4 Key Elements to Creating a Successful Customer Experience Program & Becoming a CX Leader

A CX leader sitting proudly at his laptop

Here’s how to create a successful customer experience program and lead within your industry, according to Bill Staikos, Medallia’s SVP of Community Engagement.

Launching a customer experience program takes a lot of time, effort, and resources — yet it all means nothing if you haven’t drawn upon the key elements necessary to drive it forward and earn success.

Medallia focuses on helping clients successfully execute against the key elements of a customer experience (CX) program, with technology being the indispensable enabler. In the research report Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Successful Customer Experience Program published by the Medallia Institute, these key elements came to light — Signals, Insight, Engagement, and Action. Without one or all of these elements in place, it’s incredibly difficult to achieve business outcomes as a team or company as a whole.

Let’s take a closer look at how this framework of Signals, Insight, Engagement, and Action combined is used to create a successful customer experience program.

What You Need to Launch an Industry-Leading CX Program: 4 Key Elements for Success

If you’re a customer experience leader, you likely already know the top strategies and best practices. CX laggards, however, fall short with customers and lose loyalty to competitors because they don’t know what actually matters in a CX program.

But all hope is not lost. I’ll share with you exactly what’s necessary to keep customers coming back and boosting your bottom line — after all, the Medallia Institute’s research points to CX leaders being 26 times more likely than laggards to experience year-over-year revenue growth of 20% or more.

Here are the key elements you need to create an industry-leading customer experience program and how to leverage each to be successful.

#1. Signals: Practices related to customer feedback and data collection

Many companies today are still relying on surveys as the primary source of insight. Research from our report shows that CX laggards, or those performing lowest in this category, have only set up about two feedback channels to capture customer insight. What I’ve experienced is that this may be a transactional survey (such as a contact center post-call survey) and an annual relationship survey.

While these two channels are valuable sources of customer insight, the two alone are simply no longer enough to understand your customer needs and provide a robust view of your customers for leadership, product teams, marketing, and others to drive meaningful change.

Leaders in customer experience are moving beyond surveys alone and into non-traditional signals. For example, they’re turning their contact center calls into text to analyze the text for themes and sentiment; contact center agent call notes for coaching purposes and deeper insight into prevailing themes; and sales notes in a CRM. Social media posts and emails can also be key signals to understand what is happening with the customer. Additionally, given today’s technology capabilities, data that provides real-time insight into the customer, such as operational and financial data, is also being leveraged.

This unstructured and structured data can be aggregated, ideally into one platform, for analysis. Synchronizing data across internal systems to generate more meaningful, in-depth insights is a sign of advanced customer experience maturity. Connect with and partner with whomever owns your data capabilities to get started here. Engaging your IT partners can then help you centralize data into your customer experience management platform for deeper, integrated insights that can be shared across your business.

#2. Insight: Practices related to analytics and measurement

When I am assessing CX performance, how companies invest in their customer tech stack has always been a key marker of success. Core capabilities such as capturing signals (such as via a voice of customer platform), analyzing different signals (such as text analytics on call transcripts or social media posts), and workflow (closing the loop) are critical investments relative to more traditional investments like CRM. I also see more advanced capabilities such as journey analytics, journey orchestration, and real-time interaction management for very advanced CX programs; however, I expect this technology to be ubiquitous in the next two years.

No modern customer experience team can be successful without a customer feedback management or voice of the customer system in place, with the ability to close the loop with the customer, at a minimum. Businesses are too complex and the market is changing too quickly to not invest here. If it didn’t already exist, this was always the first investment I would make with my team. Having persistent feedback, with the ability to close the loop, is key to any successful customer experience program, and helps you lay the foundation for the culture change teams should be driving further along the maturity curve.

The focus on investment in these capabilities has to start from the top. Medallia’s own research shows that CX leaders plan to invest 2 to 3 times more than CX laggards will in their customer-related technology. Engaging your C-suite with a business case for investment as early as possible is key here. While many technology providers have the capacity to support your efforts, only you have access to all of the data to make the case for investment.  

Partner with your finance team to identify customer efficiency and revenue opportunities across your business. Efficiencies can be in the contact center, in the sales organization, or in the digital experience delivered. Revenue opportunities can also be identified in these areas, and can also help you further bolster your business case.

#3. Engagement: Practices related to leadership, data sharing, and work routines

Once your business case is approved, put a governance program in place before the technology is up and running. Bring together leaders from your business partner teams monthly to discuss progress of the technology implementation, business needs with respect to the technology, and triage any potential obstacles to going live on the platform. Once the technology does go live, you’ve already built muscle memory around governance into the business; now you can switch from a technology focus to an insights and action focus.

For executives, the governance program you’ve set up should be the primary forum where you are sharing insights and changes to the experience (positive or negative). You should also leverage the technology to give direct access to executives across your organization. Medallia, for example, has an app where executives can access insights specific to their business. They can even send messages directly to people in their organization as kudos for a job well done, or if there is an opportunity to fix something.

You should also be meeting with your finance team to ensure that the business case you set out to achieve through the new technology is being realized. Setting up a consistent process to track, analyze, and report on results being driven by the technology you’ve put into place is critical.

#4. Action: Practices related to ownership, responsiveness, and innovation

For employees, democratizing insights to operators that know how to drive change across the organization, including closing the loop directly with the customers, is a key differentiator between CX leaders and laggards. By having the technology in the hands of the front line, so they know what’s happening with the customer and when, has lasting impact and can be a catalyst for creating a culture that is customer-led.

One of the biggest differences I see between CX leaders and laggards is the former embedding persistent feedback into the hands of product teams, and integrating their CX tech stack with product workflow capabilities. Specifically, by giving product teams access to ongoing insights, they can develop better user stories, can prioritize their backlog more effectively, and can track performance of their actions against the customer.

In fact, Medallia’s research shows that nearly 60% of CX leaders are using customer feedback for product innovation compared to only 15% of CX laggards. Embedding insights into product teams supports product management and innovation, driving real business outcomes based on customer needs.

CX Leaders Earn Results Using Signals, Insight, Engagement & Action

Over my 20-plus years in customer and employee experience, I consistently used Signals, Insight, Engagement, and Action as a framework to execute. It held true whether my team and I were setting up new CX programs, managing existing CX programs, or recovering CX programs not having the impact partners needed. Each time, these key elements helped organize the business, our internal actions, and internal and external communications, and made it easy to draw a straight line from signals to business, employee, and customer impact.

Leverage this framework to lead and manage a successful customer experience program, including putting the technology in place that facilitates the effective delivery of the outcomes discussed above. Watch as customers stay with your brand longer since they’re happier, financial targets are met and exceeded frequently, and employee satisfaction increases and leads to less turnover.

Discover all the differences between CX leaders and laggards in our report, Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Successful Customer Experience Program.