X-Data + O-Data = Better Customer Journeys

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Imagine one day you head to the office knowing that you will attend your child’s baseball game later that day. Being a smart planner, you check the weather so you know what jacket to bring. It’s going to be about 58 degrees, so you grab a light jacket and look forward to watching spirited children playing the game they love while you enjoy the mild temperatures in the warmth of the sun. Instead, there is a light but steady rain—enough to get soaked, but not hard enough to postpone the game. Also, there is a wind blowing in from the outfield directly into the bleachers where you sit. Yes, it’s 58 degrees. But not exactly the weather you expected. At this point you are honestly hoping for a far-off bolt of lightning so that the umpires call off the game.

Most of us would not use just one metric to guide our decisions about the weather. And we shouldn’t do it in business either.


Today there is a lot of buzz about experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data). Specifically, it is about combining the right X-data and O-data to make better decisions about your customers. Let’s consider five common customer journey phases that apply to most businesses. With the help of some colleagues, I assembled a list of common operational data and experience data at each of these five stages.

  • Presale:The beginning of the journey, where future customers search for solutions and engage with sales professionals. O-data includes awareness data, brand recognition, SEO rankings, and lead tracking. X-data includes online experience ratings, web intercept comments, and lost-deal feedback.
  • Start:When customers commit to doing business and where installation, onboarding, and/or orientation take place. O-data includes close rates, installation quality metrics, and start time metrics. X-data includes new customer feedback and evaluation of installation, onboarding, delivery, and activation.
  • Use: The longest and most diverse stage, when customers use your product, service, or solution. Examples of O-data include usage data, financial metrics, competitive insights, add-ons, attach rates, and defects/warranty claims. X-data examples include relationship feedback, focus groups, advisory boards, interviews, and product feedback on topics of quality, reliability, and ease of use.
  • Support:The stage when customers need help and reach out via phone, chat, social media, or any other method. O-data sources include contact center metrics, quality metrics, process efficiency ratings, first-call resolution, callbacks, and transfers/handoffs. X-data sources could be transaction feedback, call recordings, complaint systems, site intercept metrics, chatbots, or a customer effort score.
  • Repurchase: The stage where customers decide whether to renew contracts and/or choose you again. O-data examples include retention rates and spending trends; X-data examples include closed-loop feedback, voice of the employee, customer interviews, and loyalty metrics.

This list captured 41 different metrics, and it hardly scratches the surface. Hundreds more are out there.


If not, you’re not alone. As a non-scientific experiment, I asked more than 70 CX leaders to grade how well their companies gather and combine experience data and operational data for decision making. Some findings:

  • Nobody has perfected this: Every CX leader struggles at getting the right data at one or more of the stages. But they get the value; no one disagreed with the concept, and the experiment prompted terrific discussion.
  • Some stages need more work than others: CX leaders gave their companies the lowest marks at the “Presale” phase—almost half indicated they did not leverage good data at this stage. “Repurchase” was also rated low—only 16 percent gave themselves the highest rating. The “Start,” “Use,” and “Support” stages showed more promise; about one-third gave their companies a strong rating at these stages. Still, about one-quarter indicated their companies did little or nothing with data at these stages.

Once again, this is not about having more data. It’s about having the right data. Start by mapping out your key journey phases and work with a small team to determine the ideal data at each stage. By recruiting the right team, your chances of securing the right data will certainly increase.

And, with the right data, your organization’s decision-making ability will increase as well. 

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

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