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What’s Next for Customer Experience Management? More agility less control

Updated: Mar 25

A Cynefin based view


'Customer experience management should not be there to make the C-suite feel good through the simplifications and stupidifications of narcissistic vendors and self-proclaimed gurus of customer and employee experience'

The traditional top-down, command and control, metric driven approach to customer experience management is unbalanced, frequently inappropriate and myopic. That’s not to say it has zero value, for instance:

• its engaging and simplistic storyline encourages activity and scalability

• its emphasis on control around a metric, delivers some focus on reducing losses

• its frequent manipulation of evidence makes the C-suite feel good

• it justifies a belief in mechanistic thinking, that all is predictive and can be controlled

• it makes it easier to communicate the CX message within a matrixed organisation

• it delivers a mass data feed that to some extent improves analytical processing

However, drinking the Kool-Aid of vendor and consulting sales speak has led CX to become lipstick on a pig for many organisations. For instance, we think we can control the customer but we reach a position of diminishing returns: more data in the data lake does not improve predictability, it makes us blind to managing the inherent unpredictability of customer experience as a complex system.

From a data and strategy perspective, we lose agility i.e.,

• the more we think we know about a customer's position (where they are now) the less we are able to respond to changes in their momentum and direction (where they will go next)

• the more we try to dictate a metric, the more we game the data and become inflexible to change

• the more we fail to predict from what has been; the more we try to increase control. Which in turn means, we lose our capability to scan for change. Indeed, we drive out the very people who are good at innovation and exaptation in favour of the 'computer says no' process driven culture

In short, customer experience becomes more about following a generic metricised process than about understanding what happens at the coalface.

From an employee and management perspective, we blunt our senses and lose the ability to hear- see - and speak about how customer experience is changing - due in no small part to technology adoption and data availability - and how we might adapt to that change.

In effect, we exchange artisan knowledge for a management driven cult of cookbooks and silver bullets. The equivalent of asking a cordon bleu chef to exactly follow a recipe for McDonald's Hamburgers.

This is reflected in:

Kikazaru - we don't hear the customer

Top down approaches fail to listen adequately to customers and other stakeholders. This leads to a 'this way or the highway' CX programme where discussion of the customer context becomes subservient to a ‘boxed’ approach focused on control and pre-determined beliefs.

What we hear, is what we want to hear.

We increased NPS 10 points, the ROI of customer experience has been established, there are 4 drivers to customer experience, we measure monitor analyse and report on blunt and blunting measures such as tNPS, eNPS or CES. Hence, we only ever deliver partial hindsight and foresight in our analytical processing which means operationally we exchange agility (small a) and differentiation for small scale optimisation and large scale process.

What we fail to hear well is the customer because Kikazaru wears the mask of arrogance and hubris.

It is the consultant who fails to understand that frequently strategy emerges from the recursive interaction of what you do (the reality) and what you say you want to do (the directionality). If you don't strive to hear this reality what you will hear and respond to will only ever lead to underperformance and reduced agility with of course some limited benefits in terms of 'reducing detractors'.

And not only because customer voices are not heard but also because divergent and artisan voices are not listened to.

Mizaru - we don't see the customer

The application of generic, inflexible models and metrics supported by poor statistical reasoning has several effects on how we 'see' the customer.

Here are 5 examples:

  1. It creates slogans that in their mono-mania act as a barrier to customer understanding: when everything has to be about customer effort, big data or NPS we blind ourselves to any other consideration

  2. We depend on the blunt instrument of the survey and miss a multitude of sins and opportunities not recorded in a score: this website may be a 9 out of 10, but UX research reveals 30 issues that degrade performance or could be better presented

  3. The customer is inadequately presented within existing processes e.g., Journey maps sit in isolation away from process maps; story points and backlogs become systemised to support functional delivery; engineering charts talk of base stations down but never of customers impacted; companies see the customer through the lens of generic, inflexible and gamed 6 pillars, 12 pillars or whatever pillars charts; personas are misused and treated as inflexible truths

  4. Ironically, we fail to see the customer when we dictate that we do so. Why? because every decision is seen through this lens, even when it is inappropriate. Being customer experience centric brooks no ill, hence it becomes a politicised programme and we can all see how to play that game

  5. We assume the customer is a piece of data not an individual who can add value to the business through their own opinions, interpretations and creativity

Iwazaru - we don't speak about the customer

A narrow belief leads to data gaming and poor critical thinking in favour of ‘the single’ storyline, that must be supported. What is spoken of becomes conformant to group-think : which in its myopia prevents the surfacing of customer led innovation and alerts to change.

By failing to adequately engage the customer-view:

  • the language of business becomes functionally driven not customer centric

  • conversations lack critical thinking and an openness to new ways of doing things

  • the customer becomes what we say it is, an internal representation of our own office politics

  • anyone who speaks differently risks a 'white blood cell reaction' from the business


Customer experience management needs to be rebalanced with bottom-up approaches that ground CX in the reality of business and enable more agility.

This means accepting that CX:

• is not a panacea for all ills

• is just one perspective on value creation

• cannot be delivered ‘if you follow this process (with associated sales and day rates)’

• needs to be de-siloed and made part of the language of other business areas

• needs to be part of existing change programmes e.g., continuous improvement

• needs to encompass better co-creative and relationship building practices

As part of this migration, the emphasis needs to be on the development of models and measures that reverse the current trajectory of programmes. This in no way denies the partial value of existing approaches but does build on them.

Paradigm Shift

Critical to this is a paradigm shift over the following areas:

Our understanding:

Customer experience is about ‘the experience the customer has’. it is a subjective science (and art). It is not 'just' an engineered product delivered out of the box. This has consequent implications in how we manage it:

  • Current definitions of customer experience are half-baked because they try to define in engineering language what is inherently more like an ecosystem. A more open definition, in line with the exact meaning of the words, leads us to more contextual considerations: experience means many things, customer means many types of stakeholder. For instance, are we also looking through the value chain and other types of customer such as employees and suppliers?

What we measure:

Our industrial metrics and methodologies born out of manufacturing are insufficient when applied to 'the customer'; not useless but needing an update.

We need to move our voice of the customer programmes away from just insights gathering to optimise journeys and more towards ‘whole support’ for continuous improvement (voice of CI (continuous improvement)) through:

• nurturing ongoing sensitivity to customer experience within the employee base

• building on existing VoC and VoE measures

• enabling better interpretation and translation of insights into innovation

• reducing the corporate obsession with predictive modelling

• encouraging the capture of ideas from diverse sources

• engaging strongly with qualitative and ethnographic data

How for instance do we understand the customer context and surface innovation? What metric or bundle of metrics should we apply if NPS, CES and Big data (to name but a few) are inadequate to achieve agility?

  • An emphasis should be put on metrics that support the development of a co-created innovation funnel (e.g., goodwill, more stories like this, fewer stories like that) and KPIs designed as an output from what we actually ‘do’ : after all this would mean you to do something to improve it.

Our delivery capability:

Understand the customer’s world (what it is or could be) then seek to design and build. Not in every case, an out of the box solution can be relevant for simple situations, but nonetheless designing 'without a customer mindset' only leads to problems down the line:

  • Determine what methods there are that ingest customer experience processes within existing design and delivery ones? And if they don't exist, how can we close the loop? Co-create your way to better customer experience, perhaps

Governance and compliance:

Identify the key relationships in the business (the stakeholders) and key areas of protocol (compliance) to change. Importantly, this also means a focus on how language is used. For instance, creating artificial language barriers between teams when we are all focused on the same outcome causes confusion i.e., UX and CX should be treated as the same, Agile DSDM, Lean should always have the customer at heart:

  • Delivering a process without consideration of the ‘end user/ customer’ begs failure; even if we as a business decide to reject a course of action at least we would have taken on board the customer view as part of our risk management. But how are the protocols of customer experience centricity applied in operations? And how are we embedding a more co-creative approach with the customer/s?. Review Cynefin, customer value management, legal processes (subjective and objective tests) and the range of existing compliance protocols in place within your CI programmes (e.g., Agile, Lean and Six Sigma)

Our customer mindfulness:

We balance our desire to predict with an acceptance that while not everything is predictable, we can, with new metrics and approaches, achieve better mindfulness (vipassana) towards how things are changing:

  • What cultural, governance and learning processes are there that can help us more naturally appreciate the customer? Review huddle programmes, knowledge sharing, hackathons and other co-creative techniques of engagement and sensemaker

The ability to think customer:

We support CX by building a cognitive and conversational (co-creation) layer on top of the data we collect i.e., enhancing our capacity to think customer and critique:

  • How can we scale the conversation and engage divergent thinkers without just following a build it and they will come approach? Are we, for instance, scaling capability using co-creation platforms?

The quality of our relationships:

We focus on 'the quality of our interactions.' we build better conversations about customer experience, which in turn strengthens our interactions with each other, which enables us to apply customer experience thinking correctly within our working context.

  • What methodology should we apply to enhance interactional quality? Review sensemaker and R-intervention

In undertaking these changes, we achieve:

• better understanding of the customer context

• higher levels of agility balanced with existing levels of control i.e., we identify when and where momentum and directional changes arise and respond accordingly

• better interpretation of data and how it brings to life new opportunities. Which in turn asks us questions about the very data we collate

In short, we equally focus on the science of CX and its art. And where we do focus on the science, we put this in the context of the natural not just physical sciences. And art is important.

"it is no contradiction to say that artistic technique is discipline in spontaneity and spontaneity in discipline.” (Alan Watts)

We centre the business on approaches that heighten our sense of the customer; our awareness of context and how we interpret results and innovate. In other words, we build in greater agility and rebalance our analytical equity with more creative equity.

We start with the body corporate, how its governing rules affect behaviour.

Note: signposted areas

Absorb the latest principles in Sensemaking, Agile, Cynefin. R-intervention, value creation and co-creation. This in no-way reduces the importance of existing past predictive approaches, it just means these need to be seen for what they are: equally subject to bias and at best leaving 50% of value on the table while reducing agility to changing market forces and internal employee conditions

Management Questions:

Management Question 1: Why should I be bothered about customer experience?

Customer experience is one perspective on value creation and should be ingested into any business decision making process. After all, there is always a customer and always their experience. If we don't include this in, for instance, our Lean Six Sigma decisions then we are making a serious error: we assume implicitly that the customer view is the same as the view from the engineer building the system.

Management Question 2: What is the value customer experience brings over and above other customer centric approaches?

It has focused our efforts on the customer perspective and how their interpretation of value can derive new opportunities to differentiate your business (e.g., optimise or engage).

  • Value as the customer sees it, is not the same as the value the business thinks they deliver

  • There are multiple value perspectives to engage since every stakeholder is a customer of someone in the value chain

  • Value can mean not just new products or services but also reduction in operating expenditure and brand differentiation. Don't stereotype this as being about happiness

It has brought Time into play: the longitudinal journey, the value-in-use, the ongoing narrative.

  • CX has moved us along, focusing business on the ongoing here and now (Dr Olaf Hermans) and the emerging present (Dave Snowden).

  • It is about what we 'do' with that time: the value of time well spent vs the value of time well saved (Joe Pine)

Customer Value Creation using CX or broader levels of stakeholder engagement

Ongoingness broadens the canvas for value creation between supplier and company but without understanding what is salient we will never deliver value. And saliency can only be understood by getting close to OR being able to bootstrap ourselves into the relevant ‘customer’ context. This is the customer sensitive continuous improvement layer.

Value has frequently meant 'sales opportunity' or 'feedback loop to optimise the journey'. This has led to a transactional view of the customer. While not a problem in itself, it needs to be re-balanced with a similar Time view of the customer as being in a relationship with us whenever we engage with you.

For instance, I went on a holiday with Royal Caribbean. Every step of the way was optimised to see if they could get money off me. Nice holiday, apart from that, but clearly you consider me as a transaction to mine so don't expect me to rebook with you.

We will engage with you, if you show good 'intent behind the eyes' and yes, we would like to help you develop your products and services further so you can achieve sales tomorrow and hidden sales today. However, this can only happen if we (the customer) allow you to converse with us.

Tarmac and CAT used to phone 100s of customers to understand their point of view. This involved very little resource and built substantial relationship capital. Unfortunately, this was seen as a cost not as a chance for opportunity capture. It was also in the case of CAT, replaced by an NPS survey which stripped out co-created conversation.

Co-create your way to better customer experience

Consider next phase customer experience management. This changes the paradigm to be broader and deeper. One that is embedded as one perspective in a continuous improvement exercise and operates co-creatively with all stakeholders.

This isn’t XM, this is about defining your value chain, not anyone, and going from there.

Its start with Governance and Compliance, how we interface teams around the search for value.

Management Question 3: What has driven this interest?

At a practical level; data and analytics provisioned through mobile technology, enables us to get value from the ongoing experience, while changes in technology enable moment by moment engagement through design.

This data hose needs to be monetised, hence the interest in CX.

In addition, since we now have an ongoing communication channel we have a means to get regular feedback and regular data. This allows for better optimisation of the journey, which can then be your competitive differentiator or more likely a part of your armoury to remain competitive.

For some organisations facing severe competition, this also enables going beyond optimisation to consider better levels of engagement. This can arise through design e.g., in highly experiential businesses such as luxury hotels or within retail such as Lush. Aspects of this are also used by new market entrants in more traditional industries e.g., the original design led approach of Apple.

Always remember that experience is multifaceted. It is never about optimisation or engagement alone; it is never about CX or Opex reduction alone. Understanding context within a Continuous Improvement business line is always the right approach.

Management Question 4: Are our current CX metrics even valid?

Our current metrics fall short in their understanding of customer experience and 'If you measure the wrong thing you get the wrong result.'

So, if you’re going to measure something it might be a good idea to know what you’re measuring.

The trouble with customer experience is that like customer service it doesn’t have one meaning beyond, in this case, ‘the experience the customer has’. Hence, we end up with multiple conflicting definitions and measures.

Take your pick, customer experience is about:

• The sum of all touchpoints

• Emotion

• Frictionlessness

• Customer Effort score

• Net Promoter score

• Happiness

• Customer Satisfaction

• Big data analytics

Such measures reflect different beliefs about what customer experience means. A sure sign that customer experience is not a singular thing but differs by context. And even then, we are none the wiser: does good CX, bad CX or indifferent CX deliver value? There is nothing in the words that says a bad experience (a 50% increase in price) shouldn’t be applied.

Perhaps we should conclude that customer experience is a fig leaf for CEOs to believe they are customer centric, or a marketing slogan for vendors and consultants to sell software and consulting days. ‘Customer experience is about everything, so measure everything’. Is the reason why it has scaled?

Management Implications:

The customer does not evaluate and measure every touchpoint. To believe that he / she does is to fail to see the wood for the trees and end up putting process before customer understanding.

1. We need to understand what customer experience means before we seek to measure it. The problem is our current metrics make assumptions that restrict understanding:

they are myopic: seeing the customers world through a drinking straw e.g.., it’s about NPS look at nothing else

they are overly complex: trying to define the impact of everything is rather like trying to nail jelly to a wall: such efforts fail or fall short. We do not live in a mechanistic universe after all.

2. What we need are measures that don’t seek to measure ‘customer experience’ as some definable and fixed ‘thing’ but seek to heighten our understanding of customer experience by getting us closer to its context. Helping executives and decision makers bootstrap themselves into a customer sensitive mindset, as required. In a similar way, perhaps, to how Steve Jobs could naturally bootstrap himself when designing Apple products.

Management Question 5: Do our current CX metrics measure the right thing?

The answer is, not entirely and we can do better. This is because of 2 fundamental errors:

Error 1:

CX metrics incorrectly treat customer experience as an objective property only

if we don’t understand why, we will never get to a better how

Engineering approaches to the measurement of a psychological system creates bias:

we get a measure of what is done: but there is nothing in the data that tells us about the customers mindset, their intent, the reason why.

That’s not to say there is no merit in the approach, there is in certain conditions:

where we can infer the customers mindset: if breadcrumbs data on a website looks like you don’t know what you are doing, you probably don’t

where we can use repeatable data to make a prediction: if you keep on downloading zombie films you will probably be open suggestions of the latest blockbuster

where a failure is likely to predict unhappiness: if web download speed is poor, you are likely to feel dissatisfied

But not in other conditions:

where we assume the customer is only interested in objective quality: an SLA of 99.12 on video download speed going to a 99.53 does not deliver value to the customer but is treated as such. The net result - more sales to the vendor to measure download speed

where we assume the customer only makes decisions based on past behaviour: so what your saying is there is no innovation, no change, no customer opinion, we experience what has been and it repeats exactly as before consistently, predictably and for all time

where we need to understand why customers behave as they do: where what you do does not fully explain why. I go shopping, but what I want from the experience qualitatively is not amenable to mere observation i.e., not just ease and convenience but how I define quality of goods, value for money, friendliness of staff and a whole host of intangibles including what I might want going forward

where we need to pull back and engage with the customer: you can be sure that if you are sending spam email based on what customers ‘do’ that others are as well. This reduces the viability of your campaigns and requires stronger levels of engagement

Error 2:

CX metrics incorrectly account for subjective properties

Customer experience is qualitative. To ignore the qualitative is to ignore the quality.

Survey approaches reveal intangible quality and intent. But often they are treated like engineering data:

Example: We want to understand the customer’s experience of a plane flight, so we run a survey

we ask the questions in a survey we want to ask - this games the data

On a flight from London to New York, I filled out the 20-item survey. It was OK but I gave 8 out of 10s for things that were irrelevant, and you gave me no space to say what was relevant. Even worse, I would love to have said how I think you could improve but seems like you’re not interested.

we depend on blunt surveys - but customers do not remember and evaluate every touchpoint. For instance they omit:

Micro-moments – moments you can’t remember but still influence you. The colour scheme, a poor choice of words. All impact my perception of you.

Description in favour of evaluation – I care about what is salient to me and ignore the rest. I don’t evaluate you all the time , so stop pushing surveys that assume I do

we use statistical artistry to get a result – but assumptions are everywhere e.g., no customer ever walked out of a store and said that was a great 8.5. out of 10 experience; predictive models never explain behaviour well and often confuse correlation with causation

we only consider in surveys what has been - not the potential of a system, what could be. We fail to collate innovations and assume these only fall out of quantitative measures of the past.

I wanted a cheese and pickle sandwich, but you only offered Prawn. Well I bought prawn, so I guess you think that’s all I want considering you’ve never bothered to ask me what I might like.

we omit qualitative data – not everything is quantified by the customer. Not everything is noticed. The customer is not a recording machine and unrecorded events experienced in the moment are not necessarily unimportant. After all our statements are often general and cannot be depended upon to capture all possibilities for value creation. That is why qualitative information is critical. In UX research we go through a website and find a word here or there that can be better written. No customer told us, but we know through our artisan knowledge that this would make it better.

Management Implications:

Subjectivity follows a different paradigm. Its bad engineering and myopic to treat an open non-linear system as closed and linear

Since customer experience is ‘the experience the customer has’ the lack of subjectivity in the measure IS the problem. Such data needs to be brought in and socialised, do we think this is a good idea or not?

This includes data from what we see (insights) and data from ideas (innovations). And ideas can come from anywhere.

Another key difference is:

  • Objective data assumes root-cause effects only

  • Subjective data assumes root-cause but also allows for more probabilistic and emergent effects

there are occasions when root cause effects do have a predictable effect on value: I had to wait 30 minutes on the phone to get through to you, I will not renew my contract with you.

there are occasions when dispositional effects are important and need to be assessed: your website looked ugly and had spelling mistakes. Although I got what I wanted, I don’t feel particularly confident about going back again. I am disposed not to use you again.

Truth is intersubjective, not objective. There is no “view from nowhere.” There is always a somewhere, a perspective, a subject.

Source: blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-to-make-the-study-of-consciousness-scientifically-tractable/

So, how can we get CX right?

2.1 Future CX metrics understand customer experience as getting close to context

Context is King

We answer the question ‘what is customer experience?’ not by seeking to boil the ocean but by enabling a listening framework that builds our capability to be sensitive to the customer perspective as we design our continuous improvement programmes:

The heart and soul of customer experience is the customer perspective AND being able to know where the business value lies within a framework of continuous improvement.

Customer perspective……...We accept that for an experience to be an experience it must be salient to the customer not an objective only view. Otherwise it is not a customer experience.

Business value……...We accept that customer experience is a neutral term (its management says nothing about it being good bad or indifferent). Hence, the critical value dimension.

Continuous improvement……...We accept that sometimes the customer perspective is not wanted. Hence, the need to set it in the context of continuous improvement.

2.2 Future CX methodologies focus on value creation

There are only 3 models you need to run an experience programme

Treacey and Wiersema

1. Your company is getting sensitive to ‘the experience the customer has’.

2. By so doing we surface value that impacts all areas (hence the CI focus) of product leadership, operational excellence and customer intimacy (e.g., customer satisfaction).

3. The whole point is customer value creation ideally extended through the defined value chain

The Co-Created Innovation Funnel

1. You define through co-creation logic which innovations to triage through operations.

2. As a co-created exercise, we look to customer experience to support all levels of design: whether that’s brand engagement, operational excellence and cost saving or product innovation. It’s just a perspective after all, and to get maximum value we should look across the whole value chain and embed diverse thinking.

3. Critically, by engaging multiple stakeholders we get to know where they stand in terms of mindset, we can take them along in the journey and understand where the pressures are to innovate.

The best measure of customer experience comes from what you do not from over-abstracted, top-down metrics

KPIs can fall out of the change you initiate. For example, if creating a password is too complex and blocking a customer from moving forward, the measure compares ‘customers who drop out at the password stage’ to those who drop out after the password change regulations have been simplified. In this case, no perception measure required: in fact, the measure comes after the action; no action no measure. We put the change requirement first, hence data gaming is difficult.


It’s important in decision making to know what phenomena you are dealing with: since each holds several implications in terms of CI execution:

1. Brand effects are more dispositional

2. complaints more root-cause

3. Innovation more emergent

Importantly, Cynefin and complexity science helps us understand where in the broader market we should focus our competitive efforts. As a theory of constraints, it tells us where to innovate CX.

This reflects a balance between commoditising for scale and ensuring we manage dispositional effects:


  • we enable self-serve on an insurance web-site. Customers want easy and simple access, we deliver this to them.

  • Ericsson enable the monitoring of web page failures or lagging on video downloads.

Joe Pine calls this ‘the value of time well saved’. It is about loss aversion, root-cause and efficiency.

Dispositional effects:

  • a retailer faces huge competition online. Just putting up a convenient website is not enough; we need better levels of customer engagement.

Joe Pine calls this ‘the value of time well spent’. It is about encouraging engagement with the brand. This is more dispositional, ‘I like the website’ I am disposed to spend more time on it. That doesn’t of course mean there cannot be root-cause affects as well i.e., Lush selling new styles of soap to fit with the engaging brand.

For me this is the Ying and Yang of CX. They both exist in various proportions together. If we get the mix wrong for the market we are in (and to what is emerging) we fail.

  • Borders focused on ‘experiential’ ways of doing business. The market moved online; convenience was valued more due to the ability to extend variety. Borders was left high and dry.

  • An insurance company delivering self-serve insurance may well be absolutely correct in its ‘value of time well saved’ focus. But, if it fails to reflect brand trust adequately, it will fail.

2.3 Future CX metrics

There are three styles of metric. CX today focuses mostly on only 1 (backward looking). The concern today is that the volumes of data coming out of digital engagement deliver false hope that all is controllable and predictable. This leads to myopia and the risk of catastrophic failure: advantage goes to those firms who can balance their metrics.

Backward looking metrics – if customers in a hotel complain about the ants, they are likely to not come back again; 4 dropped calls predict churn. These kinds of things are past predictive, say little about future potentiality in a system, but comprise about 50% of what you should be aware of and action. This is all about optimizing the customer journey and is well used today

If we took a normal distribution of NPS/CSAT scores, we would see that this kind of approach works well on the negative part of the curve

Measuring what has been:

Style of measure: CX and EX (and other stakeholder) measures define root-cause and predictive return

Context of use: this works well when dealing with negative experiences that repeatably cause loss i.e., we want fewer stories like this. Taken to extremes it views customer experience as being about the avoidance of errors (loss aversion). If customer experience were just about making sure the floors are clean, and websites work we would all go home happy. But this is a myopic view

Analytical Equity: root cause analytics e.g., churn analytics models, regression modelling, qualitative feedback such as UX research

Creative Equity: looking through past data for innovations today is constrained by a focus on modelling

Assumptions: market is unchanging, what has been is all there, innovation lacks application


I phone the contact centre, they are rude to me, I score you 0 out of 10, I don’t buy from you again. Rudeness on the phone predicts a drop in sales. We effect a change and see the result.

• When web download speed drops below a threshold, our customers start to use competitor sites

• 4 dropped calls predict churn

• Our breadcrumbs data shows customers are confused at this point, we can infer they are

Management implications:

1. Undertake root-cause analytics and define repeatable effects to set up the business case (ROI)

2. Triage interventions based on predictable outcomes

3. Fails to scan the environment for change and the potential for innovation

Present looking metrics – increasingly customers are demanding diversity in corporate literature, are interested in the new Apple smartphone design, feel that your website looks ugly. These kinds of things are present orientated. They do not tell us so much about what has been but lets us know what is emerging as a trend. Comprising about 20% of what you should be aware of and action.

If we took a normal distribution of NPS/CSAT scores, we would see that this kind of approach works well on the positive part of the curve

Measuring what is emerging:

Style of measure: CX and EX (and other stakeholder) measures pick up where things are heading, an experience may not be currently causing a problem or deliver value but if allowed to grow it will most certainly do so

Context of use: this works well when dealing with changeable events. For instance, the flow of conversation in a social media feed sees a new theme develop often positive e.g.., we want more stories like that, we want to know ‘what’s trending’

Analytical Equity: looks for where the conversation is heading, vector maps, selection of outliers, does not view data for predictive effects from past experiences but does see where there is growth in interest

Creative Equity: more engaged with responding to identified movements. The data gives knowledge of what to triage and build, where there are adjacent possibilities to develop

Assumptions: market is changing, new innovations apply, rate of take-up is important


• EE Ads are starting to impact our sales, we can respond with counter ads

• Customers are starting to shift over to a new TV programme, we can invest in a similar programme

• We saw several customers start to use our boots as a fashion item, we can amplify this effect in new uptake markets

• Employees respond well to this new manager

Management implications:

1. Undertake emergent analytics and define growing effects to set up the business case

2. Use proof of concept tests

3. Requires investment and interest in innovation

Future looking metrics – this is innovation. And innovation can come from anywhere. It also involves co-creation logic in terms of managing multiple stakeholders often from different businesses

Measuring what could be:

Style of measure: innovation workshops, innovation days, hackathons, ideas collation, voice of employee (as well as other stakeholder) measures

Context of use: this works well when dealing with an uncertain future and the need to define the next big thing. Often uncertainty deals in ‘big hairy issues’ requiring co-operation e.g.., we want more stories like that

Analytical Equity: takes in innovation ideas from anywhere and prioritises based on quantifiable effects. Deliver the innovation first and then consider its effect on value either as an enabler of value or a new direct value creating activity

Creative Equity: most engaged with nurturing innovation ideas to put in the innovation funnel

Assumptions: market is changing, new innovations apply, lets see what breakthroughs we can think of


• Yorkie bars were created out of one comment in a focus group

• We introduced a new product or service we thought would be successful

• We tried to create a better service environment with our interior décor

Management implications:

1. Undertake trial and test to define potential for success

2. Use proof of concept tests and design led CX

3. Requires investment and interest in innovation

4. Ideas can come from anywhere. So, do not assume in their collation this is about quantification alone. For instance, a singular statement as we have seen can be critical; an outlier can show where we should be heading. Hence we emphasise the process of co-creation to engage the deeper conversation and triage to ensure adequate prioritisation.

3.0 Summary

The above approach represents a CX strategy that focuses on experience across all identified stakeholders of concern, uses sensemaking to establish the right degree of customer sensitivity and is set within a continuous improvement process where CX is (or XM if broader) is just one lens applied in the co-creation of value triaged into operations.

Stakeholder Experience

Identify the stakeholders of interest

Start with Governance and Compliance - start back to front i.e., first focus on the CI Governance and Compliance framework necessary to deliver experience improvements, then on the KPIs. This will ensure that any CI effort is enabled to ingest properly the customer view. Especially important in the delivery of digital transformations where customer value creation is put at risk if the customer is assumed only to be interested in functionality


A series of activities that:

Builds better understanding – it is my contention that the operationalization of customer experience insights and innovations has been hamstrung by a weak methodology, an even weaker ontology and its frequent use as a marketing foil to sell vendor and consultancy services

Focuses on do - to add value to a business, customer insights and innovations must be triaged and executed within operations. If customer experience management is not about change management, I don’t know what it’s about!

Absorbs CX - for its future success CX must be absorbed as just one viewpoint in a continuous improvement, co-created, stakeholder experience programme, supported by insight approaches that build customer sensitivity amongst employees. This means engaging conversation, innovation and interpretation not just over-promising a mechanistic top-down analytics solution


We use a bundle of metrics in addition to our existing ones. These focus on what is emerging and what could be.

One of the best of is the SenseMaker metric: More stories like this, fewer stories like that.

This uses self-quantified narrative to define what customers are saying about your brand ‘as if it were their natural conversation’ i.e., more description than evaluation. You use the narratives of importance and increasing importance to build your innovation funnel. You report using Vector Maps and fitness landscapes.

The main benefit is not to create predictive models but to build increased sensitivity to the customer’s world. To lead the interpretation of insights into innovations through triage huddles and conversations.

This is equally useful as a voice of the employee measure.

Another approach is to review existing relationships and build in consultative sales approaches or a simple question to the effect of ‘how can we go forward together’ (R-Intervention, Dr Olaf Hermans and Goodwill metrics).

We create a sensemaking organisation, alert to change.

Co-Creating Value

Nurture co-creation - co-create your way to better customer experience alongside your other activities

This applies the conversational and relationship-based techniques of co-creation for a defined purpose – to build interconnections between people and surface value (note this is not about breaking silos, silos are good it’s the interconnections that count)

We scale using co-creation platforms to engage stakeholders in ongoingness and innovation

This enables:

1. The holding of co-created knowledge and experience

2. The ready availability of tools and techniques to engage co-creation on the fly

3. The availability of expertise – often held in diverse places in a firm e.g., the finance expert you want may not be in accounting; the AI expert may not be on your current supplier list

4. The tracking and success of triaged interventions based on trial and test i.e., is this shift leading us to more value?

5. The use of gamification and huddle boards, effective storytelling to create a buzz

What has been incorrectly realised is that to understand the world of the customer is not about data alone (our analytical equity). Pouring more perception data into the big data lake will not lead to better predictability because not everything is predictable and nor should it be.

What is important is the capability to:

  • heighten our understanding of what it is to be a customer

  • better interpret data not just accept 'the word of an algorithm'

  • better scan for change and exaptations

  • enable innovation, our creative equity

This is not just about training this is also about how firms are governed.

To have the customer ‘in mind’ also means when not to have the customer in mind.

We kill customer experience as a siloed activity: it becomes absorbed into your continuous improvement processes

All value is co-created so reverse the triangle and support what happens on the ground. Focus on Do.

A few comments

  1. Aggregation of data on its own won't fly

  2. Insights does not lead to innovation nor ROI.  From 2,500 commentaries, I certainly extracted 10 core themes and associated 10% of ideas.  But innovation mostly (but by no means exclusively) arises from the ideation process (nuance, novelty and noodling) : nuance since context causes variation on ongoing themes; novelty since new information has new effects; noodling since waffling leads to hidden and adjacent possibilities

  3. The most direct link is 'concrete idea' to 'concrete result'. This is where you get ROI.   However, nothing can be concretised without the voice of the business and an ability to demonstrate return

Management Implications for the Executive Dashboard

You want to make a link between what you do and the output of what you do

NPS as a prioritization mechanism is weak, gifted and gameable. There is no magic number. Worse than that is does not contain the elements necessary to consider what to do.

NPS is a blunt instrument, does not equate to value and misses out on:

· Novelty – I see what else we could do; I receive novel information from the market

· Nuance – things change a little, the next time I went to the store

· Noodling – as a business I would love us to try this out

It fails to focus on compliance and governance – the political discourse that enables co-creation* (an utterly crucial point, in my business ‘I use NPS politically, but aim to shift the dial to the better metric ‘more stories like this, fewer stories like that’ represented by the innovation funnel’

It puts the emphasis on gifting and gaming as a reality

The risk is the company focuses on ‘NPS” which means a focus only on where there is linear root-cause. I phone the contact centre, I get a rude agent, I never phone again.

It dismisses, UX research such as we should use a better word here (no rise in NPS but speaks to aggregated affects of a good place to do business)

creates a crazy simplistic and stupid obsession – boss likes things linear and simple; we measure every touchpoint by NPS even though its irrelevant

Avoids scanning for exaptation and novelty (as well as denuding novelty, nuance and noodling)

Prevents creative thinking among artisans and downlplays artisan and customer knowledge in favour of control freakery

While customers are not in evaluative mode all the time, the reality is some aspects of business do what their ‘thing’ to be measured even if it is meaningless

Business lacks Factor analytic skills

It encourages siloing and lack of ability to see the whole

The risk of myopia with targeting like this is extreme.

NPS is just an extreme version of what happens with all. It’s a culture metric

Far better to land ‘innovation funnel’ with the executive board. And the value of the funnel.

Even better it makes obvious within the constraints of the business what the actual correlation is

How I approach this: create co-optive measures. You have to give the business what it wants. But make the innovation funnel clear. And report on the correlation.

NPS, CSAT etc are blunt and blunting metrics. Use them if you have to, but move the debate onto business reality : what you do is what you measure.