Customer Experience Strategy: 5 Best Practices


Does your customer experience strategy have a big impact on your bottom line? It should.

A thoughtful, dynamic customer experience strategy is at the heart of every bottom-line-boosting CX effort.

Customer experience is critical to business success. It drives more than two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand and price combined, according to Gartner.

Augie Ray, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice, said, “The goal of CX is to guide organizations to create powerful CX outcomes that improve customer satisfaction, strengthen attitudinal loyalty, reduce churn, lower cost to serve, lift referral volume and improve lifetime value.”

Unfortunately, too many business leaders haven’t committed enough resources to CX to revel in the outcomes Ray described above. They’re neglecting critical CX elements such as customer feedback surveys, which are the primary measure of CX success. Likewise, training in the high-level, customer-centric soft skills customer support teams need is often sorely lacking.

An effective customer experience strategy demonstrates the power of digital transformation in action. To get optimal results, you must unify leading-edge technology with people-centric business practices. By combining data, technology and the human capacity for empathy, problem-solving and emotion, companies can leverage CX and make substantial financial gains.

Customer Experience Defined

Customer experience encompasses every interaction a customer has with your brand across every touchpoint — even those that don’t result in a purchase — and the emotions and thoughts attributed to those interactions.

Examples include:

  • Viewing an ad
  • Reading a blog post
  • Receiving a text
  • Making a payment
  • Waiting on hold with customer service

Even the tiniest exchange between a business and customer has the power to boost or harm that individual’s perception of your brand.

Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations, wrote for Forbes, “What’s happening on the inside of your organization is being felt by your customers on the outside.”

Your company culture, business processes, employees, stakeholders, products or services and platforms must be cohesive and aligned for optimal CX.

Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Customer service is one aspect of customer experience, but they’re not the same. While the former relates explicitly to interactions between agents and customers, every department, individual and process owns CX.

Another way of looking at the two concepts is customer service being reactive and customer experience being proactive. Customer service usually responds to a problem or is a reaction to customer interests or concerns. On the other hand, CX is a strategic approach to improving how consumers feel when interacting with your brand.

Related Article: How to Turn CX Into an Integrated Business Process

Elements of a CX Successful Strategy

According to PwC’s Future of Customer Experience report, four core ingredients create a good customer experience:

  1. Speed
  2. Consistency
  3. Convenience
  4. Friendliness

In fact, “nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.”

When engineering a customer experience strategy, you must involve every team member and process. You should aim to create a frictionless experience that intuitively takes customers from awareness to loyalty while putting a smile on their faces.

Like any strategy, decision-makers need to combine numerous elements and deploy change management best practices for results to take root.

CX Vision Statement

Every successful endeavor begins with a clearly defined vision, and your customer experience strategy is no different. Leaders should craft an aspirational statement that acts as a standard to inspire and align team members.

This statement should be simple and specific so that everyone can understand and buy into it.

Below are some examples of high-impact CX vision statements:

  • McDonald’s: Be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness and value so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.
  • IKEA: Create a better everyday life for the majority of people.
  • Hagerty: Deliver exceptional experiences with every single interaction creating lifelong clients that not only stay with Hagerty but tell their friends about Hagerty.

Employee Experience

“Do unto your employees as you want done unto your customers,” wrote Hyken. This sentiment is foundational for CX. Your people are the front-line ambassadors of your brand, and how they feel at work inevitably affects how your customers feel.

The Future of Customer Experience report stated that leaders must “focus on innovation and equipping employees with technology and information they need to best serve consumers.”

The report also recommended offering incentives to employees who provide a good experience, up-leveling training and fostering a culture of empowerment.

Data and Analytics

The data your website, social media pages, customer relationship management (CRM) platform and employees hold about your customers is your most valuable resource. Data is more than numbers; it paints a picture of who people are, what they like, what they don’t like and how they behave.

When refining processes, make sure decisions are data-led, as it’s the only way to be truly customer-centric. Across every touchpoint of your strategy, set goals, use measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) and track data to analyze success.

Buyer Personas

With personalization taking such high priority in consumers’ purchasing behavior, knowing your target audience has never been more important. How can you optimize touchpoints for CX if you don’t intricately understand your market?

Every business should have one to five fictional characters representing the common traits of its customer types. These characters, also called buyer personas, allow you to gain insight into customer personalities and psyches and build empathy and understanding for your customer base. Make sure your employees know each buyer persona inside and out, like old friends.

Buyer personas should include:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Job
  • Buying habits
  • Income
  • Goals
  • Pain points

Jordan Turner, content marketing manager at Gartner, wrote, “Many organizations lack the necessary experience creating personas and building end-to-end journey maps. But with time, attention and experience, they can hone these capabilities to improve customer experience (CX).”

Customer Journey Maps

Journey mapping is as central to CX strategy as building buyer personas and involves creating a visual representation of your customers’ end-to-end experiences. It outlines every interaction, opportunity and pain point so that you can identify areas of excellence and improvement.

To create a map, take one of your buyer personas and map out their steps as they move through the buying process. Knowing the five As can help:

  • Attract: How do they find out about your company?
  • Accept: What inspires them to engage?
  • Adopt: How does the customer prefer to interact with your brand?
  • Amplify: What changes about the buyer’s emotional state when they interact with your company?
  • Advance: How do you encourage them to make a repeat purchase, write a review or make a recommendation?

“A journey map that focuses merely on the purchase funnel, and not the entire end-to-end customer journey, is not a CX journey map,” said Ray. “Those sorts of journey maps may assist with efforts to build awareness, inbound traffic and acquisition, but they cannot uncover the opportunities that influence customer satisfaction, loyalty and long-term advocacy.”

When devising and refining journey maps, never forget that every potential interaction with your brand is a marketing opportunity. From the first impression of your social media page to the follow-up email you send after a purchase, every moment is a big deal when it comes to CX.

Customer Feedback Loops

Customer feedback is the heartbeat of your customer experience strategy. It clues you in to customer expectations and can signal if industry changes are afoot long before any publication or news outlet. Asking for customer feedback signals to your consumer base that you care about how they feel. But it’s just as crucial that you acknowledge and respond to customer feedback in a manner that resonates with your audience.

Naturally, you can’t act on every tiny detail — but as soon as patterns emerge, do something. A struggling business might be inclined to hire consultants — which has its place — but you can tap into the people with the most valuable insight (your customers) for free.

Personalization

Personalization is having a heyday currently, and it’s only set to become more ubiquitous in the world of commerce. As automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning make it easier for companies to remember people’s names, purchase histories, preferences and issues, customer experiences are getting increasingly personalized.

But the real power of personalization lies in the human touch. Most people would much rather speak to a person who remembers their name than see it flash on a screen — even if technology has facilitated that recall.

Highly successful companies realize that digital transformation’s power isn’t about replacing people with tech. It’s about using tech to optimize what people are already capable of.

Self-Service Solutions

Consumers are more tech-savvy than ever. On the one hand, that means business leaders must work a little harder. Old-fashioned sales tactics have been replaced with more time-consuming, long-term approaches. Likewise, buyers conduct so much research before purchasing that it can be challenging to stand out among the noise.

But there are areas where consumer-savviness can save you time and effort. Self-service solutions are more popular than ever, especially among younger generations. In fact, 40% of Gen Z said they’d desert a brand that didn’t offer self-service options, according to Coveo.

Competitive Insight

Whichever stage you’re at in developing your customer experience strategy, competitive insights are crucial. With technology and the economy evolving at a record pace, keeping up with what your close competitors are doing acts as a benchmark and motivator.

Technology

Technology should be an important element of your customer experience strategy, but never let it overshadow your people. Some useful tools to consider using include:

  • Surveys
  • CRM platforms
  • Customer feedback management tools
  • Interaction analysis
  • Personalization tools
  • Data analytics
  • Social listening
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Chatbots and live chat
  • Business intelligence tools

The Future of Customer Experience report shined a light on the current state of how the public perceives technology:

“Today, 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. Automated solutions should ‘learn’ from human interactions so those experiences also improve. This shift allows your employees to be more engaged when they’re needed, provide better service and get necessary support from technology — as part of the seamless experience.”

Stakeholder Support

Last but by no means least, it’s imperative that you get all stakeholders on board with your customer experience strategy. Be sure to include all department leaders and investors in decision-making, and be prepared to make as many presentations as necessary for them to understand the urgency of buying into CX.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience

How To Measure CX Using Customer Feedback

Data from the Future of Customer Experience Report demonstrated the potential consequences of neglecting CX. Of US consumers, it revealed:

  • 59% of those polled would walk away from a company or product they love after several bad experiences
  • 17% would walk away after just one bad experience

Without measuring feedback, you’re not able to know whether your CX efforts are working. As such, you might have a CX strategy in place and still lose customers because you’re not measuring results.

Measuring customer feedback is essential to any CX strategy, and there are many ways to gather it. Every company should choose the methods best suited to its specific business model and organizational goals.

Long-Form Customer Surveys

Long-form surveys are a popular way of closing the customer feedback loop and obtaining actionable insights into CX. Marketers usually send out this type of survey as an email, so striking a balance between thoroughness and brevity is necessary.

Sure, you want to gather as much information as possible, but your customers’ time is precious. Plus, more questions often means less time spent answering each one.

Generally speaking, between five and 10 open-ended questions is ideal. You can inspire detailed feedback with this type of survey, and you’ll get the most engagement from people who are already loyal to your brand.



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