In any business the relationship with the customer has always been more more than crucial. Why? Customers have a choice and any market is highly competitive.
Nowadays, any business would need to apply a strategic approach to Customer Experience (CX), an approach in which every customer (including the B2B one) is your best marketing tool and at the same time she/he is also co-creating the product with you. You, a team who is thriving to share remarkable experiences making service quality the first business priority.
Service Design Thinking, feedback loops and opportunities seeking
Beyond any doubt, the successful growth of different businesses has been based on service. Service Design Thinking starts, in fact, from designing tangible services, but it consists mainly in improving and innovating the services customers use across different touchpoints. Moreover, service and product innovation will make a positive impact on customers but also will improve the experience of employee who are necessary for delivering that service. All processes in which the business is involved should be then designed accordingly creating value in a customer-centric way.
How a company delivers to its customers is as important as what it delivers, and the first step when planning for growth should be identify and fully understand the market and its customers’ journeys.
Customer journey means paying attention to the complete, end-to-end experience customers have with a company from their perspective. Once all these steps are mapped out, you are able to develop a user-centred design that focus not on the artifact, but on people interacting with the business and their outcomes.
Continuous listening, which gets more and more data from customers, allows to apply the build-measure-learn loop going where opportunities are.
What do people want? Discovering the journeys and planning the Customer Experience
Let’s explore the issue starting from an assumption: the value of the transition is never in the product itself. Moreover, often a business is not selling a product and doesn’t offer anything tangible. Usually a company empowers users to do things.
This approach changes process and methodology, going into why people (current or potential customers) do the things they do and what goes through their heads when they do it.
People don’t think in terms of products, they think about getting a job done which could need a combination of products and services, and your service with your product is only a part of a bigger holistic workflow to get a job done.
This means you have to think hard and research which services your customers use before and after your service. Being aware of them and map out all the variables of this holistic workflow where you are only one part. This is true especially for B2B customers and brings us to the innovative idea to build a Service Partnership rather than a service itself.
From this perspective, growth hacking is planning a CX in which content and experiences you are delivering must be relevant for the customers: everything that is not helping them to save time is actually making them lose time.
“If you aren’t in the business of saving your customers their precious time, making their lives easier and better, you risk being disrupted by a newbie who will.” 
This is why the trend across different markets is investing massively in personalisation: customers today want experiences that are actually relevant for them and demand the hyper-personalisation of everything, from product to service.
Trying to recap and go forward: if improving the CX focusing on Service Design is the key to gain a competitive advantage which are the listening tools for Customer-driven innovation?
- User interviews
- Focus groups
- Customer journeys mapping
- Surveys – among others: Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
At the same time, a crucial part of the game is learning from big players in your market, who are probably investing more budget than you in user research.
Tons of data are available about the market and you can start shaping your strategy around them. Learn from conversations between big players and their customers, learn from their failures and wins.
CX is a matter of bravery and good reporting
Despite all this awareness and great planning, most of the times investing in CX is an act of bravery, because often the returns don’t happen right away.
This mean the team should work hard also on budgeting the time and money needed first, and then reporting results around valuable KPIs showing that the investment works also well with data.
The most valuable early win could be, for example, lower costs for customers support or less dissatisfied customers.
Following this first assessment, long term result such as retention is the KPI that should be used to show real growth. Retention is based on word of mouth which is today’s growth engine. And if you improve retention, you will also improve the rest of your funnel.
Wondering what retention does exactly?
- It triggers virality and accelerates acquisition
- It improves monetization as the segment of a cohort grows and LTV too
- It builds an acquisition competitive edge (monetizations opens up new channels that were previously too expensive)
- It accelerates payback period
Dopamine as the ultimate growth KPI
Do you want to retain customers? Talk with them, run a review program and ignite the word-of-mouth offering refer-a-friend rewards. Give them voice to make you understand what is the experience they are craving or maybe they are already expecting from you.
Co-creation is planning and executing a remarkable experience together with your service partners (aka your customers). Experience is an asset that cannot be copied, all the others assets can: your features, your product, your business model, and your strategy.
Pleasurable experiences release dopamine which is not just connected to pleasure but also to rewards:
“Rewards could be the benefits of using your product, the time it saves users because it has exceptional user design, or because your team has delighted and surprised them with something they weren’t expecting. But ultimately, something positive causes dopamine to be released. It causes them to crave coming back for more.” 
People like to talk about experiences that are remarkable. Experience is an emotional reaction that results in stronger bonds between you and your users that ultimately leads to higher retention and positive word of mouth.
CX can be striking just if you apply these holistic vision and execution. Building an interrelated experience that connects with people at an emotional level is key to create services that scale.
Five Trends Shaping The Future Of Customer Experience In 2018, Forbes 
Customer Experience and Dopamine – Startup Sales and Growth Hacking on Medium 
5 Ways Customer Experience Will Change in 2017, American Marketing Association
Co-creation 101: How to use the crowd as an innovation partner to add value to your brand, Vision Critical
The One Growth Metric that Moves Acquisition, Monetization, and Virality – Reforge
The Art of B2B — applying UX and CX thinking strategies to create lasting partnerships, UX collective on Medium
The surprising ROI of great customer experience (and the terrible cost of bad CX), UserTesting
5 Barriers To A Predictable Innovation Process, JTBD+ODI on Medium