Is Your Customer Experience Data Only Telling Half the Story?

Customer experience management is an investment in progress. But what’s the smartest way to invest?

Is it more useful to objectively measure your service and operational performance through mystery shopping? Or are you better off knowing how your customers feel about their experience with you through subjective customer feedback tools?

Many retailers remain split on this question.

Here are the advantages of each type of data—and why it may pay to look at your CXM investment in a whole new light.

 Objective Data: No Bias, No Doubt

Mystery shopping can objectively measure various customer touchpoints—in-store, online, contact centers, and fulfillment operations—in preplanned ways. Shopping analysts are given pointed questions (observation, not opinion), and they return precise details.

Studies are designed and executed with scientific rigor. This ensures the data is solid, useful, and not influenced by recent events (a product recall, for example) that might shift brand perceptions.

This kind of data will allow you to:

  • Isolate the weakest links (however small) in your customer experience.
  • Identify performance patterns and trends by asking the same questions over time.
  • Benchmark your performance against that of your competitors.
  • Strengthen your training programs by determining when and how front-line staff are failing to meet brand standards.

Subjective Data: Those Aha! Moments Retailers Need to Compete

Retailers rely on customer satisfaction surveys (CSATs) and other means of collecting subjective feedback to capture the pulse of the customer. How satisfied are they overall? What do they like most and least about the brand experience, and what suggestions do they have to improve it?

Asking customers for feedback is critical because:

  • It shows your customers you care about serving them well, you value their opinions, and you’re accountable to them.
  • It allows you to set brand priorities and develop CX strategies. What matters most to customers? What changes or improvements will bring the greatest ROI? What’s the lowest hanging fruit (i.e., the easiest issue for us to tackle now, so we can build on that success)?
  • It prevents myopic thinking in the C-suite—the kind that tends to produce costly CX initiatives that, from the customer’s point of view, make no difference—or absolutely no sense at all.

Customer survey responses are also a retailer’s richest source of new ideas, some of which can lead to disruptive innovations. If that communication channel isn’t open, it’s like leaving revenue on the table for competing brands.

Why Both Data Sets Work Better Together

Both objective and subjective customer experience data have value. But when they’re used exclusively, they leave certain gaps.

By Itself, Objective Data Can’t Inform Goals and Strategy

Even if your omnichannel mystery shopping data show you’re meeting your corporate targets, your targets might not reflect what your customers value most, what bothers them the most, and what they might like to see.

Before you test initiatives and measure performance, you should first set goals and develop strategies that reflect what your customers really want. For that, you need subjective data.

By Itself, Subjective Data Won’t Reveal the Fine Details

Customers only report on what stands out most in their memory. They might not recall key details about the journey, such as how soon they were greeted upon entering the store or the depth of product knowledge displayed by a contact center agent.

This is important, because the smallest touches can have the greatest influence on a customer’s happiness with the brand (which differs from satisfaction with a particular visit or transaction). Without objective data, you’ll never find those pivotal weaknesses in an otherwise uneventful customer experience.

Together, Objective and Subjective Data Deliver Powerful Insights

Objective and subjective data inform each other and, therefore, boost ROI for both. The insights they provide when used together do more for a retailer’s bottom line and competitive strength than either type of data used alone.

If you use CSATs or online feedback requests, the responses should guide your strategic planning. CSAT scores over time can show upward and downward trends that coincide with the introduction of changes and initiatives.

Mystery shopping can pinpoint the problems causing satisfaction to decline. (Are employees complying with corporate directives? Is some aspect of the engagement causing confusion or irritation?) As changes are implemented, further testing can ensure proper execution.

Validation will come in the CSAT scores that follow—and, if not, the cycle begins again.

This is how leading retailers operate: with a holistic, 360-degree view of their customer experience. They know their biggest potential gains can be found wherever these two types of data intersect.

In today’s marketplace, with consumers’ expectations at an all-time high, there’s simply no other way to compete.