How to Use CX Metrics to Find Bottlenecks to Product Led Growth

We are all competing in the End User Era now.

Investor Blake Bartlett coined the term “End User Era” to capture an important shift that is happening on an organizational level across industries: “Today, software just shows up in the workplace unannounced. End users are finding products on their own and telling their bosses which ones to buy. And it’s all happening at lightning speed.”

Companies like DocuSign, Slack, Zoom, and Hubspot are examples of SaaS companies that are thriving in the End User Era. Their success is rooted in products that end-users love. Product Led Growth codifies this end user-focused growth model. PLG relies on the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion and expansion. This approach goes all-in on end user ease and productivity to drive growth, and is a radical shift away from the acquisition growth model so familiar in the software industry.

Customer experience (CX) metrics have an important role to play in this strategy—something we explored in-depth in a previous post: Customer Experience in the Era of Product Led Growth.

Customers Will Tell You Where Your Product Led Growth Bottlenecks Are

Metrics are essential to understanding progress on the product led growth curve. Typically the PLG model evaluates business and pipeline health based on user actions (clicks) and subscription revenue.

This is where CX metrics are so valuable. Voice of customer data illuminates the “why” behind the clicks and the cash. Classic CX surveys like NPS, PSAT, CSAT, and Customer Effort Score(CES) monitor customer sentiment—providing critical insight into behavioral and revenue metrics.

By analyzing the open-ended comments that accompany the rating-scale questions you can identify positive and negative themes in what customers are saying. Based on what you learn, you can confidently prioritize improvements to your product that will remove bottlenecks, the enemy of PLG success.

At the core, product led growth is about taking tasks that would traditionally be done manually and putting them into the product to create efficiency and a better customer experience. Step back and map out all of the steps in your funnel from acquiring an initial lead all the way through to turning that lead into a paying customer who sees value in the product. Where are the bottlenecks?

How do you know where your bottlenecks are, and whether you are eliminating them?

Let’s explore each metric to understand how it can help you identify and address bottlenecks, with real-world examples from our customers.

Net Promoter Score (NPS): Loyalty and More

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys ask customers to evaluate how likely they are to recommend your product or company to a friend or colleague, this “propensity to refer” is an excellent predictor of future growth.

Unlike the other metrics covered here, which are flexible and easily customizable, true NPS surveys follow a very specific format when it comes to asking the first (of two) questions. By asking that first question in a specific way, using a standard scale, companies can compare their NPS scores to industry benchmarks. The second question, which gathers qualitative data regarding improvement opportunities, can (and often should) be customized.

NPS Surveys ask two questions…

  • Question #1: “How likely are you to recommend this product or company to a friend or colleague on a scale of 0-10?”
  • Question #2: “What can we improve about this experience?” (if they rated you 0-8) or “What did you love about this experience” (if they rated you a 9 or 10).

The first question allows you to calculate your Net Promoter Score, which is a number between -100 and +100 and serves as a benchmark for progress. For detailed information on how to calculate NPS, and what the number really means, take a look at our Net Promoter Score post.

The second NPS survey question is just as important, if not more so, than the score itself because this qualitative data tells you what you need to do to improve end user experience.

Why is NPS key to Product Led Growth? Traditionally viewed as an indicator of growth (as mentioned above), NPS is also a crystal ball when it comes to retention. NPS gives you a glimpse into the minds and hearts of your end users. It can provide a constant stream of feedback about bottlenecks and that will help you create products that enable the ease and productivity you are going for.

In short, NPS captures what’s most important to users, whether it’s documentation, training, or aspects of the product itself. NPS is typically the foundation of any CX program, and since you don’t want to get overwhelmed in the beginning, there’s nothing wrong with making NPS your sole CX metric at this stage.

NPS Example: DocuSign

Docusign logo
DocuSign uses NPS to gather feedback on product features and pinpoint any bottlenecks in the experience. They achieve this by customizing their NPS follow-up question (the one that asks users to explain their score). In the in-app survey pictured below, Docusign asks “Tell us about your experience sending an envelope.”

Wootric NPS Survey in DocuSign

Guneet Singh, Director of CX at DocuSign, believes that regardless of which metric you use, it’s vital to understand how customers feel about your product at key points in their journey. In other words, don’t wait to conduct an annual survey—gather continuous data and refine your product based on that feedback.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Because Support Is a Bottleneck

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), like NPS, is another metric you can use at various points in the customer journey. The classic use case for CSAT is following up on a support interaction, where you can ask customers about their experience:

  • Solving their specific problem
  • Working with a particular CS agent
  • Working with your company in general

CSAT surveys can use a scale ranging from “very satisfied” or “very dissatisfied,” often followed by a question that asks the user to share the reason behind their score.

What makes this touchpoint so vital from a PLG perspective? Support calls, by definition, are a point of friction—nobody contacts customer support when things are going right.

Product Led Growth endeavors to eliminate support interactions altogether. When was the last time you reached out to customer support at Slack or DocuSign? Chances are, it’s never happened. That’s the seamlessness you’re going for.

This touchpoint is a rich source of insight into frustrations that customers face. Product teams that prioritize end user experience pay close attention to feedback from support as they improve product and design new features.

CSAT Example: Glassdoor
glassdoor logo
Glassdoor, the popular site for job listings and anonymous employer reviews, uses Customer Satisfaction surveys to gather feedback on support interactions. When a support case is closed in Salesforce, end users receive a personalized CSAT survey via email.

Carmen Woo, Salesforce Solution Architect and Senior Application Engineer, holds the cross-functional CX technology vision at Glassdoor. “What is intriguing about our use case is that we use machine learning to analyze feedback. Comments are tagged by topic themes and are assigned sentiment to capture the emotion behind the user’s words.

“The [InMoment] platform allows our Support team to segment feedback by agent and other relevant business drivers to uncover insights that contribute to optimizing our support function, and it can also reveal bottlenecks that are best addressed by improving product features or design,” says Carmen.

Product Satisfaction (PSAT): Adoption and Engagement Bottlenecks

PSAT surveys are highly flexible, and they can be structured the same way you structure Customer Satisfaction survey questions—asking customers to rate their level of satisfaction with a product using a scale from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied” (e.g., 1-3 or 1-5) or through a binary response (e.g., “happy face” or “sad face”).

PSAT surveys are best delivered within an app, when customers are using your product and can give you fresh, timely feedback. The customer sentiment derived from PSAT surveys is the necessary complement to behavioral metrics. Sure, you can see in the clicks that users are not adopting a feature, but why? PSAT helps to answer that question and guides optimization efforts.

PSAT Example: HubSpot

Marketers that use HubSpot, the popular CRM software, may recall responding to a Product Satisfaction survey when using a new feature for the first time. PSAT gives Hubspot immediate feedback on whether a new feature is delivering value to the end-user.

Even if you’ve done extensive user testing, getting feedback on a feature within the context of a user’s experience of the whole product is valuable. Is there friction? Should the feature be tweaked in some way?

This approach, which is a key aspect of lean UX design, ensures you don’t go too far down the rabbit hole with a product feature that sounded great in theory but didn’t serve your end-users in the real world. New features can bring complexity — the bain of end user ease. By continually asking for feedback in-product, you can better calibrate that balance and maintain a frictionless, easeful end-user experience.

Mobile CSAT survey for banking app
Example InMoment PSAT survey in a mobile app.

Customer Effort Score (CES): Identify Bottlenecks in Onboarding

A seamless onboarding experience is key to widespread adoption. If end-users have to work too hard to get up and running, they’ll give up and try a competitor’s product. Even if you have an enthusiastic champion within a company, if they have to prod others to adopt or spend time convincing them of your value, their own enthusiasm will wane. As such, it’s important to evaluate how much effort end users must put into getting started.

Customer Effort Score (CES) asks how difficult it was to accomplish a given task using a predefined scale (e.g., 1-7 or 1-5). Here is an example of a CES survey:

Customer Effort Score Survey in Intercom Messenger
Example InMoment CES Survey in Intercom

CES surveys are frequently used to follow up on support calls, but they’re also extremely valuable when evaluating the onboarding experience. Success teams know that the seeds of churn can be sown in the onboarding phase. They have been using feedback from CES surveys to both (1) follow up with that customer to fix the problem and (2) develop tasks and processes that will prevent future customers from experiencing the same bottlenecks.

However, in the context of PLG, addressing onboarding feedback isn’t just the domain of the Success or Support team. It is vital input to UX teams that seek to eliminate tasks that would traditionally be done manually and put them into the product to create efficiency and a better customer experience.

CES Example: Watermark

Watermark is in the EdTech space, and they’ve taken a comprehensive approach to optimizing user experience. Here’s how they do it, starting with Customer Effort Score surveys.

Watermark has a complex onboarding and training process, so they gather data at the end of each of three phases of training using CES surveys. The feedback goes to the implementation and training teams to both (1) improve the process and (2) identify customers who may need extra support. Then, of course, they look for larger trends and modify their onboarding experience accordingly.

Watermark also measures NPS & CSAT.  NPS is measured across six product lines, and Watermark studies the correlation between NPS and renewals. Higher NPS scores predict a greater likelihood for renewal, and improving products based on NPS survey results is key to Watermark’s customer retention strategy. CSAT surveys, triggered from Salesforce Service Cloud when a case is closed, help to evaluate and improve Customer Support.

And as Dave Hansen, the CX champion at Watermark, points out, they dig into the data to identify points of friction. “The feedback we’re getting tells us that there isn’t necessarily an issue with our overall solutions,” says Dave. “You may have issues running a certain report, or you may have issues with the way you have to click through to something.”

Product Led Growth Strategy Is About End User Experience

The four CX metrics covered in this post (NPS, CSAT, PSAT, and CES) offer insight into end user experience and augment behavioral data with the voice of your customer.

Remember, don’t allow scores to be your sole focus. There is gold in the open-ended feedback you receive. Without analyzing the open-ended feedback you receive, the metrics are just benchmarks that you’ll aimlessly try to identify bottlenecks through guesswork. In the end, that won’t get you very far.

Product Led Growth is all about creating a smoother experience in the moments that matter. CX metrics and voice of the customer comments help technology companies do just that.

Get the ebook, “CX FOR EVERY STAGE: How to Scale Your Voice of Customer Program from Startup to Enterprise.’ Learn how to improve user experience for product led growth and loyalty.

Do You Need a Customer Experience Operations Manager?

CX operations, or customer experience operations, is all about the systems, automation, and lines of communication that make possible a unified, cross-functional, customer journey approach to improving customer experience.  Do you need a CX operations manager dedicated to this effort? Let’s find out.

Getting customers to fall in love with your company requires understanding the entire customer journey—so you can deliver a seamless experience at every touchpoint. 

That’s not too tall an order if you are a young startup with only a handful of employees, all focused on customer experience (CX). After all, in those early stages, they have no choice but to study every step in the journey. By nature, a startup is all about the big picture. 

However, as SaaS companies begin to scale, they may face the same challenges as enterprises that are pushing toward digital transformation. CX efforts have become more specialized, and that’s when silos begin to form. Before you know it, you’ve got different departments using separate technologies and focusing on different metrics—fragmenting your understanding of the customer experience. 

That’s when it’s time to consider hiring or appointing a CX ops manager. At this point, you need someone who can break down those silos, unify your tech stack, and unite your directors, VPs, and business units in the ultimate goal of creating a friction-free, productive, and delightful user experience—from onboarding to renewal and advocacy.

(If this sounds a lot like the goal of product led growth, you are right. Learn more about the connection between product led growth and customer experience here.)

What Is a Customer Experience Operations Manager?

In order to understand what a CX ops Manager does—and why the role is so vital as companies scale—let’s picture a growing SaaS company that is considering adding this role. They’ve got a sales team focused on enterprise sales, a customer success team that largely spends its time making onboarding simple and straightforward, and a customer support team that’s available to fix problems. And of course, they’ve got a product team constantly working to improve their software with customers in mind.

Obviously, they have plenty of other departments, and each affects the customer experience to varying degrees (e.g., marketing, finance), but let’s focus on these four for the point of illustration. Each department has its own set of metrics, uses its own software, and focuses its attention on one specific leg of the customer journey. 

The issue? You’ve got four different departments using different technology to record different metrics and measure their own aspect of the customer journey. It’s like the old story about the blind men who discover an elephant in the forest. They each know only one part of the elephant—the part they can touch—so nobody can agree what an elephant is actually like. After all, they’re each focused on a different body part (the trunk, the body, the leg, the tail).

illustration of blind man and elephant fable by taz8

The role of a CX ops manager is to determine, implement, and refine the CX technology vision required to see the entire customer journey from the customer’s perspective. This role determines the best way to collect, analyze, and act on voice of customer data at key touchpoints across the customer journey. 

  • Determine how, technically, to monitor sentiment at critical touchpoints. For example, what system “knows” when a user is “onboarded”? How can that data be used to trigger a request for feedback? In what customer experience management platform? 
  • Facilitate close-the-loop action. Enable stakeholders to respond to customer feedback quickly by moving feedback into the systems they use everyday. 
  • Democratize insight.  This can mean creating CX dashboards that provide stakeholders with the ability to monitor and research what they care about. 

Carmen Woo, Salesforce Solution Architect and Senior Application Engineer, holds the cross-functional CX technology vision at Glassdoor shares, “The InMoment  platform allows our Support team to segment feedback by agent and other relevant business drivers to uncover insights that contribute to optimizing our support function, and it can also reveal bottlenecks that are best addressed by improving product features or design.”

Learn how Glassdoor, DocuSign, Hubspot and other InMomentcustomers tackle CX operations in this article, How Tech Uses CX Metrics to Find Bottlenecks to Product Led Growth.

  • Define a single source of truth for the voice of the customer. This can include determining where data will be aggregated into a single VoC feedback hub for research into and across journey points.
  • Work with vendors and a cross-functional team to implement the technology vision. Often this happens in a phased project approach, touchpoint by touchpoint. 
  • Keep the focus on the big picture—to understand that the elephant is more than the trunk, the body, the leg, or the tail

Try as they might, individual departments have a hard time seeing the big picture since they’re so specialized (and are rarely incentivized by big picture metrics). That’s where the CXOps Manager enters the picture.

What Kind of Background Should a CX Operations Manager Have?

We’ve seen a wide range of candidates succeed in the role of CX ops—from Salesforce Administrators to Senior Sales Ops professionals to Customer Success leaders. Even product marketing folks have successfully led CX ops efforts. It makes sense that good CX ops people would come from different backgrounds, since this role is about as cross-functional as it gets.

What we can tell you is that there are certain qualities and skill sets, rather than specific career trajectories, that predict success in this role. 

4 Qualities to Look for in a CX Operations Manager

#1 Diplomacy and Negotiation Skills:

The person heading up CXOps must have some serious interpersonal skills, able to balance all the stakeholders’ needs and drives with the overarching goals and available resources. They’ll need to convince a range of departments—not just the customer-facing ones—just how vital these efforts are to the long term success of the company. 

They will lead team meetings, communicate strategies, and move projects forward while holding everyone to a timeline (including executives). On top of that, they must be able to obtain a clear mandate and buy-in from their C-suite sponsors (or the head of CX, at the very least). In other words, they must possess both empathy and assertiveness in spades.

#2 Deep Understanding of How the Tech Stack Works as a System:

Your various technology platforms (Zendesk, InMoment, Gainsight, Salesforce, Slack, Segment, etc.) need to work together as a system. Otherwise, your information silos stay intact and your customer journey remains fragmented. 

On top of that, they’ll need to find the gaps in your current capabilities and identify solutions to fill them. Sometimes this involves purchasing entirely new systems, other times it’s simply a matter of integrating what you’re currently working with. Usually, it’s a bit of both.

#3 Project Management Mastery:

Your CX ops manager will need some serious project management chops, including the ability to plan out timelines and budgets end-to-end (and get everybody to stick to them). They also need to know how to purchase from vendors without using an RFP.

#4 A Strong Understanding of Procurement:

“Let’s spend more money on systems just because we can!” Said no executive, ever. 

Executives have grown wary of new B2B software that promises to solve all their problems, and middle-management is rarely overjoyed at the prospect of retraining staff on new platforms. That said, sometimes the current systems don’t cut it, and it’s up to the CX ops manager to understand the tradeoffs when evaluating new technology and delivering an integrated system that gets the job done.

Use Case: What a Fully-Integrated CX Initiative Looks Like

Every integrated CX initiative will look different depending on your existing technology, current integrations, and where you are in your growth cycle. That said, the following is a bird’s eye view of a solid CX initiative, and it should help get you started.

We’ll assume you have created a customer journey map and can tell your CX ops manager the make-or-break touchpoints that you want to optimize. You’ll also be responsible for forming a cross-functional team of stakeholders that are committed to improving the journey and to supporting the efforts of the CX ops manager. 

Technology Needs Assessment

The CX ops manager should meet with each stakeholder team to understand:

  • The technology they are using today
  • Their CX data needs. This goes beyond metrics. It includes the customer data each team needs to make data segmentation and analysis useful.  For example, support may need to associate customer satisfaction (CSAT) feedback with an agent. Success might need to know the user’s account, role, or pricing plan. Product may want to know how long a survey respondent has been a platform user.   

Gather Voice-of-the-Customer (VOC) data (examples)

  • Relationship data: Gather Net Promoter Score (NPS) data in-app or via email, or wherever you interact with customers.
  • Onboarding data: Calculate Customer Effort Score (CES) from surveys  following the WalkMe onboarding tour (via Segment event data or Salesforce workflows)
  • Customer satisfaction data : Conduct CSAT surveys after Zendesk or Service Cloud case closures.
  • Product satisfaction data: Collect PSAT data after feature use (in-app) and after closing the loop on customer service interactions (in chat or via email)
  • Support tickets: The content of support inquiries is a source of VOC.
  • Reviews: What are customers saying about your on Capterra or G2?
  • Brand or user surveys: Any open-ended feedback from lengthy surveys.

Addressing Customer Pain Points and Closing the Loop

Strengthen the front line: Make it easy for teams to respond directly to customers by getting survey responses into the systems they live in. Populate the data in real time. For example, send InMoment survey responses to contact and account records in Salesforce for the sales team, to Intercom for Support, to Gainsight for Success or to Slack for the product team. 

Leverage your happiest customers: Send review and referral requests to promoters via Marketo, HubSpot, or another customer communication platform like Intercom

Big Picture Analysis

  • Create a roadmap: Allow qualitative feedback to drive your plan for CX improvement. Use it to understand the why behind the metrics, prioritize projects by predicting the potential impact on customer lifetime value. Build text analytics dashboards and reports that are customized for each team (support, success, Product, etc.) in your CXM platform. (Hint: InMoment can do this!)
  • Centralize your data: Build a central voice of customer (VoC) repository for deep analysis. This can mean augmenting customer journey feedback with support ticket content, online reviews, and brand surveys. 
  • Integrate CX into business analysis: Export metrics and metadata to the company’s data lake/business intelligence tool.
Note: It’s absolutely vital to use a CX management platform that integrates smoothly with new and existing systems. 

The Value of Executive Buy-in and Support

As you can see, the success of your integration efforts will rest largely on the shoulders of your new CX ops manager, who will have their finger on the pulse of the entire customer experience. They’ll connect departments that normally go days or weeks without interacting, so in order to set them up for success, they’ll need support from senior management.

Why is that so important? It’s all about in-group bias. It’s human nature to think of the world in terms of “us” vs. them,” or “our department” vs. “their department.” This potentially puts CX ops at odds with, well… literally every department they encounter—unless the executive sponsor puts those worried minds at ease.

With executive buy-in and support, the CX ops Manager will have the authority and credibility they need to suggest the (sometimes) sweeping changes that would otherwise produce fear and resentment in those who have grown comfortable in their silo. A supportive c-suite executive can assure skeptics that this is the natural evolution of their efforts to serve customers at every stage in the journey. In turn, this paves the way for long term growth and success for the organization as a whole.CX ops leaders chose InMoment for customer experience management. Book a consultative demo today.

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