How Do You Define CX Success?

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The headline sounds like a loaded question, right? The query came from a local business executive who was apparently in the midst of some soul searching around his customer experience (CX) programs. In fact, I wondered if other executives in his company were challenging the worth of those programs.

While his question is simple, the answer is not. So how did I respond? I decided to go with what most would consider the easiest, safest, middle-of-the-road answer of all: It depends!

OK, I admit it—it comes off like a pretty weak response. But I’m standing by it. Here’s why: I believe a great deal depends on the overall strategy of your business and how the goals of your CX programs impact that strategy. Since no two companies are alike, clearly CX success depends on your company, your goals, and the approach you take to customer experience.

Still, I concede that “it depends” doesn’t provide much in the way of practical advice. So let’s go a bit deeper into three key areas.


Many companies set targets for customer satisfaction scores and Net Promoter Scores. In fact, in some cases employee bonuses are tied to these targets. Meeting or exceeding the target, however, does not necessarily equate to CX success. Scores and ratings are important measures to track, but these measures are not what make a program successful. How you use this information is what really matters.

Scores and ratings become more relevant as you get more and more specific about the distinct experiences of your customers. Measuring and improving key touchpoints—such as expediting the way orders are placed, making it easier to get help with a problem, and improving the way you customize solutions for each customer—are signs of CX success.


Probably the most universally accepted way to realize CX success is to prove that the program has had a financial impact. A common sequence is this: You gathered insights from your customers, you identified an area that needs improvement, you made a change within your company, and you tracked the results, which show an increase in revenue, a cost savings, or both. Here are a few examples from companies with which I’ve worked:

  • A large tech distributor gathered insights several months prior to renewal dates to identify at-risk customers and those poised for growth. They were able to target their efforts to save important customers and upsell effectively—which provided a big financial boost.
  • Negative feedback from contact center customers prompted an overhaul of one company’s system to make it much easier for customers to get the support they need. The transformation resulted in a more efficient system that saved the company millions of dollars.
  • A market-leading distributor responded to negative feedback from new customers who wanted more personalized service. They instituted a number of simple changes that substantially increased retention as well as the volume of their orders.

In each of these the value is clear—the companies responded to the needs of their customers and it paid off handsomely.


Naturally, it’s great when you can show undeniable evidence that your CX programs are working. But there are often so many variables that it is not crystal clear. In fact, a big part of CX success is about creating a culture where people naturally factor in customers to the decisions they make. They don’t necessarily wait for feedback from a survey to react. Instead, employees anticipate customer needs and are proactive in the way they serve customers. It is built into the way the company works—prewired into their DNA.

When there is a culture of customer success, great stories surface—someone in the contact center goes above and beyond to serve a customer; a young employee comes up with a great idea to speed up delivery; a team worked overtime to avert a problem through proactive action. These are all clear signals of CX success that may never be seen on a financial spreadsheet.

CX success truly occurs when customers are at the heart of the organization’s decisions. When this occurs, improvements are made spontaneously, problems are countered quickly, priorities are addressed routinely, processes are modified continuously, innovation is seized regularly, and employees are empowered constantly—regardless of how the numbers add up. 

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer experience consulting firm. He can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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