Why is it so hard to measure customer engagement?

I recently ran a workshop on customer experience at StartUpLisboa with a bunch of cool customer-centric start-ups.  Amongst the topics we drilled down into, both during and after the session was customer engagement – what it means, how to increase or at least sustain it, and how to measure it.  I know I’m not the only one out there who is seeking the holy grail of customer experience – a single metric that shows the level of engagement reached across the customer base.  There’s providers who claim to deliver such a mystical metric, but I’ve yet to be convinced.  In today’s post, I’ll share my own observations on why I don’t think§ the holy grail has yet been reached, and suggest how we might create the metric that would allow us to track the level of engagement amongst our customers. So firstly, here’s two things to consider.

Engagement is not binary: It’s tempting to label a customer as “engaged” or “not engaged”.  This really doesn’t reflect reality.  At every stage of your customer experience, “WHAT” they do, and “HOW” they feel can often vary – customers may progress through stages, but that does not prove engagement.  Instead, look to reflect different levels of engagement in your metrics.

Engagement scoring is dynamic: Customer Health Scoring (CHS) is a great example of a really important score that can change constantly.  Internal and external factors affect us as human beings, driving different behaviours to similar scenarios.  You can’t roll up al those emotional touch points into a single score just to satisfy your management team.  Instead focus on the trends and patterns up and down.

Now here’s three suggestions to build your engagement score:

It’s not simple: It’s really unlikely that your customer experience is so simple that there is a single measure that tracks the “WHAT” and “HOW” across the customer journey.  Before purchase behaviour and patterns could not possibly be the same as consuming the product or service, so stop trying to force fit one measure to work! Instead, acknowledge that each stage may require its own set of measures.

It’s a scale, rather than a number: In my head, I imagine the perfect engagement model to look like a graphic equaliser.  As you move along the stages of the customer journey, the level of engagement (i.e. the amount of people at different levels of engagement) will vary.  Of course, drill down into the detail, but avoid engagement being linked to a number.  Instead, create a visual the journey that your customer travel with you, and how engaged they are on this journey.

The model is iterative: The biggest challenge I face as a customer experience practitioner is that when colleagues “get” customer experience, they expect a fully fledged model to be in place overnight.  Unless you have a magic wand, or unlimited budgets, building your customer journey, and the engagement model to drive greater success for customer will take lots of time and effort.  But don’t wait until everything is perfect before launching your engagement model. Instead, launch a model as soon as you have enough date points, and build it out over time.

When I first started out, I wanted to go from A to Z in one leap, deliver an engagement score via one number and focus on keep it up – but that just doesn’t work.  Anyone telling you that such a complicated topic can be distilled down to a single number is missing the point.  Instead of trying to make it so simple, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, digest your customer experience and start to build you engagement scoring model from scratch!

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