"What gets measured gets managed," management theorist Peter Drucker famously said. And that is the basic principle behind traditional experience management programs, which focus on measuring customer experiences with metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS).

However, as many frustrated marketers have discovered, measuring experiences—or even managing them—is very different from improving them.

Measurement isn't enough to move the needle on business goals such as boosting customer retention and increasing share of wallet. Measuring is like looking in a rearview mirror: It tells you where you have been, but not where you should be going.

To drive real experience improvement (XI), companies must transcend measurement and begin translating experience data into action.

An XI approach focuses the entire organization—from frontline employees to the C-suite—on eliminating the root causes of experience issues rather than just treating their symptoms. That improvement focus drives real business outcomes and leads to transformational success.

Three Steps to Customer Experience Improvement

The transition from customer experience management to experience improvement requires a shift in how you think about your experience program. With experience improvement, feedback is not an end, but a means to reach a particular business outcome. That desired outcome should focus your listening efforts and enable intelligent action based on the assembled data.

1. Determine your business objectives

The best experience data comes directly from your customers and employees. Building your program around them is the key to improving experiences and driving business success.

However, you should not jump straight into listening without first developing a plan. If you collect too much data before you know what you're looking for, you'll struggle to zero in on the moments that matter—the valuable points where customer, employee, and business needs intersect.

Achieving transformational change requires a targeted approach. Before you start listening, ask yourself what business problem you're trying to solve: It could be improving customer retention, increasing share of wallet, boosting customer acquisition, or any other business objective.

Then, build your program with that goal in mind, carefully choosing whom to listen to, where and when. A more considered approach to listening will help you home in on the right signal amid all the noise and lay the groundwork for meaningful change.

2. Democratize your data

Data is at the core of the XI approach, but it won't drive business results if it remains siloed in different departments. Data fragmentation makes it impossible to gain a holistic view of how each department contributes to experience, which in turn makes it difficult to gather and apply data-driven insights. Only about 5% of companies take experience data into account when making business decisions, and siloed data is a major reason for that.

To get the most out of your customer experience data, de-silo it so datasets are accessible across departments—that is, democratize it—but don't leave teams to sort out their next steps on their own with zero guidance or focus. To inspire the kind of action that drives organizational change, you need to get the right de-siloed data in front of the right internal audiences.

For example, salespeople need access to information that helps them improve win rates, and account managers should look at customer and account data that allows them to predict churn or growth.

Democratizing data in a thoughtful way drives decision-making and action, improves functional performance, and ultimately drives transformation across an organization.

At the same time, you must understand the unique story each dataset is telling and the lens through which it views the world; otherwise, it's easy to misinterpret what the data shows. From there, encourage your various teams to work together to make connections and generate insights that can inform business decisions.

Think back to the business problem you identified in Step 1. With a holistic view of your data, it'll be easier to see whether you already have the data you need or you need to add new listening posts.

Don't lose sight of your business goals, even while democratizing your data across departments.

3. Drive intelligent action

Once you have the data you need, the final and most meaningful step is to turn it into action.

By de-siloing and democratizing data, you've already laid the groundwork to activate feedback across your organization, from boardroom to break room. Now you just need human energy and passion to make your vision a reality.

That shouldn't be the province of any one department or team, but executive buy-in is particularly important. Leadership from the C-suite will galvanize companywide action.

Taking action also means readily accepting change. Refocus your feedback processes on establishing customer and employee intent instead of just reacting to complaints. Don't be afraid to discard old programs and listening posts that are no longer working for your new goals.

Many organizations hesitate to make such necessary changes, and they end up with programs that fail to deliver results.

Measuring Customer Experience Doesn't Mean Improving Customer Experience

Companies that focus their customer experience management programs on measurement have discovered a hard truth: measuring doesn't make you taller.

To really move the needle on business outcomes, you must go beyond managing experiences. That's true whether your business goals include acquiring new customers, upselling/cross-selling, reducing cost to serve, or something else.

By starting with your business objectives, democratizing data, implementing customer-driven listening, and harnessing human expertise, your business will achieve true experience improvement.

You'll gain more accurate, data-driven insights to guide business decisions while delivering experiences that surprise and delight your customers.

More Resources on Customer Experience Management

What Makes Customer Experience: Jeannie Walters on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Why Employees Don't Focus on the Customer Experience

Goodbye Funnel, Hello Flywheel: How to Build the New Customer Experience (CX)

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Customer Experience Management Isn't Enough: Three Steps to Experience Improvement

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Brian Clark is EVP of customers and solutions at InMoment, an experience improvement software and solutions company.

LinkedIn: Brian Clark