Quality, Not Quantity: Strategic Customer Listening for Experience Improvement

For many years now, conventional wisdom has held that the best way to listen to as many customers as possible is to turn every customer listening post within your customer experience (CX) program on and simply capture all insights that come your way. This strategy makes a simple kind of sense on paper; if you’re listening to as many people as possible, you’re bound to hear something pertinent to your CX and organizational goals, right?

The answer to that question is more complicated than conventional wisdom would have you believe. While it’s true that this approach will gain you a lot of data, a large portion of it may be wholly irrelevant to the CX goals you’re trying to achieve. At the same time, you may miss out on highly relevant data when you focus only on customer listening posts while leaving other signals, such as behavioral and operational data, aside. 

So, is there a better, more efficient way to find data pertinent to what you need your program to achieve? As it happens, the answer is yes, and we’re going to get into it right now!

Where the Drive for Data Came From

If there’s a more targeted approach to gathering the data and insights you need to achieve Experience Improvement (XI), why is the standard approach to simply gather as much data as possible? To answer this question, we need to remember that over the last 20 years, the word “data” has been seen by many organizations as a prescription for any business, technology, or marketplace problem. At the same time, the cost to capture and analyze data has also gone down significantly.

But don’t be under any illusions;  just turning listening posts on and gathering as much data as possible does not translate directly to actionable business and experience solutions. Frankly, in most cases where CX programs are not focused and use all kinds of listening posts but rarely all relevant behavioral, operational, and contextual data, the resulting insights frequently leave brands with an endlessly tall mountain of white noise. That’s the state of affairs for far too many experience programs, and it’s why a lot of them fail.

A Better Approach

Rather than begin by flipping every light switch on and inhaling as much data as possible, brands should take a further step back when activating or refurbishing their experience program. They must, quite simply, design their program with their end goal in mind before any listening posts are even activated and before deciding which other data to ingest. 

Taking time to design with the end in mind also allows you to consider which audiences are most relevant to which goals, as well as the approaches you need to take in order to connect to each one. This is a more targeted methodology than simply lying in wait for a large lake of data, and while it requires more initial legwork, the end result is a wealth of actionable intelligence that by and large curates itself.

Starting with clarity on intended outcomes and getting company-wide agreement on key performance indicators (KPI’s)  gives your team concrete, quantifiable goals to connect your initiative to. It lays the basis for the management support and corporate buy-in you need to be successful.

Applying What You’ve Learned

Whether you’re intending to strengthen loyalty and grow your business with existing customers or to make efforts to win new ones, the approach I’ve laid out here makes all the difference when it comes not ‘just’ to ensuring the success of your CX program, but also creating Experience Improvement for your customers and employees that drives business outcomes. Patience and forethought will save you time that you’d otherwise spend attempting to connect data to business outcomes.

And, don’t forget to design your customer listening posts (and, consequently, your products and services) in an inclusive way. This is imperative not only from an ethical perspective, but also key to making your Experience Improvement initiatives truly effective from CX and EX standpoints.

Click here to read my full-length PoV on how customer listening with diversity and inclusion in mind can make the methodology I’ve detailed here even more beneficial for your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.

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