The reason why Customer Experiences fail

Performance measurement is crucial for the customer experience that is fuelling online sales, but performance measurement might not be getting the love it deserves.

We are two professionals working for an agency that designs and develops e-commerce solutions for international clients. We see this huge potential for improvement. Now we only need to convince you to embrace it too.

Podcast Ep. 1: Get value from performance measurement in your digital strategy

If you rather listen to this blog, we have a brand new podcast and the first episode is about this topic. Listen to the podcast.

Why is performance measurement crucial for a successful customer experience and thus a successful webshop?
There isn’t a company in the world that is not working on the customer experience they are offering. Obviously, without measuring performance you would never know if the customer experience you are offering to your customers is getting you the results you want.

And you need to measure it, because you can’t trust your intuition on this one. Companies of course have a hunch about what their customers want. After all they deal with their customers all the time. But that hunch might be very wrong.

In the well-known Harvard Business Review article "understanding customer experience", you can read about the gap between how customers judge the customer experience they receive versus how companies judge their own performance. 80% of CEOs thought that they were delivering a top experience. Only 8% of the interviewed customers agreed.

That is a sobering fact. You can’t help wondering where it goes wrong.

Where things go wrong

Ever participated in a digital strategy workshop?

We love it! Brainstorming. Post-its everywhere. The energy you can feel in the room.

Fast-forward three months. Not much has happened. In fact, the strategic plan is still sitting locked in a bottom drawer. The bad result is that the team that is tasked to design, develop and operate the digital product is not aware of the goals.

Sometimes the deadline and budget are crystal clear, but the team that is tasked to design, develop and operate the customer experience only has the vaguest idea about the objectives. You know, things that really matter.

No wonder the business goals will not be reached. You need a way to connect your strategic plan to the day-to-day operation of the business.

Of course, there’s multiple things that must be tackled to put a strategy in action like capabilities, processes, culture. But having a performance measurement system in place will help.

Why performance measurement is often overlooked

We feel that one of the reasons it is overlooked, is because a measurement plan is not that easy to create.

That’s why we see companies that decide to just measure everything.

We can’t really blame them. It requires effort and a plan. You need to know which data to track, the frequency by which you measure, what metrics are most important and a good balance between leading and lagging indicators. I could go on for another hour. Don’t forget that you must put a system in place to manage all this. Then there are things that are hard to quantify. Customer experience is a feeling after all. Some customers may love your checkout while others might find it only mediocre. However, if you measure it you can still see if it’s going up or down.

Obviously, all companies want to base the customer experience on data instead of a gut feeling. Maybe the problem might be that they often don’t know where to start.

Start measuring early in a project

You know what works for our teams? As a good starting point?

As early as possible in a project.

Already in the very first meeting between us and a client we define what success looks like. The objectives. And next the key performance indicators you’ll need to establish and track to ensure objectives are actually realised.

What are the benefits of addressing those right at the start?

For starters, a shared understanding of what the objectives are. This ensures you DO THE RIGHT THINGS.

Keep an eye on the goals in the define & design phases

Next you want to make sure the team that will design the customer experience is also clear on the objectives. This increases the likelihood that what is designed actually serves the business goals. Strategists should put the digital objectives and KPIs up on the wall at the kick-off of each sprint. The team constantly keeps those in mind. There are always many ways to tackle a design problem. The objectives and KPIs guide a design team to make the right decision. Kind of like a North Star.

Will it also help with aligning stakeholders? It sure does. It will reduce siloed thinking. You know, where IT and marketing departments compete to achieve as many of their own goals as possible. It will prevent that the product owner always just gives the highest-ranking manager in the room his or her way. Or just who shouts the loudest.

We see this happening a lot. The process starts customer-centric but ends client-centric instead.

That’s what you try to prevent with performance measurement.

This is often referred to as DOING THINGS RIGHT.

Let’s hear the benefits:

  • The design team is more effective in define & design phase, because they have the business goals top of mind.
  • Another advantage is that decisions will not get stuck in endless discussions, because the objectives and KPIs are adding objectivity.
  • Less time needs to be spent to get a proper alignment with stakeholders.
  • This results in shorter time to market of digital products like webshops and apps.

Continue measuring in the operational phase

Running a successful project does not guarantee a successful digital product.

Yeah, of course, deadlines, budget, and scope are important, but in the end, it’s all about building the right customer experience for the customers of our clients. A project that meets all the deadlines and stays within budget can still result in a crappy product.

Indeed, the delivery of an e-commerce site is only the beginning for clients. It’s after the site is live, that the work really starts. Clients must onboard new products and write great copy for product category pages. There is lots of things they suddenly need to do. It’s hard work to keep an e-commerce site up to date. On top of that clients need to improve the customer experience all the time and add features because customer needs evolve all the time.

Ideally the customer experience of an webshop is continuously improved. The Deming cycle is an often-used method for continuous improvement. I mean the plan-do-check-act cycle. The idea is that a process can be improved by looping feedback back into the system. Without actionable data to run the improvement cycle you’re doomed. Without proper measurement you would not know what to improve. You need insights to discover why something is not working.

This is all nice and dandy, but if you are responsible for the performance you might not want the performance to be so exposed. But, in the end the benefits outweigh any reservations.

Imagine you’re a Chief Digital Officer of a medium to large size company. You have several stakeholders demanding performance figures. For starters, you must demonstrate to the business some results of all the investments in fancy digital platforms in the last decade. Even if your predecessor made the investments. Your peers in the c-suite are openly questioning why you get the biggest budget with no business results to show. Providing proof will help your position, because you can demonstrate to stakeholders the value of the customer experience. By connecting the dots, you can show how your initiatives result in positive business outcomes.


Now let’s try to wrap this up in a neat summary.

Attention to measurement is paying off. Especially for e-commerce where companies compete on the customer experience, which is difficult to quantify. We have seen this work in many recent projects now.

Performance measurement can help you get results in a couple of ways:

  • Firstly, to help with the execution of a digital strategy. It makes the team defining and designing the customer experience more effective if you communicate strategic objectives to them.
  • Next, it will help communicate progress toward strategic objectives with stakeholders.
  • Every expense is currently being re-evaluated. Providing proof will help demonstrate to stakeholders the value of the customer experience.
  • And finally, measurement of the operational performance will make decisions more objective and rooted in evidence instead of gut feeling.

Did we pique your interest?

Get in touch to discuss how we can drive your digital success.