4 Steps for Measuring Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) is the net result of every single physical and emotional interaction your customers have with your brand, from website browsing to emails to store visits to how your products meet their needs. Because of the complex nature of these experiences today, it is critical to use insight to design and improve them over time. However, just because you’ve done the hard work of investing in insight-driven CX doesn’t mean your efforts are over. The time and resources you put into the customer journey are wasted unless you can prove that what you’re doing is making a difference. This is where CX measurement comes into play.

The concept of measuring customer experience is not new. Customer satisfaction scores and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are commonly used to track how happy and engaged customers are with a brand. Organizations conduct surveys asking for feedback on various components of the experience so that individual satisfaction scores on everything from store cleanliness to the speed of checkout are documented and monitored. And while these are all valid means of tracking how well things are working, they are somewhat limited in their view of the true customer experience.

When you break down customer experience into its various subcomponents, the list can get pretty long pretty fast: employee friendliness, quality of packaging, trust in the company’s brand, quality of the mobile app, peer reviews online, employee knowledge, product variety and availability, troubleshooting and support, ease of website navigation, store cleanliness, cost of product, frequency of communication, and more. It’s easy to get caught up in the appeal of managing this complexity through a single metric such as NPS, but a single metric isn’t going to be able to tell you why it’s changing over time. Conversely, tracking the individual components of the experience in isolation can be a frustrating exercise where everything is being given equal weight despite the fact that some experiences matter more than others—or when one interaction impacts the experience in another touch point.

So what is the right way to track CX? Based on our experience, we know that the best solution(s) will strike a balance between simplicity and usefulness. Designing a tracking system that works for your business will require some effort up front, but it will pay off when you can quickly identify what is working and what isn’t.

Here are four simple steps to help you jump-start your CX measurement:

Step 1: Create a Customer Interaction Inventory

The list may be long, but it’s important to understand every way in which customers can interact with your brand. Take inventory of what data is influencing those interactions and the technology that is enabling the experience. Be sure you are considering interactions in each of the five customer experience categories:

Step 2: Set a Proxy Metric for Each Interaction

Once you’ve identified all of the possible customer experience touch points, you need to select a means of measuring their impact on the customer. This can be done either by directly tracking those interactions via data capture or indirectly creating a proxy or index (e.g., via research). For example, it is probably easy to track email open rates, social media posts, or website visit frequency to measure engagement with those channels. However, other interactions (e.g., encounters with a store employee) may need to rely on survey data to get a sense of frequency and attitudes toward those interactions.

Step 3: Model the Experience Drivers

The next step is to merge the interaction data with historical customer satisfaction data. Conducting driver analysis on this combined data set will allow you to identify the subcomponents of the customer experience that most influence the overall perception of your brand. Try to limit your final list to no more than 10—tracking more than that can cause you to lose focus on what matters. The additional benefit is that you will see how well your brand promise and customer promise is being delivered through your customer touch points.

Step 4: Create a Composite Score

Instead of relying on the customer satisfaction metric alone to indicate how things are going, create a composite customer experience measure that reflects the weighted importance of each of the subcomponents. We suggest looking at both emotional and functional metrics. Functional measurement is often conducted through standard metrics and KPIs like conversion and engagement. Emotional measurement is more difficult to track, but can be measured through research to capture how well we are fulfilling the emotional-need states of the customer.

The reality is that it is difficult to measure the impact of customer experience holistically. It takes a disciplined approach for integrated channel coordination that is supported by a single view of the customer and the technology to seamlessly enable the experience. In the future, perhaps there will be an industry standard for CX measurement, but for now, start small and pick one or two key customer objectives that you want to impact. Just remember to keep the measurement simple and easy to understand (although the inputs are certainly complex!).

And for those of you who just got your company to adopt NPS, don’t fret; it’s not going away. An overall tracking metric like NPS will still play a role, but it will be complemented by additional analytics that help answer why things are changing instead of just noticing that they are changing.

Brooke Niemiec is chief marketing officer at Elicit, where she leads a team of researchers and marketing strategists to evolve Elicit's actionable intelligence platform. Michelle Thomas is director of integrated marketing at Elicit, where she specializes in transforming siloed consumer experience and marketing efforts into customer-centric ecosystems.

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