Who Will Win the CX Battle Royale?

About 4 million years ago in Australia a fierce predator emerged. The Thylacine or “Tasmanian Tiger” was the apex predator in the food chain on the continent preying on kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other game native to the continent. Meanwhile, a similar predator known as the Gray Wolf inhabited the Northern hemisphere but had a diet of moose, deer, rabbits. Apart from the meat they ate, they were otherwise very similar. They looked similar, had similar behaviors, and served similar functions in their respective ecological systems. The difference? The Thylacine was a marsupial while the Gray Wolf was from a completely different genetic lineage. They evolved from completely different genetic roots to occupy a similar ecological niche; the four legged apex predator. Today there is an abundance of wolves…but the last of the Thylacine disappeared in the 1936.

The concept of or “convergent evolution” or “equafinality” can and does occur in any open system be it biological, technological, or epistemological. Organisms, tools, and ideas can start from very different origins but end up at the same place.

Technological convergent evolution is precisely what is occurring now in the world of Customer Experience. The world of CX is a multi-cornered high stakes Battle Royale with competitors from completely different heritages all heading toward a collision course at the same destination. It’s anyones guess who will get there first and who will rule the roost, but let me introduce you to the contenders. Ladies and gentlemen please place your bets…

Corner 1: Battleships

In the first corner we have the traditional “battleship” research firms. Venerable firms such as TNS, Ipsos, GfK and the like who inadvertently got into the CX world because “insight” was required. While titans in their own right with tons of experience and legitimacy in providing business intelligence to their clients, they are struggling keeping up with the newest pugilists in the space…the EFM disrupter.

Corner 2: EFMs

While the term “EFM” or Enterprise Feedback Management is a bit passé nowadays, these competitors are thriving with their bare knuckle SaaS technology combat technique. Companies such as Medallia, Qualtrics, and others come from a pure technology hertitage. They have “blue-oceaned” the space to a degree, but after the mad passion of clients’ technological one night stand fades, many are left yearning for something more than just technology. What’s missing, in some cases, is meaning, insight, and action. Thus we see a nearly promiscuous rush of partnerships with the “battleships” research companies and technology companies as they try to combine the benefits of slick technology, scale, and substance. But legacy research companies are not the only pals of the EFMs…

Corner 3: Consulting

Big consulting firms such as Deloitte, KPMG, PWC, BCG, Bain, and other illustrious firms have started to attack CX from an organizational change and digital disruption angle. They make big bucks helping organizations chart the future and solutions. However, they are left a bit impotent in terms of implementation and actually “doing” something. Big buck consultants’ go-to-guys for execution tend to be EFMs and the increasing the world of BIG DATA marketing automation and CRM.

Corner 4: CRM and Marketing Automation

Weighing in at 1,200 lbs, this GIANT set of players ready to rock-n-roll in the CX space is the CRM and Marketing Automation companies. These are the aggressive Hulk-Superfly-Andre titans with deep pockets. Companies like Eloqua, Pardot, and Marketo occupy the “conquest” space of marketing automation while Salesforce.com, Oracle, and Microsoft have poured millions, if not billions into the CRM space. Why have they not obliterated the fledgling EFM disrupters? I don’t know, but my guess is they have just not got around to it yet.

Corner 5: BI, Data Visualization, and Predictive Analytics

And not to be ignored from the CX battle arena are the business analytics, data visualization, and predictive analytics platforms out there who also have an interest in both the CRM and CX space. Tiny companies like SAP, SAS, and IBM are all engaged in this space where big data and non-relational data bases are the constant talk of the town. Unicorns such as Domo and Tableau have lavish user conferences and high rates of adoption. They too will play important role in either providing the insights through brute analytic force or through the eloquent and simple display of customer insights.

Thylacines vs. Wolves

So in 2017 we are ring side, in some cases in the ring, in this WWE style cage match in which the round one bell is still ringing in our ears. It will be a long fight with knock outs not likely early on. There will be winners and there will be losers. Most often, however, I think there will be partnerships and there will be acquisitions. From whatever heritage they came, be it reptile, marsupial, or mammal, the market will converge. CRM, CX, Marketing Automation, Predictive Analytics and even consulting will be one tall Lincoln hat solution stack that clients can pick and choose from as it suits their needs. The line between marketing and retention will fade and then disappear. It is inevitable. It is also inevitable that there will be Wolves and there will be Thylacines. Don’t be a Thylacine.

CX Goal Setting

We set organizational goals for one reason; to motivate individuals to act. It is a way forward. If you don’t know what your goal is, you are never going to reach it. In setting goals and performance management systems there are some notable “dos” and “don’ts” that you should consider.

Chose the Outcome You Want

Oftentimes the question of “what is the best metric to use in CX” comes to my inbox. The answer to that question is invariably “It depends on what you are trying to do.” You don’t look at your oil pressure gauge to determine how fast you are driving, why would you use only one measure for your CX program?

Work backwards. What are you trying to influence? Is it retaining customers, gaining news ones, share of wallet expansion, or increasing frequency of purchase?  What customers are you talking about specifically? Once those questions are defined and operationalized then you can start thinking about what metrics to use that can help monitor your progress to your ultimate business goal.

Selecting the Right Metrics

Once you have identified your business outcomes, then you can identify some the probable antecedents and/or surrogates for that outcome.  Typically these metrics come in four flavors in the CX world:

  • Customer behavioral intentions (e.g., NPS, would return, etc)),
  • Customer attitudinal transactional ratings (e.g. ratings, OSAT, CES)
  • Customer attitudinal relational ratings (e.g., ratings, CES, OSAT)
  • Employee behaviors (# of closed hot alerts, # of action plans)

Behavioral intentions are just what they sound like…we ask customers about their planned behavior; whether that is to return, to recommend, or a number of other “woulds”.

Transactional attitudinal measures are point-in-time and can tracked to a specific interactions with the brand. Relational measures are those that ask about the overall relationship with the brand and are more general .

Finally, some metrics are about the antecedent to actions thought to impact the customer and ultimately the business outcome. For example, agents resolving concerns, hot alerts being acted upon, and action plans being created are all instances of self-reported behaviors.

A CX Metric System

I recommend trying to organize these into a relational system of measurement which both informs the organization of what is going on at various touchpoint along the journey and is also interconnected.


Ideally the system is created and validated using statistical modeling so that operational metrics (e.g., wait time on hold, fill rates, etc) are predictive of transactional evaluations and these in turn are predictive of the overall evaluation of the brand.  Relational brand measures are then predictive of your intended business outcomes, moderated by outside variables (market conditions, individual differences, etc). Once this is established you then have a complete system to understand what levers will make the biggest impact in improving your business outcomes.

Don’t freak, you don’t have to do ALL this to set goals from the get go, but systems designed this way tend to have the biggest impact.  We do, however, have balance “predictiveness” with the other three Ps of CX metric design: pragmatism, parsimony, and politics.

Designing to Motivate

Regardless of your metric strategy, how your CX goals are structured are important in creating a system that can create meaningful change.  You want your CX system to be defensible, robust, and motivational. Best practices in performance management design for CX systems are ones where:

  • Metrics are tied to improvement, benchmarks, and/or business outcomes
  • They avoid “one number” approaches and use a blended index approach
  • Has a tiered reward approach and avoids “all or nothing’ pay out strategies
  • Do not use “top box” or other measurement truncations (why throw out good information?)
  • Goals are specific, measurable, agreed upon, reachable, and time bound (SMART)
  • Goals are clearly communicated and understood to those held accountable
  • Regular and timely feedback on how the person is performing against the goal
  • The system is consistently applied to all participants (i.e., no “special instances”)
  • There are stated policies that are consistently enforced around attempts to manipulate the score (i.e., cheat)

So don’t be fooled by that one number promise.  It can and does backfire. Also, don’t let anyone talk you into that there is one “magic index” that will solve your problems. Each organization is different, with different customers, different challenges, and different business goals.  The magic in designing goals is not in finding that perfect number, but creating a system that is maximally motivational and unique to your organization and helps you achieve that ultimate business outcome.