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2021: The Year of CX Data

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 12/21/2020
bad cx data

Given the year we’ve had, we need to talk hygiene. Because I suspect you’ve been neglecting it.

Not because of the sweatpants you wore in that Zoom meeting, or that you don’t always sing “Happy Birthday” twice when you wash your hands.

I mean digital hygiene, and the need to clean your data.

Each of the past five years have been hailed as the “The Year of Digital Transformation.” We thought we were working hard to digitize our experiences.

Then the pandemic hit. And we realized we weren’t doing nearly enough. New digital capabilities came up almost overnight, as agile teams worked to pivot toward emerging customer needs. E-commerce sites, digital notifications, ship from store – all capabilities that were just “in the works” a year ago were deployed quickly.

But one limitation hobbled this transformation for too many organizations: dirty, dirty data. Disconnected data. Unmatched data. Bad data made it nearly impossible for many organizations to implement the capabilities required to meet customers’ needs.

Bad data holds you back

Operational systems show the current state of that insurance policy going through underwriting, but there’s no connection to the CRM to let the customer know what’s happening.

Customers call to get status, but the service database shows five different entries, and it isn’t clear which one is for this customer, since different systems show the same name and company, but two email addresses and three physical addresses.

Operations knows that the truck with the critical components is in Utah, but customer service shows it in Boise.

Data isn’t sexy, but it’s a critical component of any digital transformation. And it’s held you back for too long. Your competitors might be launching new capabilities, but it’s increasingly obvious that the lack of good, clean data has resulted in bad information sent to your customers.

No time to waste

Unfortunately, CX doesn’t own the data. As my good friend Megan Burns likes to say, “It may not be your fault, but it’s still your problem.”

Disconnected and dirty won’t show up (directly) in an NPS survey, and your customers won’t tell you it’s about the data when they call to complain. But bad data is the underlying cause of the problems in your customer experience.

We interviewed more than 100 CX pros this year, but only a few brought up the data challenge directly. It’s no surprise that the leaders who did represent the best of the best in our field. They run the fraction of CX programs – about a quarter – that can show the business impact of their work. And how do that do that? Data. They use it to show how their work results in higher unit margin, increased retention, or lower cost to serve.

These leaders weren’t physically cleaning the data. They weren’t creating cross-system connections or ensuring that each system used the same standard for addresses. They just illuminated the limitations of current data, ensuring that leadership understood that action was needed today (or yesterday!) to enable digital capabilities tomorrow.

I’m sure you’ll read all kinds of 2021 predictions about sexier topics. It will be the year of technology! The year of empathy! The year of executive engagement!

But while those things are important, without the right data, you just won’t be able to create the critical capabilities your customers want, expect, and need. And isn’t that why we’re in this business?

So make a New Year’s resolution to start conversations between your technology, business analytics, and customer experience groups. Your customers will thank you.

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