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CX maturity playbook: Listen, understand, and act

Actionable insight to uplevel how you listen to customers, understand their needs, and take action to improve the customer experience.

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INTRO

How to use this playbook 

This playbook features three of the nine key elements that we measure in our customer experience maturity assessment: listen, understand, and act

Here we provide an overview of the five levels of each element followed by actionable next steps to advance from one level to the next. 

If you have yet to assess your maturity, we suggest you take our assessment now, identify your current level of maturity for listen, understand, and act, and return to this playbook for how to move forward based on your score. 

The insight provided is in partnership with Jeannie Walters, CX expert, CEO, and founder of Experience Investigators™.

This playbook features three elements—listen, understand, and act—that together make up the Voice of the Customer program. 

ABOUT THE ELEMENTS

Listen, understand, and act

A Voice of the Customer (VoC) program collects, analyzes, and acts on all customer feedback—expectations, likes, and dislikes—associated with your company. 

The VoC is the heartbeat of any customer experience (CX) program. In fact, at GetFeedback, we believe that brands can’t meet or exceed expectations without having an established Voice of the Customer program in place. Think about it—without customer feedback, you won’t know where to begin to improve your customer experience.

A successful Voice of the Customer program will help you identify and fix the pain points across the customer journey, increase customer satisfaction, and boost retention.

Let’s break down each of the three elements. 

Listen  

Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain; the rest simply churn. Can you imagine the revenue growth if you had a plan in place to capture that missing feedback?

Listening to your customers starts with collecting their feedback across all channels. Mature CX programs collect both structured and unstructured feedback from all touchpoints across the customer journey. In doing so, one can get the real-time feedback they need to actually optimize the customer experience. 

Structured feedback includes metrics such as Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES), all of which can be collected via a survey form. Unstructured feedback includes behavioral analytics, social media, forums, in-person and digital events, phone calls, etc. 

Once you collect feedback, you must analyze it for insights and trends.  

Understand

To understand your customers, you have to take the time to review and analyze their feedback, looking for trends and key insights.

Customer data must be aggregated in one common location that all employees in your organization can access. Furthermore, by integrating your customer feedback with operational data, you’ll enable teams to really understand their customers’ needs through a holistic view of their journey. 

Customers’ perceptions and expectations are always evolving, so identifying key trends and insight in real-time is critical to empower teams to take action. 

Act 

Once you’ve listened to your customers and understood their needs, you must take action, fast. Closing the loop on critical feedback as it happens is vital if you want to avoid churn. 

In fact, 67% of customer churn could be avoided if the organization resolved the customer’s issue during their first interaction. Acting quickly on feedback requires processes that range from setting up automatic triggers that notify support agents of a disgruntled customer, to providing new tools for scalability, and establishing employee training programs.  

Such states for listen, understand, and act is achievable through strategic action, which you can start taking today with the help of this playbook. 

The five levels below are defined based on general processes, rules, and expectations of each of the three elements. We recommend you start with the level that our assessment scored you as. 

Listening to customers

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, the motivations for collecting feedback might not be based on the desire to listen to and understand the customer. Instead, feedback is used to justify internal goals and projects. 

Meaning, customer feedback is collected only when necessary and with no alignment across teams: in an ad hoc way, only addressing individual touchpoints,  without a universal strategy or framework. And the existing methods to collect feedback are not designed for long-term results. 

Employees and leaders often make the decision to collect feedback on their own, without the necessary survey design skills, multi-channel strategy, or proper structure to gain actionable feedback. And customers are asked for feedback randomly along their journey in inconsistent ways. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

I’ve heard it’s important to listen to customers, so I’ve asked my team to send a survey after our new product feature rollout. We’re asking a yes or no question to keep it simple, which is: Are you satisfied with the product? And I know customers will say yes. — Product Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 is about transitioning from ad hoc listening to a somewhat more targeted feedback collection approach that’ll drive internal teams’ goals. Since you’re just getting started, it’s best to do this only for select customer-facing teams like Customer Support and Customer Success. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Goals for collecting feedback

  • Specific touchpoints

How to take action

Step 1: Explore existing collection of feedback  and establish clear strategic goals for specific teams 

Leaders and teams are already listening to customers in ad hoc ways. Now is the time to audit what feedback is collected via siloed operations and establish more clearly defined goals for a better feedback collection strategy.

Focus on the customer-facing teams most likely to be asking for feedback directly from customers. This should include Customer Success and Customer Support. But it could also expand to Marketing, Product Delivery, Retail Managers, etc.

We recommend starting with the obvious—Customer Success and Customer Support—before expanding. Ask leaders from these teams how they’ve listened to customer feedback, and track the metrics, methodologies and various outcomes they’ve had. This will help organize and provide structure for a feedback collection strategy.

Eventually, the feedback collection strategy will guide where, how, and when customers are asked for feedback. 

Step 2: Identify specific touchpoints where feedback can be consistently collected to improve the experience 

Look for particular touchpoints (for the specific teams you are choosing to focus on at this stage) where listening to customers could improve that event, activity, or interaction with your brand. 

These are typically well-defined, finite interactions, and not focused on long-term, relational outcomes. For example, asking customers about how much effort it took to download a tool, is specific to that touchpoint along their journey. You can measure this by consistently using the Customer Effort Score (CES) metric, which will provide valuable insight when measured on a regular basis. 

It can be difficult to identify all these touchpoints throughout the overall customer journey, especially without a customer journey map. For now, focus on what collection points you can introduce for major milestones: quality over quantity. 

For example, if you offer marketing events like webinars for customer education, ask for post-event feedback with a Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) survey. This will provide insights to improve events in the future. 

Your Customer Support team can also use CSAT surveys to measure the success of their agents’ interactions. And Customer Success teams can start establishing baseline customer loyalty metrics using Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)

You should start small with just one or two touchpoints to help gain traction and understanding around how to listen to customers. This will help prioritize what tools you need for the future, as well. 

Level 2   

What it looks like 

At this stage, some leaders are collecting feedback from particular touchpoints along the customer journey to serve specific functions within their teams. 

Certain teams, like Customer Support, Customer Success, Marketing, or Distribution, might track feedback, like CSAT, NPS, and CES, very consistently to measure their unique outcomes. However, feedback is still only communicated within each team and is not part of a bigger feedback collection strategy. 

This means that though customers are asked for feedback at one or several points in the journey, it is done so inconsistently. There is no universal understanding within the organization of the right CX metrics to track or tools to use. 

A marketing leader may ask for feedback after an event, for example. But the way the feedback is collected is based on what that leader and team are familiar with, not a universal tool used throughout the organization. This leads to siloed information and evaluation. For example, Customer Support teams may know their CX metrics and goals, but that is based solely on what happens after the customer requires support. There are no efforts to examine what causes the service issues for customers in the first place.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

I send out surveys to attendees at our events to find out what they liked or didn’t like. I use a survey tool I’m familiar with from my last job. I don’t really know what others use, or if anyone else is asking customers for feedback. The survey responses help us plan the next event. — Marketing Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

To move from Level 2 to Level 3, you must shift the focus beyond individual team goals to the broader customer journey. This means leveraging a single feedback collection tool and allowing customers to opt-in and opt-out of how and when they’re asked for feedback. You must also build cross-functional support for collecting feedback in more strategic ways. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • A single feedback solution 

  • The broader customer journey

How to take action

Step 1: Identify a single feedback solution to collect feedback across key touchpoints in the customer journey

The right feedback collection strategy enables teams to collect both structured CX metrics, like NPS, CSAT, and CES, and unstructured feedback like open-text comments. This is best done with a single feedback solution that all teams use, versus each team possibly using a different survey tool. 

A single feedback solution facilitates cross-functional collaboration to improve not just team outcomes or specific touchpoints, but sections of the customer journey and overall organizational goals. 

At Level 3, customers are given more control over how they’re asked for feedback. Customers are offered choices around how they’re contacted or if they’re contacted at all for feedback. Your feedback solution should allow for customer choice and control to opt-in or opt-out of some or all feedback requests. 

Choose a feedback solution that will align with the needs of your organization. Make sure the solution allows teams to collect the CX metrics they need to reach desired outcomes. The last thing you want is to select a solution that only allows the measurement of customer satisfaction when your Marketing team needs to also measure NPS over time. 

Factor every team in this decision. For instance, tracking CSAT after Customer Support interactions will allow leaders to coach and train employees in better ways. And tracking NPS at key parts of the journey can help Customer Success teams proactively address issues before customer renewal dates. If teams in your organization are not sure what they should be measuring, refer to our guide on customer loyalty metrics

Consider how to move from a team-only view to a more unified view of how and when feedback is collected. Whichever feedback solution you choose, it should allow for more visibility across the customer journey. 

Step 2: Map customer journey challenges to customer feedback opportunities

Identify which parts of the end-to-end journey are either challenging for customers or are an important part of the customer experience. 

This means looking for where and how to listen to customers based on their experiences, not just specific team goals. Common customer journeys like purchase and payment, product delivery, or service are good places to start. For example, onboarding after purchase is an important journey to ensure customers are happy and comfortable with a new platform or technology. 

Instead of just asking for feedback at a key touchpoint, like first use, define what additional listening posts will provide the best insights. 

Leverage CX metrics in time-bound and/or case-driven ways. For example, in addition to first use, expand your feedback collection to other key points like 30-days, first service case, and 90-days.

And instead of using the same metric across all touchpoints, use the best metric for each scenario; this will lead to a better understanding of the journey instead of just that touchpoint. 

For example, measure Customer Effort Score (CES) after first use to identify how customers are feeling about their first experience with the product. Then measure CSAT after the first service case to evaluate how they feel about that interaction and issue resolution. NPS is about the overall relationship, so it’s ideal for the 30-day and 90-day check-in with customers. 

By measuring the right feedback at the right touchpoint, you’ll see how these key interactions contribute to the overall journey. Read our article on finding the right metric for every touchpoint.

Leveraging the right metric at the right place, as well as understanding the journey, is when the “voice” in the Voice of the Customer program is really heard. This is when feedback starts to feel like part of the operating system of certain teams, and customers know they can share their feedback consistently. 

Level 3   

What it looks like 

At this stage, the process of collecting feedback is somewhat structured, allowing for the measurement of CX metrics across key touchpoints. 

There are common customer experience metrics used throughout the organization, like Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, and Customer Effort Score. Leaders use experience metrics to define team goals based on a clear CX strategy, which has been introduced at an organizational level. 

At Level 3, feedback is collected by teams to drive changes for the touchpoints that they specifically own. Feedback is more consistently collected than in Level 2, and customer profiles are sophisticated enough for teams to recognize when the customer opts in or out of providing feedback. 

The CX strategy guides decisions around the Voice of the Customer program. How and when customers are asked for feedback is considered in a holistic way, not just at the touchpoint level. Leaders understand how to leverage survey design and not overload the customer with too many requests.

There is momentum around tracking CX metrics month over month and year over year. Leaders responsible for these key touchpoints are aware of the metrics and understand their significance to their team’s success. 

You might hear employees make statements such as:

My team is focused on improving its Customer Satisfaction Score. Each customer is encouraged to provide feedback after every call or chat with any Customer Support agent. I know our team really understands what drives better CSAT in these interactions and I share our CSAT results every week so my agents see the progress they’re making. — Customer Support Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Advancing from Level 3 to Level 4 happens when feedback collection becomes unified throughout the customer journey. This means a centralized feedback collection strategy with centralized governance around it, including universal tools, techniques, and metrics. 

At Level 4, team leaders use feedback and CX metrics to set and guide team goals and training; they also collaborate to regularly track feedback across the entire customer journey.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Governance

  • Multi-channel approach

How to take action

Step 1: Develop centralized governance around how feedback is collected for better strategic alignment across the organization 

Implement standards for how, when, and where customers are asked for feedback. With more access to feedback tools, and more consistent survey design and methodologies, it’s tempting to ask for feedback throughout the customer journey without an overall view of how that affects the customer experience. Governance around collecting feedback is a way to respect the customer’s actual journey. 

Developing governance means: 

  • Centralizing tools, technology, and methodologies for collecting feedback.

  • Prioritizing funding for new technology and tools.

  • Identifying all the listening posts along the journey and determining how to prioritize additions or changes. 

Read our article by CX expert Annette Franz for a step-by-step walkthrough of how to establish governance in your organization. 

It’s also important to consider how to educate employees and empower them to use the right tools at the right times. Employees should understand what metrics are collected, and how the feedback collection strategy supports the CX strategy and overall business goals. This is possible when employees have visibility into CX metrics with a universal customer experience management tool, which makes it easier to understand how they are tied to their overall business success. 

Getting to Level 4 with centralized governance means leaders work together to ensure customers are not being asked for too much or too little feedback. 

Step 2: Listen across all channels to collect the right insights at the right time 

Customers travel through their journey using multiple channels. They might start on a website, call a contact center, then rely on a mobile app. To boost customer feedback rates you must collect insight in real-time and meet your customers wherever they are. 

Start by ensuring you’re not excluding any key channels across your customer journey. Here are some common channels in customer journeys:

  • Email

  • Chat

  • In-app  

  • Website

  • In-person

  • Customer calls

  • Custom integration with APIs

  • Social media

This is also when you should start leveraging unstructured feedback at scale using text analytics programs and sentiment analysis technology.

With centralized governance, the right metrics should be used in the right places along the journey. For example, CSAT surveys following a Customer Support interaction can identify agent-specific feedback and provide direction on service issues requiring attention. And Customer Effort Score is helpful to assess the quality of self-service options for customers.

Read our article for more guidance on how to collect feedback at each touchpoint. 

Level 4   

What it looks like 

Customer feedback is captured on a regular basis across the entire customer journey. The way it’s collected is adapted to where the customer is and what channel they are using. 

Listening posts are strategically located at key milestones and triggered by the customer’s actions. Opportunities to listen and collect feedback are available regardless of the channel, from phone to online to mobile apps. 

There is an organizational feedback collection strategy and governance around the tools and processes used. Employees know customer feedback is a priority, and enable collection throughout the journey. Teams are able to collect feedback in highly scalable ways and use real-time methods, thanks to at-scale tools and technology. 

Customers are asked for feedback not just based on key parts of the journey, but on conditional triggers personalized for their experience. For example, a new customer might receive feedback requests as a follow-up to their purchase experience. And a repeat customer may receive a different feedback request, focused on brand loyalty. 

A multi-channel approach governs feedback requests, so customers can react with feedback where they are. And leaders work across teams to ensure the right feedback is being collected to advance organizational goals. 

There is robust governance around how, why, and what feedback is collected. And the Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is central to decision-making throughout the organization.

You might hear employees make statements such as:

Our CX management tool will ask follow-up questions based on how the customer answered the first question. The feedback is so much more valuable because we get to the heart of the matter. — CX Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving to Level 5 occurs when listening to customers is seamlessly woven into every part of the customer-centric culture. Feedback is universally appreciated internally and customers feel heard. 

Collecting feedback along each customer’s journey is designed in such a way that customers can react to questions, or proactively offer their ideas through words, images, and other media. Feedback is collected in more real-time ways and leaders respond in real-time to improve the experience.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • More real-time feedback opportunities

  • Persistent feedback options

How to take action

Step 1: Provide customers with more real-time feedback opportunities for swift improvements 

With a sophisticated customer experience management tool, you can enable customers to share their feedback and experience in more real-time ways. This real-time feedback empowers employees and leaders to quickly improve the journey, instead of waiting for data that has yet to be reported. 

Collecting feedback in real-time includes:

  • Allowing customers to upload media like photos, videos, or audio recordings in the moment of their journey. This can be useful for monitoring key moments like the experience of waiting in line at a retailer or identifying a bug in a mobile app. 

  • Funneling real-time customer feedback from social media and digital communities into your customer experience management tool. 

Real-time feedback can also be used for better employee coaching and course-correcting when needed. 

Step 2: Offer persistent feedback options so customers can easily and seamlessly provide insight in real-time 

Make sure customers can always provide feedback no matter where they are along the customer journey. This can be done by collecting passive and proactive feedback. 

Passive feedback is the in-the-moment feedback you collect in a non-disruptive, always available manner as users navigate your website or app. 

For example, you can insert a pervasive feedback button on your website or within your app that users can click on at their convenience. You can design these to be as simple (about a specific part of a page) or as detailed (general site feedback) as you like. Another idea is to seamlessly integrate surveys at the end of a live chat conversation to collect real-time, contextual customer feedback.

Proactive feedback is the feedback that you actively request from the customer after a specific interaction. 

For instance, your Contact Center can ask customers to answer a one-question survey while still in an interaction instead of waiting until after the customer hangs up. Or customers might receive an email or SMS survey request immediately after purchase.

These persistent feedback options make customers feel in control of when and how they share feedback, while also maintaining a seamless customer experience. 

For more on passive and proactive feedback, check out our free 10-minute course taught by CX expert, Dan Gingiss. 

Level 5   

What it looks like 

At this final stage, customer feedback is ongoing, dynamic, and real-time. Customers are given methods throughout the journey to seamlessly provide feedback, both about specific touchpoints and the overall experience. 

Customers are included in more parts of the journey because there are both passive and proactive ways to share their experiences. 

Passive feedback is the in-the-moment feedback you collect in a non-disruptive, always available manner as users navigate your website or app. Proactive feedback is the feedback that you actively request from the customer after a specific interaction. 

As such, feedback isn’t limited to ratings and typed comments. Customers can provide visual feedback or submit photos and videos. And users may be prompted to share feedback at key points in the journey.

You might hear employees make statements such as:

I love that we can collect feedback from customers while they’re still in the journey. They don’t have to remember and report later, they can tell us right away what they’re thinking. The visual feedback can be especially useful and helps us solve problems faster than we’ve ever been able to.  — Digital Leader

Where to go from here

Listening to customers is a huge part of any customer-centric organization. Even at Level 5, how you listen to customers must evolve as customer behaviors and expectations change. 

Over time, tools, technology, and methodologies will improve, so the way you listen to customers must improve as well. Stay ahead with your Voice of the Customer program by aligning your feedback collection strategy with the CX strategy and governance. 

To keep your customer listening approach sharp, ask yourself:

  • Are there challenges or milestones in the customer journey we need to explore?

  • How can we remove barriers for customers to provide feedback?

  • What is next for our customers, and what feedback would help us design for their future?

Hearing the true voice of the customer means leveraging the right tools and technology to make it easy for customers to share feedback that is actionable for your organization. 

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Understanding customers

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer feedback data is either manually evaluated or not reviewed for insights at all. And data that is collected isn’t organized in any centralized way. This is because feedback is collected ad hoc and understanding customer insights from a holistic viewpoint is not a goal.  

If there is any evaluation, it’s typically done in a manual way. This could be a team leader entering feedback data into a spreadsheet, for example, reviewing for trends and insights. 

Some teams may even have a hierarchy of trends identified. For example, a Product team may develop a taxonomy of sorts, like grouping feedback into “technical bugs,” and they review the most recurring feedback topic to prioritize action.

Since there is no universally accepted or communicated CX strategy, teams using CX metrics could be evaluating success in different ways, leading to assumptions and misconceptions about what customers want.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

We ask for feedback when we think it’ll be helpful to measure success in our team. But the tool we use doesn’t provide insights, so I put the ratings and individual comments into a spreadsheet and do my best to understand the customer’s needs. It takes a lot of time. — Marketing Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 is about regularly evaluating feedback collected by certain teams such as Customer Support and Customer Success. Also at Level 2, teams take advantage of the analytics features provided in their survey tool(s) to better collect and understand their customers. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Survey tool(s) features

  • Consistent reporting

How to take action

Step 1: Optimize customer feedback insights by understanding the capabilities of your survey tool(s) 

Depending on the survey tool, you’ll have several ways to look at collected customer data. To make the most of the survey solution(s) that are used within the organization, familiarize yourself with all of the features it has to offer. This way, you can optimize how customer insights and data are presented to teams. 

The features in your survey tool(s) will also influence where and how customer feedback is collected, which will influence how well you can understand the customer’s needs and wants. For example, if the tool doesn’t offer a way to evaluate free-form comments, how will those be evaluated? If that level of evaluation won’t happen yet, then adjust the way feedback is collected. It doesn’t help the organization or the customer if they are asked for feedback that won’t be used.

However, if the tool offers sentiment analysis or more robust text analytics features, then take advantage of those features to provide more and better ways to understand customer feedback.

Step 2: Consistently track and communicate CX metrics to  demonstrate to employees the direct impact they can have on customer satisfaction

It’s also helpful to understand what is considered a baseline, and what the aspirational outcomes are for your teams. This is done through regular reporting of CX metrics. 

For example, for teams like Customer Support and Customer Success that use customer experience metrics to measure performance, consistent reporting on customer feedback, month over month, will lead to a better understanding of what success looks like for them. 

Reporting and comparing CX metrics over time will guide team goals and employee coaching. For example, as a Customer Support team evaluates Customer Satisfaction Score rates ongoing, team members will eventually understand how their actions are directly tied to influencing customer satisfaction. It will also empower employees within a team to make improvements to the customer journey based on specific touchpoints. 

Level 2   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer feedback is analyzed for particular improvements within certain teams in a way that benefits their particular goals and measurement of outcomes. 

Team leaders or a specific team member is typically tasked with evaluating customer feedback, using a survey tool. CX metrics like CSAT, NPS, and CES are watched consistently and communicated within that team.

Metrics are reported, but no root cause analysis is applied to understand what is influencing the changes in those metrics. Teams are not given guidance around how to influence the outcomes, other than generalized direction around already-established processes and reminders.

Leaders don’t have access to feedback beyond what they collect for their team. There is little insight into the customer’s journey beyond the siloed view of the leader and the specific tool they use.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

I know our manager wants higher Customer Satisfaction Scores. But customers complain about things I can’t fix, so I’m not sure what else we can do to improve matters. I do show empathy and do my best with customers, but there is nothing else I can do.  — Customer Support Agent 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 is about centralizing customer feedback in one location to provide more visibility to all leaders. This centralized view also provides a more holistic view of the customer experience.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Centralized customer data

  • Education for leaders 

How to take action

Step 1: Centralize all customer data to provide leadership with a holistic view of the customer journey 

It’s important to move beyond individual team surveys and tools to a single feedback solution that can centralize customer data into one location, such as an online dashboard, and provide easily accessible insights to leaders throughout the organization.

Leaders must begin to work cross-functionally to address issues across the customer journey, not just at specific touchpoints under their domain. For example, a centralized customer view helps Customer Support leaders share feedback directly with Product Development, so their partners can better understand what issues are driving customer support interactions. Read our article by CX expert Annette Franz on how to engage leadership cross-functionally

This level of understanding requires leaders throughout the organization—not just those in customer-facing areas like Sales, Customer Support, and Customer Success—to have a strong grasp on what CX data is collected, and what the metrics say about the customer’s needs and wants. 

Step 2: Educate leaders throughout the organization to better understand CX metrics

A holistic approach to customer understanding requires leaders and teams to speak the same language around customer experience. When it comes to evaluating customer feedback, it’s vital for team leaders to understand the different CX metrics and why they’re used.

More visibility into customer data means more opportunities to educate leaders and their teams on why certain metrics are better for understanding in some cases versus others. 

Start by addressing the following:

  • How each metric is calculated—read our metrics catalogue.

  • What goal the organization has in tracking each metric.

  • Where each metric is used in the customer journey and why.

Providing leadership with this insight will create alignment on vocabulary and definitions.

Level 3   

What it looks like 

At this stage, feedback data is centralized and available to all leaders so they can better address customer experience improvements both within their teams and as part of cross-functional programs.

Customer feedback is collected at various points across the journey, using consistent methodologies and CX metrics. Leaders and teams understand how these metrics measure customer loyalty overall, as well as satisfaction with specific parts of the journey. 

They use a feedback solution to consistently evaluate customer feedback and have a centralized view of the organization’s Voice of the Customer program. 

It is common for leaders to share data via dashboards and reports. In fact, they use feedback insights to coach employees and work with other leaders to assess root causes of customer issues. Feedback is considered a key part of analyzing success for both employees, teams, and the overall organization.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

Our Voice of the Customer program has helped us operate more holistically across the organization. We use what we hear from customers and work together cross-functionally to figure out the next steps. How can we make it better for customers? That’s what drives us. — Operations Leader 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 3 to Level 4 requires customer data and operational data to be integrated into one centralized location, providing a more complete picture of the customer’s experience. The next stage also needs customized dashboards for leaders to easily identify areas of improvement that are most relevant to them.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Operational metrics  

  • Customized dashboards

How to take action

Step 1: Align useful operational metrics with customer data for a better understanding of the customer experience 

Operational metrics are tracked in many ways in organizations. These metrics are the organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that provide insights into company performance as well as individual status updates.

Many of these operational metrics are related to the customer experience. By defining what operational data is related to customer data, leaders can get a better, more accurate, and real-time understanding of the customer experience.

For example, a Contact Center tracks operational data like:

  • Average Customer Wait Time

  • Number of Transfers

  • Ticket Reopens

These metrics provide important insights, but don’t provide the customer perspective of CX feedback and metrics, like:

  • CSAT following Customer Support resolution

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) 

  • Social media mentions

By centralizing and integrating this data with CX data, leaders can see how operational changes, like reducing Customer Wait Times, leads to better customer feedback, like higher CSAT for Customer Support. 

This level of visibility also allows those serving the individual customer, regardless of channel or team, to have insights into where that particular customer is on their journey. 

This means Customer Success team members can see how a specific customer has reported not only a lower Net Promoter Score but also how many times that customer has created a service ticket. That type of personalized information helps each employee serve the customer in better ways.

Step 2: Customize the analytics and insights experience for team leaders to drive better results 

Provide custom dashboards to optimize leadership’s understanding of the customer throughout the organization.

Centralized operational and customer data, along with powerful tools leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), empowers leaders to see the most relevant insight they need to make smart, fast decisions that will impact the customer experience.  

Leaders throughout the organization should have easy access to the information that will drive their specific goals and accountabilities. For example, information like On-Time Delivery Rates and Delivery Experience CSAT will be relevant for leaders within Operations. They can use this data to make significant changes to the journey and coach and evaluate employees. 

Centralized data allows leaders to keep a constant watch on their team and customers, while also empowering them to ask questions and seek information beyond their part of the customer’s journey. 

Level 4   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer data and operational data are integrated into one centralized location so leadership can easily understand the overall customer experience.

Leaders are empowered to make individual changes that improve the customer journey, while still working within the governance and strategy for the overall organization. Teams rely on understanding customers to guide decisions. And cross-functional cooperation allows for everyone to better understand the customer journey holistically. 

Customer understanding is valued and is part of business practices. Data is collected and shared throughout the organization from various places and teams. Customers are heard in a variety of ways, and both objective CX metrics and storytelling are used to socialize and share findings. 

At Level 4, customer records reflect their interactions with the brand, including:

  • Customer purchase history and tenure as a customer.

  • Feedback ratings like NPS, CSAT, and CES.

  • Open-ended comments.

  • Social media mentions and brand interactions.

  • Customer support history and comments from service representatives.

  • Chat logs.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

When a customer contacts us, we can quickly make sense of where they are on their journey and what they’ve already done. Customers appreciate when I’m able to see how they’ve tried something already and it didn’t work, versus making them start over to solve their issue. — Customer Support Team Member

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 4 to Level 5 happens when organizations are able to predict future customer behavior and innovate around those predictions. To do so, customer data, operational data, and marketplace data are centralized and leveraged as part of most business practices.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Predicting customer behavior

  • Forecasting marketplace expectations

How to take action

Step 1: Understand predictive analytics to innovate the customer experience 

Understanding customers means looking to the future and predicting how they will behave. Thanks to robust technology platforms and powerful algorithms, data can help you do that.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will provide insights into hard-to-see trends and customer preferences. Data about customers at an incredible scale can lead to recommendations about customer wants and needs that aren’t visible otherwise. 

This means exploring and relying on new ways to see not just what customers want, but who they are and how to build a future experience that exceeds their expectations.

Historical data, long used to predict future behavior, may not be as relevant because of this new view using large amounts of data. Customer data platforms will need to leverage big data and small data—smaller sets of data related to certain segments or customer groups. 

Involve experts in compliance, data privacy, and ethical data practices to ensure customer data is respected throughout the data journey. 

For more on how to use AI in your CX program, read our article.

Step 2: Combine marketplace data with operational and customer data

To understand customer experience, it’s important to go beyond the relationships each customer has with just one brand. Customers are living in the real world, and their challenges and opportunities outside of their customer journey can impact how they make decisions, what needs they’ll have in the future, and how they want to be treated. 

Combine marketplace data, like supply chain intelligence and the competitive landscape, with operational and customer data in one centralized source of truth. This accessible information empowers leaders to make intelligent decisions with a well-rounded understanding of their customers.

Level 5   

What it looks like 

At Level 5 customer understanding is a key part of business decision-making and strategic decisions. Experience data, operational data, and marketplace data are centralized in one location allowing for leaders to assess and analyze holistic data and predict future customer expectations.

At this final stage, the customer journey is well understood by all employees, and customers are asked for feedback on a regular basis. Leaders throughout the organization rely on centralized data to make intelligent decisions. These aren’t just customer-facing roles but include departments such as Human Resources, Operations, and Supply Chain Management. 

You might hear employees make statements such as:

I know who our customer is, and better yet, I know what they want from one day to the next. We have our finger on the pulse of what they need today and into the future. Our leadership team starts with the customer in mind in everything we do. —  Chief Operations Officer

Where to go from here

Understanding customers is an ongoing and evolving journey. Even at Level 5, leaders must continue to focus on consistent action to understand customers and the feedback they provide. Avoid “keeping things the way they have always been,” especially around reviewing and evaluating feedback. 

To stay agile, ask yourself:

  • What else should we understand that will benefit customers?

  • What future ideas would benefit from customer feedback?

  • How can we look at the data from a different perspective?

Understanding customers is a fundamental part of any customer experience strategy. They will continue to change and expect different experiences, so stay focused on long-term learning about their needs and challenges.

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Taking action for customers

Level 1   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer feedback is used in a one-off or ad hoc way. No significant action is taken based on listening to and understanding customers. 

Customer data is not collected in any meaningful way and moving to action is challenging on all fronts. There is no centralized direction or strategy around customer experience, so when feedback is collected, it is based on individual team goals and needs. And activities are siloed, resulting in inconsistent experiences for the customer. 

Any action taken is quite limited, and in some cases, it consists of only documenting customer issues versus resolving them. For instance, the Customer Support team may have categorization tools to document where customers have issues in their experience, but those are often generalized topics like “Login Issues” and “Pricing.” And most likely, these categories are documented but not shared with other teams in the organization. 

Also, when “improvements” are made, they may not actually address the customer issue, and instead set different customer expectations. The core issues creating the actual challenges for customers are addressed by essentially telling the customer to lower their expectations. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

Customers complained on social media and to our Customer Support team about the lengthy time it took to receive our products in the mail. So we changed the estimated shipping time from 4-5 days to 10-14 days. Problem solved! — Product Delivery Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 occurs when leaders and their teams take action on customer feedback to improve one or two touchpoints that specifically impact their well-established team goals. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Specific touchpoints 

  • CX priorities 

How to take action

Step 1: Identify specific touchpoints to improve and take action 

Team leaders in customer-facing roles like Customer Support or Customer Success can identify where touchpoint improvements are needed—based on customer and employee feedback—and take strategic action to resolve these issues. 

Customer Support agents, for example, might report how customers are contacting support for service around a login issue after moving from trial to purchase. 

The Customer Support team can’t change the actual UX process for the customer, but it can create a better script for agents and provide resources (through a customer-centric knowledge base) for the customers who contact them. By improving the touchpoint they control within their team, agents are bettering one moment along the customer journey. 

Refer to our free customer journey map guide for tips on taking action on specific touchpoints.  

Step 2: Define CX priorities within the team to drive strategic action 

Teams that collect customer feedback at several touchpoints need to define their customer experience priorities. Doing so will enable strategic action on customer data and insights. 

To define CX priorities, team leaders will want to consider:

  • What can this team influence for the customer?

  • What CX metrics can guide employee actions and behaviors? 

  • How can we document customer feedback in the right ways?

For example, a Customer Success team can influence the onboarding part of the journey. They can collect CSAT scores after a customer makes a purchase to identify the customer’s satisfaction at that touchpoint. 

The customers who report lower satisfaction are identified as high-risk. In which case, their assigned Customer Success Manager can use that information to proactively reach out and build trust and engagement during the onboarding process. And each Customer Success Manager is asked to document any customer conversations in the Customer Relationship Management platform. 

At Level 2, these actions remain within the Customer Success team, but they’re the first steps to improving the customer experience.

Level 2   

What it looks like 

At this stage, customer insight drives change only at the touchpoint level and in certain teams. 

There is no holistic view of the customer journey, so teams act upon feedback they have collected within their relevant part of the journey and without insight into other touchpoints. 

The few teams that do respond to customer feedback, focus on accessible repairs and improvements to particular touchpoints. Each team leader has different qualifications for when to take action. And only after customers complain about an issue consistently, will a leader address it. But there are no protocols around how many complaints merit issue resolution, and the touchpoint is improved without consideration of the rest of the journey. 

Some teams, like Customer Support, use the CES metric to measure the level of effort a customer went through to get an issue resolved by a Customer Support Agent; the feedback can be used to make changes in the way agents handle future customer interactions. 

Or teams like Technology, use customer feedback to drive “fixes” to the journey, like technical bug issues when reported. And Sales teams may collect feedback from lost prospects, but that information is kept within the Sales team only. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

My group fixes the bugs in our app that we think are a big deal. We prioritize the ones that block users from making it through the process of signing up. We can’t spend all of our time on bug fixes, however, so we do our best to tackle the ones that we think matter the most. The other ones stay on the list and we get to them when we can. — Technology Team Member 

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 happens when customer data drives action considering the entire customer journey, and not just individual touchpoints.

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • The holistic customer journey

  • Centralized customer data

How to take action

Step 1: Communicate with leadership what’s known about the entire customer journey to empower them to take action

Journey maps provide a high-level overview of the customer journey. They can supply a holistic approach to the customer experience, and help team leaders connect their team’s part of the journey with the rest. 

Build a cross-functional coalition with team leaders to ensure collaboration and communication across departments. The coalition’s role is to keep the entire organization focused on improving the customer experience and doing what’s right for customers. It will help improve the phases of the journey and not just individual touchpoints. Read our article for more. 

Understanding customers through their feedback becomes easier with centralized customer data. Empower team leaders to consider what happens before and after the customer interacts with one part of the journey by communicating and sharing with them customer data present in one single location. Such alignment and easily accessible insight will empower team leaders to collaborate and take action cross-functionally. 

For example, Customer Success can work with Sales to identify where customer expectations are misaligned, then improve the entire Sales to Onboarding journey. And Product Operations can work with Customer Support to continuously identify requested features and report existing issues. 

As such, taking action to improve the customer experience becomes a more collaborative approach on behalf of the customer.

Step 2: Leverage centralized customer data to prioritize actions

Centralized information leads to better outcomes for customers. Now is the time to lean into prioritizing short and long-term customer experience initiatives based on what customers have reported and what teams have learned through data insights. 

Your cross-functional leadership team needs to prioritize actions across the customer journey. Priorities should be based on the existing CX strategy which is aligned with business values and goals. Read our guide, How to bridge the gap for CX across the organization, for best practices on how to better align on priorities across teams and departments. 

Taking action based on priority also means closing the loop with customers. Communicate directly with them about the changes happening based on their feedback. You must also close the loop with employees so they can adjust their internal processes to align with the updates to the customer journey.

One last note: Closing the loop with customers can be hard if they’re dissatisfied; for some helpful tips, check out this article. Also, our webinar with CX expert Dan Gingiss, Customers say the darndest things, is a great resource to learn how to respond to all types of customer feedback.   

Level 3   

What it looks like 

At this stage, centralized customer data enables teams to act on improving the holistic customer journey, not just touchpoints. And leaders collaborate cross-functionally to provide better experiences.

In fact, team leaders are held accountable for CX metrics; they coach employees to act on customer feedback and explore ways to improve based on customer data insights. Leaders use a feedback solution to receive different views of the data, so they can discover insights around specific parts of the journey and prioritize action. 

There is a clear CX strategy that drives prioritization of customer journey improvements—across departments—based on the overall business goals.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

I appreciate how we are prioritizing the most important ways to respond to customer feedback. We know response times have been an issue, regardless of the department. So now we’re working together on how to address this issue throughout the customer journey, not just in one part.  — Sales Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 3 to Level 4 requires more personalized experiences and effective scalability with automation. As well as taking action based on the findings of combined operational data and customer data. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Personalized experiences

  • Automation 

How to take action

Step 1: Leverage operational and customer data to design the personalized experience that boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty 

Salesforce found that 76% of customers expect consistency across departments, but 54% also report feeling like Sales, Service, and Marketing teams don’t share information. 

Customers want to be recognized for who they are and where they are on their journey with your brand. Automation and agile customer experience management tools—which integrate operational and customer data—can empower teams to create more opportunities to deliver these much-needed personalized experiences. 

Look for where it makes sense to create more personalized experiences for customers in a seamless manner. 

Creating a personalized experience means understanding and responding to unique customer needs at each step. With operational and customer data combined into one platform, leaders can design journeys that guide the customer in ways that feel customized for them. 

Use customer journey mapping to uncover the best opportunities for personalized experiences. Maps can include operational and customer data to highlight where automation and personalization can have the biggest impact.

For example, in a B2B organization, the customer expects the Sales representative to understand their goals. And once the sale is made, the new customer expects the Customer Success Manager to have all the information they need to help predict challenges, offer the right value, and guide the customer on their journey. 

The experience breaks down when your customer feels they aren’t recognized personally. But it doesn’t have to be all hands-on. You should use automated communications and customer feedback real-time analysis to guide the trigger of the right actions at the right times. To learn more of what’s possible by integrating your CRM with your CX solution, click here

Step 2: Leverage automation to scale personalized experiences 

Automation can provide the right action at the right moment. Use the tools and technology available to create automatic triggers and pathways for customers to get what they need to feel satisfied. 

For example, if a customer reports being a detractor on an NPS survey, that customer and their response could be flagged in the system immediately. The leader (or leaders) who are responsible for their issue receive a notification. The customer then hears directly from someone at the organization within 24 hours, addressing their concerns. Leaders are also able to close the loop with their teams, potentially identifying improvements to prioritize along the journey.

Look for ways to provide faster insights to employees and customers. For instance, tools in the Contact Center can leverage machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) so answers are at the agent’s fingertips. And customers can interact with chatbots and virtual assistants to get information quickly. 

Find a customer experience management tool and tech stack that suits your organization’s needs and CX strategy priorities. Here are some automation concepts to consider:  

  • AI for sentiment and key phrase analysis to uncover meaningful insights from volumes of open-text feedback so you know where to take action. 

  • Survey templates for painless program creation, configurable frequency and batch sending for better response rates; allows you to spend less time managing bulk survey outreach and feedback aggregation, and more time on acting on insight. 

  • Automation to push new customer data across your tech stack and drive real-time actions at scale. 

  • Team communication integration to streamline responses to customer feedback with the right people and teams across your organization.

  • Chatbots and automated issue routers can access vast amounts of data to gain immediate insights and proactively help customers. Personalized recommendations can assist customers when they need it, like knowing their coffee order when they pull up the app or recommending the perfect phone case for that new phone they just pre-ordered online.

Don’t forget to plan for training and ongoing evaluation of these tools. Watch for customer feedback specifically around the success (or failure) of these automated support mechanisms. 

Level 4   

What it looks like 

At this stage, operational data and customer data provide a centralized view of the customer. Teams focus on delivering more personalized experiences and scale their efforts through automation.

Team leaders work together to deliver improvements throughout the customer journey. Customers have access to many channels, including chatbots, mobile apps, and user communities to provide feedback when and how they want to.

With centralized data, leaders make informed decisions for their team’s goals and the overall customer experience. They rely on a combination of data inputs like CX metrics, operational metrics, and unstructured feedback to prioritize actions. 

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

We go beyond just talking about survey results now. Last week, our team identified how a certain customer group wasn’t renewing at the same rate as others. So we looked back at the feedback that they provided throughout their journey and discovered there was a trend. That allowed us to improve what they specifically wanted and as a result, our renewal rate increased. — Customer Success Leader

Priorities to advance to the next level   

Moving from Level 4 to Level 5 happens when action is focused on the future, optimizing the use of integrated insight from customer, operational, and marketplace data. 

To move forward, you’ll focus on:

  • Customer journey innovation

  • Trend forecasts

How to take action

Step 1: Innovate around the customer journey by leveraging customer feedback, operational data, and marketplace insights 

To move to Level 5, you must act on all existing data—customer feedback, operational data, and marketplace insights—in a holistic manner. Leverage this integrated insight to identify how to influence the customer journey so that you will reduce customer effort and improve outcomes for today and tomorrow.

To do this, consider forward-thinking journey improvements, like:

  • Addressing customer journey challenges proactively, and not waiting for customer feedback to react.

  • Piloting improvements for certain customer segments or testing journey changes with A/B testing.

  • Co-creating with customers to innovate around, new product or service journeys.

Rely on the integrated data to provide a snapshot of what is happening today and what could happen tomorrow, then act on that to stay ahead of customer needs and expectations.

Step 2: Forecast customer trends to take strategic action that’ll boost customer satisfaction and loyalty 

To stay ahead, predict customer behavior and marketplace trends. Robust data platforms and algorithms can aid in this endeavor, but people need to put it all together to truly forecast what’s next.

Pay attention to:

  • Generational shifts in shopping behavior and expectations.

  • Changes in priorities for customers.

  • Not just what customers report, but how they report it.

  • What customers say they want, versus what their behavior tells you. For more on this, check out our free 10-minute course taught by CX expert, Dan Gingiss. 

These signals can indicate where customers are headed. Customer experience innovation can help retain customers and attract those who have drifted away.

Level 5   

What it looks like 

At this stage, leaders identify trends and predict what customers want. They are acting on insights and leveraging smart data to innovate around the customer journey.

Improving the customer experience isn’t the responsibility of one department or team—every employee feels accountable, leveraging data and insights to improve the customer journey. There is an eye toward the future and journeys are constantly evaluated and continue to evolve to stay ahead of current customer needs and to set expectations for what’s next.

Customers appreciate the experience with your organization and feel ownership over the brand relationship. They are invited to share their experiences and co-create with the brand.

You might hear employees make statements such as: 

It’s so exciting to see how our leaders really keep innovating for our customers. We are constantly looking ahead at what’s next—how can we make it even easier to be our customer? What will they want tomorrow? That’s how we engage with customers and design for them. — Customer Experience Leader

Where to go from here 

Even if you score a Level 5, the work is not complete. Acting on feedback means consistently ensuring the right data is collected at the right time in the right ways. It means consistently analyzing the holistic data for insights that will provide the right outcomes for customers and your business. 

It means always asking: are we doing the right things for today and tomorrow?

To remain at this level, ask yourself:  

  • Are we acting on feedback at every part of the journey? 

  • Have we updated our collection methods and aligned them with the customer journey lately?

  • Do we know what’s next? 

  • Are we acting on feedback based on what we know about yesterday or tomorrow?

Acting on feedback is a cornerstone of great customer experiences. It’s not just about reacting—it’s about proactively using insights and planning for the future. Customers are counting on you to guide them through their journey in the best possible ways, and they want to know their voices are heard. 

CONCLUSION

Closing thoughts

At the core of every successful CX program is an agile Voice of the Customer program. To identify and fix pain points across the customer journey and increase satisfaction, you must have a robust strategy in place to listen to your customers, understand their needs, and act to better their experience. 

As you take action, retake our maturity assessment to track your progress. Remember, you shouldn’t expect to make all major improvements at once—this is a slow process, but each change will add up to positively impact the quality of your customer experience program. 

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