Do you find the title of this article shocking? Don't. In 25 years of arm-twisting corporations to focus on customers, what I've seen from many, if not most, is that the score is the end game. First it was garnering a great "satisfaction" score, then one for "loyalty," followed by "experience." And recently, "Would you recommend?" has become the holy grail of customer measurement.

Is your commitment to customers real—or a jockeying for position on the latest customer scoreboard?

The target keeps changing names—but the game's the same. The name of the game should be "giving customers a memory and experience so great that they'll want to repeat it." But, sadly, the game is all about getting that score—that darned customer score—any way possible.

Whereas talking to customers and really listening to what they have to say and taking action on it is what's really the powerful stuff. Later on in this article, proven ways to make this happen—but first, a recap of what happens today.

Let the begging begin

Companies have spent more time chasing the elusive "score" than doing anything, different for customers. And here's why: It's the score that's on the scorecards. It's the score that's tied to people's compensation, and it's the score that determines whether people get that bonus to pay for little Johnny's braces or that trip to Disneyland or sorely needed funds to subsidize college tuition.

So when the score gets tied to peoples' compensation—they'll make sure the customer treatment that it's measuring will improve, right? Well, maybe. But they will, for sure, do everything they can to make sure they get a good score. Often it's the score and how to get a better one that's focused on more than customers or their treatment.

And here's the kicker: Companies are actually ticking off customers in the process of collecting that survey score. You know the drill. Here's how my most recent survey experience went, complete with a healthy bit of gaming in the quest to garner the best score possible: "Hello, we're calling from XYZ auto dealership where Mr. Bliss recently had his car serviced. Is Mr. Bliss in?" I tell them no, he is not. "Well, do you know how his last visit to our service shop went?" "Yes, I know a little bit about it," says I.

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image of Jeanne Bliss
Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS (, a consulting and coaching company, and the author of Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action.