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What is customer experience (CX)? And how can you measure and improve it?

Customers may have hundreds of interactions with your company over the course of your relationship, where each one represents an individual data point on how they feel about your products, services, and more. Measuring these data points over a customer’s life cycle is challenging by itself. It becomes exponentially more complex when you scale it across the hundreds, thousands—or more—people who make up your customer base.

Yet this holistic understanding of how your customers feel about your organization defines customer experience (CX) and is key to driving loyalty, growth, and revenue for companies around the world. Customer experience is how customers perceive your organization as a result of all the contact they have with your team and your products—from when your relationship starts to when they stop working with you.

Measuring and tracking customer experience is essential to helping your organization achieve success, but doing so requires a thoughtful process. You’ll need to collect the right types of feedback and analyze them comprehensively, quickly, and collaboratively.

We’ll show you how, and we’ll provide the resources you need to start measuring customer experience. To start, we’ll talk about why CX is so important, but if you’re eager to skip ahead to a specific section, you can click-through the following table of contents!

There’s a seemingly endless number of statistics that validate the importance of CX. For example:

Unfortunately, organizations by and large fail to live up to customer’s standards. According to research by Bain & Company, 4 out of 5 CEOs think they provide customers with superior experiences, but only 8% of those customers agree.

To give clients what they’re looking for, you have to get systematic. You’ll need to continuously collect feedback from every customer, analyze their responses, and share them out across the team so they can take action.

Let’s begin our step-by-step walkthrough of this framework by reviewing the different ways you can assess customer sentiment.

To measure customer experience successfully, you’ll need to be thoughtful about how you collect feedback as well as what you ask. There are several ways that companies measure customer experience, each with their own set of pros and cons.

1. Run customer surveys. Surveys are probably the most common method for measuring customer experience, and it’s not hard to see why. Since you can use one questionnaire to gather thousands of responses, you can make short work of measuring even the largest groups of customers.  

Pros:

  • They’re cost-effective. The cost of sending a survey to your customer base is exponentially cheaper than the other, more resource-consuming options.
  • They’re scalable. Surveys give you the power to interview huge portions of your customer base—or even all of them!
  • They’re actionable. The responses are collected and organized in a way that’s straightforward to interpret and make decisions from.
  • They’re trackable. You can easily see how your responses are changing over time.

They’re automated. With a sophisticated survey solution, like SurveyMonkey CX, you can set parameters that trigger your survey’s delivery (e.g. once a customer finishes onboarding).

Cons:

  • It’s hard to go in-depth. You need to cap your survey at a certain number of questions to prevent respondents from either leaving your survey early or answering its questions inattentively.

Data collection can be a touchy subject. Explicitly mention that your survey is anonymous. Otherwise, customers might think their responses can be traced back to them, which can make them uncomfortable in providing candid feedback.

2. Interview individual customers. If you want to get detailed, in-depth feedback from the people you rely on for your business, there’s no better way than to talk to them directly. It may seem time consuming, but direct contact with customers can be well worth it.

Pros:

  • It’s comprehensive. You can ask them as many questions as you want (within reason) about whatever you want, to get in-depth feedback about your customers needs and pains.
  • It builds rapport. A face-to-face interaction with a customer helps them become more familiar with you and your organization, which likely increases their loyalty to your brand.

Cons:

  • It’s costly. It can take up a lot of resources (in both time and money spent) to schedule and hold interviews with customers.
  • It involves just a sample of your customers. You probably won’t be able to interview a representative sample of customers, but instead receive feedback from a small set of individuals who voice their opinions the loudest. As a result, there’s a chance that your product roadmap and strategy can be steered in the wrong direction.  
  • It can be difficult to manage. In most cases, maintaining a customer-interview program is a full-time job, which means you’ll need dedicated resources to make it work.

3. Conduct focus groups. Focus group discussions tend to be more free-form than surveys or direct interviews, which are usually scripted. You don’t even have to get everyone in the same room to have a focus group—you can hold the meetings over video conference or on the phone.

A woman running a focus group asks a man to answer a question.

Pros:

  • It allows customers to learn from each other. The chance to hear how others work with you can inspire customers to use your product/service in new ways.
  • It can promote dynamic and engaging conversations. With a variety of different perspectives, the conversations can take unexpected and insightful turns.