How to Bridge the Gap for CX Across the Organization

Leverage key CX metrics to demonstrate the value of customer experience and build partnerships across departments.

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Editor’s Note: This guide was written in partnership with Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CEO, founder of Experience Investigators™.  

Even though there’s been much progress, customer experience (CX) still needs to earn a seat at the table. Often, it’s dismissed as a nice-to-have—instead of being considered a key business strategy and discipline—because most leaders throughout the organization don’t have insights or understanding about what the CX team does and how it impacts the bottom line. 

It’s not unusual for everyone in an organization to understand sales metrics. Sales results are regularly reported, they are explained, connected to the health of the business, and are seen as a measurement that continually matters, whether they are improving or not. It’s also easy for leaders in Marketing, Human Resources (HR)  or Information Technology (IT) to understand and connect how the sales results impact their part of the business. 

In comparison, customer experience metrics aren’t often well-known throughout the organization. They might be carefully tracked by the customer insights team or reported vaguely on various dashboards. So, how can CX leaders help their peers see customer experience results as vital to the overall success of the organization, and specifically to their department? 

This guide will demonstrate how to leverage real-time customer feedback and CX metrics to boost awareness across departments and enact change. Demonstrating the value of customer experience across the organization is a key step to establishing a collaborative CX program that is truly customer-centric. 

We’re going to prioritize nine common departments: Marketing, Finance, Operations, Technology, Sales, Product, Customer Service, Customer Success, and Human Resources, and the C-Suite.  

Let’s get started! 

Chapter 1

Bridging the gap with Marketing

Marketing leaders are usually aware of customer experience and see themselves as part of it. They often have similar goals and outcomes as the CX team. 

To help bridge the gap between the two teams, consider some of the marketing results that are dependent on great customer experiences.

Marketing leaders often own formal referral, advocacy, and/or customer reward programs. Loyal customers who are willing to advocate for the brand are nurtured separately to encourage and reward referrals to new customers. 

The referral rate is a metric that is key to both Marketing and CX leaders. Your referral rate is the volume of referred purchases as a percentage of your total purchases. So a 1% referral rate means that 1 in 100 purchases at your company happened through your referral program. 

This is an indicator of overall customer satisfaction. Customers who are happy enough to refer your brand to other customers are evidence of a successful customer experience program. CX leaders who work with marketing leaders to share their respective metrics can identify trends from these referral and advocacy programs before they become bigger customer experience issues. 

Customer experience metrics like Retention and Churn Rate are complementary to referral rates. As the churn rate increases, it’s likely to see the referral rate dip. Likewise, a decrease in number of referrals could be the beginning of a pattern of declining retention rates. 

Retention looks at: “This many customers, from this specific group, stayed this month.” While churn addresses: “This is how many customers left this month, compared to our overall customer number.” 

This can be tricky, so here are some easy definitions: 

  • Retention: The percentage of customers—from a group of existing customers—who stayed this month. 

  • Churn: The percentage of customers who left this month compared to all customers this month (including those just acquired).

So, let's say at the start of a month there are 100 total customers. Of this group, 80 are ongoing customers, 20 are new, and 10 leave at the end of the month. 

Retention rate = 87.5% retention (80 - 10 = 70 ÷ 80) 

Churn rate = 10% (10 ÷ 100) 

Marketing is often seen as before the sale and therefore not part of the customer’s journey. This is of course not true. Marketing touchpoints are the beginning of the customer journey. In addition to aligning on key customer experience metrics, CX leaders should invite Marketing to contribute to customer journey mapping sessions, innovating around product delivery, and more.

Chapter 2

Bridging the gap with Finance

Have you ever heard customer experience described as “soft skills?” 

Without the hard-edged data of financial reporting, it’s not uncommon for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to dismiss CX as nice-to-have instead of a business discipline worthy of attention.

Financial executives love great financial outcomes. So, to build a bridge between customer experience and Finance, you must demonstrate how certain CX metrics lead to financial success.

Some organizations connect specific customer experience metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) with certain financial outcomes. Net Promoter Score asks the question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” 

Based on their ratings, respondents are categorized as Promoters, Passives, or Detractors. Net Promoter Score helps business leaders keep a pulse on how customers are feeling about the brand and experience, but it can also provide an indicator for financial results. For example, after tracking NPS for a while, leaders might be able to see the way an increase in NPS actually leads to increased revenue.

Some might not have the robust reporting needed to see the bigger picture. In that case, look for how customer experience improvements help reduce costs for the organization. One way of doing this is by measuring the effectiveness of customer service. 

A better customer experience will lead to a reduced need for inbound customer service. Track Customer Effort Score (CES) against the number of calls from customers at your contact center. Customer Effort Score asks the customer to rate how easy it was to handle an issue or complete a task with the brand. As Customer Effort Scores improve, the number of calls should decrease, leading to cost-savings.

Customer Effort Score can also be used to measure the return on investments of self-service options, such as Knowledge Bases and customer communities. Service technology like live chat or chatbots can also use NPS or CES to track how customers feel about their experiences. Collecting customer experience data on these technology tools over time will allow CX leaders to demonstrate their value: better business results like reduced costs and higher revenue and referrals. 

Your Finance colleagues might not see these connections on their own. The levers they see are around increasing revenue and decreasing costs. It’s the customer experience leader’s job to connect the dots between proactive experience design and the reactive results.

Chapter 3

Bridging the gap with Operations

Customer experience is about creating a customer-centric business, and there’s no way to do that without operationalizing the plan, design, and implementation of your CX program.  

Operations leaders are essential to ensuring the execution of experience improvements throughout your company and aligning organizational processes and measurements. Their goal is to create the highest level of efficiency within the organization while maximizing business profits. To do so, they rely heavily on operational dashboards.

Efficiency can be measured in many different ways, and the role of operational dashboards is to set up the right measurements to track. For example, a software company might track the lead time between when a new feature is introduced into the development schedule and when customers receive it. A financial services organization may track the time to close an issue with a customer, or the number of products per customer. Each set of operational metrics are based on what’s most important to that industry and brand.

Business performance dashboards are better served by aligning with CX metrics, like Net Promoter Score (NPS). For example, measuring the lead time of a software update for customers can be compared to the NPS of the customers who have requested that feature. Does NPS decrease if the wait time for customers is delayed or just too long? Operations can help adjust the dashboards and reports to better serve leaders throughout the organization.

A partnership between the Customer Experience team and Operations means a deeper understanding of what inputs create the most desirable outcomes for customers and the business.

Chapter 4

Bridging the gap with Technology

It’s hard to think of a way technology and data strategies don’t impact the customer experience. Creating a consistent experience for customers requires data centralization and alignment along the journey. Technology partners are critical so data is not collected in siloed structures.

Evolving tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) shouldn’t be introduced on their own in the customer journey. The information and analytics gathered at any point is ideally part of a bigger customer profile. These data points create the personalized experiences that customers deserve and expect.  

CX leaders should include Technology leaders early in the process of designing their customer experience program, especially when it comes to digital experiences. Customer experiences require plenty of “backstage” processes and systems to ensure a thoughtful “frontstage” journey. Technology partners are sometimes asked to perform backstage miracles with uncooperative systems because CX leaders designed experiences without them. This can be especially complicated when customer data is not centralized and requires technology design to pull it into the customer journey at critical touchpoints. 

Inviting them early into the process of experience design will help you avoid pitfalls later, both internally and with customers. These types of proactive partnerships assure a more seamless and thoughtful customer journey.

Use CX metrics like Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) to track how improvements in customer data technology and digital touchpoints impact the overall customer experience. 

Faster-loading sites, better performing apps, or contact center experiences that are more personalized, are driven by better data organization and technology internally. As these improvements are made, share how the complaints are decreasing and customer satisfaction is increasing. Ask Technology leaders for input on other CSAT issues. They might see backend fixes CX leaders don’t. 

Highlight how these Technology leaders provide what’s needed in the hidden aspects of the customer journey and highlight the importance that technology and data efforts have on the customer and the outcomes.

Chapter 5

Bridging the gap with Sales

Expectations set the stage for the customer’s experience. These expectations are often set in the sales stage. 

Once the customer moves to purchase the product or service, they are comparing the actual experience to the promises they believe the brand made them. Sales teams can have “bad CX habits” by overpromising, not delivering value, or not assisting customers after the sale.

Customers will share their disappointment if these experiences are not living up to the expectations set early in their journey. This feedback can be collected via the objective scores of CSAT and NPS surveys, as well as verbatim responses provided from open-ended questions. Customer experience leaders can work with the Sales representatives to ensure they are all rewarded when expectations are realistic and then exceeded for the customer.

Sales metrics often measure straightforward outcomes like the number of new customers, or increasing share of wallet with existing customers. Happier customers—which can be identified and measured via NPS and CSAT—are more likely to refer new customers, spend more, and remain loyal to the brand.

Sales leaders also like to see increases in cross-sales and up-sales. Cross-selling invites customers to purchase related or complementary items. While upselling encourages customers to purchase a comparable higher-end product or service than the one in question. Customers who are happy with their experience are more likely to accept those cross-sale and upsell offers.

In an ideal world, experience data is fed back to Sales and the Product team. Then, the two teams design and sell products based on customer feedback. And the changes are measured against customer experience metrics which then identify even more improvements, and the cycle repeats. These cycles also tie into operational data and processes throughout the organization.

And let’s not forget how the Sales team is often communicating directly with prospects on an ongoing basis. They have an ear to the ground and are likely to get feedback directly from customers before it ever shows up on surveys. Customer experience leaders are well-served by asking directly for feedback from the Sales team and then closing the loop to share how it’s being addressed.

Chapter 6

Bridging the gap with Product

Product teams are usually process experts. There is a defined, well-communicated process that determines what, how, and when product development occurs. These timelines and team organizations are based on software development timelines or internal resource limitations.

Customers want products built around them, and that can be challenging if the Product team is sequestered from the actual customer journey. Customer experience leaders have a chance to connect the Product team with the customer’s journey—beyond the exact part of the journey where the product fits.

Agile teams can turn to milestone measurements like Customer Effort Score (CES) around specific rollouts and updates. As products improve, these CX measurements should, too. If the Customer Effort Score remains stagnant or declines, the product improvements might not be working as well as hoped for customers.

Customer experience leaders and product managers serve the customer and the organization best when they are building products around the customer from the beginning, adapting to their ongoing feedback, and designing for the future based on their needs.

Chapter 7

Bridging the gap with Customer Service

Customer service and support is a big part of the customer experience, right? Of course, which is why building a true partnership with service leaders is paramount to a customer-centric experience. 

A popular metric within contact centers is First Contact Resolution (FCR). Knowing if your customer service agents can resolve customer issues the first time around can indicate the amount of effort your customers experience. This can be calculated on the overall level, or at an agent and product level. A typical calculation is using the total number of customer contacts resolved on the first attempt for a given time period, divided by the total number of customer contacts in that same time period.

Service outcomes like First Call Resolution (FCR) or escalation rates in contact centers are sometimes reported just throughout the service organization, but not throughout the organization at-large. These results can shed light on the customer’s journey, especially when considered against specific experience and operational data. Customer experience leaders who distribute the results of service metrics like these can make a stronger case for cost-savings (remember that CFO?) and technology use cases like chatbots to serve customers.

Brands can track Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and Customer Effort Score (CES) on a transactional basis. This is done using personalized, immediate surveys to customers following service experiences. For example, customers may receive a quick survey via SMS or after concluding a live chat with an agent. These scores can shed light on talent management issues like agent performance, as well as become indicators of the overall customer experience. If, for example, the Customer Effort Score is trending downward, it’s important to examine the touchpoints on the journey leading to those responses.

CX leaders should welcome feedback on these types of service metrics, and work with Service leaders on the best approach for sharing what story the data is telling with the entire organization. 

Feedback from customers in a service moment is helpful for customer experience leaders to hear. Thanks to call recordings, chat logs, and service agents themselves, there are plenty of ways to gather that feedback. Experience leaders need to ask and include that feedback in their own reporting.

Chapter 8

Bridging the gap with Customer Success

Customer Success (CS) teams are focused on exactly what it sounds like. Their role is to ensure and support customer success after the sale. Customer Success might not exist in every industry, but it is certainly well-positioned in technology and software verticals.

This team proactively measures the way customers are using the product(s), manages customer relationships, and looks for ways to improve how the customer is leveraging the product(s). 

The best Customer Success teams are proactive and anticipate what their customers need before that need becomes an issue. This means they can have an important role in reducing customer churn and improving customer loyalty. They are also connected and communicating directly with the customer.

Part of the goal of any Customer Success team is to increase loyalty from customers. Loyalty is an emotional state that is reflected in behavior. Loyal customers stay with the brand longer, don’t defect to the competition, and are willing to pay a premium. That’s why customer experience metrics like Retention Rate are valuable for the Customer Success team to know.  

Tracking these measurements also leads to a better understanding of what drives loyalty. For example, let’s say a new product rollout caused a dip in retention rates because customers found it confusing. The CS team can use that information to proactively reach out to customers and provide support.

Tracking these measurements also leads to a better understanding of what drives loyalty. For example, let’s say a new product rollout caused a dip in retention rates because customers found it confusing. The CS team can use that information to proactively reach out to customers and provide support. 

Customer experience metrics and insights should be shared with the Customer Success team to help with their training and best practices. Then the CS team can help the CX team evaluate and validate the CX linkages to revenue, profits, retention, and expansion. 

This back and forth communication around customer feedback, ongoing experience improvements, business outcomes, and loyalty drivers creates a better customer journey.

Chapter 9

Bridging the gap with Human Resources

Great customer experiences are delivered because of great employees, who have the tools, resources, and overall positive employee experiences to support them.  

Human Resources (HR) leaders have a tremendous impact on the overall customer experience, whether they know that or not. Customer experience leaders who partner with HR leaders connect the overall experience mission with those employees who are there to deliver it. 

Employees who feel engaged in the purpose of the brand will deliver on the promise made to customers. Disengaged employees are less productive, less compassionate, and less likely to go the extra mile for their teams and customers. And highly engaged teams show 21% more profitability, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report.

Best practices in customer experience, like journey mapping and leveraging measurements like Net Promoters Score (NPS), can be applied to employee experience management. The employee journey can be measured in similar ways to the customer journey. Comparing the Employee Net Promoter Score (E-NPS) with the customer NPS will highlight how, as one improves, the other does too. 

To measure E-NPS, ask employees if they would recommend working at the organization to friends and family.  Employees who enjoy where they work are much more likely to bring a positive attitude to customers.

Talent acquisition is another area to consider. An organization must find the right employees to meet the specific needs of the customer experience. The experience of an employee candidate should reflect the values and vision of the overall company’s CX approach. If candidates are treated without respect or are not provided the right information at the right time in the hiring journey, this can set the stage for what is and isn’t expected by the organization, for both employees and customers.

Once employees have joined the organization, HR can also help identify the superstars by leveraging CX metrics. Remember those transactional surveys to track CSAT and CES? HR leaders can review top performers and then determine what best practices and behaviors deliver the best customer experiences. These attitudes, behaviors, and actions can lead to better hiring and training. Create job descriptions, map the candidate experience, and adapt performance evaluations to reflect the experience the brand wants to deliver.

The employee experience around learning and development is also connected to the overall customer experience. As CX leaders learn what customers really need, employee learning paths that reflect these best practices can be adapted and prioritized. 

The experience inside the organization gets reflected outside the organization. The internal communication you thought customers would never see ends up in front of them, one way or another. 

 HR leaders should walk the talk inside the organization by reflecting in their approach the behaviors and actions we want customers to experience. Creating a culture of serving one another as internal customers, and then living up to the promises the brand has made to customers, is a powerful way to create a culture inside and out.

Chapter 10

Bridging the gap with the C-Suite

To truly achieve a customer experience coalition throughout your organization, it takes more than a village—It takes leadership.

Your C-Suite executives all have a reason to dismiss CX as a nice-to-have instead of part of doing business. It’s easy to forget how customer experience metrics aren’t just about bragging about your happy customers. These outcomes are connected directly to business results.  

Bring customer stories into leadership conversations, not just metrics. Find the unstructured feedback customers provide on surveys and tell their story. Share the journeys that worked well for customers, the ones that made them say things like, “This exceeded my expectations!” Share those quotes and stories in relation to successful outcomes like improved NPS or reduced customer churn rates.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the stories of when things went wrong for the customer. Those stories of frustration and disappointment really highlight why these metrics are meaningful—they’re all linked to individual customers. Connect these stories to the falling CX measurements, like declining CSAT scores or negative word-of-mouth marketing. 

Is your CEO on board? Help all the executives understand the impact of great customer experience management by communicating early and often. Here are some ways to do so: 

  • Are there quick wins from working with your cross-functional coalition? Brag about it and lift up the leaders who helped. 

  • Are there long-term initiatives that need attention? Start with the expected business results, then discuss the way customer experience fits into those outcomes.

  • What surprised you most recently from customer insights? Share the good, bad and ugly with the C-Suite to get their attention and advocate for your customers.

  • Bring the customers’ stories into business reporting. Use their voice, quotes and messages to help leadership internalize how your brand impacts real people.

  • Listen for quotes and leadership communications that reflect the customer-centric culture you want to achieve. Quote your executives on the dashboards and reports going out to the organization. 

Proving the return on investment (ROI) for your CX program is another great way of getting your C-Suite on board. Check out our guide on how to do this: How to Calculate the ROI of Customer Experience.

Chapter 11

Build long-lasting partnerships

Bridging the CX gap across your organization and establishing a coalition all comes down to cultivating mutually beneficial partnerships. 

Here are some suggestions on how you can build these solid partnerships: 

  • Communicate often: As customer experience gains traction or achieves positive outcomes, tell your peers in ways that highlight how these are business wins, not just CX achievements.

  • Don’t be a stranger: Show interest in the outcomes from other parts of the organization. Congratulate the head of HR on the improving employee retention rate, and let her know how important that is for customer experience. 

  • Avoid territorialism: Customer experience is about the end-to-end journey and positive outcomes that come with well-designed, thoughtful experiences. Many of the measurements are “owned” by CX, but are really organizational metrics. Share those far and wide and provide the context about what they mean for the overall organization.

And don’t forget to ask for feedback. Why not practice what is preached? Ask your department leaders for feedback on what they understand about customer experience, how to measure it, and what role they play. Track that feedback on a regular basis as you move forward with new partnerships and cooperation. 

Create your own Customer Satisfaction Score survey to track if these leaders are getting enough customer experience data and feel empowered to use that as well as their own metrics to improve the customer experience. They can share if the communication around CX is helping them connect the dots to their specific goals and results. Ask for additional, open-ended feedback to hear their suggestions and challenges. Watch for your ratings to go up as you gain buy-in and produce results. And there’s a bonus—this is more data to share with your executives. 

Customer experience initiatives cannot happen in a vacuum or within a siloed group. To succeed, you must break down the walls, share experiences, and build bridges throughout your organization.  

How to run a successful CX cross-functional program
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How to Bridge the Customer Experience Gap Across the Organization

In this webinar, our guest speaker Nicole Sult, Sr. Director of Customer Experience at Lippert Components, shares how she established a collaborative CX program that leverages customer feedback and enforces customer-centric strategies across departments.

Watch this webinar to learn:

  • How to collect and leverage real-time customer feedback that boosts awareness across departments and enacts change. 

  • How to analyze customer data and enact intentional action via CRM to see tangible results. 

  • Specific examples of how real companies bridge the CX gap within their organizations.

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