Thomas W. writes…

In his LinkedIn post on November 29, Thomas W. laid out a handful of arguments a designer or research could use to object to demands that UX “prove its value.” It feels good to read the list, but I don’t recommend following his advice. I’ve used arguments like this before and heard the objections. In most cases the arguments are too high-level to meet the business where it is trying to operate, i.e. the points are a bit askew for a company hoping to change its business results in the near-term.

He lists these points. For each I mention the typical objection:

  • 72% of businesses claim that improving customer experience (CX) is their #1 priority today.” – irrelevant
  • 80% of CEOs claim their customers’ experiences are superior, while only 8% of their customers think so.” – reflects the Dunning-Kreuger effect among those other dunces
  • 64% of people think that customer experience is more important than price in their choice of brand. (Gartner)” – we’ve been successful competing on price, too high-level to be actionable, is this for consumer, is it true in our industry
  • “Companies that excel at their customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above their market (Bain)” – too high-level to be actionable, is this for consumer, is it true in our industry, which improvements matter
  • $370 MM is the average amount of revenue generated by a modest improvement in Customer Experience over 3 years for a $1Billion company. (TemkinGroup)” – how much is modest, which improvements mattered, we are not in this cohort of companies
  • Superior CX creates stronger loyalty turning customer into promoters with a LTV of 6-14X that of detractors (Bain)” – we spend a lot on CSMs as it is, are we already reaping this benefit, if so it’s not enough
  • 89% of consumers cite customer experience as a critical loyalty Builder. (eConsultancy)” – correlative, sure but what’s the effect on revenue
  • 92% of customers who rates their experience as Good were likely to repurchase from that company compared to 9% of customers who rated their experience as very poor. (TempkinGroup)” – we’re already in the good category, is this true for our inductry, is this true for businesses like ours, and we’re B2C so it’s not relevant anhyow
  • Experience Led business have 1.7 higher customer retention, 1.9x return on spend and 1.6x higher customer satisfaction. (Forrester)” – than what, is this for consumer, is this true in our industry, what does it mean to be “experience-led” and is that even a sensible thing for us to consider given where we are and how we work
  • Brands with strong omni-channel engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers (Aberdeen Group)” – we have good retention without “strong omni-channel engagement strategies” whatever that means
  • Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have 306% higher lifetime value and stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years. (Motista)” – consumer, not for our industry, we’re not in the emotion business, how does this apply to us specifically
  • Organizations classifying themselves as advanced at CX are 3x more likely to have exceeded their goals (Adobe Analytics)” – self-reported, correlative, and indirect
  • 86% of customers have stopped doing business with a company after a single negative customer experience. (Harris Interactive)” – this is for consumer, we don’t have a lot of direct customer interaction, we have projects to reduce the need for costly call center interactions, etc.

The common thread among these objections is, in essence “how does this high-level correlation apply to us, in our industry and situation, and guide our thinking now, in the near-term?” And that’s sensible. A company dissatisfied with its results wants to change something pronto and wants to choose that thing with some assurance that it will work.

The worst part, though is the last part, the part that will have a lot of UX and CX people cheering, the part that feels the best:

  • “Now go ask your CTO or PM to show you metrics on the value of their code stack. Or their shitty MVP. Or their roadmap of fake metrics, costs and delivery dates. Ask to see where the actual value in ceremonies and sprints is. Ask them to show you how failing at 95% of the time is profitable to the business. Ask them to show you the value in terrible useless apps like Jira, Confluence and GitHub. Ask them to show you how democratized research and crowd sourced discovery and Qualitative is profitable.”

If I were to uncork this in a leadership meeting it would (rightly) be dismissed as snarky and combative. “Ha ha, you suck too” is not going to win anyone over.

Instead, how do we express our success in terms of user and customer behavior? How do we choose to learn about those behaviors? How do we choose to run experiments and make interventions that change those behaviors in measurable ways? That is where attention to experience should come from. it’s common for organizations to be immature in this area, and we can lead them in the right direction.