You’ve designated your measurements that will be reported back to management and the Board, you’ve set-up your dashboard, and you’ve created mechanisms to track and record your KPIs. All set, right?

You’re seeing great impressions, social media followers are on the rise, email CTR is high, form-fills are providing what appear to be qualified leads, inbound calls are flowing nicely into the call center, and transactions are up. However, you later find out that your customer experience (CX) ratings are very low. How can that be? Activity and engagement are high, so what’s up?

One of my favorite sayings is: a transaction does not make a customer. Prospects may try a new product, check out a new company offering, or engage in a sales promotion. But, many times that is just a trial on their part and they may never return. If their experience is unsatisfactory in any way along the continuum, they will in turn tell ten friends of their bad experience with your organization; all be it just one point in their overall experience. As Forrester recently reported in their Predictions 2018, A Year of Reckoning, market dynamics will force decisive action for firms looking to “Revitalize customer experience in a market where rewards and punishments are doled out experience by experience.” This isn’t a KPI, rather a comprehensive or collective ‘experience’ tied back to each individual.

The art and science duality of marketing has become increasingly more complex with the juxtaposition of branding elements, product features and benefits, traditional and digital mediums, multi-channel vs. omni-channel delivery systems, multi-device usage and behaviors, and unidentifiable points of influence vs. an attribution point. Now, add in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and intelligent agents. In John DiJulius’ latest LinkedIn post Marketing Will Soon Report to Customer Experience, he states; “You can say what you want about who you are, but people believe what they experience.”

So, What To Do?

We live in a world moving faster every day, and technology has created even more urgency, to the point where; “Over 60% of executives believe that they are behind in their digital transformation.” (Forrester, Predictions 2018, A Year of Reckoning)

Yet, if we stop chasing the latest tactic or technology in front of us for the sake of thinking we’re relevant, technology can enhance our abilities as marketers. Blockchain hit back in 2009 and yet, nine years later, it has become more of an investment vehicle (as Bitcoin and others) than it has become an engine of commerce. On the other hand, a 2017 Gartner survey reveals that “25% of CEOs perceive the impact of Blockchain as major or transformational over the coming five years.”

Whether AI, Blockchain, or another technology takes hold or makes sense, it’s important to remember (as our friends at Echelon Front, former Navy Seals, say), “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Or in layman terms; being conscious of what we’re doing allows us to act clearly and quickly in being effective. A knee-jerk reaction isn’t accurate nor intentional. We’re always eager for the quick sales conversion, yet we forget the ‘slow’ in this equation; the realization that customers are moving along a journey (and not necessarily in an instance) with an organization to evaluate your brand and engage in the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me); and in a determination of whether to release their data (in a world of digital distrust: identity theft, questionable security, and data-breaches) to first conduct a transaction. Therein, focus on nurturing their ‘slow.’ Frog spoke to this in their recent report Embrace the Hype Cycle, wherein they stated: “Too often, companies fail to compete during the early stages of the hype cycle because they lose sight of the real value of technology: enhancing real human experiences.”

This means that marketers need to be part branding experts, part tacticians, and part techies, so much so that KPIs become a channel of CX. CX is less about one or two outputs (though important to evaluate each campaign or tactic in terms of clicks, impressions, touches, etc.), rather more about the throughput leading to a prospect becoming a sale—and ultimately becoming a customer (someone that trusts the brand and engages more than once).

So, Why Should We Care?

As Manoj Kandasamy stated in his January 20, 2018 Adtech. Marketing. Life. blog; “The threat of agencies losing relevance in the new age of marketing is real.” Consulting firms have quietly been acquiring ad agencies, and tech firms are exploiting opportunities to be marketers. The lines are blurring because of the need to focus on and create a trackable CX in the context of a personalized experience that hits each customer’s WIIFM. The recent report Customer Experience Management Market – Global Forecast to 2022 by Touch Point states: “The customer experience management market is projected to grow from an estimated USD 5.98 billion in 2017 to USD 16.91 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 23.1% during the forecast period, 2017 to 2022.”

FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) are systematically data mining every move we make, making them the marketer (or CX) du jour, yet they certainly don’t talk about themselves as being marketers, but we sure know they’re tracking us across our CX.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy KPIs as much as the next data junkie. However, if all we have are data points and we can only say that for example the CTR as X, but we can’t act on the data because it was a moment in time or it doesn’t highlight an insight into customer behavior, and we don’t know what other factors influenced that moment in time, what good is it?

So, What’s The Answer?

Interestingly, there isn’t a simple answer. Gartner’s recent study The 6 Styles of Analytics for Better Customer Experiences provided examples or models based on the nature of a customer’s behavior, i.e. using the means in which they experience a brand as the means to create, track, and measure the CX, versus the contrast of predictive analysis, segmentation, and acquisition cross-sell. Pandora® uses behavioral change to personalize music channels. Coca-Cola® is doing this by realizing that choice and customization is integral to the customer CX (and ultimately loyalty), so they created this through their Freestyle machines where you have over 100 choices from their various drink brands.

Here’s another example of not necessarily behavioral mapping, but a customer’s mindset. John West® is doing this by tracking back to the source (the region and ship) of where the canned salmon or tuna you bought was caught, i.e. this sense of where does my food came from?

Others aren’t so much taking an approach of enhancing the CX, rather they’re focused on reducing customer effort to better the existing CX. CCW Digital research confirms that reducing customer effort is the #1 customer experience objective. The 2018 CCW Market Study on Performance & Metrics states; “Over 77% of organizations are making customer feedback surveys their top priority as a plan to reduce effort. By understanding how customers feel about their experiences, organizations can identify and seize opportunities to this cause.”

McKinsey & Co.’s latest report, Ten Red Flags Signaling Your Analytics Program Will Fail, speaks to organizations appointing Chief Analytics Officers (CAO) and Chief Data Officers (CDO), indicating the level of importance around analytics programs. Yet, one of the critical factors is not just hiring CAO, CDO, or even data-scientists, is the analytics translator. “This sometimes overlooked but critical role is best filled by someone on the business side who can help leaders identify high-impact analytics use cases and then translate the business needs to data scientists, data engineers, and other tech experts so they can build an actionable analytics solution. Translators are also expected to be actively involved in scaling the solution across the organization and generating buy-in with business users.” And while data is critical, we should take a POV around a continual journey of improvement and management of the CX, i.e. outside-in vs. inside-out.

So, Where To Next?

All told, the CX approach to engaging and keeping customers is slowly taking over what was a set or dashboard of KPIs signifying the success of an organization to a cumulative effect over the customer’s journey. To quote Sam Walton: “Whenever you get confused, go to the store. The customer has the answers—and all the money.” Talking with people (face-to-face, surveys, focus groups, etc.) is an amazing way to understand their WIIFM and behavior in mapping and managing the CX and nurturing their journey (throughput) vs. only looking at the outputs of how many store visits, transactions p/customers, dollars in sales, etc. show up on the weekly dashboard.