Perfection, excellence, best-in-class, greatness, and whatever other words you use to describe your company’s standards for stakeholder caring have three things in common; namely, consistency, achievement, and choice. Consistency is the predictability of the experience provided, while achievement has to do with the level of the experience. It’s in this way that the excellence delivered by McDonald’s and Ritz Carlton are comparable.
Choice is the third component of excellence. It reflects a conscious decision to have integrity; that is, to say what your company will do for its stakeholders and then to do it—no excuses ever. In this sense, excellence is an issue of setting stakeholder expectations and the commitment to meet them. From this perspective, the most important role of enterprise leaders is to ensure their promises to stakeholders are kept. Period.
Excellence by the Numbers
Enterprise leaders most often look to measurement to assess integrity as it answers the question of “How well are we keeping our stakeholder promises?” Assuming that your enterprise chooses excellence and that it uses reliable and relevant metrics, how do you know you’re achieving excellence? That is, if excellence is keeping your promises—no excuses ever—then anything less than perfect promise-keeping amounts to a compromise of your integrity. The solution is TopBox®. Simply put, the term TopBox reflects the highest possible, or most desirable, response to any question about the quality of a stakeholder’s experience and reflects excellence in the form of perfect promise keeping.
Tactically, your percent TopBox is the proportion of survey participants responding with the highest possible or most positive response available to them. Suppose you sell shoes and have a sense of humor, measurement-wise. In that case you might ask your customers the following question about their buying experience: “Based on today’s experience, how likely are you to buy from us again?” You capture the customer experience by asking them to “mark the box” that best reflects their shopping experience. It might look something like this:
In this scale, “6” represents TopBox where TopBox percent refers to the number of “6s” (“I will sing your praises from the roof tops.”) given compared to all other responses (i.e., five, four, three, two, or one). If 45 out of 100 customers responded with a “6” to this survey item, the corresponding TopBox percent is 45.
Why the fuss about TopBox? Why is achieving TopBox with your customers or other stakeholders so important? First, your excellence and duty as a leader hinges on your promise to sustain your company’s integrity. Second, as will be seen, doing so is money in the bank.
Seminal research conducted by the Xerox Corporation in the 1980’s discovered that having “satisfied” customers was no guarantee of success. In fact, Xerox discovered that “satisfied” customers (5 on a six-point satisfaction scale) were six times less likely to continue doing business with the company than “completely satisfied” customers (6 on a six-point satisfaction scale). This study led to many more that validated its finding.
Other researchers discovered that “completely satisfied” customers are 42 percent more likely to repurchase than “satisfied” customers. That’s no small finding as these actively loyal customers (i.e., customers that go out of their way to buy from you) account for most of a company’s sales and profit. This means that one of the least expensive and most effective ways to build sales is to turn “satisfied” customers into “completely satisfied” customers; that is, TopBox their experience. By so doing, a company can increase revenues up to 85% by retaining its most loyal customers.
Our own research strongly supports these findings. For example, 79% of the customers of a restaurant company we surveyed who responded with a “6” on a six-point scale to the item “I am satisfied with my dining experience today,” strongly agreed that they would highly recommend the restaurant to their friends and family. In contrast, only 27% of the customers responding with a “5” to the same item, a response of “Agree,” indicated that they would highly recommend the restaurant. The significance of these findings is clear: Customer enthusiasm for recommending a company is the most important indicator of customer loyalty.
TopBox methodology is appropriate in the employee context as well. Research conducted by Corvirtus showed that 80% of employees who responded with TopBox to the item “Employees are committed to excellence here” would strongly recommend the company to their friends and family as a place to work. On the other hand, only 42% of employees who responded with a “5” to the same item indicated that they would make similar recommendations.
These eye-catching results are not unusual. In fact, they are the norm when it comes to demonstrating the value of excellence. Thus, focusing on the achievement of TopBox results reflects an enterprise’s insistence upon excellence and says with equal clarity that second place is not an option. Achieving excellence is indeed a choice and commitment to integrity.
Measuring how well you’re keeping your promises as a leader starts with knowing the promises you’re making for each of your stakeholders and the metrics you expect to achieve. Our “Egg Model” can help you determine how keeping your promises by consistently delivering valued employee and customer experiences can help you achieve everything from low turnover to active customer loyalty.
 DeCotiis, T. & Hyatt, D. (2003). Excellence is a choice: It starts with earning loyalty. Executive Excellence, July, pp 3-4.
 Jones, T.O. & Sasser, Jr., E.W. (1995). Why satisfied customers defect. Harvard Business Review, November-December.
 Millet, G. W. and Millet B. W. (2001). Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences: The Art and Science of Customer Experience Mapping. Customer Experience Inc.
 Reichheld, F. F. (2003). The one number you need. Harvard Business Review, December.