CX Myth #3: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.


CX Myth #3: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

What’s Wrong: When people talk about CX, they often repeat a popular saying “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” That’s just not true. Most of the things we manage in life don’t have a formal measurement. Every day we wake up in the morning, get dressed, and get to work – all without any specific measurements. The same is true at work, and with CX. If we see an employee make a client upset, we don’t need a score on a customer survey to know that it’s a problem.

What’s Right: The correct saying should be “you can’t manage what you don’t understand.” Unfortunately, leaders sometimes just slap measurements on CX, which leads to the suboptimal approach of blindly managing by the numbers. When you talk with customers and employees about different aspects of customer experience, you can often discover insights that either never show up in your measurements, or appear long after you should have known about them. Ideally, you use CX measurements to enhance your understanding, not to replace it.

What You Should Do:

  • Increase leadership CX IQ. If you want leaders to be less metrics-centric and more successful at driving an organization towards becoming more customer-centric, then those leaders need to have a clear and consistent view of how a customer-centric organization operates. A good place to start is by having leaders review Temkin Group’s CX Competency & Maturity Model. After that, you can create measurements that map to the leaders’ understanding of CX.
  • Prune action-less metrics. Since leaders are often enamored with metrics, they tend to track an increasingly larger number of them over time. The growth remains unfettered, as very few organizations have a good approach for stopping measurements once they’ve been created. Every year or so, companies should have a metrics cleansing period, during which time there’s a pro-active focus on removing metrics that have not recently provided demonstrable value.
  • Prioritize qualitative research. The push to metrics often causes organizations to put most of their market research budget on quantitative studies that result in trackable measurements. But deep insights into customers often comes from qualitative studies that examine why customers think and behave the way that they do. Look for places to explicitly fund more qualitative studies by cutting back on the least impactful quantitative studies.
  • Measure collective results. CX success requires efforts across an entire organization. So watch out for measurements that isolate the activities of individual people or teams. The narrower the measurements you use, the more likely you are to de-incentivize collaborative behaviors. Focus on metrics that capture real-world team-based activities.
  • Look for leading indicators. Most metrics represent backwards-looking scorecards, describing how an organization performed in the past. While a retrospective view can be helpful, it’s more valuable to understand what activities will impact your organization’s future CX trajectory. Use predictive analytics to identify what activities with different customer segments will most improve your CX metrics in the future.

The bottom line: CX insights don’t always require CX metrics.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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