Customer Experience Lab

7 practical steps to build a data-driven CX program

By Joe Novak on March 28, 2019

Recent articles about customer experience (CX) have included statements as grandiose as:

  • “Customer experience is the new brand.”- Forbes
  • "Put customer experience at the heart of your operations.”- McKinsey
  • "Customer experience is the key competitive differentiator.” - Wall Street Journal

Yet, a common theme that emerges when we talk to clients about their CX efforts is the struggle with how to get started. They’ve read the advice and agree that CX is important, but they don’t know what actionable steps to take to improve their organization’s customer experience in a way that impacts business.

The questions we often hear include: What should I do first? What next? What needs to be in place to be successful? How do I demonstrate impact? To guide companies through this, we’ve outlined 7 practical steps to build a data-driven CX program that impacts your business.

7 practical steps to build a data-driven CX program


  1. Research your customers’ needs

    To better understand your customers, begin with identifying the most critical touchpoints in the customer lifecycle. This can be done internally in a few days by talking to the teams that interact with customers during each touchpoint.

    BrainstormAsk questions to find the customer interactions with the greatest opportunity to annoy or delight. Drill down further into each of these touchpoints to learn how customers interact with you, what they expect from you, and what the ideal experience should be at each touchpoint.

    At this stage, you’ll also want to gather relevant customer or operational data for each touchpoint to create a benchmark for where you stand today. This will eventually help you assess the impact of your efforts.

  2. Conduct a key driver analysis

    Once you’ve gathered the information you need, work with your analytics team or an external partner to conduct a key driver analysis. A key driver analysis is a targeted customer survey used to identify which aspects of the experience are most important to overall satisfaction.

    It should help you identify which components of each touchpoint have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction — and the magnitude of that impact. When you know this, you can prioritize which issues to focus on based on which have the greatest potential to impact your customer metrics.

    For example, if one of the key touchpoints is an in-store return, the key driver analysis can determine which aspects of the return process require improvements (store associate friendliness, wait time, return options, etc.), and to what degree the improvements will impact customer satisfaction (or NPS®). This helps you prioritize which part of the experience to focus on. 

    (Pro tip: Segment customers based on value to see if key drivers vary across loyalty levels.)

    Read a real-life example of a key driver analysis put into CX action

  3. Choose which CX issues to address

    Using the results from the key driver analysis, identify two or three significant issues affecting your customer experience (e.g. hold times, shipping time) to address with CX programs. CX programs are a set of tactics implemented by the organization to fix or improve the issue the customer faces during the experience.

    For example, if your key driver analysis reveals that decreasing call center hold times will significantly improve customer satisfaction (CSAT), your CX program may include working with the appropriate teams to hire more call center agents, improve operational efficiencies for the call center team, or implement a new IVR system to more effectively route customers to appropriate agents. As you make improvements, track operational data and continuously collect additional customer feedback to see if this investment actually led to higher customer satisfaction.

    Since funding and priorities can change quickly, one or two of the programs implemented should be quick wins to help immediately prove the value of investing in CX.

  4. Create a CX roadmap with relevant KPIs

    After you’ve identified the issues you’re going to tackle, develop a roadmap for each program, lay out the goals for the first 3, 6, and 12 months, and determine the correct success metrics (KPIs). At the same time, identify the level of data and analytics support that’s needed to track and measure your program’s progress, and decide whether an external partner is needed for strategy, execution, analytics and measurement — or all of the above.

    Because it’s getting harder to justify investments Determine KPIsbased on NPS® or CSAT improvements alone, it’s critical during this step to determine how you will demonstrate return on investment. The results of the key driver study should help you determine both the impact on customer satisfaction and the monetary benefit of the investment. If you’re serious about improving customer experience, spend time before your program thinking about what success will look like at the end of it.

    Keep in mind that it’s more important than ever before to select KPIs that measure the impact CX efforts have on business metrics, such as customer spend, retention, number of products purchased, etc. If you’re able to show the program’s impact on financial metrics, you’re more likely to get organizational buy-in to invest in customer experience improvement programs. Even if your high level metrics are NPS® or CSAT, make sure you can tie these to financial metrics in your final analysis.

  5. Determine the data, tools, and technology needed

    After defining what success looks like, verify you have the data needed to measure your KPIs. Determine how to get access to the necessary data, and the appropriate cadence for feedback collection to track if customer perception of the targeted issue has changed.

    At this point, determine what tools and technology are needed to track customer behavior and measure the success of your programs. Is the customer data you need all in one place? What tool(s) do you need to efficiently and effectively track, measure, and distribute program results?

    To really see if the improvements have worked, you will need to analyze operational, customer behavior, and feedback data. This requires technology that goes beyond feedback collection; your CX technology should be able to link customer data from many different systems to quantify the impact of your programs.

  6. Execute and measure success

    Now it’s time to create and implement your programs. While you may not be in charge of making the actual improvements (new technology implementation, call center staffing, product mix changes, etc.), you will need to advocate for why the improvements are needed, and to track, measure, and report on the impact of the changes.

    This will require you to work with internal or Measure successexternal partners to collect the necessary data (which may come from multiple technology systems). You’ll need to continuously track the progress of your program, show weekly (or daily) progress against KPIs, and demonstrate whether the ROI you presented to executives is coming to fruition.

    Your program will likely require you to collect feedback from customers to see if they’re noticing the changes. In addition to this, assess behavioral data to see if the change is impacting customer behavior. As mentioned before, measuring the impact of CX programs goes beyond measuring NPS and CSAT. If you show executives that improving the return process led to 5-point improvement in NPS, they might glaze over it. But, if you show them the improvement led to a 5-point NPS increase and 2.3% increase in customer repurchase rate that led to $3.5 million in incremental sales… they will see the real value of the program.

  7. Develop a holistic scorecard to socialize progress

    After a program is launched, and certainly once multiple programs are running, create a holistic CX scorecard for executives. This should be markedly different from program reporting in that it should focus on the overall health of your customer experience and include reporting on high-level KPIs. We encourage you to document financial gains (such as sales, retention, cost savings, etc.), so you can more easily socialize the benefits of great customer experience.

    Build your scorecard around customer touchpoints to highlight which parts of the customer lifecycle are creating pain, and which are creating delight. This will help executives channel resources where they’re needed most. Review the scorecard regularly with the executive team and use this time to present additional analysis to show trends and drivers.

Putting these steps into action

We hope this practical guide offered helpful tips on how to build an effective data-driven CX program that impacts your business. If there’s anything we left out, or if you have questions about any of the steps, let us know in the comments below.

For an example of how one organization put these steps into practice, download Centriam’s customer case study to learn how a multinational telecom increased revenue and NPS® with its data-driven CX programs.

Download case study

If you’d like to better understand your customers, use customer insights to fuel your customer programs, and measure the impact of your programs on business metrics, request customer data workshop. We’ll review your CX objectives, evaluate the current state of your customer data and analytics, and provide tips on what we recommend you do next.


Topics: Customer experience analytics, Customer experience strategy

Author: Joe Novak

Joe is committed to improving the ability of Centriam’s clients to act upon data and insights. Joe brings diverse experience utilizing data and advanced analytics to improve performance across many industries. Prior to Centriam, Joe managed risk for multiple credit card and auto loan portfolios at US Bank. Joe also worked in marketing analytics at Target and survey analytics for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Joe holds a B.A. in mathematics and computer science from Macalester College and an M.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado.
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