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Why You Need to Take a “Connected Learnings” Approach to Customer Experience Research Design


We’ve probably all been to at least one restaurant where, near the end of the meal, we were handed a leather folder that included a little something extra with the bill.

“Tell us how we did,” the comment card might begin, followed by a ratings scheme for the server based on their friendliness and speed, another for the quality of the food and maybe some lines at the end for any additional feedback.

This obviously isn’t the ideal mechanism for evaluating customer experiences (CX), for several reasons. For one thing, it put the onus on the customer at the same moment they were being asked to pay. Comment cards are also manual, possibly difficult to decipher and not practical for conducting deeper analysis. And now, thanks to technology, they are almost completely redundant.

Social media, open forums like Yelp and a myriad of other channels all give customers options above and beyond any physical or digital feedback mechanisms a company operates on its own. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in hospitality, finance, retail or health-care. What used to be a trickle of CX data has turned into a firehose -- and organizations need a way to stop drowning and start responding to secure the loyalty of their customers.

The Growing CX Disconnect

Despite all the feedback they’re getting, companies may have an over-inflated sense of their own CX progress. As CMO.com reported, for instance, a media agency called Starcom recently released its Starcom Media Futures Report, which showed that business typically rate themselves two times higher (or 106 per cent) than consumers on meeting their expectations. This number has already jumped from 61 per cent when the firm did the same study last year.

There are all kinds of explanations for this, but companies can literally not afford to be complacent. According to the most recent Future of Customer Experience Survey from PwC, customers will pay up to a 16 per cent premium on products and services if they rate their experience high enough.

More alarmingly, 43 per cent of consumers surveyed said they wouldn’t share data with an organization to improve CX. That means firms need to work particularly hard to watch and listen for feedback in all the structured and unstructured forms in which it can manifest itself.

Moving To ‘Connected Learnings’

A truly holistic view of CX data goes beyond pure VOC inputs (Voice of the Customer).  It brings together structured and unstructured feedback, links customer experience back to the brand promise, and integrates input from employees as well as operational data. When properly architected, this leads to a “Connected Learnings” framework which allows you to accomplish three critical things:

  • Understand what’s important to your customers and why
  • Understand how to engage your employees to deliver an experience that matches the brand promise
  • Develop a strategy to build and deliver an optimal customer experience.

This doesn’t happen overnight, of course. These are some of the guidelines companies should keep in mind as they use the Connected Learnings framework to manage their Customer Experience.

  1. Map the Entire CX Continuum

Those restaurant comment cards have one other flaw: they are only looking at what happens when customers sit down to eat. What about the way they first learned about the restaurant, how easy it was to find parking, the time it took to get greeted and then seated? What about when they leave -- are they sent off in silence or with a thank you from a staff member?

A Connected Learnings approach looks at the pre- and post-state of the experience as well as what happens during those direct interactions between a brand and its customers. The digital channels customers use to make choices and then share feedback not only with a company, but their family and friends demand an analysis of the entire journey, not just the arrival point where they buy or use a product or service.

  1. Identify the Foundational and the Experiential

When someone checks into a hotel, what do they expect? A clean room, perhaps, and a minimal time to wait for room service. These are foundational elements you must analyze when you’re looking at customer feedback. But they are not the only ones at play. The experiential, more emotional elements of the experience will tell you more about how much a customer trusts a brand, meanwhile, or whether they feel the staff genuinely cares about them, which is usually a critical trigger of loyal behaviours.

Using a Connected Learnings approach that bring unstructured and structured data sources together will give you this fuller picture

  1. Link Employee Engagement to Customer Experience

CEOs will often say their people are an organization’s greatest assets, but few properly correlate staff engagement and CX. Factors such as training, compensation and whether operations are based around customer-centric plans will impact how customers rate the experience.

Using a Connected Learnings approach that enables a company to conduct linkage analysis between their employee research data and their customer experience data will reveal internal levers the company can activate to improve CX scores (as long as the employee survey includes questions about the customer experience).

  1. CX and the Brand Promise Must Be Connected

Beyond offering products and services, great brands seek to innovate, inspire and change consumers’ lives. Think of Coca-Cola, which has saidit wants to “inspire moments of optimism and uplift,” something that’s reflected in everything from its cheerful advertising to the names it puts on cans and bottles. When a brand fails to live up to those promises, however, disappointed customers not only fail to come back but warn off others.

Taking a Connected Learnings approach is critical here because only by putting those charged with studying brand equity and CX on the same page can you ensure you’re delivering consistently on a promise.  And that authenticity will define your long-term reputation and be the foundation for your growth.

In Conclusion

The Connected Learnings framework not only offer a means to better customer experience, but also to a more authentic one. Beyond the benefits of breaking down silos of information within a company, this approach which integrates the various sources and types of feedback from customers and employees will help you build a successful Customer Experience strategy.

Written by Stephan Sigaud

Stephan Sigaud, MBA, is Phase 5’s EVP of Marketing. Stephan is passionate about partnering with clients to address their challenges and opportunities around customer centricity. With more than 25 years’ experience in Market Research and Customer Loyalty and Experience, Stephan has been volunteering with both the Customer Experience Professionals Association (as past Chair of the CXPA Toronto Network) and the Canadian Marketing Association's (as member of the Leaders Network and past co-Chair of the CMA CX Council).