A customer experience (CX) maturity assessment is a great way for an organization to understand where it is on its path to customer-centricity and identify where further interventions might be necessary.

“Conducting a CX maturity assessment can provide great insight on where your organization is currently lacking (or not) with regards to the customer experience building blocks and skills needed to become a customer-centric organization,” said Annette Franz, founder and Chief Experience Officer at CX Journey. “It’s a great benchmark that can be revisited and re-measured to gauge progress over time. Ultimately, it’s informs your CX roadmap."

Conducting these assessments starts with understanding what you’re looking for — the elements necessary for CX maturity. This can vary depending on the organization, industry, organizational goals and other factors, said Bruce Temkin, head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. “What’s tricky in CX assessments is there’s no ‘standard’ set across every company — so what constitutes ‘maturity’ is unique to every company,” he said. “There’s also no standard for what an assessment should look like or absolutes about what things it can measure.”

Customer Experience Maturity Basics

Typically, assessments are done via an online survey. The business then analyzes and shares the results internally, but usually not with customers or external stakeholders, Franz said. The results of a CX maturity assessment can help organizations gain a competitive edge, when the organization uses the assessment to become more aware of its gaps and shortcomings when it comes to customer experience, she continued. “You know where to focus your efforts to ensure that you’re working toward — or simply are — a customer-centric organization.”

It’s important when assessing the organization that you solicit feedback from people from various levels of the organization — not just executives — and cross-functionally. Include employees from every department, every business unit, and every geography to make sure you get a full picture of where the organization is.

“You want to get a full picture of where the organization stands, and your executives may paint a different picture than those who are closest to your customers. You also want to ensure that you have a significant sample size to allow for analysis and ensure the results are meaningful,” Franz said.

Related Article: Raise the Bar on Customer Experience With Maturity Models

CX Maturity Assessment Examples

Many proprietary and vendor-specific tools exist for assessing CX maturity, and they can all be very helpful. There are some foundational elements common to companies who are mature in their CX practices, though, said Temkin: They have buy-in at all levels from executive down to the entry level employees; they align strategy with operations; they integrate customer experience into every department; they understand that employee experience can impact customer experience; and they measure and adapt based on metrics.

Temkin said Qualtrics XM Institute’s Customer Experience Maturity Assessment measures maturity against six competencies and 20 underlying skills within those competencies: Lead, Realize, Activate, Enlighten, Respond and Disrupt. Organizations that can show mastery of the underlying skills have the knowledge and expertise needed to excel at these levels of customer experience management.

  • Lead, the first competency, requires an organization to articulate a clear CX strategy and then coordinate the execution of that strategy across a number of different people and projects over multiple years, according to XM Institute. This competency is about architecting, aligning and sustaining successful CX efforts. The associated skills, according to the Institute, are CX strategy, program roadmap and CX governance.
  • The next competency, Realize, refers to an organization’s ability to generate strategic and financial value for the organization through customer experience. This competency is about identifying and tracking the right metrics to ensure CX efforts achieve well-defined business objectives, and the skills associated with it are value planning, value delivery and metrics management.
  • A successful CX program must overcome people’s inertia and their natural resistance to change. XM Institute’s Activate competency ensures that the organization has the appropriate skills, support and motivation to achieve desired CX results, and the skills associated with this competency are ecosystem communications, expertise building and role-based enablement.
  • To improve the customer experiences it delivers, an organization must be capable of collecting and processing a constant flow of experience and operational data and then transforming it into useful information. The XM Institute’s Enlighten competency is about capturing, analyzing and distributing actionable insights, and the skills associated with it are X&O data integration, experience monitoring, insights discovery and insights distribution.
  • Gathering and disseminating insights is all well and good, but ultimately, value is only generated when an organization acts on what it learns — it must respond to feedback. The Respond competency is about building organizational mechanisms to continuously take action based on insights, and the XM Institute says the skills associated with it are immediate response, continuous improvement, strategic decision making and process integration.
  • Finally, XM Institute believes that while finding and fixing problems is necessary, just responding to explicit issues is not sufficient to capture customers’ hearts and minds — the Disrupt competency is about identifying and creating experiences that differentiate the organization from its competitors. The skills associated with it are experience visioning, experience design and experience integration.

If this all seems overwhelming, then start small, said Temkin. Begin with metrics you already have, identify areas where you can quickly improve and then work to get better over time.

“You can look at the measurements you already have of customer satisfaction and feedback — NPS; C-Sats, for example, and see where you need to improve, what you’re already excelling at,” he said. “That is a good place to start.”

When Franz conducts maturity assessments for clients, she says she focuses on eight elements and where the organization stands relative to (1) executive commitment and alignment, (2) strategy, (3) employee experience, (4) customer understanding, (5) governance, (6) organizational adoption and (7) metrics, plus (8) design and innovation.

“If the assessment shows that the organization rates highly on the components that make up each of these elements, then the organization is 'mature,'" she said, "But, knowing, however, that CX is a journey and both the experience and the current state of the organization are constantly evolving."

Learning Opportunities

It’s not enough to stop after assessing these high-level indicators, Franz continued. There are indicators within those elements to examine, as well.

“Within each of those eight elements, there are several key indicators to further assess specifically where the organization stands. Defining the elements through those indicators also helps the organization understand a bit more about what we’re asking about or looking for,” she said. 

As an example, Franz explained part of her process when asked to assess an organization’s culture. Franz stressed that these are not an exhaustive list; these are components she uses when assessing an organization’s culture as ‘customer-centric.’

“Some of the components or indicators within the culture element might be: core values are defined; employees know acceptable behaviors that correspond with each core value; core values are socialized; core values are operationalized — i.e., used to hire, fire, promote and to define policies and processes and to make decisions; no discussions, decisions, or designs without bringing in the customer voice; customers have a seat the executive table; we put people before products, metrics and profits,” she explained.

Related Article: How to Find Your Way to the Customer Experience Promised Land

Are You Experienced? CX Maturity as a Competitive Advantage

CX maturity assessment are increasingly important in helping organizations understand their current state on their customer experience journey, identify gaps that need to be addressed in order to become a mature customer-centric organization, highlight critical focus and critical-to-success areas to be prioritized and to guide the evolution of customer experience and the CX strategy in the organization.

It can also give you a major competitive edge. The likelihood that your competitors have taken this deep and detailed look internally is slim, Franz said, so the sooner you start this work, the better.

“You don’t want to chance it — assume that they have done this work and have developed a roadmap to leapfrog your brand and your customer experience. Dive in, assess your organization, and get on the road to differentiation!”