You have probably heard a lot talking about Customer Experience, currently one of the hottest topics in the business world. And if you are reading this article you might also have some confusion about what it is exactly or maybe just want to know more.
This video summarises pretty well the topic and introduces few issues I am going to discuss in this blog post.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer Experience [CX] is the perception the customer has of your brand, the sum of every interaction a customer has with your business, both pre- and post-sale. Everything your company does contribute to how customers perceive it, resulting in how they think of your brand across every stage of the customer journey and across multiple touch points, which are first of all your product, your people and service, then your messages and also company internal factors.
CX is something that needs to be managed, defining the actionable plans in place to deliver a meaningful and memorable experience across all those touch points in the customer journey. Executive management and Marketing teams are those in charge of these plans, but meeting and exceeding customer expectations are responsibilities of every single person in the organisation and the only way to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
Taking the time to make sure every step of a customer’s journey is strong and positive will create good perceptions in your customers, making them come back and tell their friends about your company, which will result in more retention and positive word-of-mouth. Everything any business could ever wish!
We are trading in an economy that is all about experience, and branding is as strongest as the experience that you create. Businesses need to shift from a sales orientation to one built around customer needs, shifting from product to experience, from mass market to individual. CX seems really able to build a competitive advantage, and this video by Pwc, the leading business consultancy firm, explains this concept pretty well:
Already twenty years ago, exactly in May 1997 during the Worldwide Developers Conference, Steve Jobs said some of its most powerful word of wisdom:
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.
Yes, one of Steve Jobs’ greatest legacies is his obsession with the details of the customer experience, as opposed to technical details more related to the product. Yes, it’s all about experience, nowadays more than ever!
Key elements to build a successful and mature CX strategy
What can be done to improve your Customer Experience success? Many things, among them you could start understanding the following points:
Customer Experience is driven by a Marketing vision, but it is multi-channel and cross-team
It’s totally true that a successful customer experience strategy starts with shaping direct contacts of customers with your company empowering customer-facing roles to deliver an amazing experience and build great relationships. At the same time though, planning and delivering an outstanding CX doesn’t involve just digital branding and frontline teams. When defining your CX strategy, you want to ensure that you’re including all channels and departments, and you are incorporating every factor (digital and not) into a holistic customer journey strategy.
Where in the past the product department could be the one in charge of leading the orchestra along with customer support, today it is the Marketing department that has the honour and obligation to run the show. Marketers are the ones who lead the understanding of the customer lifecycle, control the CX budget, develop both the voice of the brand and the touchpoints between consumers and the brand.
Better understand your customers and work on different areas of the experience
If understanding customers’ expectations and needs is key to build better products and services then a customer-centered design will ensure success. How? Defining a comprehensive strategy and create a frictionless, omnichannel CX able to improve different areas of the business, relying as much as possible on automation and technological tools. The offer should then focus on:
- Reachability, which means talking to your customers using the channels in which they are more active and they prefer, for example using a Mobile Customer and Social Media Support
- Service convenience, in place when your customer is able (digitally speaking) to self-serve using tools such as Self-Service Information, Live Chats or Chat Bots
- Purchase convenience, occurring when the digital transaction process is seamless and there is no friction throughout the purchase experience flow
- Personalisation, realised when your customers are recognised as individuals, and messages and services are catered to individual needs
- Simplicity and ease of use, found when informational channels have a straightforward customer journey rather than a slowed down one
- Channel flexibility, met when a cross-channel context is offered with the intent to save time of both customer and business and to present a more comprehensive experience able to include the entire history of behaviour, transactions, and conversations the customer has with a brand across different touch points
Build, Measure, Learn and restart the cycle
Improving these areas means to set up a cross-team workflow lead by the Marketing department able to plan, execute and measure implementing continuous improvements. Run constantly A/B testing and optimise results according to the ever-changing user behaviour is key to succeed in any aspect of the business, especially CX.
Again it will be a matter of tools and data integration effort by analysing data from social media, customer service, and in-store interactions. Gather as much data as possible and do your best to do real-time analysis of customer interactions across all channels (digital and traditional) monitoring channel preference, usage, and customer journeys from their perspective.
Insights will allow learning and the feedback will be incorporated in a more fine-tuned CX able to anticipate customers wants, needs, and problems even before they arise.
CX represent a big challenge for many businesses which struggle to connect the external factors influencing CX with the daily internal operations and processes that determine the experience. But as the awareness of its role arises, the more knowledge and tools are shared, and the easier it will become to work on it and focus your energy on real growth.
- HubSpot – How to Design a Customer Experience Strategy [Aug 31, 2017]
- HubSpot – What Is Customer Experience? (And Why It’s So Important) [April 13 2018]
- How mature is your CX? [July 2015] – Full article with graphs
- Convince and convert – Why Customer Experience is the Ultimate Marketing Tool [publication date n/a]
- Forbes – What Is Customer Experience? [20 April 2017]
- Software Advice – 5 Must-Have Tools for Improving Customer Experience [publication date n/a]
- Forbes – Does Your CMO Have The Necessary Tools To Perfect The Customer Experience? [Aug 31, 2018]
- Inc.com – 20 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Demonstrated the Perfect Way to Respond to an Insult [July 26, 2017]