Worthix gives companies a way to gather customer-led feedback as if they were having an empathetic, one-on-one conversation with each and every customer. Empowering customers to lead the conversation is the gateway to precisely the kind of unbiased, unfiltered insights that companies have been looking for.

But their secret weapon, and the inspiration for their tech, was to start by asking a simple question: What makes a company “worth it?” In other words, how do customers make their purchase decisions, and what are the key drivers behind those decisions?

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Think about it. How many times do you find yourself answering this question every day? Five? Ten? Maybe more? It applies to both large and small decisions, whether you’re buying a $5 burrito or a $500,000 dollar piece of medical equipment. The moment of the decision remains the same, it’s either worth it, or it’s not.

That was the “a-ha” moment—no other methodology specifically tracked the moment of the decision. It brought a novel perspective to customers’ thought processes.

Most golden-age metrics end up simply recording history or conducting a routine conformity check: How WAS your purchase? What WAS your reason for shopping with us today? WERE you satisfied with your experience? WAS there anything we could have done better? And of course, many also ask about the future. How likely ARE you to recommend us?

I still believe all of those metrics are important. Those “history lessons” can help you know what needs to be fixed and what is working. Fix what needs to be fixed and reinforce what’s right, and you continue to create and improve the customer experience.

But, even if your survey results are excellent, that’s not a guarantee of future performance. Remember Blackberry? Its NPS and CSAT score indices were peaking in 2009. If you were only judging by those scores, things appeared to be great. But around the same time, they were bleeding out, losing market share in waves to Apple. The confounding problem was that people liked Blackberry … but in a market where the iPhone now existed, it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

And the folks at Blackberry were no slouches. They knew they were losing the battle for the market, but they didn’t have a good way to understand why. Or if they did, it certainly wasn’t fast enough. The rest is history.

But now, this new take on customer feedback offers companies a novel way to understand customers’ expectations and perceptions as the market changes, at speed and scale.

Here’s how it works:

The “worth it” question gets right to the core of the “why” behind the buy. By the time customers have said “yes, it’s worth it”, they’ve already made up their mind to exchange money for goods and services. Meaning, it’s a strong indicator of the actual purchase behavior, rather than just purchase intent.

LUCI can take it a step further, automatically adapting her line of questioning to how the customer is responding. With each question, the conversation naturally encourages customers to dive deeper into the specific experiences that pushed them to make their decision, whether they initially said “yes, it’s worth it” or “no, it’s not”. The AI has the capability to do all this with thousands, even millions of customers at once.

And in keeping with their values of keeping up with change, they’re expanding on these capabilities all the time. For example, they can now quantify something that until recently was widely considered an intangible: social proof, or the act of turning to peers to validate one’s choices. Have you ever been able to put a number to that feeling?

Drumond gets excited as she talks about the Worthix solution. “At the core of why the methodology works, is that it’s doing something that companies have never thought was possible—achieving customer empathy at scale.”

Customer perceptions never stop evolving, and it’s crucial for empathy to evolve alongside them to stay ahead of the market. Companies that can embrace those changes will be able to unlock customer insights at a level they couldn’t dream of just a few years ago.