By Marcela Lay, November 17, 2020

There is no question that customers' expectations have changed and will continue to change during and after the pandemic. It used to be that the customer experience was the only way to differentiate your brand; now the challenge is not just about standing out, but reacting quickly to the changing customer expectations, innovating and transforming the business.

One thing is for sure; the COVID-19 crisis has accentuated a world in which digital has become central to every interaction.  Consumer and business digital adoption has leaped five years forward in only a few months. The data tells a compelling story:

  • 78% of consumers have tried a new shopping behavior
  • More than half of consumers cite convenience and value as a driver for trying new places to shop
  • Food and household categories have seen an average of over 30 percent growth in online customer base across countries
  • The flight to digital and omnichannel will be prevalent during the holiday season, with 30 to 60 percent of consumers across countries reporting an intent to shift online for holiday shopping.
  • Most digital and contactless services have seen increased adoption since April, with more than half of new and increased users reporting an intent to continue post-COVID-19.

(Source: McKinsey)

What is the state of business eight months into the pandemic? 

  • Many organizations like in the case of Canlis (an upscale Seattle restaurant that redesigned its business model with three pop-up concepts: a drive-through burger joint, a bagel shop, and a “family meal" delivery service) had to improvise and experiment with responding to the new customers' expectations, and many organizations are learning and progressing quicker than ever before. 
  • By now, many organizations have digitized at least some parts of their business to reduce mobility limitations due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Organizations had to listen carefully to internal customers (employees and associates) and external customers (paying customers and vendors) observing, caring, and connecting based on how their behaviors are changing. 
  • And organizations, like in the case of Airbnb, who are demonstrating care toward employees will be rewarded as customers take notice. 

If there is a silver lining during this pandemic, it's the fast transformation many organizations have been forced into becoming customer-first. By now, companies had to focus on a fundamental element of customer-centricity: empathy. This demand for empathy has propelled a need for a deeper customer understanding that will lead to competitive differentiation. 

  1. In-depth customer understanding fuels innovative thinking.
  2. Innovative thinking that is quickly prototyped and tested, validates powerful and unique solutions that can be swiftly deployed to add value to customers.
  3. Adding value to customers through compelling and unique solutions drive competitive differentiation.

What is important now is to keep the momentum on this much-needed transformation. The way organizations have been conducting business is no longer sustainable for a multitude of industries. Reacting quickly to changing customer expectations, innovating and transforming the business will be the key to survival and competitive differentiation. 

Then, how can organizations continue to respond to customer expectations during the pandemic and map a path forward post COVID-19?

Discover how to transform your business in this new normal. Message us.

  1. Build hypotheses for what's to stay, and turn those into future-state scenarios, including future-state personas and potentially new customer journeys.  
    1. Examine the current customer journeys and your customers' satisfaction to address what they still need you to alleviate.
    2. Gather new Customer Needs, Wants, Pain Points, and TrustPoints to understand what customers will value post-crisis and develop new use cases and tailored experiences based on those insights.
    3. Identify and prioritize new sources of revenue.
    4. Audit your omnichannel experience to ensure you meet customers where they are today and where they need you to be tomorrow.

  1. Pivot to new business models that responds to the new normal. For instance, Starbucks, a brand known to be the main representation of the United States' second wave of a coffee culture centered on its coffeehouse experience, is closing 400 stores and expanding its takeout options. 
    1. Rethinking the organization, move from silos to networks, and teamwork with clear goals, focused teams, and rapid decision making.
    2. Consider non-traditional collaborations with partners up and down the supply chain.
    3. Inspire the team to consider new sources of value and capitalize on the adrenaline for innovation resulting from the crisis.
    4. Trim down offerings that are no longer viable.
  1. Prioritize, standardize, and scale digital-led experiences to support your customer who is now acclimated to self-service models.  
    1. Prioritize the redesign of Moments of Truth(Trustpoints) experiences and surprise your customer with anticipatory and empathetic experiences.
    2. Standardize and scale digital solutions across core business processes through learnings sharing.
  1. Accelerate time to market for new customer experiences by designing, prototyping, testing, and iterating rapid solutions.
    1. Deliver timely solutions that respond to the new reality will increase customer loyalty and advocacy.
    2. Release innovations in their “MVE” minimum viable experience state.
    3. Drive fast decision making by Advocating for action over research and testing over-analysis.
    4. Put in place a new operating model built around the customer and supported by the right processes and governance.
  1. Track customer-centric KPIs to determine success and to uncover any additional areas of prioritization. Companies cannot meet their business objectives unless they are connecting with their customers.
    1. Balance out business-centric KPIs with customer-centric KPIs.
      1. Customer Effort Score (CES)
      2. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
      3. Customer Retention Rate & Customer Churn Rate
      4. Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Rate
      5. Average Order Value (AOV) & Average Revenue per Customer (ARPC)
    2. Continue to track Customer service KPIs
      1. First Response Time (FRT)
      2. First Contact Resolution (FCR) Rate
      3. Resolution Time (RT) 

Customer experience has taken on a new dimension during the pandemic. As we begin to rebuild, organizations that innovate during this crisis by staying connected to customers and building hypotheses on what is to stay will strengthen their brand-customer relationships in a way that will endure well beyond the pandemic.

Create value for your business by creating value for your customer. Check out YML's work.

About the Author: Marcela Lay

Marcela has spent her 15+ year career pushing change and redefining the status quo. As a minority woman, a woman in tech, and a woman in senior leadership, Marcela has broken gender, ethnic, and managerial glass ceilings, not only for herself, but as a true ally and power agent for everyone she has the privilege to lead. She’s also led new business wins on Omaha Steaks International, Fresenius Medical Care, a major US healthcare provider, and guided the digital transformation on legacy Fortune 500 clients including State Farm and The Home Depot. This year, Marcela was recognized among Campaign's prestigious "40 over 40" winners.

By Melati Belot, Director of Client Engagement, YML

Customer Experience is today’s strongest proof point or expression of a brand.

That’s exactly why we believe there needs to be a fundamental change in the way agencies are briefed on the brand itself. By integrating the core components of CX into your briefings you are able to provide a consistent experience that underscores the brand promise in each touchpoint and should ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

To be clear, we’re not recommending adding more content to your current briefs.

A powerful brief is concise and compelling.

Leveraging CX as the crux of the content isn’t about adding layers. Rather it’s about applying a lens that will distill and clarify customer-centric messaging.

It all starts with VMP — a Vision, Mission and Purpose that is core to the brand’s DNA. One of my favorite explanations of the differences between the three is an article by Dan Carlton, Founder of the Paragraph Project.

  • Vision — category-centric i.e. how the company performs / acts relative to others.
  • Mission — company-centric i.e. what the company does and how it does it.
  • Purpose — customer-centric i.e. who they serve & why they do what they do.

And, there are several tools and resources to help ground each:

  • Vision — Industry / Market Analysis, Trends, Competitor Audit and Analysis
  • Mission — Company Objectives and KPIs, Service Blueprint and/or Product Strategy
  • Purpose — Customer Segmentation and Research, Personas, Customer Journey Maps

To best tell the story of what a brand can mean to a customer we need to flip the typical order of the VMP (Vision → Mission → Purpose) on its head and instead lead with Purpose (“why”) to then inform the Vision (“how”) and then the Mission (“what”). When reframed in this format the ethos is not wholly dissimilar from Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle TED Talk.

The Purpose is customer-centric and clearly articulates the reason “why” the brand exists and what the brand promises to the customer (i.e. CX). It is fueled by a clear understanding of who the customer is, what they value, and where your company is or is not delivering along their journey.

Delta is perhaps one of the best-in-class examples of a brand that preaches customer-centricity at its core.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Delta CMO, Tim Mapes, said:

“A brand isn’t what a communications program says it is…A brand is what customers experience. For a service business like ours, that experience is defined by our 80,000 employees and their efforts to connect with our customers on a human level.”

Mapes elaborates:

“In an increasingly polarized world, there’s an opportunity for an entity like Delta — a service business that has international reach in over 60 countries — to pursue a more noble purpose. Yes, we’re a transportation provider, and yes, we fly people from point A to point B. But our deeper brand promise — our noble purpose — is to connect people all over the world to each other…We listen to what customers are telling us, we respond with products and services based on that input, and then we listen again and ask, ‘Did we get it right?’ It’s an ongoing process, and our tagline, “Keep Climbing,” reflects that. It’s the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen — continuous improvement at every level and in every corner of the organization.”

Delta has delivered just that.

By focusing on customer experience in the digital space, including replacing ID checks at touch points with fingerprint scanning, automating check-in, tracking bags in real time, and redesigning gate and boarding experiences, Delta has made the travel experience as seamless as possible.

The “never stop improving” mentality can be seen outside of the digital space in a variety of messaging manners across print ads, OOH, and even in their latest TV spot, encouraging all fliers to recognize our shared humanity (i.e. elevating your perspective above the petty differences that can cause us to feel far apart). In fact, Delta was recognized for the second year in a row as North America’s best airline by Business Traveller.

By starting with the ‘Purpose’ and using that as the foundation for all communications, you’re providing confidence, consistency, and clarity. You have the opportunity to address pain points and message the key values you know you can deliver upon (and subsequently measure), thereby providing a satisfying experience.

And, while the output will (and absolutely should) differ based on each agency’s area of expertise, the heart & soul of the brand — i.e. it’s promise to the customer — should pull through.

In fact, a recent Business Insider article headline puts a finer point on the impact that CX and a clear purpose can have on a brand: “Delta’s focus on passenger experience and loyalty has its profits and its stock soaring.” That’s the power of putting The CX Multiplier to work.

👉Want more CX ammo? Read 6 KPIs That Will Convince the C-Suite to Obsess over Customer Satisfaction.

About the author

Serving as Director of Client Engagement, Melati’s focus is on driving thought-leadership, strategic planning and creative excellence for our partners. With experience spanning brand and product development, digital, broadcast, social media and influencer marketing, Melati believes that the key to unlocking customer connection, loyalty, and advocacy is day-to-day interactions and customer-centric experiences.

Change is a trying time for everyone. Leadership can facilitate it by understanding the micro and macro employee experience.

Read more

By Melati Belot & Shayna Stewart, October 7th

The CX Multiplier is a tool to help brand and marketing professionals make the case for CX and drive exponential returns on their marketing spend.

See how it works 👇

Take a moment and think about a few of your favorite brands 🤔

Okay, now, why are those the ones that popped into your mind?

It’s likely they made the cut based on a first-hand experience with the brand or perhaps even an emotional reaction you had to that experience.

Yes, brands can cause an emotional reaction outside of tear-jerking or laughter-provoking Super Bowl spots. Those emotions can range from relief and a feeling of being understood to frustration and even abandonment.

(hello, broken [brand] promises)

Beyond getting over that first emotional brand hurdle, what makes a good brand experience?

Do what you say you will do. Be the brand you say you are. Or, in other words: cut the B.S.

Today’s thriving brands live up to their external persona by backing it up via the service and technology experience. It’s an unmistakable attention to detail, such as personalized or customized attention, making things easier on customers, acting with empathy, and responding to a situation on a customer’s terms.

Case in point, Nordstrom may serve as one of the best examples of a customer-centric brand that has empowered it’s customer experiences with technology to create value-adding services (sometimes even creating a “want” that customers didn’t even know they had).

Buying via Text

Nordstrom shoppers can receive tailored purchase recommendations via text or Messenger. Their TextStyle allows a sales representative to text you a product photo and/or description of a product. All you have to do is respond with “buy” and a unique code and it’s all yours.

Source: What Does This Nordstrom Shopping Experiment Have to Do With Facebook?

Reserve & Try

Select and reserve your desired items online and within two hours you’ll be notified via text that your potential purchases are ready to be tried on at the nearest Nordstrom. No purchase remorse, here.

Curbside Pickup

Buy online and bypass annoying shipping delays. Simply text the store when you’re close by and have your new purchase delivered right to you.

Talk about convenience and knowing your audience.

A fast and reliable experience thanks to a PWA

Nordstrom rebuilt their mobile site as a React Progressive Web App for their 20 million+ monthly visitors to deliver a faster, more reliable and more engaging experience.

By the way, Nordstrom is not the only company that uses a PWA. Take Walmart, for example:

Source: Why Progressive Web Apps Are The Future of Mobile Web (2019 Research)

These services now define the Nordstrom difference and even made their way into one of the most critical customer communications, holiday TV campaigns.

All of these seemingly minor touch points are additive and create the overall customer impression of a brand. Therefore, especially in today’s digital-centric world, customer experience (CX) has become synonymous with a brand.

As a marketing or brand professional, it may be hard for you to internally make the case for better CX because at face value it may seem outside the swim lanes of your typical responsibilities.

Marketing and advertising are historically the best ways to broadcast your brand to the masses, and remain vital today.

However, YML’s array of experience with brands ranging from retail to fintech, auto and even healthcare proves how powerful insights that could improve pain points and key moments are often lost in translation or disjointed from the reality of the experience, resulting in decreased efficiency and impact of dollars spent.

Therefore, CX becomes both everyone’s responsibility and more importantly — opportunity:

That’s why we are introducing the CX Multiplier to help you demonstrate how CX elevates your brand and makes marketing more efficient.

What is it?

The CX Multiplier is a simple way to think about return on CX initiatives that relates back into marketing and business KPIs. It measures the impact of the improvement of product retention on marketing and business KPIs.

There’s two phases where the multiplier happens:

  1. Improvement of Business Metrics
  2. Increased Competitive Marketing

1/ Improvement of Business Metrics

As digital product strategies improve retention, they in turn improve two important business metrics:

Customer Lifetime Value

Needless to say the more times someone comes back, the more possibilities there are for monetary touch points.

Source: Why Lifetime Value is the Most Important Metric in eCommerce

In addition, better digital products elicit more trust from people and therefore open the opportunity for the brand to widen the net of products the person buys from the brand.

Both of which increase customer lifetime value.

Payback Periods

If the product’s retention is improved, payback periods are lessened. Which means you make the money you have invested in acquiring new users back faster.

A quick example of this:

You spend $100 acquiring 10 new users. Of those new users only 2 buy your $10 product in the first visit ($10*2=$20 in sales total). Those same two visitors are retained and come back every month to buy again. In this case, the payback period is 5 months ($20*5 months=$100). Let’s say your product doubles retention and you have 4 people who buy your product to amount to $40 in sales and they also come back every month. You will receive your payback in 3 months (plus some!). The money acquired at a faster rate means access to more money sooner to reinvest.

2/ Increased Marketing Competitive Edge

As these two business metrics improve, these marketing metrics will improve:

Customer Acquisition Cost

Because returns are higher from the uplift in business metrics, the team now has the ability to increase the cost for acquiring new users, in other words, increase marketing spend.

Source: Calculate CAC for Sustainable Growth

If you are making more money from acquiring a new user, you now have more money to spend on acquiring the next. With the value of the customer increased, you can bet marketing spend can be increased.

This allows marketing teams to spend more in competitive environments and even branch out into emerging platforms.

A More Efficient Reach

As your user base increases due to more retention, the reach of your retargeting and email campaigns will be improved. This is the marketers main goal — expand reach efficiently.

In this light, you can think of your digital product as driving a whole new marketing audience, instead of trying to seek out new audiences from 3rd party vendors.

Secondly, as you have more customers, you have more people that are inviting or talking about the product helping to convert new users into your product for free!

The key to making this a success is that the digital product and services must back up the marketing, otherwise the new user base won’t have nice things to say. When your acquiring users for free or a through a small incentive such as a discount, that means higher business metrics and more opportunity to increase CAC once again.

CX Product & Service Improvements > More People Retained > Earnings for Business > Marketing Increases > More Acquisition

All of these improved metrics are underpinned by an improvement of your customer-centric product strategy. This often times is missed when your teams are siloed or you have disconnected data sets.

How can you implement a CX Multiplier Strategy?

They key to unlocking the CX Multiplier is embracing holistic adoption of a people-centric culture.

The organization needs to align on a unified data strategy that can measure the CX impact and then each department and partner should be briefed either on improving or communicating the brand promise through CX.

About the authors

Melati Belot, Director of Client Engagement

Serving as Director of Client Engagement, Melati’s focus is on driving thought-leadership, strategic planning and creative excellence for our partners. With experience spanning brand and product development, digital, broadcast, social media and influencer marketing, Melati believes that the key to unlocking customer connection, loyalty, and advocacy is day-to-day interactions and customer-centric experiences.

Shayna Stewart, Product Manager

Shayna is passionate about consumer-centric product strategy and design and an advocate for consumer-centric data strategies to match.

By Adam Talcott, September 30th

Imagine yourself as a software architect or tech lead, and a project manager brings you in to a new software project.

She describes the client and the problem they want to solve, and it definitely seems to be an interesting project. It’s for an exciting brand in a very interesting space, and it would likely leverage some exciting technology.

You’re looking forward to being part of the team which will bring it to life.

Cool!” you tell the PM. “Let’s get started. When’s the kick-off meeting? It will be great to meet with strategy, design and the client to start talking about what we want to do here.

Well,” she replies. “That’s already happened. We kicked things off six weeks ago. We’ve already identified what the product needs to do. We have some designs we’ve been testing with users, and we’re just about ready to hand the finished designs over to your engineering team so we can deliver an MVP in two months.

You’re incredulous, but you’ve unfortunately seen this before. You sigh. “Okay. Tell me more about what this does and then show me the designs.

The PM fills you in on more details, and the solution sounds good to you. But they’re talking about leveraging some immature technologies that you haven’t found to be quite yet ready for primetime.

The designs look good, but there are some interactions which aren’t the easiest to pull off on the targeted platform, and you’ll have to collaborate with the designers.

Also, there is that one screen which seems to need a lot of data. These issues will have to be addressed, and that’s going to mean more design time, more back and forth with the client and therefore an unhappy client (“Why didn’t you plan for these things earlier?”). You see missed deadlines and unfulfilled promises ahead.

Couldn’t we have avoided this?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, but more often than not we don’t do what’s necessary and technology projects end up in this situation.

Creating a product is a team effort, and every discipline has a role to play, some of which are overlapping to some extent, but you need to have every discipline represented in the room throughout the process to develop a robust solution on time and on budget.

Every discipline needs a seat at the table.

Photo by Thomas Drouault on Unsplash

The example above is written from the perspective of a software architect or a tech lead, but a similar story could have been written from the perspective of a creative director or a lead designer. Imagine a project in which designers don’t have an opportunity to review the finished product and provide feedback to make sure it works as well as it should:

What do I hear the designers out there saying? That also happens more often than you would like? How did I know you would say that?

So every discipline needs a seat at the table, even before or after that discipline’s primary phase is underway.

Consider the following diagram which shows how a team’s involvement varies over time depending upon the process’ current phase (note that project managers are not included here as they are, by definition, already included throughout these phases of the project lifecycle):

In a sense, one can compare the approach outlined here with the practices associated with DevOps.

Just as DevOps is focusing on better collaboration between disciplines (software development and operations), the inclusion of multidisciplinary teams across the entire product-development timeline is intended to improve collaboration across the disciplines of strategy, design and engineering and improve project outcomes.

Source: DevOps is a culture, not a role! by Irma Kornilova

Most teams have at least one team member on the project throughout each phase, with the number of team members varying over time, and obviously peaking when their phase is the primary one.

The number of strategists is highest during the strategy phase, the number of designers is highest during the design phase and the number of engineers is highest during the development phase, of course, but there are representatives from each discipline present and involved throughout.

Designers are still involved after the “design” phase is done, just as engineers are involved before “development” officially kicks off.

What is such a truly multidisciplinary team able to achieve?

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash


When engineering has a seat at the table from even the earliest, business-development-focused stages, the entire process can be grounded and inspired by what technology can do.

Other team members may have an understanding of the technologies in question, but members of the engineering team will bring a different level of understanding, particularly if they have previously built something with the same or related technology.


When designers are actively engaged during the development phase of a project, they can help to ensure that the designs delivered by the engineering team are what were intended and that any necessary tradeoffs are approached in the best possible way.

It’s obviously also engineering’s responsibility to deliver the required design and user experience, just as it’s the responsibility of the design and strategy teams to understand technology sufficiently well to have a broad sense of capabilities, but it is the design team’s responsibility to ensure that the final product delivers the experience they intended.

Everyone is invested in making this product the best it can be.

In this way, all disciplines are committed to collaborating with each other to maximize their contributions and help the product have the greatest impact. Everyone is invested in making this product the best it can be.

Furthermore, each discipline becomes more skilled with the other disciplines, upleveling the capabilities of the entire team. They’re by no means experts, but other disciplines are less of a mystery.

For example, hearing an engineer ask about error states may prompt a designer to think about error conditions earlier on in the design process and develop a more modular approach to design which makes it easier to incorporate loading, error and empty responses. In addition, hearing a designer question the spacing between elements or the fluidity of an animation will prompt a developer to spend more time on making sure these nuances are as accurate and as solidly built as they should be.

It also helps us communicate better with each other as we have more practice speaking with individuals who approach problems from a different perspective or have a different skill set.

As the old adage goes, before you judge someone else, be sure to walk a mile in their shoes.

What better way to have empathy for what others are facing than to be confronted with the problems they have to solve and the language they use to talk about and solve those problems?

But what do other voices have to say on this topic?

In an effort to practice what I preach, I asked representatives from several other disciplines at YML to contribute to this article and share their thoughts on the benefits of multidisciplinary teams.

Marcela Lay, Head of YML’s Atlanta Office and VP, Client Strategy:

“When we include all disciplines to collaborate from day one, we ensure coverage on different vantage points on the challenges we are trying to solve for our clients.

It also provides visibility into various positive and negative ways in which decisions impact each discipline, enabling the right collaboration when defining the best solution.”

Ryan Spencer, Creative Director in YML’s Redwood City:

“Often times developers are seen as the ‘magicians’ who are responsible for turning design tasks or solutions into code. In my experience I’ve found that this perception to be misleading and not an accurate representation of their actual skills.

Developers can be the most creative people in the room, because solving problems in creative ways is what they’re driven to do — it is their passion. And problems always have constraints, whether it’s time, budget, or resources.

Developers are first and foremost problem solvers who are the best at breaking down and solving problems under a set of constraints.

They also provide a different perspective on solving the problem better or faster.

An example might be ‘What if this API takes a few seconds to display information? Can we instead load the info in a different way?’ For this reason, it’s incredibly important to create a robust design and developer QA process where the two disciplines work together to push and perfect the final product.

The goal is to make sure the product doesn’t just look perfect, but also feels fluid given real-world data and constraints.”

Stephanie Wiseman, VP of Business Development at YML :

“We constantly remind ourselves that good ideas can come from anywhere. Interns, junior designers or our culture team.

Having every discipline — especially technology and engineering — involved from day one ensures that we’re pulling from our collective experience and creating truly innovative and customer-centric solutions.”

Patricia Alonzo, Senior Resourcing Manager at YML:

“Having a representative from each discipline as projects kickoff is integral to catching potential issues early in the process. Especially as it pertains to resourcing.

While something might have sounded feasible during the project estimation phase, it’s during kickoff exercises when the team may realize that the staffing plan isn’t quite right.

Getting ahead of this allows for enough runway to add the right resources to the project.”

The benefits of a multidisciplinary team are clear, but this doesn’t mean we can take a shortcut and keep our teams maximally staffed throughout their lifecycle. That’s a waste of resources and typically just not possible given the amount of work we ask our team members to complete.

Furthermore, given that communication is one of the more complicated things we do in our daily work, we want the team to be small and nimble in order to reduce the complexity of communication.

As a result, the representation from each discipline will inherently vary over time.

In conclusion

So now you know how we like to approach the projects on which we partner with clients here at YML.

It’s not always easy to get this approach right, and there will be some growing pains as you start to adopt this approach, but when it works, the results are worth the effort.

I like to think of such a truly multidisciplinary team as a choir accompanied by an orchestra: there’s nothing as amazing as having all those instruments and voices playing and singing together, supporting each other and making the whole sound better than the sum of its individual parts.

About the Author

Adam Talcott has more than 20 years of experience developing digital technologies ranging from microprocessors to mobile apps.

He is focused on bringing great customer experiences to life and partners with clients to see projects from inception to deployment through strategy, design, and development.

He has worked closely with such clients as Universal Music Group, PayPal, State Farm, and Dell EMC.

By Shayna Stewart | September 12th

You deserve a big pat on the back if you have successfully shifted your Product and Executive teams to a consumer experience driven mindset — one that prioritizes empathy for the consumer in the product experience.

However, after all that work educating teams and setting up new processes, your Product and Analytics teams are likely experiencing a little bit of friction.

The growing pains occur because the datasets are not evolving as the questions are evolving from business-centric to consumer-centric:

  1. Analytics teams get stuck operating only within the business analytics and marketing analytics paradigms.
  2. Consequently, they have a tough time getting into product and consumer-centric analytics paradigms.

Obsessing over customer satisfaction is a good thing — and a proven game changer for brands across the spectrum.

Often, teams that switch to the consumer experience mindset, accidentally mistake business or marketing data for product data, so you’ll need to stop focusing on quantitative behavioral data.

Here’s how.

Consumer-centricity is tough on data structures

This mostly has to do with when the way data structures were built:

Data structures are a function of the questions you ask.

Historically, the business data sets are the oldest. They were built to answer questions like, “How much money am I making and how many paying customers do I have?

Marketing data sets were introduced to answer questions revolving around campaign performing, reach and impact.

Most companies stopped building data structures beyond those two. Now, brands across the spectrum are struggling through an obsolete system attempting to answer key questions for both marketing and business development teams.

You might be wondering:

How it is possible that we are lacking data sets in a day in an age where the amount of data is increasing exponentially by the second?

Another great question! 🧐

The reality is that data needs a particular structure to answer specific questions. Typically the data is being captured in an unstructured way, and then needs to re-structured to answer critical product and consumer-centric questions.

Evolving Your Data Set

Building these data sets is a cross-functional team sport. It’s a sport because it requires coaching, practice and can create a bit of rivalry across the teams to create a great dataset.

Step 1

👉 Have a clear and concise consumer-centric strategy.

Consumer-centric strategies need to have a consumer journey that is informed by consumer feedback and consumer need based states as the user moves through the consumer journey. Once this is done, make sure that everyone is aware and agrees with this strategy.

The consumer-centric analytics will fail if people start to waver on how much they agree with the strategy, as analytics is meant to provide feedback on how well the strategy is performing.

If people start to disagree with the strategy or follow a different strategy, then the consumer-centric analytics framework will not provide information on how well the strategy is performing.

Step 2

👉 Build your KPI structure from the ground up, starting with consumer-centric KPIs first.

Your consumer-centric KPIs should be descriptive of your consumer’s need based states you identified as a strategic play in your consumer journey research. They also should be predictive of your business and marketing KPIs.

Step 3

👉 Identify the differences between the business, marketing, product and consumer-centric questions.

We recommend that an analytics team member categorize the questions that they get asked on a regular basis. Even further, start to categorize which teams are asking what questions.

This will help set up your data democratization strategy later on. Not everyone is interested in receiving answers to all categories of questions. For a refresher of the different types of analytics, check out this article.

Step 4

👉 Select the right tools and/or update your implementations to ensure all questions are answered.

The consumer-centric questions will always be the hardest to answer as they require the most complex data capabilities to answer. Therefore, your requirements should be led by the consumer-centric analysis requirements and then work backward to ensure your tools can answer the easier three.

In conclusion

There are some key requirements that everyone must have in place to truly have a consumer-centric data set:

  1. Access to data that is summarized around users, not around visits or pages.
  2. A strategy to link user data across platforms, meaning an identity resolution system
  3. A plan and commitment to build cohorts of users and develop for customized marketing and product experiences based on those cohorts

Shayna is a Product Manager who is passionate about consumer-centric product strategy, design and an advocate for consumer-directed data strategies to match.

By Sarath Avasarala | July 31, 2019

With rapidly expanding catalog sizes and time-strapped customers with few clicks to spare, recommendations have become essential — a sine qua non — for brands to help reduce decision making complexity and drive business value.

Viewing recommendations as a simple matching exercise between users and items will no longer cut it — brands need to build experiences around recommendations and guide customers on a path to self-discovery, while being sensitive to several pitfalls along this path.

We have a few ideas that we think would help — but first, some context.

In the year 2004, Chris Anderson of Wired wrote an article entitled “The Long Tail”. In his article, he speaks about how the traditional brick-and-mortar retailers — constrained by shelf space — favored the most popular products over niche (“long-tail”) products with low sales volumes. He argues that these long-tail products could potentially outsell the most popular products since they cater to individual tastes and retailers are no longer constrained by shelf spaces or the reach of distribution channels.

It’s 2019 and the “tail” is now longer than ever.

And we’re not just talking about retail. Look at the numbers yourself:

  • Spotify has over 50 million tracks in its catalog (Source: Spotify Newsroom)
  • Etsy has over 60 million items listed on its site and (Source: Etsy’s SEC Filing)
  • Netflix has anywhere between 2000 to 6000 titles based on your region (Source: Quartz Atlas)

and these counts will only keep getting bigger.

The problem now is not so much on the supply side: the marginal costs of distribution and the costs of inventory have gone down quite significantly.

The challenge is more on the demand (or the “customer-facing”) side, where there is a strong necessity to know the customer and personalize the product to cater to their needs. Therefore, it is important for managers to think about the various touchpoints in the customer journey where recommendations or product personalization can add value.

What follows is a list of key use-cases and goals that one needs to keep in mind to deliver personalized experiences.

Reduce decision-making complexity

The huge assortment of items in any catalog can sometimes be anxiety inducing — this ties to a well documented phenomenon known as the “paradox of choice” — where customers experience stress when presented with large collections of items without any guidance. That is where recommendation systems can be of great help.

When customers visit a website or use a mobile app, there are several implicit signals that can be captured and processed to help them with their decision-making process.

Let us take the example of Uber Eats: when a user opens the app for the very first time, there is little information about the user’s likes and dislikes.

However, the app still makes use of contextual signals such as (i) the location of the user to filter the number of restaurant recommendations and (ii) the time of day to trim down the list of options even further.

In addition to this, users visiting the app communicate intent through (i) search queries (ii) visits to specific cuisine pages or (iii) visits to restaurant pages. These seemingly simple, but powerful signals can be used to push recommendations that save a lot of time for the customer.

Source: Uber Eats

Notice how the app has several widgets stitched into the core user experience. What’s more interesting is the fact that each widget in the experience has a purpose and caters to a different user persona:

  • The “popularity” widget lets the users make a quick decision by surfacing the most popular content and also shows awareness of context by taking the user’s current location into account
  • The “freshness” widget surfaces new and possibly little-known places for users who like to try new places — in a marketplace, this ensures that new restaurants get sufficient visibility and that the “rich don’t get richer”.
  • The “recommended dishes” widget uses the signals captured about the user to jump from restaurant-level recommendations to item-level recommendations and
  • The “offers” widget surfaces attractive offers for a value-conscious customer

It is important to note that the personalization journey doesn’t end with implicit signals: there is a strong need to capture explicit signals about users' preferences, and this can be done through purchase data, item and category-level ratings, favorites, and reviews. These signals are fed back into the system to create a strong personalization engine that knows the customer very well and serves the most relevant recommendations.

Create diversity and serendipity

It is easy to fall into the trap of using implicit and explicit signals to only recommend items with a high probability of purchase.

While an e-commerce site may actually be doing this for certain items to increase repeat purchases, customers allow very little leeway for inaccurate recommendations and find them redundant and un-intelligent. 
Source: Twitter

However, with enough user data, this can create a “filter bubble”, where a user is repeatedly exposed to recommendations from a small set of categories.

This phenomenon is particularly pervasive on social media where a user watching certain category of videos is exposed to the same type of videos over and over again.

While this is a hard problem to solve, several brands have shown that this problem can be handled to a certain extent through editorial intervention (“featured”, “editor’s picks”), making recommendation diversity an explicit goal of the recommender system, or providing avenues for the customer to independently explore content through a “discover” space.

Spotify creates up to six “Daily Mixes” with personalized content
Source: Spotify

Spotify, for instance, uses an intelligent combination of personalized playlists (“Daily Mixes”) and curated content (“Editor’s Picks”), along with multiple categories of playlists (“Discover Weekly”, “New Music Friday”). This approach has reportedly led to a lift in listening diversity by close to 40% (Source: Spotify Insights)

Source: Twitter

Twitter lets the users choose between an algorithmically ranked feed or a reverse chronological feed. The same holds for trends, where the user can choose between personalized or non-personalized trends. These kinds of additions provide avenues for users to step outside of the filter bubble and help them discover new content.

Think outside of the core product experience

There are several occasions where users visiting an app or a website browse for content but are unable to complete the purchase flow (or perform a "success action") within a session.

One can observe drop-offs on category pages, product pages, or after a product is added to the cart; this presents a chance to take recommendations outside of the core product experience and into email  or notification campaigns, where a user can be gently nudged to finish an incomplete flow and be presented with similar product recommendations for purchase consideration.

On similar lines, there are occasions where users communicate intent through a search query, but the exact item is not available in the product catalog. On such instances, one can measure similarity between search query and the items in the catalog to surface similar items which are already in the catalog.

Source: Netflix Mobile
Source: Netflix Desktop

For instance, even when Netflix does not have a title related to your search query, it surfaces titles that are similar in some respect (the genre, actors, etc.) so that the user has alternative viewing options.

Evaluate downsides and create feedback mechanisms 

A critical part of recommender system design is to evaluate the cost of an inaccurate recommendation. This becomes all the more important in domains like healthcare, where an inaccurate recommendation can potentially cause a lot of harm.

The only way to solve this would be to have an open discussion involving a diverse group of people and build feedback mechanisms into the product to mitigate potential downsides.

Building simple feedback mechanisms to capture dislikes or offensive content goes a long way in improving the recommendation system.

Common implementations include (i) downvotes or thumbs-downs (ii) “see less often” options in social feeds (iii) close buttons in recommendation spaces to hide specific recommendations or (iv) full-fledged reporting modules which capture details about why a user didn’t like a certain recommendation.


Recommendation systems can span the whole gamut from popular to hyperpersonalized and context-unaware to context-aware.

A well-designed recommendation system can add a lot of business value in terms of increased frequency of product use to increased cart value and retention. On the customer side, it can reduce decision-making complexity and lead to moments of customer delight.

At the same time, understanding the limitations (bias, filter bubbles, cost of inaccurate recommendations) is extremely important and it is vital for system designers to ensure that the product has enough checks and feedback loops in place to protect the customer from potentially harmful or divisive content.

As we said before, providing a good recommendation is more than just matching a user with an item - it is about guiding the customer on a path to self-discovery!

About the Author

Sarath Avasarala - Product Manager @ YML Bengaluru

Sarath is a Product Manager at YML. With hands-on experience in design and a keen understanding of business and tech, Sarath loves to talk to customers, get his hands dirty with design, dive deep into data, and do whatever it takes to deliver customer delight.

By Shayna Stewart | July 2nd, 2019

Omni-channel — it's one of the most overused terms in our day, and one we should all agree to sunset.

I respect what it was trying to explain when it was first coined in the early 2000s (or before?) — to be on all channels, all the time — but so much has changed since then that the concept is obsolete.

In the context of the best strategies out there today, to be “Omni-Channel” is a HUGE mistake for two critical reasons:

  • Firstly, it does not make sense to be on all channels broadcasting disconnected information about yourself.
  • Secondly, the word “channel” doesn’t make sense to use anymore because that is not how your customers view the word.

What you really need is a Smart Consumer Experience (Smart CX for short).

Let's see why.

Smart CX: the Anti-Omni Strategy

Presenting your brand on all channels all the time is a highly inefficient way to gain eyeballs. While it may boost impressions, it won't lead to desired actions.

An omni-channel approach is often what brand use when they don’t know how to reach their customers or potential customers.

Smart CX is the anti-omni strategy, challenging brands to know where their customers or potential customers are and come up with a curated strategy around reaching them.

The best way to uncover how to reach customers with the lens of Smart CX is to root your product strategy in a custom consumer journey. In this work you will uncover the broad steps someone will take to a desired action (most likely a purchase in the space your brand is in).

Within each broad consumer journey step, you should outline the customer's needs, motivations, and their emotional highs and lows to empathize with what your potential customer will go through each step of the way.

Being everywhere at once is inauthentic. That's why omni-channel feels automated. Customers today have an amazing bull***t radar. So to be there for your customers when they need you most is the sweet spot.

Smart CX: To understand your customers, think and talk like them

Have you ever said outloud, or even thought, “I’m now entering the Facebook channel.” No, because people don't think in 'channels,' and brands shouldn't either.

The main issue with a channel strategy is that people don’t necessarily discern between a website or finding information from a post or blog. Information is information. It needs to be served up when it’s relevant, not hidden or confined to a specific channel.

Employing Smart CX means carefully creating a system for the information that is provided, when it is provided, and in the best experience to provide that information. Consider these tools with regard to information delivery:

  • If a user already has your app, then generally you should surface information through that property.
  • If a user has no knowledge of you, you should have a strategy to answer their specific question, likely through web property.
  • In addition, you should also have a good answer as to how your app and web properties work together.

You can think of your Smart CX strategy as well curated art shows. You put thought into the artists that were chosen, the diversity of art mediums, the specific walls where the art is hung, the types of attendees you will invite, and the flow of the attendees throughout the space during the main event.

There's process. There's intentionality. And there's a desired result.

The Four Components of Smart CX

In order to innovate, you need a framework to help benchmark yourself against industry standards. This is where defining Smart CX components becomes important.

It can be used to evaluate your current product and your upcoming feature list so that teams can understand if the product is adhering to best practices (in this industry, this means customer expectations).

Here’s how the best practices shake out.

1/Simplistic: Is this the simplest way to convey my content?

This can be a difficult one for people who are experts in their respective fields. Often times what’s important to an expert is not important to a layperson. In fact, details that are important to experts typically detract from the decisioning with a layperson.

There are two pillars that fall under simplicity:

  1. Language that is easy to understand / non-expert specific jargon (unless your audience is an expert audience);
  2. Design in which only the most important is shown.

Take Robinhood vs. eTrade for example.

Robinhood is a new player in the online trading industry. They built their experience around making it easier for young people to get into trading by removing barriers to entry and an exceedingly simple design.

Their insight was that the current companies make it difficult for new-to-be traders to understand how to trade, therefore, keep people out of the market.

Robinhood's business strategy was going after those people who wouldn’t have entered the market, but what ended up happening was that 75% of their user base were already traders on other platforms.

So how was it that they cannibalized their competitors market share, given that wan't part of their original business strategy?

The key was their sleek, intuitive designs along with plain and simple English. You can see within their trading flow that there is minimal information provided and the screens are broken up so that the trader can process one step at a time.

When directly compared to eTrade, there is an extreme language and visual difference:

eTrade has a cluttered interface chock full of highly technical terms and visual elements that are important only to the likes of day traders.

It is important to also note that simplicity can go against legal regulations as just seen in the failed launch of Robinhood’s latest product.

Robinhood wanted to offer a checking account that earns interest. That’s what they communicated to their customers, which was likely the simplest way to explain what the actual product was. They ran into major legal issues because the account was not a checking account, but rather a Certificate of Deposit account.

In this case, it’s important to understand why you cannot have the most simplistic language and work around that.

2/Contextual: Am I serving up the right content given the mindset of the user?

The best way to have a contextual experience is to make sure the content triggered tees up the answers to the questions a person is asking themselves at the time they are asking.

This becomes difficult in practice if:

  1. You have many marketing tactics that are not using complex exclusion logic;
  2. The industry has a long sales cycle or there are barriers to switching providers;
  3. Your company has many different products, thus different entry points to bundling product.

But it’s not impossible to create a contextual experience when going up against these barriers.

Take Delta for example.

While it's likely one of the most complicated backend implementations, Delta only shows the customers what’s important to them in specific, triggered moments of time. Delta has many inroads to purchase a ticket, but once someone has searched for a flight they offer up the custom experiences tailored to the person’s search results. They do this by using a combination of persistent, user-declared data location and time-based business rules.

Here’s a typical contextual communication log from Delta:

  • Notifies of changing flight prices
  • Ticket confirmation email
  • Things to know about your travel to the upcoming city
  • Flight status
  • Baggage updates
  • Boarding updates
  • Call center reps who can complete the same tasks as the at-counter reps
  • Immediate social responses to complaints

What changes about these communications from person to person is the city they are traveling to, frequent flyer status, notification preferences, and location.

They aren’t with the traveler throughout his/her entire trip, just for the moments when the traveler needs Delta.

Delta zeroed in on those moments and flawlessly executes this strategy, so much so they have been recognized as industry leaders in innovation.

3/Automated Decisioning: Is this helping potential customers make a decision?

Automated decisioning can be done via predictive analytics or machine learning, but it is not exclusive to advanced analytics: filling out form fields ahead of time, mobile payments, and package options are all examples of automating decisions.

Think of it as anything that helps lighten the mental work that goes into making a decision.

Much of this rests on collecting persistent customer data and tracking behavioral preference data. Once the right data is being tracked, automated decisioning can be built by creating business rules on the backend or from leveraging advanced analytics. This goes beyond simplicity and goes into the psychology of helping people make decisions.

We saw this from Costco’s rationale for stocking only 4,000 items, compared to other grocery stores stocks over 50,000 items.

Fewer options, in this case, equates to Costco’s way of automating decisions, making grocery shopping more pleasant.

4/Coordination: Are all of the parts talking to each other?

Once you stop thinking in terms of channels and start thinking in terms of behavioral triggers and consumer journey moments, you can start to build coordinated experiences.

This all starts from a solidified customer journey map that contains emotional highs, lows, task-based mindsets and gaps in content with the current experience.

From there you need to plan out how marketing and the experiences move the potential customer through that flow. Below is an example template that YML created to help outline how the experiences need to be coordinated around the customer experience.

Marcela Lay, YML's VP of Client Strategy, lays out her step by step “How To” complete this research.

Once this framework is outlined, you can use it as a basis for diagnosing the coordination across all of your touch points.


The omni-channel strategy may once have had value, but the evolution of consumer behaviors and product experiences means moving away from this outdated format. 'Always on' is out.

Smart CX represents a vital transition for businesses intent on building lasting relationships with their customers.

By Stephen Clements — June 25, 2019

Talking about good customer experience is easy. It’s just doing it that is hard.

You’d think it’d be easy for me to talk about it because I have spent the last 15 years talking about it to people who do it every day — clients and designers.

And I have often wondered why is it that all these hours get spent — often on conference calls or in long meetings — by people trying to do the same thing, but in constant disagreement about how it should be done.

A colleague of mine, his wife works as a United flight attendant. That's not her below 🙂

His wife says that on every trip, without fail, at least one customer complains. And they are so bitter, so vitriolic, and they get so angry that they say things like:

“United is the worst.”
“You have just lost yourselves a customer.”
“I am never going to fly United again.”

But she smiles professionally, all the while thinking:Of course you will. You will go on Kayak and you will pick the cheapest option—you will consider your milage plan—and I will see you next time.”

In short, improving the customer experience sounds cool, but it will no doubt raise the cost of a United flight. And this might actually turn off more customers than it’s worth.

I was recently having dinner with my wife, and she asked me, “What are some of the questions you have been asked a lot by clients recently?” (A fun date night, right?)

Well, I thought, something I have been asked a lot is,Yeah, yeah, yeah. This customer experience thing sounds cool. But how will it move the needle?” I have been asked this question in many different ways. By many different clients. At many different organizations.

And, look, I get it. No one wants to invest in all this trendy customer experience goodness, but not see any actual results. Or worse still, see negative results, and they get fired. 

For example, I was at a meeting with the head of e-commerce from a major airline, and he said to me that their most vocal customers — the ones who complain the most bitterly — are in fact the ones that are most profitable.

Funny right?

Probably because they have to pay extra for all the things they didn’t plan for—extra bags, extra legroom seats, extra food, etc. Which got me thinking.

First-of-all, is all revenue good revenue? And is it worth putting short-term profits ahead of long-term customer lifetime value?

It has taken me many years as a designer to reach this state of business-minded enlightenment. And finally I have come to the conclusion: Clients don’t actually hire us to make their customers happy. They hire us to make their businesses better.

*And sometimes (sometimes) it’s the same thing.

Now, I realize this might strike you as a little odd. I mean, is this a creative person giving us a business lecture? Just please stick with me.

You see, in the beginning — when I was a young and idealistic designer — I wanted to make things that were beautiful. I wanted them to be just drop dead gorgeous. And I didn’t care about much else.

I call this my aesthetic design phase.

All I wanted to do was create porn. Not real porn. Visual, aesthetic, product porn — and I was lucky to get to do this for brands like Nike and Xbox.

Then, as my career matured, I began to develop more empathy for people. I wanted to create experiences that helped people, were loved, and talked about. Experiences that tackled really high-value life moments, like shopping for a car — like the work I did with Audi, or buying a house — like work I led with Trulia.

I call this my experience design phase.

And then, when I matured again, I developed a deeper understanding for the clients I served. I began to appreciate and better understand their decision making process, and how they are optimizing to make more money.

I wanted to create experiences that solved real business problems — which we proudly did here at YML by doubling The Home Depot’s mobile revenue in one year.

I call this my business design phase.

I think all great designers must go through this evolution. It is the holy trinity of design. 

First it was aesthetic problems.
Then, experience problems.
And lastly, now it’s business problems.

Designers that don’t graduate along this path… well usually, they fall short of their promise, and their careers are stunted. They aren’t opening their minds to this business imperative.

Some years ago, I was given some advice to buy my clients’ stocks on Robinhood — a beautiful, designer friendly app, if you don’t know it. I bought just a hundred bucks worth, here or there. I bought Nike. I bought Activision. I bought NVIDIA (that one went gangbusters). I’m definitely not a power-investor, by any measure, but it gave me valuable insight into my clients’ world — the business of business.

At YML we did work for First Data on their Clover point-of-sales system, and a year ago I bought some of their stock. It’s been quite a ride, but I have nearly doubled my money.

Now, I am no expert in macro-economics, but that trough on the right of the graph pretty much happened all across the stock market — because of the China tariffs, the fed raising interest rates, reports of economic slowdown, and maybe the Mueller investigation, too. 

Right at the bottom of that trough we had a meeting with the head of the Clover team. It didn’t go too well. She was obviously distracted and when she was engaged, she was asking very tough, business-minded questions. Maybe it was bad timing, but it was also a reminder of how significant business realities are, each and every day.

In the past, I have heard promising designers, sometimes Creative Directors even, saying things like:

"Money is evil."

"Business is for other people."

Clients...they just don't think like us." (But, of course, they all still want a raise, come review time.)

And it is true, most clients don’t think — or talk — like us. Or real people, for that matter. Imagine if they did.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but as a real person, I often find myself wishing there was more info.

Or, looking for a solution that is more scalable. 

And, who isn’t absolutely thrilled when they fall into the correct user segment?

But designers aren’t any better.
They are just different.
I mean, that must be an awesome Kleenex site!

What I have learned, over the years, is that clients and designers are often talking about the same thing. But they come at it from different angles.

It's like they are speaking different languages. It leads to a lot of disconnects, frustration, lengthy meetings, and rather cantankerous conference calls.

Let me tell you a true story. Many years ago, I was on an hours long conference call to discuss a website with a client. And we were talking round in circles when this happened.

"I want you to uplift the branding quotient," the client said.

"Do you mean make the logo bigger?" one of our designers asked.

"Yes" the client said.

And that is a true story.

It’s a perfect example of where we are talking about the same thing in different ways. And it’s this sort of disconnect that makes it a lot harder for anyone to actually buy or sell work. Therefore, I find my day job is partly to play the role of translator. 

As translator, I have spent years helping clients understand designers, and I help designers understand clients. And I have discovered it works like this. 

Designers love to create simple, human, 1:1 experiences. They obsess over all the small details, crafting quality experiences that connect with people on a personal, emotional level.

And clients, well, they love scalable, enterprise-ready solutions that are 1 to many. They, quite rightly obsess over how it will make them a gajillion dollars.

But, of course, these things aren’t at odds. They are 2 sides of the same coin, and they have mutual benefit. Each one makes the other better.

It was this realization that has led me to not only be a better consultant to my clients — because I learned to speak their language — but it also made me a better designer — because I learned to understand their business.

The business of business.

It might seem obvious, but design is a tool for making businesses better.

We are not artists. Plain and simple.

At Y Media Labs — where I am the Chief Creative Officer — we have this way of thinking built into our DNA. And every day, we strive to use our superpowers of strategy, design and technology to make a lasting impact.

A lasting impact on the people that use our experiences. And on our clients’ businesses, too.

1 to 1. And 1 to many. 

Formerly co-founder of Junior: the Rapid Invention Company, a product design accelerator for big brands, and before that, Executive Creative Director for AKQA, San Francisco, Stephen has over 15 years industry experience working at the top of the game. An accomplished product design and innovation leader, he created breakthrough work for brands such as Activision, Anheuser-Busch, Audi, eBay, Jordan, Levi’s, NVIDIA, Verizon, Visa, Xbox, and YouTube to name a few.

By Marcela Lay | June 11th 2019

We are well into the experience economy: that's where customer experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator.

So it's hard to believe that brands today continue to create self-centric project briefs and request for proposals without any customer-centric KPIs.

Self-serving KPIs only allow for a myopic view of the desired results.  

So what's the recipe for success?

  1. Get alignment from the c-suite on the right mix of customer-centric KPIs to ensure organizational adoption.  
  2. Align expectations on long-term results instead of the unsustainable short-term results some companies chase.

Let’s break these two key concepts down - after that, you’ll be one step closer to being a customer-centric business.

1 / How do we get C-Suite alignment?

First, you need to understand the stage of customer obsession in your organization.

It's one thing to want your organization to enhance your customers' experience, but it's quite another to put it in practice.

This requires a shared Customer Experience Vision and Strategy to drive the decisions made by the leaders of each department when moving forward.

According to the 2017 eConsultancy guide around customer experience best practices,  is the silo mentality that brings a significant obstacle when getting buy-in on customer experience improvements.

The only path to break organizational silos is to get the C-Suite to buy-in into Customer Obsession, so alignment and adoption are instilled from the top-down.

And you can only get the C-Suite to listen when you speak their language:

You need to understand what matters to each executive, what they measure, and a set of CX metrics that can prove ROI.

Let's analyze the critical stakeholders and what matters to them.

Critical Stakeholder: CEO

What matters the most to this executive: Company vision, competitive position, and growth.

Supporting information:

A Forrester research confirmed how CX leaders lead over CX laggards on both stock price growth and total returns.

Critical Stakeholder: CMO

What matters the most to this executive: Brand awareness, engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

Supporting information:

  • CX Leaders drive 4.5x willingness to pay a price premium from customers who have excellent experience versus very poor experience - Forrester.
  • Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value, and will recommend brands at a much higher rate (71% vs. 45%) -
  • 61% of loyal customers go out of their way to buy from specific brands, and 60% will make more frequent purchases - InMoment
  • Tempkin found a correlation between CX and trust, as well as consumers’ willingness to recommend a brand.

Critical Stakeholder: CIO

What matters the most to this executive: Technology innovation.

Supporting information:

  • According to a research by Deloitte, CIOs from High-Performing Companies (HPC) generally focus on CX as a competitive differentiator more than their peers.
  • According to a report released by Dimension Data, the virtual assistants (chatbots) were voted the top channel growth focus for 2017 while the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) was set to double.

Critical Stakeholder: CFO

What matters the most to this executive: Long-term growth and ROI.

Supporting information:

On Harley Manning’s Blog at Forrester, Manning discusses two studies, conducted one year apart, where five pairs of publicly traded companies were compared and where a company in each of the pairs had a remarkably higher score than the other based on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index during the period 2010 to 2015.

  • “In two industries, cable and retail, leaders outperformed laggards by 24 percentage and 26 percentage points, respectively. Even in the industry with the smallest spread, airlines, the CX leader enjoyed a healthy 5 percentage point advantage in global revenue.” — Harley Manning, Forrester
  • And according to Forrester’s Harley Manning, "a one-point score improvement in the CX Index can lead to an increase of $65 million in revenue in the upscale hotel industry."

2 / The 6 Customer-Centric metrics that demonstrate ROI

While business leaders default back to the most commonly used KPIs, there is a set of KPIs that can indisputably demonstrate the ROI in CX improvements.

These KPIs do a great job balancing out the self-centric business KPIs your company is tracking today.

Let’s take a look.

The fault-back KPIs:

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS measures customer satisfaction and loyalty to a brand. It doesn't directly quantify the ROI of CX improvements, but only captures customer intent and visibility into issues.
  2. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): It measures customer satisfaction to understand if the brand is meeting customer expectations, it can provide visibility into customer pain points.
  3. Conversion Rate: The percentage of total customers who transacted. How easily did the brand make it for the customer to convert?
  4. Customer Effort Score (CES): Determines the amount of effort a customer required to accomplish a task. The CES is a highly actionable piece of customer feedback.

Here are the KPIs that can balance out the self-centric business KPIs:

  1. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): A long-term metric that supports sustainable results. The longer a brand retains a customer, the more revenue will be generated. Businesses with 40% repeat customers generate nearly 50% more revenue than similar companies.
  2. Customer Retention Rate & Customer Churn Rate: If the brand is not able to retain customers over time, a close look at the experience must be given.
  3. Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Rate: If the brand is providing an excellent experience to its customers, the customers will spend more in return. It is that simple.
  4. Average Order Value  (AOV) & Average Revenue per Customer (ARPC): The more effortless the experience, the more revenue the brand will generate per customer and order.

And then, of course, the Customer service KPIs:

  1. First Response Time (FRT): The longer the time, the more frustrating it is for the customer and the bigger the opportunity to improve the process to show the customer we value their time.
  2. First Contact Resolution (FCR) Rate: The percentage of customers whose question or request is resolved on the first attempt. How simple and friction-free are we making the process?
  3. Resolution Time (RT): it assesses how many interactions are necessary to resolve a customer issue; it brings visibility into the customer pain points and the potential areas for improvement.

In conclusion

Being a customer-centric business is a proven strategy for driving long-term success. To achieve that success, make sure to:

  1. Lean into the critical stakeholders at the c-suite for support as it is at the crux of CX transformation.
  2. Define and track the right KPIs that demonstrate CX improvements ROI.

Once you get the c-suite to listen and to align to Customer Obsession, move to identify the necessary technology, people, and process required to achieve those goals.


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