Showing ROI for your CX efforts

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On several occasions I’ve had the opportunity to share an anecdote about a leader who once, in exasperation during a conversation I was having with him about Customer-centricity sort of threw up his hands a bit and exclaimed, “well, Z, we could just give every Customer a Ferrari, then they’d be happy.”  Without missing a beat, I responded, “well, at least now we’re negotiating.”  We were both kidding each other a bit (I don’t think he was being seriously dismissive), but there was a point to be made.

I use that story for jumping-off points very often when I speak with organizations regarding their CX efforts.  Today I bring it up to point out the difficulty in defining a return on investment (ROI) for your CX endeavors.  While people have been “doing” CX for a long time, as far as recognized professions go, ours is pretty young.  That means that as we navigate our careers among peers in leadership positions, we often have to bring others along as to what Customer Experience means in our corporations.  Inevitably you’ll run into those who have yet to be exposed to what CX is, how it works, and what value it brings.

One of the surest ways to fail before you start your CX journey is by not bringing on advocates in the leadership of your organization.  Some people (ideally your boss who hired you!) will be on board and know the value of a strong CX team with a broad base of support.  Others will not be familiar with what we bring to the fight, and still others will be downright hostile.  I’ve experienced the whole spectrum, and you may have as well.

A good counter-balance to skeptics—and a good introduction to those who aren’t familiar—is to offer examples of positive business impact that can be delivered by a strong CX team supported by leadership.  The best place to start with that is the actual numbers that are already being used in your organization.  Naturally revenues, sales, margins, and such are a great launching point for this.  Set your analysts right away on directly tying whatever CX metrics you have (NPS, CSAT, CES, or even internal ones) historically to these dollar-valued metrics.  If you can show that any of these metrics are highly correlated with money, you’re golden…if you don’t mind the pun.  It’s even better if you can make it specific to the exact Customer by identifying, say, likelihood to repurchase based on CX metrics.  If you don’t have that granularity, try it by teams:  If a certain group of workers or a regional team does well in both revenues and CX metrics, highlighting that will help drive the point home, and also give you as the CX leader somewhere to look for what’s working.

As time goes on, keep track of the investments you’re making in CX efforts.  Be as specific as you can (take, for example, if your position is new, the salaries of you and your team).  Try to draw as direct line as possible from the initiatives your team drives—especially the changes you help make to the processes—to monetary impacts in sales, revenues, or purchases…or even to other output strategic measures your organization uses (they’re not all monetary sometimes).

All this seems pretty easy if you actually have such data.  Many folks new to these positions don’t have the luxury of historical data to help show fluctuations in survey results because surveys have never been used (one of the reasons, perhaps, you’ve been hired is to create a VoC program in the first place).  Well, there’s lots of business literature and studies out there that will give you a hand in showing how well putting together CX efforts has worked in a variety of industries.  Check out the CXPA or perhaps an industry organization for information and supporting documentation.

Another thing worth mentioning is that there are a lot of operational metrics out there.  While it often falls to a Quality Department (or something like that) to highlight mis-alignment between those internal metrics and the impactful (dollar-based) output metrics, you can play a role here.  Obviously if your organization doesn’t have a Quality or Operational Excellence or Business Process Improvement team, that function is likely missing altogether.  (Guess who’s got two thumbs and will need to step into those shoes?)  But if you do have a colleague leading such a group, he or she should be your first best friend.  Your responsibilities should naturally complement each other, and let’s also be honest:  You’re both living with the need (since you’re not operational) to continually ensure your impact is being felt and appreciated.  Encourage the leader of your Quality organization to join you and make those priorities yours as well.  While that function is likely focused on resource use (i.e., saving money), it may seem at first glance as though CX work is running counter to their charter.  But if you appreciate the need to show a return on the work you’re doing, seek that team’s help and advice, and recruit them (which is of course easier when you work with them) to help advocate, they can be an awesome extra voice in the work you’re trying to accomplish.

(Originally Published 20200428)

– LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM

– Principal, Zeisler Consulting

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