Customer Experience Transition: Turning Data Into Action

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Mike Ashton

customer data and analytics

Customer experience expert Mike Ashton shares 5 practical and proven suggestions on how to harness customer data to transform customer experience and avoid vital insight slipping through the cracks.

Companies invest heavily to measure customer reaction to the service experience they deliver and frequently obsess over the results. Yet in so many cases it proves difficult to convert this knowledge, together with a wealth of other related data, into positive improvement of customer experience.

Customer data and analytics

Which begs the question, where does the breakdown between research, analysis and action occur?

Success in this area can be impeded by three issues:

  • failure to communicate across functional boundaries,
  • failure to collaborate in addressing shared customer issues, and
  • failure in capability – most notably the willingness and ability of marketing and CX specialists to interrogate data thoroughly and ask the right questions, and the ability of analytics specialists to translate their insight into practical solutions that can be used by the business.

Rich data and deep customer insight can be a powerful source of competitive advantage and business leaders, analysts and CX specialists have a shared interest in addressing this critically important challenge.

Here then, are 5 practical and proven suggestions on how to harness customer data to transform customer experience and avoid vital insight slipping through the cracks.

1. Ask the Right Questions

In my experience, working across diverse business sectors, it’s unusual to find marketers and CX specialists who are comfortable analysing, interrogating and utilising detailed business intelligence, whether it be internal financial and operational data or external market information. The norm is to look ‘mile-wide and inch-deep’, doing just enough to cover the basics. But deeper analysis that connects the dots between apparently disparate data sets invariably generates new insight and understanding.

So should all marketers and CX specialists sign up for an ‘Analytics for non-analytical managers’ course? Perish the thought! But what we can do is get smarter at 1) looking at our business challenges in more granular detail, 2) identifying the gaps in knowledge and insight that could drive differentiation and competitive advantage, and 3) asking the right business-driven questions of our analytics and financial colleagues.

I’ve found it tremendously powerful to pull together short term hit-squads of markers and CX specialists, analysts and financial people to investigate complex customer-facing challenges. Something fresh and innovative invariably emerges that sheds new light on existing challenges while building new working relationships.

Key take out for CX specialists: Dig deep and ask the right questions

2. Build Data Bridges

I’ve spoken at several data and analytics conferences where a common sub-text appears to be frustration that the wider business just doesn’t understand the potential of what analysts can offer. I would contest that data experts can take the initiative in rectifying this this situation by sharpening up in 4 main ways:

  • Understanding the business challenges facing specific departments and colleagues
  • Converting data into usable business solutions that are easy to understand and apply
  • Actively building relationships with and guiding colleagues who can use their insight
  • Building the ability to communicate their ideas in a more user-friendly way

Analytics teams whose members develop a broad commercial perspective and who find ways to integrate themselves into mainstream business operations are an invaluable corporate resource.

Key take out for analysts: Don’t wait to be asked and learn to speak the language of business.

3. The Power of WHY

One of the greatest challenges for CX managers is to convince colleagues, particularly senior colleagues, of the financial value and commercial impact of investing in customer experience transformation.

All too often we’re our own worst enemy because we fail to do the hard yards needed to demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, the cause-and-effect relationship between CX delivery and business performance, between touch-point experience and customer behaviour, between dissatisfaction, defection and the P&L. I don’t believe it’s credible to say that it’s difficult, or even impossible, to prove these key causal relationships.

During my time as CMO of Hilton, we worked closely with the finance and analytics teams to find a way to correlate key performance drivers such as staff retention, service quality and customer satisfaction with hotel profitability. Our ability to attribute financial performance to specific breakdowns in service delivery were pivotal in our CX transformation journey.

Key take out for CX specialists: Investigate the link between CX and finance performance.

4. Transfer Ownership and Understanding

It’s often too easy for colleagues at all levels to consign ownership and responsibility for CX related data to the CX specialists, placing it in a space adjacent to the mainstream business. This is often how it’s dealt with on board room agendas.

Our challenge is to place customer related data and analytics at the heart of every mainstream business decision. For this to happen it’s vital that CX specialists and their new BFFs, the analysts, find a way to force this information onto the agenda in 5 ways:

  • Prioritise: Agree a limited number of CX metrics that are easy to understand
  • Articulate: Develop a clear, jargon-free language to explain these metrics
  • Communicate: Present CX data in a clear, consistent and concise format
  • Educate: Explain to colleagues how CX metrics relate to business performance
  • Transfer: Make it easy for mainstream operators to adopt and use this data

Key take out for CX and analysts: Invest time and effort to get the business to adopt and use CX data.

5. Tell the Story

The advent of Big Data has left many business managers dazed and confused, submerged under a tidal wave of often conflicting information.

I once sat in a board meeting and listened to two presentations, one of which used financial date to show a positive business tend while the other used transactional data to highlight a performance deficit for the same period. Inevitably, the discussion that followed focussed on figuring out who was right rather than how to improve business performance!

It’s incumbent on CX practitioners and analysts to work hand-in-glove to present a credible and coherent picture of business performance that irons out the wrinkles between CX, financial and operational data before it gets to the board room and focuses attention where it matters:on transforming performance.

Key take out for CX, analysts and finance: Work together to get your story straight!


So in short, lack of CX data is rarely the problem – in fact it’s precisely the opposite. The challenge is how to gather, analyse, explain and deploy information so it’s used to greatest effect.

At the heart of the solution resides the need for much stronger collaboration between the CX, financial and analytics teams and the requirement for CX specialists and markers to develop an unquenchable curiosity to reveal the powerful secrets that lie hidden in the vaults of Gringott’s bank. (Please excuse the Harry Potter reference!)