What Sonic the Hedgehog Can Teach You About Customers

Last Updated May 10, 2010 5:57 AM EDT

When I was a kid, my cousins teased me because I took too long to complete levels on Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog. He's supposed to be fast. But, you see, we had different objectives in mind: they were playing for top speed and I was collecting all the rings. None of us would have beaten the game if we'd tried to do both.

In life, business and Sonic the Hedgehog, it's best to stick to a few clear goals. Customer experience is no exception.

Customer experience is a very powerful lever for influencing profitability.

But to set an organisation-wide CE target, you need to find a measure that relates your improvements to profitability. And you need to find a single measure that the whole business can rally behind.

You have a few options:

  • Satisfaction Yawn. The advantages of targeting based on satisfaction are simplicity, clarity, and ease of correlating it to other measures. But consumers are fickle. I may tell you that I'm satisfied with my current shampoo (and I would), but I'll still buy another brand when they introduce a nice new scent. And I won't recommend it to my friends.
    I'm not an advocate for my shampoo even though I'm completely satisfied with it. I am not particularly profitable. Targeting satisfaction is so last century.
  • Algorithms based on extensive (and expensive) market research Intriguing ... but I haven't seen any that work. It's great to do a thorough round of qualitative research before you design your surveys. But when you start building an equation for advocacy, make sure that you're not overcomplicating things. My experience has been that these aggregate scores, comprised of multiple questions, just distance your stakeholders from customer perception.
    I've been to workshops where people look at the results derived from such equations. They start going in various directions because the thrust of the feedback is diluted. They'll talk about messaging rather than recognising that customers are actually saying quite clearly, "Your power supply doesn't work."
  • Net Promoter Score Popular among customer experience people, I've had periods of Net Promoter scepticism (I'm like that). My biggest criticism of the measure is that many proponents claim that it can accurately predict profitability -- but there are too many other influencers -- like how much you spend to increase your NPS score. But I've come around to NPS as an organisational objective.
    It asks one question: "On a scale from one to 10, how likely are you to recommend [this shampoo] to your friends and family?" You subtract your detractors (anyone scoring you one to six)) from your advocates (anyone awarding a nine or 10). This gives you a sense of the 'net' impact of your brand on the market -- especially when you benchmark against the competition.
    I like NPS for a few reasons: it's a single measure that people can understand, it's fairly easy to relate to other metrics, and it recognises that the ultimate object of customer experience is word of mouth. Surprisingly, it doesn't always have a 1:1 relationship with satisfaction.
  • Don't measure It Of course, you have the option to focus on none of these things and even ignore customer experience altogether. But I will say that the time I spent collecting rings as Sonic the Hedgehog meant that I had a lot more second chances than my cousins when it all went down in the final battle with Robotnik.