Getting it right when gauging customer sentiments


– avoid what is easy to evaluate and focus on what is “meaningful”

How to get your measurables right when you are dealing with customer sentiments can be a daunting prospect. As a business, the market offers you, a plethora of tools to enable you to engage and respond to the market quickly. Our real-world, today’s world, requires quick thinking to hit the bull’s eye or potentially miss it by not responding as quickly.  There is a common understanding of the need to measure critical things quickly and accurately to keep your business on track. Failing that we are at risk of not understanding what we are dealing with.

“What cannot be measured cannot be managed” is an unavoidable cliché. But truthfully how do we measure customer feelings? The customer who buys from you for emotional reasons will equally respond emotionally to events and situations that she finds “untenable”. How do you judge that a customer who walks in the first time will be satisfied with what your older customers accept unquestionably from you? A few years ago, my daughter decided in between her job-hunting quest, to try out a small business as a middle person for a fashion designer. She managed to get one major order.


Very pleased with her success she followed up with the supplier having shown the model type to the customer. The supplier came up with a different design and my daughter expressed concern that this was not the customer’s choice. Unfortunately, the supplier was determined to provide a replacement that was not what the customer had specifically chosen. As it happened the customer lost interest due to the supplier’s insistence on a replacement and the sale fell through. In customer experience failing to understand the customer is referred to technically as “navel-gazing”.

To avoid the “navel-gazing” tendency one needs to effectively understand where the customer is coming from and learn to listen actively and engage them with the view to ensuring that every encounter turns out with positive outcomes. Doing this effectively requires a deliberate effort at listening. Listening to the customer’s voice and anticipating their needs in ways that make them feel valued is what will enable one to properly evaluate and understand where the customer is coming from. Only then can you be well-placed to empathize with their needs and sentiments.

Undoubtedly revenue and the financial contribution from customers to the business have a pivotal role. Other metrics such as lifetime value, annual recurring value, and marketing Return on Investment (ROI) all have their merits. These however may not reflect the true results of customer experience investments. Traditional metrics like these can be subjective and can potentially result in outcomes that may not necessarily align with customer sentiments, which is where the experience is manifested the most.

My point here is that as much as measures are important in gauging customer inflows it is imperative that this is balanced with initiatives that highlight and focus on enhancing the experience intuitively from a combination of measurements with a combination of initiatives that all stakeholders (internal and external) can easily identify with. Here are some key business insights by experts that can enhance this process and address our “blind spots” more effectively.

As CX lead you can help this process effectively in the following ways. First, share core business concepts collaboratively by providing cross-functional support for customer experience. Second, think beyond the customer by developing a business case and be strategic about how you manage internal processes, and develop the right toolkit to support customer efforts. Third, you must quantify the financial benefits, and note the importance of numbers as a business language. Fourth, know what competition you are dealing with and what they are doing.

Cross-functional Support

According to the 2022 State of CX Report from GetFeedback, a CX consultancy “CX teams that collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a high or very high Return on Investment (ROI) in their CX programme”. This finding underscores the importance of engaging all internal stakeholders in the customer conversation. As CX professionals we are great at putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes by understanding their journey and what’s most important to them. However, not everyone in the organization is that great at doing the same so our goal must be to widen the scope of our customer conversation in the business.

The business model canvas gives us a template to view the business holistically by concentrating on the following key areas. Who are key partners, the ones with whom we collaborate frequently to deliver value, our key activities as a business in terms of our processes and functional areas and roles that help to keep the business going, our key resources, the people and assets that help in our quest? Additionally, we focus on our values proposition giving the customer an unambiguous understanding of what our brand stands for and what it can offer them, a customer relationship that defines how we engage and manage relationships.

These are all elements that strengthen our business offering and make us distinct in the eyes of our loyal customers in comparison to what the competition offers. How many of our colleagues are able to think through these processes and knowledge pointers in terms of how it relates to our day-to-day work? How we develop and nurture the employee experience is a big part of this and requires careful attention to bring it home clearly across the whole organization.  A few days ago I was at the vulcanizer’s workshop, a truck drove in as I stood there and needed a parking place.

One of the young men who was attending to a customer was asked to help the driver out to enable him to find a parking space and his response was “Who cares if he can’t find somewhere to park tell him to leave”. When the customer experience is not top of mind your work colleagues can negate your best efforts at delivering out-of-world experiences variously as was the case with this young man. It is important to have a common definition of customer experience within the organization to gain organization-wide support.


Business Case

If our goal is to influence a mindset shift that recognizes the customer as the major variable in our business performance then we will need to demonstrate the business impact of the customer experience programme to get buy-in at all levels. To begin we must ask ourselves if the proposed effort in customer sensitivity complements the priorities of the business. Be aware of stakeholder concerns as you engage cross-functionally across the organization. As we emphasize empathy it is imperative that we think through everyone’s concerns in order not to lose their attention.

Corporate leaders deal with a plethora of proposals, therefore in approaching them you must develop the right strategies to stand out from the by ensuring that you always present the right information in an easily digestible format. Be very clear about what the CX initiative aims to address, the resources required, and the return on investment (ROI) expected. We may not draw on metrics for a start however we must be prepared to let executives know ahead of what metrics we plan to employ to track our performance in customer engagements. These will change from Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys to Net Promoter Score (NPS) and others.

The goal is to correlate CX to business success. Furthermore, resist the urge to over-promise. Set realistic goals to make clear the journey from inception to the end state in your customer experience initiative. For example, you can’t undo longstanding systems, and processes or establish a corporate culture overnight. Therefore, your approach must be tactful, perhaps what would be s good tact here is to develop allies informally as you go along, there is strength in numbers. So perhaps at the start of your journey, a climate survey to judge the sentiments of people in the organization will be a good baseline.

The usual response to business proposals will be “It’s not in the budget”. This may not necessarily mean funding is not lacking. Executives have a way of saying no without giving details. Take the trouble to find out what is behind their decision. This means doing your homework thoroughly before you approach them. Years ago I convinced my management to invest in new servers to meet growing business demands. I had to present a proposal in which I made a strong justification for new servers with higher capacities by proving how the old servers were crushing frequently and disrupting operations. It worked!

Financial Benefits

Whether we like it or not the role CX plays in business performance is tied to the Return on Investment that is being created. Unfortunately, from the customer experience perspective putting down our accomplishments in black and white is very daunting. Let’s face it one of the key reasons why businesses exist is to generate profit.  To make meaningful strides we must therefore speak the business language which is, bluntly put,  numbers. Harley Manning of Forrester proposes the following formula when dealing with issues. “We propose to do A ….. to improve ….., which will bring us economic benefit C …, at a cost of D.”

For example, “We propose to redesign our B2B customer service portal to make it easier for our clients to fix their own tech problems which will save us GHS50m per year by avoiding road trips at a cost of GHS1.5m.”  the focus of business leaders is on either top-line growth (revenue) or the bottom line (revenue – cost = profit). It is therefore imperative that every CX initiative delivers either incremental revenue or a reduction in cost. This means you must have data that informs you reasonably accurately about the financial outcome of your project.

Leverage the KPIs in your company, obtain internal information you can, and extrapolate. Align the information with industry benchmarks. Ensure that you state clear assumptions. As much as you empathize with the customer you will need the same (or perhaps even greater) levels of empathy when dealing with those who carry the purse strings, the C-Suite. For example, you may capture customer-level business intelligence to cover key areas such as financial information, customer profile characteristics, customer touchpoint activities observations, and Voice of the Customer survey responses.

Know the competition

In most organizations information on the competition usually sits with the marketing or strategy functions with very little involvement from customer experience. it is important to consider the competitive landscape from the customer experience perspective. Know that your customers engage with your competitors in one way or another and that those interactions can shape and inform their expectations of their experience with you. To make this effective allocate a competitor to each of your team members and let them dedicate some time to how your competitors are delivering their customer experience.

Use as many channels (online, surveys, focus groups, etc.) as possible to give you a balanced view of what is going on in the market. Leadership are concerned about what is on the competitive landscape however they may not be well-informed about the experience competitors are delivering. According to Kerry Bodine co-author of “Outside-in”, “exceptional customer experiences are the only sustainable platform for competitive differentiation.” This underscores the importance of knowing and being able to justify how it helps you win the competition and keeps you in the frontline ahead of others.

To make CX your best weapon in the battleground, you must elevate and fine-tune what you are already offering or intend to offer to your customers. A few ways proposed by researchers are, to improve customer interactions. The key is not to overdo it to impress the customer to stay ahead of the competition. Just focus on what you do and engage the customer proactively with a keen ear to learn and improve. Furthermore, understand what your customer wants and provide proactive solutions.


Emirates Airlines has a very interesting way of addressing this. They have rewritten the playbook on booking flexibility by giving the customers the option to hold or use their tickets any time for more than 24 months. They have also continued a long-standing commitment to honouring refunds to customers processing nearly 3.3 million refunds to date since the pandemic. They have also been inspiring loyalty and increasing retention among their frequent flyers who number over 630,000 silver, gold, and platinum members.


Peter Drucker the management guru (of blessed memory) states this unambiguously, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” As much as measurements must not be seen as an end in and of themselves, we must get the balance right to ensure that we avoid consigning them to irrelevance. Therefore, we measure and complement measuring with equally potent interventions o keep us aligned with our customer’s needs by focusing on what is meaningful.

The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],


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