How a Test-and-Learn Culture Improves Customer Experience

February 28, 2018
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Why marketers must build a test-and-learn culture to move beyond opinion and impact customer experience.

Returning from vacation gave Laura a new perspective on how her company approached customer experience (CX). As a veteran director in the CX practice, she realized that she and her peers had become captive to internal opinion and suffered from brand arrogance.

They often guessed at what the customer experience and appropriate product and service modifications should be. Maybe it was the lack of analytical rigor or the aggressive time pressure of getting new products out the door. Regardless of the reasons, Laura and her team had arrived at the point where mythology was routinely mistaken for fact. It was time to build a test-and-learn culture based on customer data.

“Organizations that are successful embrace the benefits that a test-and-learn culture delivers.”

Over one-third of marketing leaders surveyed in the Gartner 2017 CMO Survey stated that customer experience, customer retention and growth are the most important capabilities vital to supporting the marketing strategy over the next 18 months. Given such clarity and complexity, where should marketing teams start? What are the basic components of a test-and-learn culture?

Establishing a test-and-learn culture requires more than just buying or utilizing testing tools. “People, data and processes are also essential to the normalization of testing,” says Jane-Anne Mennella, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner for Marketers.

Align allies and overcome objections

Seek alignment with an executive sponsor to help champion and grow your test-and-learn efforts. Leverage the fact that some departments or stakeholders in your company will already believe in and understand the value of testing. Capitalize on client-facing departments or roles that already understand data such as sales and customer care, analytics, marketing, product and IT.

“All testing should start and end with customer data.”

Making the transition from opinion to fact may cause some discomfort from your leadership or peers, so identify what small, quick tests you can conduct to answer important business questions. Evangelize the results and how they align to business goals throughout your organization to help sway skeptics.  

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Build a dedicated team

To gain momentum and deliver the strongest results, you will need a team dedicated to and skilled in the process of managing tests. The team doesn’t have to be large and can take the shape of anything from one centralized team to one distributed across departments or anything in between. What matters is that you have the skills and understanding to fulfill your processes and use the tools and methodologies necessary.

Read more: Design the Right Marketing Organization for the Next Decade

Establish integrated processes

All testing should start and end with customer data, align with your business goals, and be conducted in a continuous cycle that includes steps to analyze, ideate, test and improve. This process should align to existing processes such as campaign development and product planning. Make it a corporate edict that no changes or creation of products, services or processes will occur without some aspect of testing first.

Share test plan and results

You cannot overcommunicate when it comes to testing. Share your planned tests and results to drive greater acceptance and understanding of the value of testing and adherence to your processes.

  • Create a shared language and lexicon around testing terms and concepts.
  • Translate results into easily understood, actionable insights and stories.
  • Develop a feedback loop.

“Organizations that are successful embrace the benefits that a test-and-learn culture delivers through data-driven decision making formed from the feedback of actual customers and prospects,” says Mennella.

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