CX Lessons from March Madness

By: Clarabridge Team

March 31, 2015

Tags:
CEM Programs
CEM Solutions
customer experience
customer experience management

There’s no two ways about it: The entire country goes on cruise control each March, and college basketball commands with a lasting intensity that is unmatched during the remainder of the year. So great is the diversion, in fact, that the people who track such things estimate that businesses will lose almost $2 billion in productivity this year.

While there’s no replacing a number with so many zeroes, if you squint hard enough, you can at least learn a thing or two from your time spent watching the NCAA Tournament, especially if your work touches the customer experience universe. Among the most salient lessons:

The Open Shooter Will Kill You

When it comes to sports – not just basketball, but in any sport – it’s entirely obvious that you don’t want to leave anybody open. That’s day one. An opposing player who has nobody paying attention to him or her will score on you infinitely easier and more often than if you have someone on them. Plenty of businesses, though, still have not mastered this basic lesson.

Think about it: In basketball, you cover everybody. In customer experience, you need to do the same thing – by making sure that every direct customer complaint is heard and responded to. If you cover a complaint, you can respond, you can rectify, and you can turn a negative experience into a positive one. If you leave complaints uncovered, that’s an easy bucket that’s going against you.

Brand Recognition Isn’t Everything

Take a look at the field of 68 each year, and you’ll find plenty of universities with national reputations – for basketball, for academics, and for many other reasons. Harvard, Kentucky, Duke, and Ohio State, for instance. On the other hand, you’ll learn about a new school each year without fail – quick, where is Belmont located? How about Wofford? But just like a start-up, they have the same chance as any of the big boys to do things the right way.

Sure, we’ve got a Final Four of Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Michigan State – but Wichita State was among the finals 16 teams standing, and tiny Butler has built a national reputation from scratch by relying on fundamentals to execute a smart game plan just as well as, or better than, programs with far more resources.

Analytics are Your Friend

Years ago, en route to back-to-back out-of-nowhere Championship appearances, Butler had more than just a good game plan – they embraced analytics as a way to get an edge on their opponents. Then-coach Brad Stevens employed the services of Drew Cannon, a 22 year old graduate student who had no clue about Xs and Os, but could provide insights and advice based upon mathematical analysis of Butler’s statistics, game tape, and those of their opponents. This, at a time when most NBA teams were still loath to use math to help them succeed.

As in basketball, sentiment analytics may reinforce some common sense problems that you already know exist, or will back up notions or habits that you already intuitively possessed – turnovers on the court are bad, as are long call center waits. Of course.  Just as often, however, you’ll gain genuine insights that you otherwise may never have understood – that a smaller lineup will help you score against more athletic teams, or that a different website layout will help you deflect more customer service calls. When the goal is to win, why not embrace every potential edge?


Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.

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