A while back I did some research on the Ontario Science Center (OSC) and the lessons enterprises could learn from such a leader in customer experience design. Of particular interest was measuring the ROI related to customer experience initiatives – I know a lot of our member companies use social media to improve customer experience, but how exactly do you measure it? When I interviewed Kevin von Appen, director of Daily Experience Operations at the OSC, he used a turn of phrase that really got me thinking: “the systematic gathering and analysis of anecdote.”
Collecting and analyzing customer stories – the impact you have on specific individual – is one of three approaches that I think makes sense when calculating overall ROI in a customer experience context. The other two are mission and reach. Mission is easy – most organizations have some sort of mission statement, or if they don’t, they usually at least have a CEO or a board with a well-articulated vision. Reach is also pretty straightforward: How many people to you touch? What reach does is calculate the influence of an organization or an individual. It acts as a proxy for several influence measures including: authority, frequency (how often you create the opportunity to influence consumers), independence (lack of bias in their opinion), charisma (in the case of an individual), and persuasiveness. At the OSC, the measure of reach includes both the number of people that came through the physical location and the over five million that engage with them online.
For me, impact is the most interesting measure. When assessing impact, Kevin uses the example of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Having someone like Hadfield say that going to the OSC as a child helped inspire him to be what he is today means the OSC had a strong impact on him. Most companies have at least a couple of these types of exemplary stories. But at a more pedestrian level, any organization can listen to and analyze the stories of people that come through the doors and that write online in blogs, forums, and social networks every day. There are now several companies such as Attensity, Scout Labs, Radian6, Visible Technologies, Crimson Hexagon (and many others), that have software to help analyze unstructured information like customer stories. These companies can identify basic metrics like the percentage of positive and negative sentiment, as well as provide deeper analytics about specific product and service features that lead to customers having positive and negative experiences. The end goal for those looking for quantifiable ROI numbers around customer experience is to convert all unstructured data to these types of “numeric” representations that are consistent, tracked over time, and can be charted in a dashboard. In short, the systematic gathering and analysis of anecdotes.