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What It Takes to Make CX Measures Stick

We’ve all heard the adage, “What gets measured, gets done.” It’s true – we are naturally inclined to act when we reap measurable returns. But somehow, when it comes to customer experience (CX), inspiring motivation can be trickier- even though the results are apparent. 

All too often, our focus is on a CX metric – such as NPS® or Customer Satisfaction – that a core team championed as the key to success. Or it may revolve around a business metric that the executives care about most, such as customer churn or increased sales. Sometimes it’s the result of a workshop focused on answering the question “How do we define success?”, which often turns into a battle of perspectives among various stakeholders within the company.

The crux of the problem is that CX teams typically center their energy around defining a North Star to which everyone is subsequently held accountable. To feel success in a way that will motivate employees, they will need much more than a single focal point as their goal.   

I see three challenges with a North Star obsession: 

1. The Sugar Rush Effect

Setting a goal is easy. For some, it may entail benchmarking on internal or external comparators; for others, it may be a more robust algorithm. At the end of it, once you establish and attain a goal, the work is done. 

But what happens once you reach the goal? How do you motivate the teams to do it again? What will stimulate you to achieve greater success?

A goal-centric focus mimics the effects of a sugar rush. The anticipation, and then the feeling of joy when you indulge in a big chocolate chip cookie is gratifying. What follows, however, is a sugar crash and an energy drop. 

Similarly, chasing and achieving a CX goal can be energizing at first, but demoralizing shortly thereafter. Emphasis on accomplishing a single purpose or metric only creates a point-in-time reward. Ultimately, it can generate motivational challenges and feelings of failure, rather than the stickiness needed to change momentum. 

There has to be an ongoing plan that lives on long after your team begins to accomplish its goals if you want to keep the energy flowing. Without a plan, they’ll be liable to “crash” after their initial success.

What we’ve learned about measuring the success of a CX program is that it requires realistic goals and a series of incremental milestones to build internal stamina and stickiness.

2. The Boomerang Effect

The desire to stimulate immediate change, or to create a new CX precedent, leads to another issue with establishing a North Star target: setting the bar too high. Discussions may include statements such as: “If we don’t aim high enough, then we’re merely improving – not innovating,” or “We need to aim high to move the needle.” While they are inspirational, these seismic shifts are often more overwhelming and discouraging for those charged with achieving them.

Change is not easy, and it takes time. If you push an agenda that seems larger than life, it can create a boomerang effect. Your team might take a few steps forward, but they’ll regress when they feel they can’t live up to their higher-ups’ expectations. What we’ve learned about measuring the success of a CX program is that it requires realistic goals and a series of incremental milestones to build internal stamina and stickiness. 

3. Surround Sound Effect

Once achievable goals are established, the challenging part is to create sustainable change. People often set the right goals in the wrong environment – the surrounding systems and processes are too antiquated, or they act as roadblocks to achieving those goals. 

Imagine setting a goal to lose 50 pounds while keeping your kitchen stocked with junk food that screams, “eat me!” The purpose of establishing the goal is to have a plan, but creating the right environment is what ultimately helps you execute that plan and achieve your goal. 

Creating a supportive environment requires people to be vested, to put in the time and effort, and to take the necessary actions to make progress. It involves switching internal processes like team structures, project prioritization, resource allocation, and reward systems. It also entails doing new things, changing inherent behaviors, influencing people’s perspectives, working across departments, wearing multiple hats, and making tough decisions. 

Breaking the status quo of existing operations is complicated and takes time. But investing in a healthy “surround sound system” – people and process enablers that can be measured and improved over time – will encourage commitment to a cycle of long-lasting change. 

So, What Does it Take?

Here is a simple three-pronged framework to systematically measure CX with long term sustainability: 

  1. Commitment (People-focused): Establish a set of measures focused on assessing who, how, and how often people are engaging – or should engage – in the journey towards change. The idea here is to identify, track, and reinforce specific behaviors that are necessary to achieve your CX goals. Monitor activities such as the number of people reading customer comments, the number of executives sharing customer stories, the number of leaders speaking with customers, the number of back-office stakeholders driving CX initiatives, or the number of people closing the loop with customers. 
  2. Momentum (Process-focused): Define specific processes that collectively create a system of continuous change and positive energy to achieve your CX goals. The number of quick fixes identified, amount of pain points reduced, the efficiency of CX action-planning processes, and the effectiveness of support tools such as training, coaching, recognition, etc.
  3. Results (Outcome-focused): Once the path is defined, with a supportive environment in place, the final results will feel more achievable. This approach should encompass the key metrics that align to business outcomes such as reduced churn or increased sales, as well as CX outcomes like NPS. There is also value in quantifying the financial linkage of the CX program to understand where to focus on moving ahead and how to benchmark requests for future investments.

Implementing Change

Once you’ve identified the behaviors and processes that affect CX success, create alignment between what people need to do, and which processes are critical to achieve each CX outcome. Create a metric system that will highlight improvement for a wide array of categories. Make sure that each milestone is within reach of the previous one.

Next, work on ensuring that your environment encourages motivation. Do your employees have the tools they need at their disposal? Do they know where to go for support on improving their performance? Do you have a recognition system in place for specific behaviors vs. scores? Are your processes helping or hindering the actions and outcomes expected? Always ask yourself these questions – the answers will guide you towards creating an environment that will limit stagnation and encourage motivation.

Conclusion

Measuring CX can feel like a daunting task. Creating a holistic measurement framework will alleviate concerns and prevent the common pitfalls to achieving success. Establishing realistic goals creates a tangible destination, and defining a path to get there in incremental steps creates momentum. Finally, building a healthy ecosystem to remove obstacles and maintain commitment establishes a foundation of lasting change. And that’s what it takes to make CX measurement stick.


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