When meteorologists predict a hurricane, entire regions spring into action. Families stockpile flashlights, non-perishable food, and bottled water. City services and businesses activate emergency plans, and even Federal agencies like FEMA and the National Guard mobilize to distribute first aid supplies and disaster relief services.
Behind the scenes, that hurricane forecast is a miracle of measurement. Meteorologists constantly measure temperature, pressure, wind speed, and precipitation. By distilling these into simple, actionable weather reports spanning from seasonal trends to the hour of landfall for one storm, they build precision, awareness, and trust, making it easier for people to act when they receive important information.
High-quality measurement drives good choices, trust, and coordination.
CX leaders are a bit like meteorologists. By constantly measuring customer feedback, they inform company-wide decisions and actions that help keep and grow customer relationships. But to accomplish this, most have to juggle a mixed bag of imperfect metrics — response and resolution times, product usage and adoption rates, and surveys to measure loyalty, satisfaction, and effort. Gartner says that large organizations track more than 50 CX metrics — all owned and managed by different people in different parts of the organization.
It’s not easy to generate clear, actionable recommendations from all of these different metrics. According to a study by Econsultancy and Adobe, 65% of CX leaders say that better data analysis is key to improving customer experience. CX leaders need simple, consistent, intelligent metrics across all customer interactions to drive better, more customer-centric decisions. Here are some principles we’ve learned from working with some of the world’s top CX teams that you can use to examine your own measurement framework.
High-Impact Metrics Align With Goals
On one hand, it seems obvious that metrics should serve a purpose. Why bother to track data without a goal in mind? However, too many CX teams default to a convenient pattern of measuring when and where it’s convenient — surveying at the end of an interaction, summarizing logins each month, etc. Sometimes these methods align nicely with CX goals, but often CX leaders end up sifting through irrelevant metrics or poor proxies for the questions they are trying to answer.
We find it helpful to align metrics with CX goals in three categories — later in this series, we’ll discuss how to approach each of these using organic customer feedback.
- Improving Outcomes: Effort, engagement, satisfaction, retention, loyalty. Many common metrics are proxies for tracking those outcomes — Customer Effort Score surveys (“CES”) for effort, Customer Satisfaction surveys (“CSAT”) for satisfaction, Net Promoter Score surveys (“NPS”) for loyalty, and so on. But for metrics to help us improve, we need to consistently demonstrate that they are predictive of the downstream behaviors we want to encourage and avoid and discerning enough to find areas of improvement.
- Early Warnings: Some metrics are less about improvement and more about avoiding risks. When customer expectations shift or when your processes stop delivering the experience you expect, you want to know as soon as possible. In these cases, it’s important to consider the tradeoff between unbiased metrics, which identify good and bad experiences equally well, and sensitive metrics, which may generate a few false alarms in order to let nothing slip through the cracks. When the risk is losing a key account or being slow to respond to a security or PR incident, CX needs to pair highly sensitive metrics with efficient processes for evaluating each potential risk.
- Testing Hypotheses: Considering adding a feature or entering a new market? CX can bring a unique lens to important strategic decisions. We’ve written extensively about places where surveys fall short of expectations. However, this is where they shine — surveys can prompt engaged users to consider features that don’t exist yet. The trick is to balance the specificity of what you’re asking with the coverage of how many customers you can get a read on. Testing hypotheses with organic customer feedback can be a great way to complement targeted surveys.
Aligning metrics with goals can help you critique the suitability of your current metrics and find gaps that need improvement. And it can be a great way to fight a “kitchen sink” approach to measuring CX. Trim the metrics you don’t need and put effort into strengthening metrics that align with your goals.
Organic customer feedback plays a critical role in making any of these goals a reality. Metrics must reflect a representative volume of customer interactions and be consistent and context-rich enough to measure your customer experience reliably. Imagine if we tried to prepare for a hurricane by surveying people to report current wind and rain at their location instead of measuring the elements directly! The information would be late at best and inaccurate at worst — yet this is exactly what companies do when relying only on surveys to manage shifting customer expectations.
High-Impact Metrics Build Insight Across Teams
Every CX leader faces a paradox — your customers need to be understood and treated holistically, but the customer journey is bigger than any one team. As a result, the starting point for CX metrics can feel like the tale of the Blind Men and the Elephant — Support, Success, Product, Sales, and Marketing, each measuring the parts that are important to them, and then sharing a picture that’s unfamiliar to everyone else. How to piece it together?
One Customer Journey to Rule Them All? New CX leaders tasked with consolidating data across teams often make the same mistake. “If I could just get everyone into a room to agree to one unified journey map / tag taxonomy / KPI list / etc., then we’d all be speaking the same language.” Don’t do it. The conversation you’re hoping to have is full of landmines that prevent progress:
- It’s speculative. Nobody knows the perfect way to describe your customer experience in advance, so discussions get driven by personality and politics, not data and collaboration.
- It’s time-consuming. High-stakes CX discussions attract many stakeholders who can say “no”, but require consensus for “yes”. It’s easy to spend quarters getting to a compromise that leaves most teams unsure their needs are met.
- It’s fragile. Let’s say you succeed in defining metrics that help you meet today’s challenges. Tomorrow brings new challenges — as many new challenges as you have stakeholders! Metrics need perpetual iteration, so they need a lightweight process to update.
Build a Rosetta Stone, Not a Rule Book. CX leaders can have more impact as translators than as governors. Support, Success, Product, Sales, and Marketing leaders are experts at solving very different problems. Helping them understand customers holistically isn’t a question of making them think differently about the customer journey. It’s a question of getting them information from every part of the journey that supports the way they already think.
Organic customer feedback is the currency of the Rosetta Stone, and something that all CX stakeholders can get behind. There’s a good reason that verbatims from customers describing their experience in context have always been high in demand.
Metrics describing sentiment, customer effort, and internal costs are relevant to almost every team — but CX needs to align them with the journeys and decisions that each stakeholder team manages. Using Natural Language Understanding (“NLU”) to analyze organic customer feedback can play a key role in bringing data from different parts of the customer journey to every stakeholder.
High-Impact Metrics Drive Everyday Action
Once metrics are clearly aligned with goals and facilitate cross-team communication, CX should positively impact company strategy. But not all important decisions can wait for a strategic discussion.
Let’s revisit our hurricane. Forecasts based on accurate measurement help city and national agencies escalate their preparedness over the weeks and days leading into a storm. But they also help individual families stockpile supplies, protect their property, and make important decisions. It’s those millions of small-scale decisions that make the biggest difference towards a coordinated, lifesaving response.
How can CX measurement empower not just better strategic decisions, but better everyday decisions about individual customers?
In the past, measuring CX and implementing CX improvements were separate projects. Teams would meet to use insights from measurement to prioritize investments in operations. While this is still critical, our ability today to collect CX data as customer experiences unfold creates an opportunity for a much tighter feedback loop — we can use the same metrics to power both aggregate insights and seize opportunities with individual customers. Here are a few examples of how Frame AI customers do it:
- Automatically collecting verbatim feedback from social and community channels and linking them directly to roadmap initiatives, helping PMs set priorities and target interviews with reduced coordination effort.
- Packaging sentiment, effort, and themes from organic customer feedback into health scores that allow Customer Success to prioritize proactive outreach to increase satisfaction and retention for at-risk customers.
- Identifying signals of complexity in Support tickets and triggering proactive escalations to drive down both customer and agent effort.
Putting Philosophy into Practice
Cross-team initiatives powered by CX metrics have benefits that extend beyond all teams measuring and acting on the same data. They create an integrated way for CX teams to set and meet goals, consistently validate metrics, measure ROI on initiatives, and build engagement with a customer-centric culture across the company.
Imagine you work for an identity management company. Effort metrics flag a cluster of long-open cases related to webex system access. The underlying verbatims make it clear that this issue is critical for impacted customers, preventing their employees from attending remote meetings. Yikes.
The sentiment and effort metrics that drew your attention to the problem make it easy to prioritize a solution across teams. Engineering can dig into accounts flagged with similar complaints to identify the root cause and begin preparing a fix. Product and Support work together to prepare messaging around the issue and automatically suggest a relevant playbook when they identify the issue in interactions.
CX is able to chart quantitative improvements in the frequency of related complaints and the customer effort involved in addressing them, helping teams rally around a customer-centered goal. High-quality measurement was the glue that pulled many parts of the company together for an effective, speedy response.
Next: More on Measurement
We’ve shared some hopefully non-obvious principles we’ve developed while helping some of the world’s most advanced CX organizations improve on their measurement frameworks. In the following parts of this series, we’ll go deeper into how-to territory on measuring customer effort, sentiment, and themes, discussing the ways traditional, survey-based CX measurement underserves these goals — and how building a measurement framework around your organic customer feedback is the foundation of sustained CX success.