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Are Your CX Questions Out of Order?

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 12/21/2022
A man stacking wooden blocks with question marks on them, depicting the question, "Are Your CX Questions Out of Order?"

One key insight I’ve gleaned from our ongoing interviews with CX professionals is that changing the order of the questions you ask can change your entire perspective on measuring the customer journey.

By that, I mean the change that occurs when instead of asking yourself, “What metric am I trying to track?” at the outset, you instead ask, “What behavior am I trying to predict?”

Over the last three years we’ve interviewed hundreds of CX leaders to understand why some are so successful while others struggle to make an impact. We call those excellent leaders “Change Makers,” because they drive organizational change to improve outcomes for both their customers and company…and they can demonstrate it. Meanwhile, those we call “Hopefuls” merely hope their work improves outcomes, but they can’t measure it.

A CMO I met recently said it best: “Hope is not a strategy.”

At our recent Do B2B Better 2022 conference, I put it this way: “Hopefuls study sentiment. Change Makers study and change behaviors.”

The seeds of success are sown when we identify what behaviors we want to understand. For most organizations, it’s why some customers buy more, or stay longer, or interact in ways that yield a lower cost-to-serve. But other companies focus on other customer behaviors. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Once we understand those behaviors and why they happen, it becomes much easier to drive change. Because then you can talk money, the language leadership understands best.

Most CX programs go wrong by starting with their metric. Most commonly, they turn first to Net Promoter Score (NPS), though many others go right to Customer Effort Score (CES). Regardless of which they utilize, they hope (there’s that word again!) that translates to successful business outcomes.

But that leap of faith involves some pretty big assumptions.

The most glaring one is that customers who move their mouse a bit to the right on a survey are also calling you first when they have a need or are staying with you longer. I can share multiple examples where that’s simply not the case.

That’s one of many reasons why your executives aren’t fighting to get on your calendar. They don’t see how your metrics relate to theirs. (Which to their minds, means yours aren’t worth their time or attention.)

Until you can demonstrate an understanding of their metrics – e.g., orders that follow lead time specifications, customers who order multiple product lines, reduced operational costs, etc. – and show how your metrics predict and impact theirs, your odds of successfully driving change are minimal.

Note: Referrals aren’t typically on this list. Few companies actively track them, so predicting them can be nearly impossible.

That is why the first thing we do at Heart of the Customer when we work with new clients is to take the time to understand what success looks like from the business perspective. How does the CFO measure success? How about the COO? We start there. Then we talk with customers to understand which metrics are ideal (e.g., high orders) and which aren’t.

Only once that step’s complete are we ready to decide on candidate metrics. And I say “candidate” because the next step is to test those KPIs. You want to confirm a correlation between your metric and those of the business.

Until the CX community can consistently make this connection, we’ll continue to struggle with getting organizational buy-in. And thus, we’ll continue to see an increasingly common (and increasingly worrying) turnover in CX roles.


For our next CX research initiative, we’re once again partnering with the CXPA. On the heels of our CX Leader First Year Journey project, we’re now out to understand how mature CX programs hire and manage their staff. If you’d like to learn more about what your peers are doing – and share your own experiences and insights – please click on this link to participate. Participants will get early access to the results…and our gratitude!

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