CX Consulting 101 – Using CX Research to Understand Your Current State

Posted On November 21, 2019
By Andrew McInnes

Throughout Strativity’s 17+ years in CX consulting, we’ve developed fundamental principles to help our clients avoid roadblocks and accelerate success with their customer experience initiatives — and now we’re sharing what we’ve learned with CX leaders like you.

In this second post in our ‘CX Consulting 101’ series, we look at journey mapping and other methods of customer experience research used to understand the current state of your CX in order to prioritize efforts and start demonstrating value.

If you’d like to start at the beginning, see part one of our lessons from CX Consulting series on How to Align Your Organization to Activate Change.

Build understanding and engagement with Customer Journey Mapping

Done right, customer journey mapping is a great early step to understand your customer experience and create a foundation for additional CX discovery. We typically recommend organizations start with an internal workshop that engages two dozen mid-level, cross-functional employees in the process of defining key aspects of the customer experience including the myriad of touchpoints, success drivers, emotions, etc. While it may seem counterintuitive to start a customer-focused effort with an employee workshop, this approach is a quick way to create a complete view of the customer journey. Even more, it enables you to:

  • Consolidate the rich customer insight that already exists in your organization
  • Actively engage stakeholders and employees in the CX process
  • Create a journey-centric dialog and shared ownership of the results


During these mapping sessions, we also spend some time working backward to define the internal owners, processes, systems, and measures associated with different areas of the journey. This proves helpful when we later start digging into root causes and developing action plans. Just remember that the results will still be based on what we think vs. what we know, so it’s critical to move quickly into validation to give your journey insights some real backbone.

Dive into the qual and quant of customer experience research

As you start thinking about validating and further understanding what you uncovered in your workshops, you have the whole CX research toolkit at your disposal from qualitative methods like ethnographic interviews and online research communities to quantitative methods like key driver analyses and path to purchase studies. 

Each method has strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative research generally enables deeper exploration and yields richer-feeling insights, while quantitative research generally provides a more representative and statistically defensible direction. We like to combine research methods, when feasible, to deliver both deep customer insight and defensible prioritization of the touchpoints and experience drivers you want to focus on most.  

Research customers and employees to identify your biggest opportunities

We recommend looking not only at how customers view the journey but also how employees view it. Our consulting experience has shown that misalignments between customer and employee perceptions are often at the root of systemic CX failure within an organization. 

One of the best tools we’ve found to identify such misalignments is a proprietary quantitative research method we call our Experience 360® (“360” because it assesses both the customer and employee sides of the coin). It asks customers and employees to rate the importance of various customer experience touchpoints as well as their current performance at those moments. Like in the workshop, we ask employees to take the customer’s perspective as they complete the survey – giving us a view into what they think customers find important and how they think customers currently find the experience.

The results tell us where to focus on improving the experience for customers, but also where to focus on changing employee mindsets and behaviors to better align them with the reality of customer needs. We find that the employee-customer contrast often serves as an effective ‘burning platform’ for executives. When they can see defensible data showing a clear gap between customer and employee perspectives, executives lean forward and listen. 

Trace experience gaps back to their internal root causes

Bad external experiences typically have internal causes. To find out why employees aren’t creating exceptional experiences you need to dig into the strategies, processes, policies, and tools in place behind the major experience gaps you identified through 360 research. In our work, we assess various organizational dimensions (such as hiring criteria, incentives, and metrics) to identify structural barriers and provide recommendations for addressing them to create an environment where consumer-centricity will thrive.

You should also evaluate what managers and employees believe is holding them back from delivering great CX. In focus groups or short surveys, we’ll literally ask what’s holding them back in different areas, from tools and technology to leadership and management. Whether or not these perceived barriers are objectively real, you need to understand the perceptions in order to effectively tackle them as you begin to develop employee education and communications campaigns to activate future CX strategy.

Use deliverables and quick-win action plans to start activating immediately

Now you know your top opportunities from a customer perspective, key employee perception gaps, and internal barriers to CX excellence. While the more transformative work is still to follow, you can use this information to quickly demonstrate the value of customer experience and build momentum.

Simple high-production graphical journey maps and personas can be used to great effect here. You can also take the insights you’ve generated and engage stakeholders in prioritization and action planning to immediately tackle ‘low hanging fruit’.

With our next post in this lessons from CX consulting series, we’ll breakdown the top principles of customer experience design as you look to develop your ideal future state and strategy. 


Part Three: Top Principles of Customer Experience Design