Forrester’s “Only CX Metric That Matters”

Harley Manning wrote an eye-opening blog yesterday that all CX or VoC professionals should read. Here’s the link:

I won’t attempt to paraphrase Harley’s entire blog, but the key takeaway for me was his point that CX programs MUST be measured in DOLLARS.  While NPS, CSAT and other survey-centric measurements are nice, the only metric that matters to senior executives, and the whole raison d’etre of a CX or VoC program, is profitability – top-line growth and cost reduction.

We’re all familiar with the challenges of survey programs; decreasing take rates, leading questions, and sparse verbatim comments make it difficult to find truly actionable insights to drive profit. So where do CX or VoC teams find those insights?

At Topbox, we’ve written several blogs and white papers about the need to listen to customers across each of the ever-growing lists of channels that companies are offering to their customers for communication. Hidden in your server farms are millions of call recordings, chat transcripts, emails, SMS messages, social posts, product reviews and more.  In aggregate, that data set represents nearly everything you’d ever want to know about how your customers think and feel, as well as what they want and need.  But the harsh reality is that most companies don’t know how to get to that pay dirt.  At best, they are doing single-channel analysis within different silos of the organization. However, new technology like Topbox provides the ability to aggregate and curate all that rich data for deep, profit-driving analysis.

As Harley points out, it may seem hard to connect the dots from customer friction point discovery to hard dollars. Here’s one small example of how easy it can be if you’re listening everywhere customers talk about your company.

Back in September, one of our Topbox clients was alerted to an issue through our anomaly detection module that exposed a 500% spike in promotion related contacts.  Using our Discovery module, they quickly pinpointed the root cause which was a new promotion for loyalty program members that didn’t articulate that certain products were excluded from the promo. Fortunately, our client was able to move quickly to communicate the exclusions to their members before it created more aggravation for that critically important cohort of customers.  Knowing the lifetime value of these members, the marketing team could easily compute the risk of not reacting quickly to the issue.  Big dollars were at stake, and the problem was resolved. This issue was exposed in phone calls and chats.  Imagine having to wait for survey data to spot it and then take action!

Want to inspire your C-Suite and ensure the long-term viability of your CX program (if you haven’t seen Forrester’s 2020 predictions for CX, you should!)?  Generate profit-driving insights from the mountain of contextually rich customer feedback that’s within your reach today.

CX leaders

An Executive’s Role in Creating a CX Program

Very few companies have an established, institutionalized CX strategy that is woven into the fabric of their entire organization. In fact, many companies are still at the stage where they have a fledgling CX program, or maybe a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, struggling to get the ear of those who can make decisions.  Some don’t even have that.  Why?  Analysts such as Forrester and Gartner have been touting the merits of a strong, adopted CX strategy for several years now.  You’d think executives would see stats such as “CX leaders’ revenue growth is 5x more than CX laggards”, and move heaven and earth to become a CX leader.  Yet, here we are nearing the end of 2019 and it simply isn’t happening at the level it should be.

One of the principal reasons for this is the ambiguity around the concept of Customer Experience. Sure, everyone knows a good or poor customer experience when they see one.  But that’s not a very tangible foundation on which to build a strategy.  I tie the ambiguity directly to the perception of a lack of actionability.  Executives are decision-makers. They’re driven by ROI, and ROI is generated through actions.  The squishy, ethereal nature of CX, in its relative infancy, doesn’t lend itself to decisiveness. But those executives need to understand that there are CX programs generating insights that are absolutely actionable and capable of generating huge returns.  Once this is understood, it becomes a question of how best for an executive to facilitate a strategy and culture of Customer Experience.

First, find a change agent to lead a CX team.  This needs to be someone with a passion for the customer, experience and skills in leading a team, and no fear in breaking a few windows. That last piece is particularly important.  A CX team is going to be ferreting out issues in every facet of an organization.  No matter how constructive the feedback is presented, some toes will be stepped upon.  So, an executive’s role here is to find the right person and provide the air cover that will be necessary for her/him to do the job. Expect a few bumps along the way, but a sure sign of CX strategy adoption is when the business areas become hungry for insights that are specific to them. Our Solutions Engineer here at Topbox wrote an article last week detailing some more strategies on how to get buy-in on a CX program.

Once a leader is identified, it’s time to form a team.  Remember the scene in Braveheart when William Wallace holds out his hand to Robert the Bruce, looks him in the eye and sternly says “unite the clans”.  This is applicable in the context of a CX program!  It’s a safe bet that most companies have people who are reviewing customer interactions in an effort to learn where friction points exist.  These intrepid pioneers are out there in every corner of the company, typically sanctioned by a specific business area leader.  There’s no playbook for these people and no collaboration between them.  They’re simply individual contributors finding their way through piles of data with precious few tools at their disposal.  Think about the potential of bringing these individuals together on a CX team where they can share knowledge, develop processes and leverage tools across the group in a more efficient way. An executive can make this happen.  Pull these people together physically or virtually, and the synergies created will result in a steady stream of actionable insights that will pave the way for reduced churn, increased revenue and optimized operating costs. 

Next, provide the right tools.  A CX team needs software to make sense of the potentially millions of customer interactions that occur on a monthly basis.  Being able to leverage both solicited (surveys) and unsolicited (phone calls, chats, emails, social posts, SMS, reviews, etc) feedback is crucial in this effort. A solution like Topbox’s conversation analytics platform can enable a CX team and put their insight discovery on rocket fuel.

Lastly, an executive must insist on structured output. Assigning insights for action and tracking progress is an essential part of a CX program.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Without it, there is no ROI.  Executives must maintain oversight of this part of the process to ensure that all areas of the company are embracing the insights and addressing the issues and opportunities methodically and completely.  As that happens, monetary value can be calculated and aggregated to determine the impact the CX program is having on the company.

Voila!  If these steps are followed and talented people are empowered to do their jobs, you’ll have a highly functional, institutionalized CX program. Your company will be a CX leader instead of laggard before you know it!

Omnichannel Data Powers Omnichannel Experiences

At the most basic level, omnichannel is about creating a consistent experience for consumers. Consistency seems simple, but with businesses being so complex that is not always the case. There are so many different functions, processes, personalities, and challenges, all of which can get in the way of a company achieving consistency.

Creating omnichannel experiences became a focus for most companies about 10 years ago when consumers started using a plethora of devices to engage with companies. The number of ways consumers engage has only increased, making an omnichannel strategy even more difficult.

Often times, companies will pick what they feel are the most popular or highest engaging channels to build a multichannel approach. The reason this approach is so common is because many companies feel there are diminishing returns with some of the less popular channels. This could not be farther from the truth, and it is a terrible excuse to ignore a portion of your consumers. After all, those less engaged consumers may be that way because of the experience you offer them.

Companies use data to formulate and analyze their omni-channel strategy more than anything else. Data helps companies understand how “omni” they really are, as well as identify gaps in the consumer experience that may not be consistent. In order for a company to be truly omni-channel, they need to ensure they have all the data about their customers’ experiences. Without the necessary data to fully understand the customer experience, there is bound to be inconsistencies in the experience.


Does your company rely solely on survey data to gauge the customer experience? Download our whitepaper to learn the difference between customer experience and customer feedback. 


The foundation of any omnichannel experience is the data. Data provides the knowledge on how consumers are engaging with your company, how often, what their experiences are like, and much, much more. Without data, no omnichannel strategy will succeed. Collecting all your consumer’ data is a challenging feat due to the uniqueness of all the data points you must collect; however, similar to an omnichannel experience, data needs to be connected as well. Establishing a data foundation that joins data where possible, helps ensure a business is looking at the experiences they offer with a consistent lens.

Data comes in many forms, structured, unstructured, quantitative, and qualitative. Regardless of the data type, it should all be focused on the customer. Customers provide more than enough data to help you understand them, including, conversational data, demographics, preferences, transactional data, engagement, etc. Regardless of the type of data, it is imperative that companies find a way to normalize and structure the data in a way that mirrors how you want customers to engage with your brand. If you have retail data in a separate data lake from digital data, then you can expect those two experiences to be disconnected. Similarly, logistics data sitting alone in the warehouse will ensure that logistics won’t always be aligned with digital orders.

Siloed data creates siloed experiences. By simply joining customer data together, companies can more easily create an omnichannel experience. The value of having consistent data to leverage when evaluating the customer experience can’t be emphasized enough.

When the idea of a company being omnichannel was first formulated, most companies looked at it as more of an aspiration than an actual goal. Today, with technology giving companies the ability to collect cross-channel data, bring it all together, and analyze it regardless of structure type, there is no excuse not to understand your customer experience across every channel.

Data silos are some of the easiest walls to break down – make sure they don’t get in the way of your omnichannel strategy.


When the Front Line Knows More Than the C-Suite

I love what I do, mainly because of how much I get to learn. Working with companies across every vertical gives me the opportunity to see how each unique business builds and implements CX strategies.

Along the way, I have noticed that the best companies align their CX initiatives across the entire company regardless of position. CX strategies that are not shared across the entire company are destined to fail – an experience that is not consistent will end up being a poor or broken one.

Large companies who have numerous degrees of separation between the C-Suite and front line can find this challenging to prevent. But the remedy isn’t all that complicated – there simply needs to be more of an understanding of what the front line (those that deal with customers directly day-in and day-out) is hearing, seeing, and feeling.

Now, I’m not saying the C-Suite needs to spend more time on the sales floor, in the waiting room, or call center. The issues occur when day-to-day customer interactions are ignored by managers and directors. Those that oversee the front line must understand what the customer experience is in order to better communicate it upstream to executives. These managers, directors, and sometimes even VP’s have the most difficult position because they sit between the ground floor of customer interactions and the CX strategies that are pushed to them from executive teams. This means it is up to them to connect the customer with the new experience and make sure it is successful; however, if they aren’t passing the information they are learning from the front line to executives than the CX strategies they formulate will be disconnected from what customers actually want.

I have seen too many companies implement CX strategies aligned with customer priorities because the front line has been ignored. I am always comparing the experiences I have with a company, whether it is with ground floor representatives, marketing campaigns, or the actual products. When there is a disconnect, it is usually obvious how it occurred and how it can be avoided.

With a solution like Topbox, an entire company can ensure they are hearing the voice of the customer regardless of the channel. Because Topbox is data agnostic, the CX platform can analyze voice, chat, email, social, as well as surveys. With a solution this flexible, there is no reason to not understand what the customer is saying. If everyone knows what the voice of the customer is, the less likely a disjointed or broken experience will occur.

The best advice I can give to businesses is to listen to what your customers are saying (not just your spouse or friends). You stand to learn more from listening than almost anything else. Plus, you’ll find it much easier to implement that next CX initiative because it will align with what your customer is saying.

Silos to Systemness: Why it’s Critical to the Success of your CX

Systemness.  It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but if you’re in the CX arena and haven’t heard this word then you may want to familiarize yourself with it. Healthcare companies have been using the term increasingly over the last few years.  Sure, it sounds like another pretentious corporate buzzword but once understood and put into the context of customer experience it should resonate loudly.

The definition of systemness is as follows: the state, quality, or condition of a complex system, that is, of a set of interconnected elements that behave as, or appear to be, a whole, exhibiting behavior distinct from the behavior of the parts (yep, straight from Wikipedia).  For healthcare companies with a very sophisticated delivery model, that means providing patient-focused, seamless and high-quality care across the many parts of the system.  You could easily substitute a couple of words and achieve the CX-focused equivalent of delivering a consistent customer experience across every touchpoint.

Easier said than done. First, consider all the touchpoints – website, retail stores, apps, billing, contact center and more.  It’s not uncommon for each of these touchpoints to fall under different departments. Moreover, the data generated from each is a) often created and stored in its own unique platform and b) “owned” by the department that is responsible for the touchpoint.  Different platforms, data and ownership lead to inconsistent insights, priorities and resulting decisions.  That sounds a lot like silos, and that is the opposite of systemness.


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Here’s the thing – customers don’t care what department they’re dealing with.  They see a company as one entity, and they expect to be treated consistently throughout their journey with a brand.  Take, for example, when the information on a website is totally different than what a contact center agent communicated.  The promotion at the store is not reflected in the first payment.  The product in the advertisement is not available on the app. These incongruencies drive consumers away from those brands in search of a better experience.  There are just too many choices out there to suffer through repeated problems.

Topbox’s customer experience analytics platform was created for the purpose of identifying those inconsistent experiences so that businesses can resolve them quickly and effectively. Topbox aggregates unique datasets, applies a classification model and provides interactive, guided visualizations needed to find these inconsistencies and determine the root causes. In short, Topbox helps companies achieve systemness.

Leaders in the CX arena should take a page out of the healthcare playbook and strive for systemness.  While the concept of “customer churn” may not have the same level as severity as it does in healthcare, the life or death of most businesses depends on consistently great customer experiences.

How does your company achieve perfect systemness?