The crusade to optimize customer experience is one that all organizations are waging – and for good reason. The success equation for anyone doing business today demands customer centricity. Just look at the Customers 2020 Report that shows customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. That crystallizing fact puts the need to optimize the customer experience – namely making sure that every experience with your brand matters – atop the CMO’s Ten Commandments.

The million-dollar dilemma is figuring out what the optimal experience look like for each customer. Enlightening clues can be found in everyday engagements with customers. Most companies can find them recorded in their customer service transcripts, in 140-character suggestions, in NPS survey open-ended questions and in reviews.

If marketers and their insights teams have access to this valuable feedback and can use it to map out opportunities to surprise and delight customers at every turn, then why is this strategic lens largely underused? Why are so many organizations stunted in realizing their experience goals?

One of the reasons is that they’re drowning in data, and that data exists in silos. Big, little, numerical, qualitative. There is a copious amount of customer data available to all marketers, but is it too much of a good thing? According to an IBM study of 1,700 CMOs, 71 percent feel unprepared to handle the data explosion. It’s hard to steer the ship when you’re struggling to stay afloat. While there’s no perfect solution out there, and no data pause button available in the interim, there are some easy steps marketers can take to get unstuck.

Here are 4 tips to help you to start using your customers’ commentary to optimize their experiences.

1) Start Today (Not Tomorrow) With What You Have
While it’s easy to procrastinate and do an exhaustive search to find the best analysis and alignment product (one that likely doesn’t exist), it’s not going to get you closer to your goal. Instead, start identifying and compiling the sources you currently have. When you take inventory of your existing assets, you may find that you have more commentary to extract than you first realized.

Where to start? If you have a brand tracker in place, look back six months at the open-ended responses to identify hidden issues, untapped opportunities and budding trends. Cull out some of the @yourcompany tweets that have come in recently. Pull reviews that mention your organization over the past 12 months. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive exercise, just find a few sources of customer feedback that could show promise, capture them in a central location and use those as your launching pad.

2) It’s a BIG Meal, Take Small Bites
We all want to slay the dragon in a day and be rewarded handsomely, but this isn’t a feedback fairytale. There are many companies that bring on a huge software solution to tame the beast, hand over all their customer-feedback data streams and expect magic in the form of a dashboard. But doing so often leads to organizational strife and more confusion. Remember to crawl, walk and then run. Find a partner, someone who knows the space such as a mentor or research firm, who will be consultative and help you bite off small chunks and create a proof-of-concept that you can use to gain support and align the organization. You’ll find this will lay the groundwork and pay significant dividends when you are ready to move into a larger initiative.

3) Unleash Your Storyteller
Any successful initiative requires dedicated individuals to lead it, and this is no different. Since customer feedback often comes in the form of mega database systems housing big data, there might be a tendency to hand the reigns to a data whiz. But remember that we’re talking about feedback here, not numbers. Sure there’s benefit to quantifying the responses in some manner, but just like with any good stockpile of qualitative feedback, the goal is to tell a story and get to the “why.”

New ways to optimize the customer experience are created by understanding motivations, expectations and perception, not by gathering percentages. Tap into an individual or group within your organization who is tied into your audience and objectives and has experience analyzing feedback, developing a nuanced view of the customer, creating a story and marrying it to the bigger picture. This person or team looks different at every organization, so don’t get bogged down by letting job title be your guide.

4) Rethink Conventional Reporting
It’s your customer feedback, your insights, your crusade and your organization. So why would you put yourself in someone’s reporting box that doesn’t work for you? Dashboards are the reporting tool du jour, but that doesn’t mean they’re best suited for every data-driven project. Figure out what type of deliverable will work for your specific goals, one that is simple enough to digest, yet robust enough to tell a story and rally the troops.

For example, if the commentary you are collecting is intended to help you profile audiences, a persona-based report might be the optimal output. If you are collecting feedback from different inputs along the customer journey to see how experiences, preferences and perceptions vary, then a report that compares the journey touch-points might be more appropriate. Dashboards are good at providing a 30,000-foot view and are easily shared, but often leave gaping context holes. Tap your team and partners to iterate on the output until it works for you. The report is the last word of you and your customers – be discerning.

As a marketer today, you have a treasure trove of consumer feedback your predecessors could only dream of, including unbridled commentary being captured on multiple platforms. If you start wading into it with purpose and open eyes, it can mean the difference the perfect aim and a misstep. Remember, all it takes is a few insights here, a great experience there and an advocate is born.