Last updated: X+O data: Two sides to every CX story

X+O data: Two sides to every CX story


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What’s X O data? Perhaps the best way to explain it is to first think of the saying, “There are two sides to every story.”

In today’s data-driven business world, when it’s more important than ever to understand and respond to customers, that quote is more relevant than ever.

X + O Data: Defining the two sides

In customer experience, those two “sides” of the customer’s story are represented by operational data (O-data) and experience data (X-data).

Here’s how X O data is defined:

  • O-data is your company’s “side” of the story. It’s about what’s happening in the day-to-day operations of your business, based on data from your existing information systems.Examples include numbers of new or lost customers, number of website visitors, referrals, call center volumes, new staff hire numbers, and sales figures, for example. Most companies already have a lot of this data on hand, so it can be an easy first stop in gathering what you need to begin understanding the experiences of your customers.
  • X-data is your customer’s “side” of the story. X-data comes to you straight from your customers’ feedback, usually through surveys, interviews, focus groups, e-mails, and contact center recordings, for example.It reflects the customer’s perceptions and feelings as they try to solve their problems with your products and services. X-data can be quantitative or qualitative.

Getting started with Xs and Os

Getting started can sometimes be a struggle, but it might not be as hard as you think. Here are some basic considerations to jumpstart your thinking.

First, the O-side

One common question many business executives ask is how do you decide which O-data points matter? Which ones should you be watching? My advice is simple. Ground your approach in what makes sense for your business. Link back to your company’s strategic goals, objectives, and plans.

Let’s say, for example, your company has a strategic goal to improve the ease of doing business for customers. You and your colleagues determine (hopefully with customer input) that “improving the ease of doing business” means clearing away glitches and administrative hurdles that slow down or delay the completion of customer transactions. Your starting O-data points could include a standard for how long certain types of transactions should take.

Then, set a measurable goal—maybe the number of minutes, clicks, or days you want to trim away from customers’ experiences with completing a transaction. Then, start measuring and monitoring the actual number of minutes, clicks, and days transactions are taking, and compare that to your goal. Calculate averages, longest transaction times, shortest times, and your performance to your time-oriented goals. Put it on an easy-to-read dashboard for reference.

Two pitfalls to avoid in setting O-data goals:

  • Avoid verbs. O-data measures, metrics, and goals won’t begin with verbs. Use terms like “number of,” “percentage of,” “average of,” “ratio of,” etc. when you’re setting O-data standards and goals.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid the temptation to create convoluted indices from multiple O-data points. Those “indices” inevitably wind up confusing stakeholders, instead of providing clarity about what’s happening with customers and the business.

Then, the X-side

Now you need X-data. It’s the other “side of the story,” so to speak.

Let’s stick with the example of “improving the ease of doing business for customers.” Let’s say you’ve figured out the O-data side of customers’ experiences with your company and you’re measuring, monitoring, and triaging O-data surrounding transaction times. Now you need to know the customer’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about doing business with you. X-data could originate from a short survey you send to all customers after they have finished the type of transaction you’re already monitoring with O-data, as discussed above. You might ask a question like:

On a scale of 1-10, please rate how easy or difficult it was to complete your transaction.

You could then calculate an average effort score based on the total number of responses you’ve received after that same type of transaction. You could also look at the highest score, lowest score, and your performance to whatever goal you may have set for how you want customers to perceive their level of ease or difficulty, during a certain timeframe. It could be daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, for example.

That’s a very simple way of approaching things. And you could stop with one question on your customer survey. But if you’re ready to take in a little more feedback, then you may want to ask another question or two or leave room for unstructured, open-ended feedback in your survey.

Here are three opportunities you might consider for collecting more X-data.

  • Seek to understand the customer’s outcomes. Ask the extent to which the customer was successful in using your product or service, or the degree to which your company’s services impacted the customer’s life or business. To what extent do they trust you to care for their/their loved ones’ needs?
  • Understand how easy it was for the customer to spend their time or money with you. Ask how easy or how difficult was it for the customer to locate your business, park, pay, communicate with a clerk, complete an application, drop off a package, reach a company rep on the phone, or access the disabled amenities at your facility.
  • Understand if their experiences matched their expectations. To what extent was their wait time burdensome? Did they feel respected by the contact center agent? You can also ask about facility cleanliness or helpfulness of information on a webpage, for example.

To get your X-data points, you’ll assign numbers, scales, averages, percentages, ratios, or categories to the feedback, and then use those for your analysis.

With optional, open-ended, unstructured feedback, you can listen for what customers may want to tell you outside the parameters of your survey or interview. Open space is a smart way to stay open to things about your customers’ experiences you may never have thought about. Today’s sophisticated experience management platforms can peruse those verbatim remarks for you and identify trends and red flags.

Putting it all together

X O data, when well-thought-out and harmonized with your company’s strategic goals, will fill you in on the story of customers’ experiences in a more holistic way than just O-data alone, or X-data alone.

Together, X- and O-data can give you the insights needed to make customer-focused choices, decide how to allocate resources, and prioritize decisions that solve your customers’ problems. And all of that just happens to be great for business.

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