The Secret Sauce of Customer Experience

I won't bore you by telling you that customer experience is not a technology. That has been said for the past 15-20 years, and by now you know that, right?

I won't tell you how culture is the ultimate secret, or that without a change management initiative to adapt the company culture to become customer-centric and to focus on co-creating value with customers during experiences, you are not going to make it.

I won't even do the five pillars to success bit and tell you to focus on people + process + technology + metrics + governance, because you are tired of hearing that.

No. Although all of those are important, they are not the secret to making your customer experience initiatives flourish. The answer is far simpler. It's data. Or rather, information—a combination of data, content, and knowledge used in the right place, at the right time. Alas, for the time being, let's focus on data.

I started 2016 with four great research projects focused on the value of knowledge management for customer service, content for marketing, information for overall business transformation, and data for customer experience. The premises were simple: each of those matter very much for each respective domain.

I have been interviewing practitioners almost non-stop for the past three weeks, from managers to executives from companies of all siizes in various industries. It has been a great experience, and lots of very valuable insights have emerged. But the biggest point so far has been that data is the key, the secret sauce for all those domains…and that experiences (customers' and employees') are the outcome that those practitioners are seeking.

Amid these conversations, a few items have emerged that attest to the reality that data faces in today's business environment. These items are valuable for you to know when planning your initiatives:

  1. Data is not well-known, understood, or even used. Most people cannot point to where the data comes from, how it's used, what the outcomes are, or whether it is useful and good and how. Organizations are beginning to understand their data and their relationship with it.
  2. Big Data is dead, finally, and it left an excellent legacy of budgets and initiatives that are more focused on less hype and more transformative projects. The volume of data has increased, but what has increased more has been the volume of noise. Filtering the noise and creating and using data is what matters.
  3. It is not the data, but what you do with it, that matters. Organizations are finding the value it can bring to have the right data in the right place at the right time (and are working toward improving that). Near-real-time and real-time win the day in any situation.
  4. The one who has more data has more storage costs, not necessarily more value. It's knowing what you need, using it properly, and not storing unnecessary data just in case.
  5. For data to matter, it has to be relevant. If the wrong data is used, there is usually very little or no value created. It is hard to justify budgets and projects based on the use of data without value being created.

Is that what you had in mind? Did you think there was something else that was going to matter more?

Data is the secret sauce for customer experience. What are you doing about it?

Esteban Kolsky is founder and principal analyst at ThinkJar.