I’ve been in CX consulting over 20 years and what is interesting is that even with all the technological advances, many organizations struggle to tell a good story with their customer feedback. Part of the challenge is the magnitude of customer feedback available to organizations and drinking from the proverbial CX fire hose. The other part falls upon organizations limiting the amount of “people time” that allows for curious exploration, and relying solely on technology to arrive at the underlying story.

Granted there are some very cool technologies out there in the CX space and much of it is designed to make our lives easier, but why isn’t it helping organizations tell simple, concise and actionable stories? Shouldn’t it be easier to pull a story out of all the feedback with the technology we have today?

Focusing on Patterns

To answer these questions, we need to go back to the basics and how we used to arrive at a CX story. In the “old” days I would sit in front of a stack of banner tables, highlighter in hand, pouring through hundreds of pages to look for patterns, draw conclusions, and spawn additional digging for insights. I would have several pages of handwritten notes with arrows going this way and that to link a story thread together. From there I would sketch out the results before creating any PowerPoint charts. Granted, this process would take days, but what it did was require me to really think about what the feedback was telling me. And perhaps most importantly driving my curiosity to uncover the “why” behind the patterns.


For better or worse, technology has changed a lot of that process. Yes, we will still produce banner tables, but in many cases we turn to technology to quickly provide us the output without thinking ahead about what we hope to see or do with the findings. Unfortunately, output may tell you a chapter of the story, but not the entire story.

As CX practitioners how often do we actually sit down, look for patterns, and think through what the feedback is telling us? We have become so dependent on technology to tell us the pattern in the data, to point out the highs and lows, and consolidate it in a nice picture, that we aren’t taking the time to think through the bigger story behind it.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying technology is bad and shouldn’t be leveraged. Quite the opposite since it saves considerable human and capital resources (plus I work for a company that offers such CX technology). Instead what I recommend is organizations take the time to leverage the human component of telling a CX story and building in time for that to occur.

Storytelling Essentials

What worries me most is that when we remove curiosity and consequently the bigger story from the equation, organizations are left with pieces of information that push them toward score chasing versus insight chasing. Consider the number of times you’ve been asked what your NPS is without the follow-up question asking what is driving that score?

So the question then is how can CX practitioners leverage old school techniques in our technological, time crunched age to tell a good story?

  • Start with the end in mind. Ask who is going to use the information, what hypotheses do they have, what do they hope to learn, how will they use it? Remember that the story you craft for a CX researcher will be very different than the story you would craft for senior management. So when you get down to the final story, make sure it resonates with someone with a line of business perspective. What the data tells us is important, but what they should do about it and why is even more important.
  • Be intuitive. Step back and reality check the findings. Do they make sense from what you know about the industry or your own personal experience? If not, then drill down into what doesn’t feel right.
  • Check your flow. As you put together your findings, can you easily transition from point to point? If not, then you are likely missing a piece of the story or you need to revisit how you are presenting the information.
  • Use descriptive titles. As much as you would like to think people are reading every word of your report, most will only skim the titles and bullets. It is important that your titles are active and descriptive. For example, which title tells the reader why the page is important: “Initial use” or “The first 30 days establishes the bar”?
  • Reduce. Force yourself to take all the information you have and fit it on one piece of paper. Often called the A3 exercise and what is now common in dashboards and scorecards, this will require you to boil all your information down into only the most important aspects. And those aspects should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the customer experience.
  • Let it simmer. Don’t rush to share your findings if you haven’t fully developed a story. Finish your deliverable and walk away from it for an hour, a day, etc. Doing this you will often find yourself tweaking and revising to create an even more concise and actionable story.

Build an Overarching Story

Telling a story isn’t hard, but there is an art to it. Technology can help us with the chapters of the story, but the art is taking the time to uncover the patterns and build the links to the overarching story. Otherwise, we will find ourselves focused on an individual score instead of the story behind that score.