Health scores are guides, not grades

  • 8 August 2022
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At one of my prior companies, before the magic of automated health scoring, I asked the CSMs on my team to manually input and track customer health in our CRM. We prescribed ranges and color coding to keep things as simple as possible.

What do you think happened?

Miraculously, almost all of our customers displayed as if they were in great health. Our health score column was a flood of green, high, renewable scores.

Aaand we watched some of these green, healthy customers churn.

Of course, this high health across the board was an illusion. Not only were our team members coming from various subjective perspectives, they were also worried that highlighting at-risk customers would reflect poorly on them. So red customers were marked yellow, yellow customers green. 

In a society where we’ve been socialized by report cards from a young age, this makes perfect sense: seeing the health of one’s complex customer boiled down to a single number can feel like a reflection on one’s work in a customer-facing role, when, really, there are so many other factors impacting health.

My team was able to turn this around over time through education. We communicated in as many ways as possible that the impetus for health scoring was risk-identification, prioritization, and the ability to proactively take the right action to help the customer be successful; it was not a way to judge CSM performance.

And while an AI-rendered health score eliminates biases and gamification, it does not solve the problem of mindset. It is still incumbent on us as leaders to use health scores in a constructive and forward-looking way. Tying health scores to compensation or performance evaluations reinforces the idea that customer-facing teams are entirely responsible for health which a) simply isn’t true, and b) causes stress and low morale for teams trying to impact factors largely out of their control (such as a product enhancement that gets pushed to another quarter or to an acquisition the customer is going through). Rather, we need to help our teams see health scores as a means to take the right actions, at the right time to help customers succeed.

How does your company think about health scores? Are they grades, or guides? What are your thoughts on how we can let data-driven health scores tell a story, not make a judgment?

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