The Action Gap

The Greatest New Challenge In CX

The CX management process is broken. There is an unavoidable challenge in this data-driven age and a universal problem that affects every organization in the world. This problem is called the Action Gap.


In short, the Action Gap is a significant disconnect between customer thoughts, insights, and actions. It’s not all bad. Thanks to the wonders of technology, most customer-focused companies have become highly efficient at gathering vast amounts of omnichannel information and understanding the data.

But that’s just half the story, especially regarding customer experience.

Companies are struggling to act on the customer data they have collected. To make intelligent and actionable decisions, simultaneously closing the feedback loop and improving customer satisfaction. But how did we get here?

My Personal Experience With the Action Gap

Here’s a recent real-life example where the Action Gap affected me as a customer. Long story short, I had a favorite coffee shop, and as the business grew, my experience weakened – so did the quality of my morning soy latte. Subsequently, I shared my feedback with the business owner, as did many others, but nothing changed. Customers churned, including me.

I originally fell in love with the place because of the vibe, the personable barista who greeted me by name each day, and most importantly, the product was incredible. Every day was a joyous experience collecting my latte on the way to work. The perfect routine to start my day.

Quickly the business became so popular that the owner opened several other locations throughout the city, and just as quickly, my experience became less and less satisfying.

The Challenge of Keeping Customers Satisfied in a Growing Business

The coffee shop became so crowded that the queues got longer, often making me late for work, and the friendly barista was now too preoccupied to exchange pleasantries with everyone. My choices were also changing. I wanted to switch from soy milk to another plant-based alternative and didn’t know if they were planning on introducing oat or almond milk in the future. To add to all of this, the quality of the coffee was no longer consistent.

I cared enough about my longtime favorite java joint to share my thoughts via an online customer feedback form.

My Customer Feedback and Thoughts
  1. Experience: Service not as friendly as before
  2. Problem: Long queues -> late for work
  3. Desires: Plant-based alternatives?
  4. Product: Quality inconsistent
  5. Thoughts: Would my feedback be heard/useful?

Unfortunately, nothing changed for the most part. The queues didn’t get shorter; long gone were the days of being greeted by name, and the business didn’t introduce new plant-based milk alternatives. The quality of the product did improve somewhat, but it still wasn’t the same as before. So I made the difficult decision to take my custom elsewhere.


The Consequences of Failing To React to Customer Feedback on Time

I randomly bumped into the café owner several months later. She instantly recognized me and mentioned she hadn’t seen me in a while in her coffee shop. So I clarified why. The business owner understood my reasoning, explaining that her goal from the beginning was to make sure every visitor felt satisfied, understood, and cared for – a home away from home.

She explained as her business grew, she couldn’t gauge the feelings of her customers correctly. So to better understand her customers, she introduced the online feedback form but underestimated the amount of feedback she would receive. The feedback also covered many different topics, so she couldn’t prioritize what was most important to her customers. With so many shops, employees, systems, and customers, she struggled to respond quickly and make the right changes to improve customer satisfaction.

The business owner admitted that her first shop was struggling and would be closing down. She could not fulfill her promise of keeping every customer satisfied and could not connect the dots between listening, understanding, and acting on customer feedback.

My Customer Feedback and Thoughts
  1. Experience: Service not as friendly as before
  2. Problem: Long queues -> late for work
  3. Desires: Plant-based alternatives?
  4. Product: Quality inconsistent
  5. Thoughts: Would my feedback be heard/useful?
Why This Business Failed To Manage Customer Feedback
  1. Unable to capture and prioritize insights -> no action taken
  2. Unable to capture and prioritize insights -> no action taken
  3. Unable to capture and prioritize insights -> no action taken
  4. Was able to capture and prioritize insights -> introduced new training for baristas
  5. Unable to address or respond to personal feedback -> no action taken

The business owner collected feedback but was overwhelmed by the high volume of individual responses and couldn’t gain value from the all information collected. She was unable to both capture and prioritize insights – what changes to make first and how to implement across shops, systems, and staff members. The owner needed help because she couldn’t scale her customer satisfaction strategy. She couldn’t overcome the Action Gap – and she isn’t the only one.

Only 4% Of Businesses Successfully Gain Value From Information

A PwC and Iron Mountain study surveyed 1800 business leaders in the UK and United States about information value:

  • 76% of businesses are unable to extract value from information gathered
  • 43% of businesses obtain little tangible benefit from information gathered
  • 23% of businesses derive no benefit whatsoever from information gathered

And only 4% of businesses surveyed were able to unlock information value and get closer to customers, find new markets, speed up processes, and reduce costs. These businesses were able to turn insights into intelligent action.

Shifting the Focus Towards Action

Now we know that listening to and understanding customers are well-addressed parts of the CX process – the real opportunity is to act upon customer feedback. That’s why customer experience solutions currently on the market are not designed to address this problem. The best surveys and the most beautiful dashboards will not close the Action Gap alone.

Customer experience management is not enough without a change in focus – a shift to action and a move towards Customer Action Management.


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