To lag or lead? That is the question...

Andrew S - 11 th December 2015

Back in the year 2000, I had a conversation with a chum who was a black belt business transformation consultant versed in total quality management, 6 sigma and most importantly the ways of Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard.

It became apparent to both of us that here was an approach that, if used intelligently, could help align the lead and lag indicators along a customer’s and staffs’ experience of any brand. By using the right indicators, aligned to the business’s ambition for its brand we saw the need to develop a way of helping the internal teams, from the C-Suite to the front line, see how to improve the customer experience and keep the brand central in that experience.

I recalled a piece of tracking work we ran for a client, in the late 1990’s, in which we benchmarked M&S’s customer service against their own. It revealed an extraordinary decline in customer satisfaction which subsequently proved to be a lag indicator that identified its decline. As we dug deeper into the issue we found a serious issue with the customer facing staff and their low morale and disengagement with the brand, we had discovered a real lead indicator directly aligned, we felt, to the decline of customer satisfaction.

My friend pointed out to me that whilst these  “people focused”  lead and lag indicators were important, they were but nothing without processes that performed well (lead) which were good indicators that the business was cost effective (lag). The two combined would be the start of what is now The Brand Alignment Monitor.

So began our journey to help businesses align predictive indicators (lead) and outcome measurement (lag) to the brand they and their people are trying to put right at the heart of the customer experience.

So what have we learnt over the past 15 years that might help you align our measures?

  1. Having balance in our measurement is critical to ensure you look at the impact of improvement across the whole customer experience. If our improvement becomes too internalised and siloed you will have forgotten the customer. Have a chat to M&S about that one, they lost it in the late 1990’s and have never got it back!

  2. Spend your energy on getting the metrics right, so that they not only inform the C-Suite but help the front of house see what needs to be done and how it can be improved.

  3. Make sure the whole business is engaged in and aligned to the development process. If you believe, as we do, that everyone is a brand builder or destroyer then they all have to be involved in getting the right approach and measurement.

  4. Work with the grain of the business, using the key MI it has and only develop new measures when you are absolutely sure you need to. This way the outcomes can be framed in the way the business measures itself rather than an outsider’s view, which can always be dismissed.

  5. When the measurement process is up and running face the brutal truth of what you see. If you have chosen the right lead and lag indicators you will see the cause and effect influences on the customer experience.

It is true that “what gets measured gets done”, so a clear view of the lead and lag indicators should be at the core of aligning the brand throughout the customer experience by removing the guess work we all too often see and getting all the brand builders of the business on the same page.

So the answer to my question in the headline is of course………… both!

Andrew is the CEO and the other founding partner of Brand Vista. With over 30 years of brand experience both on the client and agency side, what gets him up every morning is a passion for helping clients grow through building genuinely differentiated brands that deliver a customer experience that becomes irresistible.
Find out more about Andrew S