No one disputes that treating customers well is the right thing to do: Virtually all respondents in a Forrester survey of CX professionals said that executives at their companies consider customer impact to be at least somewhat important when making business decisions. But compared with hard return on investment (ROI) numbers in business cases for other initiatives, CX projects won't get needed funding if their estimated returns are limited to benefits like improved satisfaction or higher Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In my latest report, "How To Measure The Impact Of CX Projects — And Get Them Funded," I describe a four-step process companies should adopt to govern CX improvement initiatives and help ensure their projects can win funding.

  • Step 1: Prioritize customer experience improvement opportunities. Most companies are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding parts of the experience to improve. But all that choice can be debilitating when trying to decide how to best allocate scarce resources and small budgets. Core customer experience activities like collecting insights from customers and employees and mapping customer journeys are valuable in this step to help companies identify the improvement projects that will have the greatest CX impact.
  • Step 2: Ensure CX business cases align with the corporate business case process. Forrester has identified four types of CX business cases that companies most often use — the cost case, the customer understanding case, the journey case, and the experience case. Regardless of which one you use, the trick is to make clear how CX enhancements drive value in terms of other organizational values. This means using customer-impact criteria that will resonate with the rest of the business. One telecommunications company we spoke with has a corporatewide focus on customer churn and the associated decline in revenue. So the CX team assesses its improvement projects against key drivers of customer defection.
  • Step 3: Use customer-centric guardrails to keep projects on track. Even the most rigorously planned and documented CX improvement projects can go astray. But using customer-centered design processes can help avoid that fate and ensure that projects stay true to customer research. This means collecting customer feedback during the project execution phase both to validate the project plan and to ensure that as work progresses, it is resonating with customers. Companies like HubSpot conduct extensive prototyping of new offerings with customers, iterating their design in response to user feedback. Rogers Communications in Canada even went so far as to cordon off an entire part of its Toronto market as a test area it called the “Hot House” for running controlled experiments of redesigned customer experiences. This kind of rigor helps ensure that when new products or services are released, they improve both customers’ perceptions and business results.
  • Step 4: Conduct a sober assessment of project outcomes. The work of assessing customer impact does not end when projects go live of course. CX pros can learn a lot from how actual project outcomes differ from those that they projected in a business case and use those learnings to improve future business cases. Export Development Canada (EDC) tracks the impact of new projects on its Net Promoter survey results, looking both at scores and at verbatim comments for evidence of a shift in sentiment. This helps the team at EDC determine if its customer-impact estimates were accurate, if the project was executed properly, and if there is anything it needs to tweak in its business case process for future projects.

For more on assessing the customer impact of CX projects, including detailed case studies and a CX business case template, check out the full report. And please share your questions or comments below.