Thursday, February 25, 2016

Improve the Omnichannel Experience, Reduce Customer Effort

Image courtesy of norjam8
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on October 15, 2015. 

How would your customers rate your omnichannel experience? It's probably time to make that a priority, if it isn't yet.

Customer effort is (or should be) a huge area of concern for customer experience professionals; it's major point of contention and frustration for customers. Measuring customer effort is probably one of the best ways to understand if you're delivering a great customer experience; effort is a key driver of satisfaction and of the overall experience, no doubt. If you're not asking a customer effort question on your transactional surveys, it's time to add the question; the responses will likely be eye-opening!

If you're thinking about reducing customer effort, one of the most impactful ways to do so is to take a look at your omnichannel experience. Don't confuse that with multichannel or any of the other "xx-channel" terms. There's a difference! Let's start with defining multichannel versus omnichannel.

Multichannel refers to offering or using multiple channels to interact with their customers, for purchases, support, or whatever the customer is trying to achieve with the company. Multichannel does not refer to a consistent, seamless experience across channels. The experience is not optimized across channels, and the channels are not integrated in any fashion. This can lead to a very fragmented experience for customers.

Omnichannel refers to using these multiple channels to interact with customers (or for them to engage with you) but in a consistently seamless way. The experience is consistent with each channel, and companies know who the customer is and what she's done at any previous channel with which she's  interacted with them. In other words, omnichannel is all about delivering a seamless brand experience across and with all channels. Regardless of which of those channels your customers use, they feel like they are getting the same, personalized experience; they don't have to start from scratch with each interaction. To them, you appear as one brand from channel to channel. (It sounds odd to say that, but you know there are plenty of brands out there that are very disjointed from channel to channel.)

I'm going to focus on the omnichannel experience. I think most businesses know that they've got to offer multiple channels with which customers can interact with them. But far fewer have mastered how to make the entire channel ecosystem experience effective; they haven't made it a priority to integrate the experience across all of those channels.

Why is this important?

According to research by Oracle Retail and Retail TouchPoints about the shopping experience...
Omnichannel shoppers are the most valuable. These consumers are significantly more valuable compared to single-channel: More than 45% of retail executives report that omnichannel shoppers are 11% to 50% more valuable; and close to 3% said they are up to 200% more valuable.
Three of the most significant ways that their value/profitability is measured include: frequency of shopping trips, total dollar value of purchases over time, and average basket size.  I don't think we can argue with any of those metrics when we think about the value of a customer. These types of results speak to focusing on the omnichannel experience - simplifying it and reducing the work that customers have to do when they are interacting with your company.

If you want to effect change that results in reduced effort and an improved omnichannel experience, it will take a herculean endeavor. Why? Because, first of all, by definition, it's not something that each individual department can fix or improve on its own. It's an organization-wide transformation, and it begins with executive commitment and then moves into understanding your data inputs, outputs, infrastructure, and flow.

Once the executive team is on board (resources, budget, etc.) with this transformation, there are two key next steps:
  1. Silos must be broken down. This is a culture thing. Departments need to start talking to each other, working together, and sharing data and information. Key to this is helping each department understand how they impact the customer experience, i.e., importantly, that every department touches a single experience in one way or another. The best tool to facilitate this understanding is a journey map.
  2. You must have a single view of the customer. In order for this to happen, data must be shared. In order for that to happen, your CIO must prioritize the work; without that prioritization, forget about it. The key to an improved omnichannel experience and, hence, a reduction in customer effort, is data. It must be shared across departments and channels; in order to do that, you've got to have the right architecture and infrastructure in place to capture it, centralize it, and get it into the hands of the right people at the right time in a format that makes sense and is actionable. No small feat! It has to be given top priority. Now.
The crux of the matter, the reason that the omnichannel experience breaks down, is that the business acts like it doesn't know the customer at every touchpoint. For the customer, that means that he has to "re-authenticate" at every interaction; he has to start each interaction with identifying himself, what he's trying to do, who he's already talked to, where he's been, etc. You're a customer. You know all about this. It's so frustrating. Why perpetuate this experience with your own customers.

Customers and prospects today are extremely savvy and informed. They want to browse, shop, talk, and otherwise interact with companies through a variety of channels: phone, web, in store, social media, app, mobile, web chat, and more. The bottom line is that companies need to allow customers to do so  using whatever channel is most convenient for the customer; most importantly, those channels must afford a seamless and personalized experience. Then, and only then, will you have successfully reduced customer effort in a way that is meaningful and impactful.

Are you ready?

In the future, I'll write about a channel that you may not think about when you're making the transition and the transformation from multichannel to omnichannel experiences.

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be. -Bruce Lee

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How B2B Companies Become Customer Experience Leaders

Image courtesy of Thomson Data LLC
Are you a B2B company struggling with customer experience challenges?

When I go to customer experience conferences, B2B companies are under-represented, both in attendees and speakers. When clients look for benchmark data, B2B reports are few and far between.

Those are just a few examples of why I wanted to revisit a question I posed in a post I wrote two years ago: If you work for a B2B company, is customer experience still an important focus? In short, yes.

Clearly, there are differences between B2B companies and customers and their counterparts on the B2C side. There are other differences, too: different challenges, different approaches, different personas, different stakeholders, different customers (partners vs. end-users), and different desired outcomes. The B2B customer experience proves to have its complexities. But that doesn't mean we should throw our hands up and ignore this important business type and its customers.

I think B2B companies clearly need more guidance than they've been getting about how to address the customer experience challenges and how to become customer experience leaders. It can be done! So it was interesting to see the findings of some research that Accenture published in their report, Managing the B2B Customer Experience. They've got some thought-provoking findings, starting with some of the outcomes they uncovered...
  • Only 23 percent of B2B companies achieve strong returns from their customer experience initiatives.
  • 20 percent (despite stating customer experience’s importance) generate low or even negative returns.
  • 57 percent are in the middle, idling in customer experience mediocrity. They lack a sound customer experience strategy and/or the ability to execute well.
Something's missing here. They know that: B2B companies that consistently and significantly outperform their peers stand apart by having both strong strategies and execution capabilities.

What's the strategy? And can you execute? Accenture has identified three key areas on which B2B companies need to focus:

1. Start from the back… to get to the front
Leaders don’t view service as a separate and final phase of the customer lifecycle. They combine product and service to drive outcome-based growth.


For B2B customer experience leaders, the customer service touchpoint is the most important point in the customer experience lifecycle. They also know they will need to redesign and reinvent the service and support experiences to keep up with customer expectations. Accenture notes that, for customer experience leaders, service has been repositioned as: (1) the gateway to the outcome economy, (2) a channel for proactive engagement, and (3) the new sales.

2. Over-invest in traditional
Leaders invest twice as much as their peers in offline capabilities such as contact centers, field 

service processes and tools, and legacy CRM systems.

Leaders understand that traditional, offline channels are critical. They invest double their peers in traditional post-sales capabilities, e.g., contact centers, field service processes and tools, service talent development, etc. And they believe they need to have the right people, tools, and resources to achieve their customer experience objectives.

3. Over-invest in digital
Leaders devote two-thirds of their customer experience budgets to digital. But these investments aren’t made in isolation. Digital augments physical experiences to deliver omnichannel customer experiences that customers notice and value.

B2B customer experience leaders believe their digital investments will positively affect customer interactions and translate into a competitive advantage.

Accenture wrapped up the report with some key differentiators of B2B customer experience leaders:
  • Rather than improving experiences to reduce costs or to keep up with  peers, they capture new revenue with products, services, and business models that customers notice and value. 
  • Rather than taking a broad approach to investing or allocating resources, they identify, understand, and continually improve their strengths and spend wisely.
  • Rather than waiting to be disrupted, they use customer experience to produce disruption and growth.
Definitely an interesting report. If you work for a B2B company, which of the three key areas above has your company adopted?

In the age of the customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do. -Kate Leggett


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Storytelling to Inspire Business Success

Image courtesy of Amazon
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

Ten years ago, in 2005, a group of people working in the field of knowledge management across the UK and the USA coined the phrase "narrative leadership." So was born what might appear to be another fad in the field of leadership. Plenty of books were written and conferences attended.

But once the dust had settled and HBR et al were talking about other topics, positive progress had been made. More CEOs made use of stories to communicate compelling visions. More innovative businesses brought together multidisciplinary teams to share knowledge through storytelling. One of the leading lights of this movement was a consultant by the name of Stephen Denning.

Now, a decade later - amid the buzz about big data, decision science, content marketing, and disruption - you don’t hear many people talk about narrative leadership. But a focus on storytelling is reawakening. In the early 2000s, I had the pleasure of experiencing a leadership training course that included material from Stephen, and I was captivated. The concept that humans are innately receptive to the telling of stories as a means of effective communication was self-evident around the world and in so many different cultures. It was also captivating to imagine how the dull world of working in Financial Services could be enlivened by this more holistic style of leadership.

The book I recommend you read on this topic is “The Leader's Guide to Storytelling“ by Stephen Denning. Its subtitle gives a clue to the style of this tome: “Mastering the art and discipline of business narrative.” Whilst not always an easy read, partly due to the depth of what is shared and partly to the polymath nature of the author, it is a treasury of practical advice on this challenge. It's one of those books I’ve returned to several times over the years to refine my skills and to pass on storytelling tips to customer insight analysts and leaders alike.

It is structured into three primary sections: part one explains the role of story within organisations; part two unpacks eight narrative patterns (story templates) that help with different leadership challenges; and part three covers what Stephen calls ‘putting it all together’ or the challenge of how to apply this approach.

After the encouragement of the first two chapters, to be sure you are telling the right story (true, relevant, and helpful) and telling the story right (the performance piece), the treasure chest of this book is the eight chapters that form Part Two. Using a mixture of evocative analogies and real world examples (including surprisingly short and simple stories), Stephen shares templates for stories and approaches to creating them for eight different common leadership challenges:

  • Motivating Others to Action: A positive ‘springboard’ story;
  • Building Trust in You: A turning point story;
  • Building Trust in Your Company: A brand promise in action story;
  • Transmitting Your Values: A minimalist parable;
  • Getting Others Working Together: A moving account of shared experience;
  • Sharing Knowledge: Problem solving stories with context;
  • Taming the Grapevine: Satirising the rumour mill;
  • Creating and Sharing Your Vision: A future story.
In each of these chapters, Stephen digs beneath the surface of the challenge to help leaders understand which approaches work and which do not, plus the reasons for such behaviour. He compliments this with real life examples, practitioner tips, and a template for taking the storytelling approach recommended. In that sense, this is much more than a book about storytelling; it is just as much a leadership textbook. However, true to its raison d’être, it delivers bite-sized leadership advice through the medium of stories and examples.

Although it might sound like the most-relevant chapter for Customer Insight leaders is Chapter 6 above, Sharing Knowledge, in fact all the leadership challenges above appear at different times for insight leaders and their teams. That knowledge sharing chapter is also more focused on how to convey in a more interesting way rather dry technical expert knowledge learned through experience. The most relevant of all the stories to insight leaders and the one Stephen suggests leaders master first is, in fact, the first one. Communicating insights in a positive way that motivates action in the business is perhaps their greatest challenge and one where a well-crafted story can really help.

Which brings us to the closing part of this book. Across two chapters, one focused on the challenge of how established businesses can innovate and the other on a "different kind of leader," Stephen passes on a great deal of leadership wisdom. The final chapter on being a different kind of leader is particularly inspirational and draws together numerous strands from throughout this book (our story). He advocates an interactive leadership model, one where the leader participates, connects, and communicates with different types people as peers; open to fresh ideas. If you exclude the manipulative models of leadership (from corrupt bureaucrats to spin doctors), he suggests two authentic models of leadership: the first is the traditional command and control, or Napoleonic model, of leadership; the second is an interactive model using narrative and genuine conversations or Tolstoyan leadership.

Despite being 10 years old, this book is a real gem. In today’s business world, with the challenges of content marketing, customer conversations, colleague motivation, and continual innovation – Stephen’s advice sounds more relevant than ever. I heartily recommend this treasure chest as a book for every Customer Experience and Customer Insight leader.


Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Customer Experience Herd Mentality and the Fear of Missing Out

Image courtesy of claustral
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on September 17, 2015

Are you following the herd or defining your own path to success?

In business and in life, there's this crazy notion of the herd mentality. What is it? According to Wikipedia: herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. This isn't always a bad thing (e.g., think running away from a dangerous situation), but it certainly can be, especially when it results in erroneous decisions and other negative outcomes.

In business, when you're trying to differentiate, when you're trying to win and keep customers and employees, this mentality quickly commoditizes your business/product and, well, doesn't really excite your customers or your employees. Employees can move in and out of employment from your company to your competitors, or customers can purchase your products or the next guy's - and never feel or experience a difference. Suddenly, it doesn't matter where they work or where they shop: one is the same as the next as the same as the next - and so on.

A few years ago, researchers at Leeds University did some research on herd mentality. Here's how AdSavvy reports it:

Researchers at Leeds University, led by Prof Jens Krause, performed a series of experiments where volunteers were told to randomly walk around a large hall without talking to each other. A select few were then given more detailed instructions on where to walk. The scientists discovered that people end up blindly following one or two people who appear to know where they’re going.  

The published results showed that it only takes 5% of what the scientists called “informed individuals” to influence the direction of a crowd of around 200 people. The remaining 95% follow without even realizing it.

95% will follow the 5%! Wow!

But that's not really a surprise. Think about the top 5% of companies when it comes to customer experience. Which brands are cited consistently? Which brands does everyone want to be like? Amazon, Zappos, Apple, Nordstrom, Starbucks, The Ritz-Carlton, Disney, Harley-Davidson, Nike, etc. Good for them! Bad for you! That experience works for them, for their culture and for their customers. Design your own culture and your own customer experience - based on what your employees and your customers want, respectively.

For those 95%, what happens to innovation? What happens to greatness, in general? What happens to a differentiated or delightful customer experience? That all goes away.

Seth Godin stated: You cannot be remarkable by following someone else who's remarkable.

So, why then is there a herd mentality? Those in a crowd tend to do what others are doing because, if they are doing it, then it must be worthwhile doing or they wouldn't be doing it. Right? Or the crowd might go along with what others are doing so as to not be ridiculed or mocked for not being in the know. Or it might just be the safe route to take. Or we don't know what we're supposed to do. Or we have no vision. Or we have no desire to differentiate. Or we like to go along to get along. Or we don't want to make a bad or wrong decision. Or we have a fear of missing out. Or we are risk averse.

The problem with herd mentality is that we think we know what success looks like because we base it on the industry leaders - because they must be doing something right to be leading the pack. But just because it works for one doesn't mean it works for others. Just because the Zappos culture and business model work for Zappos doesn't mean they will work for others.

How do you know you're part of the herd mentality? Consider how you'd answer the following questions.
  • Do you make decisions based on what others do?
  • Or do you always look for a better way, a better solution?
  • Are you listening to customers or just paying attention to competitors?
  • Do you have a fear of missing out on what others are doing and achieving?
  • Are you afraid to be different or to do something different?
  • Do you dwell on what your competition is doing?
  • Is your approach to designing products, services, and the customer experience fresh and innovative?
  • Or did you take the Zappos tour and decide to replicate their model? 
  • Are you looking for new and creative ways to meet customer needs or solve their problems?
How can companies stand out from the herd? Don't they want to? What will help them win the war for talent? and for customers?

Not all experiences are created equal. When you design your customer experience strategy, good guidelines to live by include:
  1. Define and communicate your brand promise
  2. Develop a culture that fits your brand and what you stand for
  3. Understand your customers: who are they? what do they buy? what problems are they trying to solve? why do or don't they buy?
  4. Define your moments of truth: think about your customer experience lifecycle and your various touchpoints and interactions
  5. Map your customers' journeys
  6. Understand the marketplace: yes, be aware of competitors and what they're doing, but don't imitate
  7. Listen to your customers and prospects
  8. Define your customer experience: innovate, get creative, add value to the marketplace
  9. Hire the right employees for your brand experience
  10. Know your vision: stick to it
  11. Know your purpose: stick to it
  12. Know your value proposition: stick to it
Imitation is the death of innovation. When imitating, there's no need for innovation, right? Last month, I wrote about four other voices to listen to in order to innovate. Listening to those four voices can not only help you drive innovation but also differentiation.

Take your inspiration from other industries, if you have to. Get motivated by what your competitors are doing, but don't dwell on them. Competition drives innovation, and vice versa. And innovation drives success, simply because it allows you and your competitors to offer a variety of products to meet your customers' needs. When that happens, the customer wins. And then you do, too.

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. -George S. Patton Jr.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who's Your Customer Experience Custodian?

Who is the customer experience custodian in your organization?

I was recently interviewed by CSS Corp for their CXpert Speak series. The customer experience custodian was just one of the topics we discussed.

As you probably know by now, I'm always happy to talk to anyone about customer experience and employee experience. So if you ask for my thoughts on these topics, I'll fill your ears, for sure!

The question topics were varied and a bit thought-provoking; the questions I answered are listed below. The interview was posted on LinkedIn, and I've noted some additional thoughts on one of the topics inline below.

1. Is Customer Experience an integral part of your strategy and consulting initiatives? In your view who should be the custodian of Customer Experience Management in any organization?

In addition to the response I gave, I would add (from my post Is Your Customer Experience the New Normal?):

Once the customer experience is ingrained in your DNA, the CCO role is no longer necessary. That's a true "what the hell is customer experience" culture.

2. What are some of the new trends you observe around Customer Experience Management strategies that are becoming critical?

3. Big data/analytics are some of the key areas of investments marketers are recommending for businesses to differentiate. Would you like to share any insights from your organization or any best practices you are observing from the CMO world?

4. What are some of the other significant trends you believe will impact customer and brand experience in the next 5 years?

5. How can technology support play a pivotal role in delivering superior customer experience? What are the other key touchpoints (other than support) to consider in order to deliver seamless customer experience to the end consumers?

To see how I answered these questions, check out the post on LinkedIn.

Customer experience is the new advertising department. -Max Kalehoff

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Who Develops Your Personas?

Image courtesy of CannedTuna
Are you using personas to help your organization better understand your customers?

I've written several posts - and shared one guest post - about the importance and the purpose of personas as part of your overall customer experience management strategy.

Personas are characters or characterizations you create to represent the various types of customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services. These personas are built based on conversations or interviews with customers and prospects. The interviews allow you to learn more about the customer: his needs, goals, behaviors, demographics, motivations, etc. Importantly, you are trying to understand what jobs they are trying to do. Each persona is described in detail based on the unique characteristics that comprise it.

Personas are actionable; once you understand who your customers are, you are better able to create and target messaging, design products and services, and deliver a more-relevant and personalized experience.

There are a couple of interesting observations I've made about personas in the last few years:
  • Many CX professionals don't know that they should be starting customer understanding and CX design with personas.
  • Not every company has developed personas.
  • For those who have, they are usually developed, owned, and used by one group.
  • Personas are created based on the buyer funnel or for the sole purpose of marketing and selling products and services.
So, I'm really curious to find out who develops, deploys, and maintains personas within your organization. Is it the marketing department, the group that heads up customer experience initiatives, individual departments on an as-needed/case-by-case basis, or someone else? Or have personas even been developed within your company?

Please take a moment to answer the poll below. I'm looking forward to getting a better understanding of where these typically reside.


Thanks for taking the time to read and to respond to the poll!

If you don't talk to your customers, how will you know how to talk to your customers? -Will Evans

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Innovators, Imitators, and Idiots

Image courtesy of Skley
Do you know about the "Three Is?" If so, which one describes your company?

I was watching an episode of Shark Tank recently when Mark Cuban said, after one of the entrepreneurs failed miserably in attempting to lure a Shark to invest in part because of a gross over-valuation: First come the innovators, then come the imitators, then come the idiots.

This quote is an abbreviated version of what Warren Buffet said to Charlie Rose in an interview about the financial meltdown of 2008:
Charlie Rose asked: “Should wise people have known better?”
Of course they should have, Buffet replied, but there’s a “natural progression” to how good new ideas go badly wrong. He called this progression the “three Is.” First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don’t and champion new ideas that create genuine value. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. Sometimes they improve on the original idea, often they tarnish it. Last come the idiots, whose avarice undermines the very innovations they are trying to exploit.  
The problem, in other words, isn’t with innovation itself — it’s with the imitation and idiocy that follow. “People don’t get smarter about things as basic as greed,” Warren Buffett warned Charlie Rose.
I totally agree with his three Is. We see this when it comes to customer experience. I've written about innovation and imitation in the past, but I haven't written about the idiots - well, not in so many words.
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble. -Samuel Johnson
Here's where I think this - the idiot/greed part - applies to the world of customer experience: (1) focusing on acquisition, and (2) focusing on maximizing shareholder value.

Focus on Acquisition
When companies focus on acquisition (over retention), it's all about more, more, more. At all costs. They might talk about a great customer experience or advertise a great customer experience, e.g., "Better than Amazon!" They've jumped on the lingo bandwagon because they've heard "customer experience" is important. Maybe they've even tried to imitate others (culture, business approach, customer focus) but have failed miserably. They do all that in hopes of attracting more customers, of growing the business. Except they fail because there's no real stuff behind their fluff. It's not based in reality. It's not based on their business, who they are, and their own culture and way of doing business.

Focus on Shareholder Value
When companies focus on maximizing shareholder value, they aren't focusing on the customer experience or making it priority #1; they're not innovating or imitating. We know the purpose of a business is to create and to nurture a customer. We need to forget about that 1970s mindset, that the purpose of a business is to maximize shareholder value. Being customer-focused and customer-centric translates to shareholder value. Focus on the customer, on creating customers, and the profits will come. It might take a little longer, but it will happen.

I love a recent Forbes article that outlines the problems with focusing on shareholder value. I think you'll be able to see very easily how this focus leads to the idiocy that moves companies far away from innovation (bold is mine):
  • pervasive short-termism;
  • diverted human and financial resources from needed investments in innovation;
  • dispirited both employees and managers, leading to pervasive disengagement
  • generated “bad profits” that undermined customer loyalty;
  • caused excessive “financialization” of the economy, making it vulnerable financial crashes;
  • incentivized CEOs to become financial engineers and companies to lose their entrepreneurial mojo;
  • led firms to pursue the extraction of value, rather than the creation of value
  • undermined the economic recovery from the Global Financial Crisis;
  • drastically reduced rates of return on assets and on invested capital;
  • appropriated gains that flowed from workers’ improvements in productivity; and
  • led to secular economic stagnation and increasingly unsustainable economic inequality.
Customers come before shareholders. Understand their needs, your own customers' needs, not your competitors'. Do your own thing. Nobody wins when you imitate. When there are clear, differentiated choices of products, services, and/or experiences in the marketplace, the decision is made easier for your customers. Bring your own unique value to the table. When customers' experiences with one company stink, they have the ability to go purchase from someone else. Let them decide.

Be at the top of the food chain! Lead the pack. Innovate. Don't imitate. And certainly don't be an idiot.

The first generation builds the business, the second makes it a success, and the third wrecks it. -(often attributed to Andrew Carnegie)


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On Being Average...

What's so special about average?

My kids used to be in a bowling league. Bowling is all about the averages. Some games are good, some are bad; if your average keeps improving or increasing, consider that progress. The score matters; and as long as the general trend is up, you're in great shape.

In bowling, inconsistencies in your performance can lead you to not even achieve your average every time you play. But the average doesn't tell you the reason behind the inconsistencies or what the issues were with your game.

That experience and the weekly focus on the average got me thinking about what's so special about averages. I have two trains of thought when it comes to this topic:
  1. the metrics angle, and
  2. the "being average is boring" angle
In some ways, they go hand in hand.

The Metrics Angle
On average, our retention rate is up 5% in the region this quarter.

That's not very helpful. Which states or cities were up? Which were down? How did different segments fare? What were the percentages by month? Which weeks were better/worse? And why?

The average temperature in Phoenix is 87 degrees.

Sounds pleasant enough, but that's not very helpful, either. I know that the temperature in Phoenix can reach the 120s in the summer; and in the winter, I know temperatures can be half of that. What are the extremes, and do I want to endure either of them?

If you're reporting your metrics (satisfaction, effort, etc.) as mean scores, they can be meaningless because they are just that, a mean or an average, i.e., an aggregation of many different ratings divided by the number of responses. The same mean can be achieved with different sets of numbers, e.g. the average of 9+9+9 is 9, but then so is the average of 10+7+10. Because of that, it's actually more meaningful to look at the distribution of ratings/responses to get a real understanding of your customers' diverse sentiments. If you report means, be sure to look at distributions (and comments), too. Otherwise, you might miss some nuggets hiding behind the mean, like, are there outliers and why?

The other thing that can happen as a result of only looking at the mean is that it often becomes just a metric, a number to chase. But as I pointed out, you can achieve that metric in many different ways. So bypassing the mean and looking at the distribution (and the verbatim explanations) allows you to take the focus off the metric and put it on the customer, again, the varying sentiments across the response base.

Perhaps these quotes help to illuminate the flaws of averages:

Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top. -John Wooden

Never cross a river that is, on average, four feet deep; you will drown. -Simon Lyons

If you have one foot on burning coals and one foot in a bucket of ice water, on average, you are comfortable. -Unknown

Averages just don't give us enough detail. About the series of individual responses that comprise them. Or about the why.

"Being Average is Boring" Angle
Nobody wants to be average. Right? Being average means that you're, well, middle of the road. Mediocre. Some brands are better; some are worse; some are average: a level that is typical of a group, class, or series; a middle point between extremes (per Merriam-Webster).

Typical. That doesn't sound unique or remarkable or memorable. It sounds, well, average.

Nobody raves about average. -Bill Quiseng

What does it take to consistently be above average? Hard work. Persistence. Listening to customers. Understanding your customers and the jobs they are trying to do. Understanding their differences, needs, and desired outcomes. Doing something unique and special for your customers that's specific and unique to your brand. Every day.

The best are just a little above average, but above average all the time. -Shep Hyken

But...

By definition, it is not possible for everyone to be above the average. -Jim Collins

We know that not everyone will land there, at that level. But wouldn't you rather be on the positive side of average than just average? Or worse, on the other side?

I am only an average man but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man. -Theodore Roosevelt