Achieving amazing Customer Experience from the top-down and bottom-up


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We are living in a time where goal setting tools and frameworks such as Balanced Scorecard (BSC), which usually runs on a yearly planning cycle, are either being replaced or complemented by easier and quicker goal-setting like Objectives and Key Results. This comes as a result of yearly cycles becoming too slow and an increased drive for agility, and the need for a bottom-up contribution to the goal setting process.

What the BSG framework does well, is ensure the customer is focused on as a theme, and means of driving financial performance. OKRs don’t have themes and as such the customer ‘might’ or ‘might not’ have a focus, and without a focus on customer experience, your business will likely struggle to gain profits and hit retention goals. So we need the best of both worlds. OKRs that put the customer front and center.

As mentioned, a big feature of Objectives and Key Results is that it takes goal guidance from the top, and invites teams and departments to align via their own OKRs – the bottom-up part. So if you want to put CX at the heart of your business planning we need to have company level CX OKR.

A great objective feels similar to a Mission Statement. A good example of a CX objective that is:

Excellent Customer Experience at Each Step Of Their Journey

A Key Result is the ‘as measured by’ feature of the OKR. They are intended to measure what matters most. This is the reason why it is highly important to have a debate as to “what really matters” during the goal planning process. They often contain metrics as metrics are obviously measurable, and target values. When the above annual Company CX Objective is extended to include Key Results it could look like this:

Objective: Excellent Customer Experience at Each Step Of Their Journey
Key Result: Increase our CSAT from 82% to 90%
Key Result: Improve our Customer Retention Rate from 80% to 90%
Key Result: Increase our NPS from 55 to 70

Aligned, Transparent & Hard

If you were to present this OKR to departments and ask them to propose how we might look to achieve these improvements, this should lead them to debate and suggest OKRs that are closest to the company’s CX goal.

Take retention for example. Improving retention in most companies is a cross-functional goal. In a technology company, retention might be owned by Customer Service teams but the reasons why a customer is not retained are going to impact Product Management, Engineering, even Sales. In the example above, these teams might bring their own suggestions for areas of improvement and express them as OKRs, or form a cross-functional team or squad to target the OKR.

To give you an example of an aligned quarterly OKR, imagine that the Product team believes that the biggest improvement to retention that could be made, that’s within their control, is getting the best ‘magic’ features discovered and more and more colleagues / users invited. Their OKR might look like:

Objective: Product success within 14 days
Key Result: Feature X and Y are used by 90% of new customers
Key Result: 80% of customers invite 10 users in first 14 days

Notice how the Key Results are measurable and define the conditions for success? They are not the activities that will be done to achieve the goal. The targets are also hard by default with OKR best-practice calibrating success not at 100% but typically 60% – 80%.

What’s important to understand is that the example Product Teams OKR is not describing their business-as-usual activities (BAU). These are part of their roles and might include managing the roadmap, creating specifications, and talking to customers. It’s describing a key priority that’s a focus that sits alongside and helps shape their BAU. The same process for creating non-BAU goals that are aligned with what the company needs to achieve, is a key part of the OKR planning process.

All of these OKRs are visible to management and other teams. This transparency is another big part of the OKR framework, and helps improve collaboration and break down silos.

CX can win with OKR

So I’d argue that if a CX focus with OKRs and the resulting increases in alignment, agility, and ambition are all good for the company, they are also good for the customer as well. Customers get better products, service, and satisfaction levels when better CX orientated goals are set.

Matt Roberts
Matt Roberts is an OKR advocate and founder of ZOKRI - OKR and Performance Management software. He’s on a mission to share knowledge of how to set company and team goals more effectively.


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