Improve Your Customers’ Lives, Then Earn the Score

In my Daily Dose video series, I explore the topics that chief customer officers must grapple with on a daily basis. Join me as I discuss what I’ve learned over the course of my 35-year career so that you can more effectively do the work that needs to be done.

Today’s video is an excerpt from my online course, inspired by my book, Would You Do That To Your Mother? Click here to learn more about the course and enroll. 

The following is a lightly edited transcript of the video below.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, surveys began for the pure and simple reason to improve customers’ lives. Then, in an effort to motivate performance, people started getting paid for the score. And then the begging began.

When did, “Would you give me a 10?” become part of our lives as customers? Many point to the automotive industry as the beginning of this survey score culture. One of the first verticals to stack rank brands by survey score, automakers started sending out surveys to car owners and asking how dealers did with sales or service.

They footed the bill for the survey so they could use and see that performance of dealers. And then, they attached the achievement of rewards, car allocation, and bonuses based on survey performance. “Yes, we value your opinion, but we want a 10. So, please, just don’t fill out our survey unless you can give us that 10”. Would you do that to your mother? But yet, around the world, that survey score has become the end game.

Stop Begging For Survey Scores and Get Real, Authentic Feedback

These actions to start customer surveys and attach them to employee bonus and compensation were well-intentioned, but something weird happens when people’s ability to pay for their kid’s braces or put a new roof on their house is the delta, or the difference in their bonus, based on getting a 7 versus a 10 as their service rating.

Now, nearly every type of industry takes surveys. Hotels, hospitals, insurance companies, pet stores, airlines, you name it. A friend of mine recently actually received a survey to rate the experience of her mammogram on a scale of 0 to 10. Yikes! Would you invite your Mom to dinner and then ask her to rate your meal?

In one of my Chief Customer Officer roles, as I was getting acclimated with the company, I saw huge rolls of gold foil stickers with, “Give us a 10!” on them. And, in a very unpopular act at the time, I tossed them all away. It turned out to be the right approach because once we stopped begging for scores, we began to get real and authentic feedback that helped the company improve. When we changed the question from, “Tell us why you can’t give us a 10” to “Tell us how we can help your life,” the purpose of the feedback shifted and we could finally use it to make advances.

Improve the Life, Then Earn the Score

The opportunity to improve customers’ lives and receiving their honest and fearless feedback should be a gift, but we’ve injected fear into the process by paying for top scores and stack ranking performers in an attempt to get them to rise to their competitors. Unfortunately, in all of this score chasing, we’ve missed the opportunity to guide the culture of a company toward the improvement of customers’ lives. And it is bugging customers and turning them away from us.

The begging is also reducing people’s affinity to go through the work of answering your survey. In fact, “Please give me top scores” is the fourth most annoying interaction customers have with companies, according to the Dialog Direct Customer Rage Study.

Improve the life, then earn the score. Instead of starting with the score, I encourage you to start with the story of customers’ lives. Find out what’s really getting better for your customers as you adjust and improve the experiences that they’re having with your company.

Find out what's really getting better for your customers as you adjust and improve the experiences that they're having with your company. #CustomerExperience #CX Share on X

Inspire and Motivate Your Frontline to Improve Customers’ Lives

What’s more, start real conversations within your organization. What stories are they telling about their customers’ experiences? Are they raving and paying attention to the experiences you deliver? Your goal is to find real, operational performance in both individuals and teams, that earn their score, and then compensate them on those actions that prove they have the customers’ best interest in mind.

When you can release the frontline from the directive of chasing a score and instead, inspire and motivate them to take actions that are proven to improving customers’ lives, their roles are elevated. With that switch, the storytelling in the company changes to be more human, more about the customer life. And paradoxically, that direction and leadership language and guidance, in the long run, will improve your scores for the right reasons and not because you begged for them.


How do we cut through the rigmarole of business to give customers the treatment they desire, and employees the ability to deliver it?

In her latest book, customer experience expert Jeanne Bliss recommends making business personal to get the traction you need by focusing on one deceptively simple question: “Would you do that to your mother?”

Learn More

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