follow the leader: group of people walking down a hill with one person visibly in the lead
PHOTO: Jehyun Sung

Many organizations claim to be customer-centric. So why do some continue to lose customers, while others deliver phenomenal experiences? What actions can leaders take to ensure  their customer experience (CX) consistently delivers and innovates for the people they serve?

To start, the C-Suite has to stay in tune with what’s going on with their customers. They need to constantly listen to their needs.

For example, I look at hundreds of pieces of customer feedback every morning. This habit, now a muscle, led to quick iterative wins for our customers. Our quick wins based on feedback lead to big innovative improvements over the long-term. I've recommended every executive in our organization review customer feedback and share it throughout the company.

So what can you do in your organization? Here are three essential guidelines to driving CX innovation from the top down.

1. Know Your Data — But Don’t Succumb to It

Data enlightens. But data can also overwhelm.  The constant chase for big data has led many to insist on more, even when it’s not useful. Data can tell you many stories, but those stories can be misleading at times.

A sign of good, useful data is that it’s actionable: There’s enough insight into the future that makes a decision clear. And high impact: It has a direct impact on ROI and revenue growth.

After following those signs, you may need to test a hypothesis to confirm if the results are true. Or you might find something else is causing the result.

For example, it’s easy to assume that a low adoption rate of a new feature or product means customers don’t like it. This assumption could lead to removing it altogether. However, that might be the wrong decision if you took the data at face value. Consider digging deeper, looking at the whole customer experience and asking questions. You may discover a roadblock that you'd missed before. Perhaps access to the new feature was too cumbersome or the product’s messaging was aimed at the wrong audience. It’s the deeper insights that lead to testing new ideas that can innovate CX.

Lastly, don’t let data have the final say all the time. You should still have confidence in the experience and knowledge you and your team have about your customer needs. Your team should have a stance and be able to defend it within reason. Some innovations can’t be fully backed by data alone. That means you’re pushing into unknown and not yet proven areas. That’s where innovation comes from.

Related Article: Is Your Company Data-Driven or Data-Informed?

2. Stay Current on Product Feedback and Trends

Customer reviews and news about the latest trends in your industry can help you keep your finger on the pulse. It’ll help you gauge how your company is solving problems for your customers today and in the future.

Reading through 5-star reviews is fun, but you’ll often gain more insights from 3-star and 4-star reviews. These reviews tend to have more constructive feedback that your team can take action on.

Here are other ways to stay on top of your customers’ needs:

  • Read G2, Yelp and other review sites. Go to the review sites your customers and industry commonly use. Also, look for mentions of your company on YouTube and social media.
  • Interview customers regularly. Simply asking your customers what they need can go a long way. Frame your questions around their frustrations and ideal outcomes. You want to know if your product or service is solving the right customer problem.
  • Discuss latest trends. Every week, my leadership team reads an internal weekly news digest about the latest trends in marketing software. I look forward to these because they usually lead to a great thread, team learning, and even product innovation.

Related Article: How to Choose the Right Sample for Your Customer Experience Projects

3. Let Customer Experience Dictate Your Product Roadmap

As you come up with new ideas and hypotheses to reshape your customer experience, use customer feedback as a guide to decide if it’s worth including in your product roadmap.

In a customer-centric approach, you may want to try and solve every customer's problem. Yes, it's important to make your customers feel valued. But it's impossible to cater to every customer’s request. Understand your core vision and the patterns you see in customers’ pain points. Deliver new ideas and customer experiences that make sense for a majority of your customers.

For example, our “buy now” button for ecommerce clients came from customer feedback. It went from a request to being fully implemented in a matter of weeks. Now customers use this button to generate a lot of revenue.

Another customer feedback idea that changed our CX was changing how we send emails. A customer told us we shouldn’t be sending emails from a no-reply email address. We thought about it and realized it makes total sense. People should be able to respond to every email we send. So we changed it. We implemented a new policy and every email has a real reply address that we monitor. We hope more companies will follow this practice.

Leaders that can learn to constantly stay in tune with customer needs and trickle that down to the whole organization will stay ahead with innovative customer experiences that are based on sound data, feedback and priorities.