By John MacLean

Customer experience challenges are often rooted in a desire to better understand the relationship between a company and their customer — the many touch points in their interaction and what those interactions mean to success or failure. Yet, the biggest determinant of success is what you do once you capture those interactions. It becomes about what is done with that data— how it is distilled, shared, and made into something from which decisions can be made. I call it the “Last Mile.” It is simple in concept, complex to enact, and absolutely critical to the efficacy of a long-term CX strategy.

At the onset of a CX project, a company likely begins as they would with any relationship— by listening. In business, this is accomplished by identifying touch points throughout an organization, ranking them by their place and importance in the customer journey, and then setting up Listening Posts in key areas to capture data and behaviors. This is a critical distinction, because feedback is often different than real, captured behaviors.

In fact, that critical listening is something we refer to as Customer Service Forensics — capturing data and behaviors to understand the meaning in the detail. It’s complicated work. In a large organization, the number of touch points could be considerable. In a recent client engagement, we had 100 touch points, shuffled into 7 key stages. We built a model that looked at the various stages a customer goes through with CRM and put in important touch points or Listening Posts where we wanted to measure forensics and data. For this client, it was important to understand at which stage and at which touch point there was room for improvement.

In many organizations, this client included, there is no centralized collection point. Data might be pulled from different departments across an organization, in different forms and formats, many of which are not accustomed to outputting data in a shared fashion.

This is where the Last Mile comes in.

It is one of the biggest challenges companies face today. There is a lot of data, but without a disciplined process in place to collect it all, and then examine it, the effort is pointless.

The Last Mile is forged in the beginning, by aligning teams and people around the customer journey, understanding what data exists, in what form, and how it can be shared and centralized. With our client, the stages in the process looked like this:

  1. Customer journey mapping
  2. Building the model
  3. Sourcing data
  4. Collecting data
  5. Exhaustively reviewing the data for quality
  6. Processing data to turn into a Visualization Dashboard
  7. Data-driven decision making

Even if you do a perfect job of steps 1-4, it is meaningless without equal attention to the remaining steps. Of course, this seems obvious. And yet, many companies tend to overlook the significance of those last critical steps in the process.

A company must be certain when they take on a CX project such as this that they are committed and willing to carry it through — leveraging all data in the customer experience worth weighing, and then examining it and turning it into something from which actionable decisions can be made. It is also worth pointing out the importance of Test and Learn— having the discipline to discover a problem with the customer experience, identify a possible solution, test the solution, evaluate if it worked, and try, try again if it doesn’t.

In the case of our client, success was achieved by closely following the process, a commitment to testing and learning, and use of a Visualization Dashboard designed to aide in data-driven decisions. Their end-goal was improving their CX score— the dashboard helped them set their focus, and make informed decisions. They also took the step of employing a full-time employee to manage and run the project after launch.

Bottom line, success boils down to a commitment to do the hard work, A-Z, including that last critical mile that turns data into decisions.

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