Customer experience management FAQs | How to maximize your XM investment + drive business outcomes

Courtney Garcia | Feb 18, 2021 Courtney Garcia 02/18/21

Partnering with the right experience management (XM) provider can help you get smarter about your customers and employees—driving changes that increase loyalty, reduce churn, + generate revenue.

But choosing the right experience management partner (or evaluating your current XM program) can feel like an overwhelming task. To help guide your vetting efforts, we’ve created a detailed list containing the ins and outs of a successful experience management strategy. Reference these FAQs to create a program that works best for you and your internal stakeholders—and ultimately drive closer, more valuable relationships with your customers.

What does a strong customer experience management program look like?

An experience management program is successful when it's providing actionable customer data that drives change to boost loyalty and business performance at the location and brand level. A technology platform gets you part of the way there. The addition of partnership, service, and operator support gets you all the way there.

This collaborative approach will help you overcome common program pitfalls, including:

  • XM program becoming siloed in one department
  • Program owners being protective over decisions about the customer experience (CX)
  • Departments not having clear ownership or understanding of how they impact CX
  • Lack of buy-in among executives, resulting in loss of trust in the customer voice at all levels
  • Defensive culture that would rather make excuses for negative feedback rather than make improvements
  • Aggressive action plans that result in a lack of focus

Ultimately, your goal is to build an experience management program that delivers maximum business impact and reaches a “state-of-the-art” program. To achieve this program maturity, your XM partner should work with your brand to create a multi-year experience approach with tactical prioritization dedicated to the continual advancement of your program.


How can experience management data drive financial performance?

At the end of the day, experience management programs are successful when they’re easily interpreted, inspire action, and lead to meaningful outcomes that link to financials.

The most obvious business outcome is higher comp sales. For locations and channels to drive sales growth, they first need to improve on key drivers, which leads to improvements in Overall Satisfaction/NPS and links to loyalty and sales growth.

But ROI doesn’t end at comp sales. There are all kinds of ways to prove the changes you’re making are having an impact. Some other ways to measure ROI include:

  • Average ticket sales
  • Employee turnover
  • Return cycles
  • Location remodel data
  • Contact center volume
  • Delivery times
  • Social ratings

Because there are so many factors contributing to ROI, it’s important for your program to be insights-driven, not data-driven. Companies can’t win loyalty by simply measuring the customer experience. To really make an impact, they have to connect customer experience (CX) data to meaningful action by uncovering true insight—because that’s what leads to business outcomes.

To help you evaluate your current experience management (XM) strategy and ensure it’s delivering insights (and not just collecting data), here are some key functions of an insights-driven XM program:

  • Collect feedback across touchpoints | To get a holistic view of the customer experience, you need an enterprise measurement strategy that collects location-level feedback across the entire customer journey. By analyzing both solicited and unsolicited data—across all touchpoints—you can truly understand the full scope of how customers interact with your brand and create an action plan focused on making targeted improvements.
  • Provide an intuitive technology platform | Great data doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. Without a clear way to spot trends, compare scores, and read comments, it can feel impossible to take action. With a customer experience management platform that streamlines real-time data and provides easy-to-read visualizations, you’ll have access to tools like role-based reporting, customizable dashboards, industry benchmarks, and advanced text analytics. By getting the data you need, when and how you need it, you can really understand what consumers are trying to tell you—making it easier to drive meaningful change to your organization.
  • Offer professional support | A robust and intuitive reporting platform is a vital component of your experience management program, but technology alone will only get you so far. In order to turn mountains of data into actionable insights, you’ll want a dedicated services team that provides analysis support, insight delivery, and ongoing strategic partnership. A collaborative tech + professional services approach is most successful in producing measurable results that boost loyalty and drive business performance.
  • Demonstrate ROI | It’s tough to justify the value of an experience management program when it doesn’t improve business outcomes. You need a provider that surfaces actionable insights and produces tangible results. In a recent report, “The Four Essential Steps To Transform Into An Insights-Driven Business”,  Forrester found respondents at firms with advanced insights-driven capabilities experienced both top- and bottom-line benefits and were 2.8x more likely to report double-digit growth year-over-year. Insights help you map CX improvements to cross-functional gains that demonstrate tangible, widespread ROI—so you can prove the program is worth the effort.

How do I garner excitement and engagement throughout the organization about our experience management program?

A best-in-class experience management program has to deliver cutting-edge technology and world-class insights—but technology and insights will have diminished impact if field teams aren’t using the program to drive action. The truth is, the success of any experience management program depends largely on your field teams:

  • Committing to your program + vision
  • Delivering loyalty-inspiring customer service
  • Using reporting tools frequently + effectively

    That’s why it’s so critical to choose an experience management partner with a proven track record of keeping the field engaged and schedule regular program checkups once your strategy is in place. Because left unaddressed, a disengaged field can lead to more serious conditions detrimental to your brand’s long-term health—including decreased customer loyalty, loss of competitive visit share, and eventually lower comp sales.

    Here are some ways to keep field teams engaged:

  • Break down company walls to maximize engagement | When programs get siloed, engagement gets stifled. Make sure your program has visibility in every department, at every level. Some best practices include:
    • Sending program communications addressed personally from executive stakeholders
    • Putting a spotlight on CX insights at company conferences + training sessions
    • Celebrating program wins as an organization—visibly + consistently
  • Pair CX data with familiar metrics to showcase accuracy + impact | Don’t let your program live in the abstract. Measure and communicate the ways it impacts your most tangible business metrics. Here are some ways to create and track objective impact:
    • Simplify your top-down messaging to identify the biggest opportunities
    • Confirm key drivers with operational audits + field observations
    • Bolster your data with qualitative insights from real-time customer comments
  • Tailor CX reporting tools to specific roles | When it comes to the customer experience, there are no small roles—focus on getting everyone on board and in tune with your strategy. To explain how the CX program fits into the organization’s overarching strategy, use things like:
    • Executive communications to reiterate top-line visibility
    • Regular training webinars to keep everyone fresh on best practices
    • Push reports to follow through + keep the program top of mind
  • Get an actionable sample to guide your focus | To keep the needle moving, you have to keep the data coming. Do everything you can to turn up the volume on customer feedback. To ensure each location is getting a sufficient sample:
    • Create store signage + remind the front line to inform customers about the survey
    • Use multiple invitation methods to get a broader, more representative sample
    • Drive up response rates + return visits simultaneously by using bounce-back incentives
  • Use multiple forums to share + message consistently | When you’re charting a path to improvement, you can’t afford to be all over the map. Be selective and communicate with purpose. To make sure you’re getting the right information to the right people:
    • Task your CX partner with focusing analysis presentations on the most actionable items
    • Enlist a steering committee to share those insights quickly + broadly
    • Make sure mid managers focus coaching visits on how to improve key drivers
  • Keep the program front + center at every location | A CX program that falls off the radar is at risk of falling off the rails. Keep your unit-level insights and action plans top-of-mind at every location. Start initiatives like:
    • Shift huddles to review role-specific, prescriptive actions
    • Breakroom scoreboards to set goals + track progress
    • Service alerts to track + resolve specific business issues
  • Recognize employees for their achievements | When you’re trying to keep employees engaged, don’t just reward them—create a workplace that makes work rewarding. There are several ways you can track and celebrate program wins, including:
    • Using celebration alerts when customers recognize an employee for exceptional service
    • Sending monthly communications from executives to call out top performers
    • Incentivizing continuous improvement by rewarding teams who achieve the goals you set

Field engagement can be a tricky thing to address, partly because it’s so hard to quantify. But it’s a critical discussion every customer experience program needs to have regularly and proactively. Chances are, by the time you’ve diagnosed it as a problem, it’s already become a widespread issue.

The best thing you can do to spark and sustain engagement is choose an experience management partner that knows how to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

How do I know I can trust the feedback?

When you’re using experience management data to make decisions that impact every level of your organization, you need to be sure the information you’re getting is reliable.

The bad news is, whether it’s employees trying to influence scores or customers trying to get their hands on extra incentives, bad data is going to happen. It’s how you counter it that matters. Most data integrity efforts either delay reporting until after the data has been checked, making your insights less timely, or publish all of the data at once, leaving decision-makers vulnerable to faulty information.

You need data integrity technology that combines real-time validation checks and data anomaly detection to screen out bad data at every stage of the survey process, so you can get data you can count on—when you need it.

To ensure you’re getting the cleanest, most reliable data, verify your experience management provider takes this multi-pronged approach:

  • Screens out bad data with real-time validation checks + advanced anomaly detection
  • Goes beyond checking IP addresses to stop gaming with proprietary digital identification technology
  • Identifies + quarantines outliers so you can investigate suspicious activity

What kind of technology can optimize customer and employee feedback?

For the most successful experience management program, you require platform technology that is custom-designed according to your unique business challenges and research goals—taking into account every step in the customer journey and employee life cycle. This ensures you are positioned to connect with people where they are by collecting and reporting active and passive feedback that informs strategic improvements across every touchpoint.

When it comes to evaluating the tech capabilities of your experience management provider, here are a few important offerings to look for:

  • Video feedback | When you layer video feedback on top of quantitative data, you’re able to humanize the experience and build the kind of stakeholder empathy that results in real change.


     Additionally, an intuitive video feedback solution makes it easier for brands to:

    • Close the loop with customers to recover poor experiences
    • Recognize employees for delivering great customer experiences
    • Apply deeper insights to open-ended feedback
    • Research + gauge sentiment on products and services
    • Amplify CX insights for employee training opportunities


  • Data integration | By breaking down data silos and providing a cohesive look at the customer experience, an experience management program that integrates across systems helps put disparate datasets in dialogue and drives meaningful change across your business.

    For a more holistic view of your customer journey, data integration capabilities will help you:

    • Leverage in-platform connectors, self-serve developer portals, + managed implementation services
    • Gain contextual insights on what happens across (and between) interactions
    • Deliver more seamless, personalized engagements across the customer journey


  • Ratings + reviews | Brands with an online reputation management system that integrates their other CX data and allows for easy access to reviews, seamless engagement with customers, and swift problem resolution have a huge advantage over those that don’t.

    With an intuitive online reputation management solution, brands can:

    • Combine ratings + reviews with other solicited and unsolicited location-level data for the richest CX insights
    • Engage with customers quickly + seamlessly with an in-platform response system
    • Gain insight on your market position with location-level competitive benchmarks
    • Leverage online engagement to increase search engine visibility, drive store traffic, + prove ROI


  • Text analytics | While quantitative survey data is invaluable, it’s often the qualitative insights from customer and employee comments that add context to scores and answer questions you hadn’t thought to ask.

    A best-in-class text analytics solution will provide:

    • Top-tier accuracy driven by data science
    • Powerful, multi-source reporting on open-ended feedback
    • Next-level insights that add critical context to CX scores


  • Operational risk alerts | With today’s heightened health concerns, operational risks—particularly involving food safety—present a significant threat to multi-unit businesses serving a high volume of customers.

These high-impact, low-frequency alerts will help you:

  • Accurately detect food safety-related comments in customers’ open-ended feedback
  • Use in-platform response capabilities to immediately connect with customers + drive problem resolution
  • Identify opportunities to improve food safety best practices + enhance training strategies

How do I keep a pulse on competitor performance?

Brands that are unclear about what their competitors are doing are operating in the dark. Benchmarks shed light on the competition, providing benefits that will help you:

  • Uncover actionable insight to drive meaningful change 
  • Identify gaps between top- + bottom-performing locations
  • Drive sales growth through operational, product, + service improvements

There are 4 benchmarks every brand should expect from their experience management provider:

  1. Quantitative benchmarks | Brands need access to a robust benchmark portfolio that houses billions of data points from hundreds of clients—spanning categories, regions, and consumer demographics. This information will show how you rank on different measures compared to the industry average and compared to others in your category.


    Quantitative benchmarks also let you know how your brand is doing over time. By drawing on data collected throughout the year, you can see how your strengths and weaknesses vary seasonally, allowing you to track and address emerging trends. And since year-over-year changes are some of the most important indicators of financial success, you can highlight the factors that play the biggest role in service execution and make sure you’re improving over time.

  2. Text benchmark | Text benchmarks provide perspective on the data behind customers’ open-ended comments. You can use this data to gain a deeper understanding of the customer experience and to see what customers are saying about your brand versus the competition.

    With text benchmarks, you can compare against other brands on:

    • How often customers are talking about important measures in your locations
    • How often customers mention an employee’s name and how that affects Overall Satisfaction
    • The percentage of your customers sharing negative feedback about your staff
    • The categories (e.g., Staff Friendliness, Speed, Cleanliness) where customers think you’re better—or worse—than the rest

    By being able to see what customers are mentioning as well as the sentiment behind their comments, you get some qualitative context about how they feel to help you round out the numbers from the quantitative benchmark.

  3. Branded benchmark | With the quantitative and text benchmarks, you know everything about how your customers rate you compared to how customers rank the competition. But which competitors are you comparing against? With a cutting-edge market intelligence tool, you can answer that question by taking the blindfolds off the benchmark.

    A location-based mobile research app uses precise mapping technology to detect when users visit you or your competitors and triggers a short survey to their smartphones. All of that data goes into a branded benchmark, which means you can see exactly where your brand falls on customer experience metrics and where you’re winning visit share.

    With just a few clicks, you can get insights on:

    • Customer demographics
    • Trip motivation
    • Variance throughout specific regions
    • Satisfaction by time of visit


  4. Ratings + reviews benchmark | An online reputation management solution is becoming an important piece of a brand’s customer experience management platform. Ratings + reviews are now an integral part of the customer journey and have the potential to make or break your business. With access to location-level ratings + reviews benchmarks, you can uncover rich customer insights that drive intelligent interactions.

These benchmarks provide:

  • An overall rating compared to local competitors
  • Drill-down functions + selection of specific competitors of interest
  • Volume of reviews you have from the most important review sites
  • Competitors’ performance across top platforms like Yelp, Facebook, and Google (including response rates, review volume, and individual review site volume­)



Boost loyalty + drive business outcomes with the right experience management partner

Success (and survival) rely on being future-focused; history tells us it’s simply not enough to maintain. Brands must steadily seek ways to attract more customers, open more channels, and offer better products and services. It’s about uncovering new ways of doing business that open new streams of revenue. Consumer feedback makes it possible—providing necessary perspective on what works, what doesn’t, and what you must do to move your brand forward.

SMG’s unique approach combines platform technology with professional services to help brands turn experience feedback into actionable insights that change business outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Let’s chat.

Courtney Garcia | Director, Client Success

Customer Experience Update