Customer experience is having its moment in the sun.

This will come as a surprise to exactly no one. But what may surprise you is how difficult it can be to prove customer experience's value.

While customer experience programs vary wildly, the rationale behind implementing them can be pretty simple: will it contribute to revenue or not, are we differentiating or not, are we gaining marketshare or not? 

Unfortunately, getting an answer isn’t usually straightforward: You may be looking for the value in far too narrow a set of measures and opportunities. 

In short, the true ROI for customer experience is probably much higher than you think.

Clear Argument for CX, Unclear Path to Proving Value

Before diving in, let’s settle on a CX definition: “Employing a customer-centric engagement strategy that aims to optimize customer satisfaction along their multiple points of contact with an organization.” 

With mounting evidence endorsing this strategy, and plenty, plenty of evidence highlighting the huge opportunities to improve customer satisfaction, it’s no surprise that 37 percent of CEOs in a recent survey said they planned to add CX to their business. 

For the last four years, I’ve worked to build a CX department at Liferay, a digital experience platform provider. During that time, it’s been a constant surprise to see how broad the effects of CX are, and how often these go overlooked. 

Customer experience departments can be messy. They’re cross-departmental, require investment, flexibility and patience, among other things. For these reasons, it’s imperative to promote value along every step with data that reflects the effects of customer engagement. 

So, the challenge is to find out what to measure. 

4 Metrics to Uncover Customer Engagement ROI

I've found that metrics tend to fall into four general categories: two widely discussed ares, and two you might not have considered. The first two:

1. Customer-Related Revenue

Most of us start here: measuring customer habits relating to revenue. We expect better-engaged customers to contribute to the bottom line. 

Depending on your organization, these may include sales, renewals, retention (churn), growth, site stickiness and lifetime customer value. Make sure to include effects on cross-selling, upselling and market-share.

2. Brand Perception and Loyalty

Understanding customer sentiment has always been central to customer experience. Customer satisfaction surveys and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are highly promoted to as a way to gauge CX effectiveness. 

It’s important to go beyond those numbers. 

Consider the ways your organization or brand is being reflected and how they can be measured. This may include social promotion (higher mentions or likes), consumer marketing participation (increased references, written case studies, testimonials) and product engagement (more product downloads and beta testers). 

Here are two other metric types that may not be on your radar just yet:

3. Employee Satisfaction

Definitely don’t discount the value of staying competitive in an increasingly demanding job market. CX can help ensure good employees aren’t looking for jobs elsewhere. 

Look at this two ways: First, it’s possible to promote job satisfaction by applying CX methods and treating employees like customers, and identifying ways that improve their work life. Second, improving areas of customer dissatisfaction can improve job morale, especially for those working at the front line. 

For example, has a recent reduction in dissatisfied customers contacting a call-center had a positive impact on the CSR’s job satisfaction? I'd guess yes, and it’s up to you to connect the dots. 

4. Process Improvement

Process improvement is the area of customer experience that — in my opinion — offers some of the greatest organizational value, yet is too often overlooked. 

Imagine a call center fielding thousands of calls monthly because product shipping information isn’t automatically sent to customers after an online purchase. Identifying and driving a process change on that one issue can have a three-fold effect of driving down organizational costs, improving customer satisfaction and boosting workforce morale. It’s pretty compelling to show how Customer Experience can identify and improve practices that don’t just benefit customer satisfaction, but can also drive down organizational costs. 

Examples include shortening training lengths, reducing the number of support tickets, eliminating redundant tasks and speeding up delivery times. Here again, knowing what to measure is key: measure everything. It’s important to have a baseline, and you’ll often be looking at systems that were previously never tracked.

Sound daunting? If you’re uncertain where to start, remember the phrase from All the President’s Men, “Follow the money.” Identify short-term, higher-value targets like reducing service calls related to a known issue. If you know the amount of time saved and average cost-per-minute of a service call, you’re in business! 

Begin to build confidence around the team’s efforts and leverage that goodwill as you tackle bigger areas of concern. That should help define success for your leadership, because, you know, it’s going to take time.

I’m interested to hear if you have had similar experiences revealing unexpected value from your customer experience department. Please share your challenges and solutions you’ve found in the comments below!