Photo by Adam Le Sommer

There’s no question that customer experience (CX) is a data-driven discipline. After all, at the foundation of most CX programs are close-ended surveys designed to capture and analyze customer feedback. And many companies have forged ahead with voice of the customer (VoC) programs, too.

Yes, metrics are a crucial element of every successful CX program. With metrics, you can establish a clear performance baseline and track trends based on actions you take over time.

But how do you know in advance if the actions you take will be the right ones? Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball that lets you know exactly what to do to have the biggest impact on your anchor metrics?

Here’s some good news: You don’t need to have psychic powers to excel at CX. Instead, you need to use predictive analytics to clarify expected returns before you take every step—and to ensure you have clean data to power your CX metrics program. Only then can you take meaningful action based on your customer data.

Know the Difference Between Descriptive and Predictive Analytics

So what is predictive analytics? To understand the concept, it helps to understand descriptive analytics.

In short, descriptive analytics answer the question “What happened?” They take many forms in business—everything from your revenues last quarter to your current company-wide Net Promoter Score (NPS).

As you can see, descriptive analytics focus on the past; they provide interesting data points but don’t provide a clear path for action.

But predictive analytics focus on the future. They don’t just tell you what already happened. Instead, they recommend optimal next steps to drive desired outcomes.

Imagine that you’re looking at your CX dashboard. You can see your NPS or elements of your overall customer satisfaction (CSAT) score and other critical performance measures. If you have access to predictive metrics, you can see specific, recommended goal-actions and what uplift they may provide to those core metrics.

Maybe you should find ways to shorten your check out process. Maybe you need to improve service quality on calls with your frontline team. With predictive analytics, you won’t have to guess and hope for the best. You’ll see which actions will make the biggest impact and can prioritize your activities.

Make Sure You Have Clean Data

We all hear the never-ending chatter about “big data”—the huge volumes of data that flood businesses every day. But when it comes to CX bigger isn’t always better.

As a recent Forbes article points out, your focus should be quality over quantity:

In our quest for numbers, there must be some method to the madness. If it’s to be of service to our organization, data must be more than just prolific; it needs to be useful. It should provide opportunities for strategic insight and support data-driven decisions. This is where the quality of data comes into play.

Ensuring you have clean data takes effort. For surveys, you may need to eliminate duplicate participants, those who answer too swiftly, or those who provide the same response to every question. What if you enrich your survey data with details from other sources, such as social media listening posts or support calls? You’ll need to cleanse that data too.

When you have clean data, you can feel confident that your metrics are sound. And you can provide genuine customer insights to the people who influence customer perceptions the most: your frontline team.

You can share metrics along with the reasons for the scores—and the actions you recommend taking to improve them. Those communications will empower your employees to see how the work they do touches customers lives. And your team will feel even more motivated to foster a customer-centric culture.

Take Charge of Your CX Future

Every CX practitioner knows that CX programs can take time to mature. As Forrester research explains, “CX transformations are massive, take years, and cost millions.” And executives will want to see clear signs of tangible CX progress along the way.

Metrics matter. But don’t get sidetracked keeping tabs on a sea of numbers. You need to move beyond the backward-looking descriptive metrics that are commonplace in many CX programs. Shift your emphasis to predictive analytics to take smart, strategic CX actions.

The truth is data and traditional descriptive metrics will only get you so far in CX. Your leaders and frontline team need insight on meaningful things that they can do to meet rising customer expectations.

Those things can be a simple, quick website tweak or a major process overhaul. Big or small, these changes make a difference to your customers. And when you look at your data through the lens of customer needs, you can stay focused on the actions that matter most.

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