Customer Experience–CX–is a hot topic in almost all organizations, whether they are startups or a Fortune 500 company. And with good reason.
Customer experience is more than a buzzword and is pivotal in the future of marketing and sales. When your customers have a great experience with your business, there’s much more likelihood that you will retain them. It also increases customer satisfaction levels. They will become your promoter and refer you to other people, improving your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. You’ll also reduce the friction caused by complaints and returns.
According to a Walker study, customer experience will overtake the price and quality of the product as a key differentiator. That means customers are willing to pay more to get a better customer experience. And, brands that don’t work on their customer experience program will be left behind.
No matter what kind your business is–retail, online, contact centres, e-commerce–or where it is located, you will greatly benefit from strategizing a customer experience program.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is your customers’ perception of how your brand treats them. It is the result of all interactions your customers have with your brand. Anything you do, across their value journey, impacts their purchasing behaviour and their decision to come back to do more business with you. It is one of the most important advantages a brand can get over its competition.
experience is defined by the customer and is closely related to customer relationship management (CRM). Every business must work actively to exceed the expectations their customers have. When companies put customers as the focus, great things start to happen.
But… but… it sounds exactly like customer service, you say.
Customer service is one part, and an integral one at that, of the whole customer experience. Customer experience is a holistic picture of their interactions, your brand’s reputation, and their experience across different touchpoints – from your website to telephone conversations to in-person interactions.
me explain the difference between the two with a practical example. You need to book hotel rooms for your vacation. The hotel executive on the other end of the call is polite, helpful, and sounds genuine. That’s good customer service. Now, you get your confirmation immediately to your email, and upon arrival, you get a free upgrade to your room. Now, that’s a great customer experience.
7 key steps for designing a customer experience program
Many organizations are guilty of looking at customer experience programs, only once their churn rates go through the roof, and business is lost to their competitors. CX is a proactive approach and needs to be in the DNA of your organization’s culture from the very beginning. CX programs that start well at the design stage tend to be the most successful.
To start building a customer experience program, it’s often a good idea to get outside help from CX consultants to help define strategies that are in line with brand strategies. They will also help you develop capabilities that define and deliver consistent customer experiences.
The following list by no means exhaustive but represents some of the important work redquanta does to help our clients. These steps can set you on the right path to delivering exceptional customer experiences.
1. Align the strategy with your objectives
For your efforts to be on the right track, your focus needs to be on objectives rather than potential solutions. When we work with clients to help them create a customer experience program, we start with their objectives and work backwards from there. You need to build a clear, customer-centric vision that you can communicate with the entire company.
Client objectives usually include increasing sales and improving customer loyalty. The program is designed to be in alignment with these strategic goals. When the two aren’t connected, you’d end up measuring the wrong things, i.e. the ones that won’t make much of a difference to your end goals.
2. Get buy-in from senior executives
When you think about developing a strategy, aim for getting sponsorship from senior executives. If the top people aren’t behind your program, it won’t fare very well. If you are failing to get the executives and leaders to drive the program, it’s worthwhile to find out why and then fix those issues.
When organizational leaders are seen to value their customers and commit to improving their experience, the employees rally behind them.
3. Understand your customers
Once you have designed the goals and have the green light from senior executives, you need to find as much data as you can about your customers. As well as general market research, your sales, retail and customer support teams hold a treasure trove of customer information. Engage with these teams and you’re bound to find insight gold there.
4. Build a focused questionnaire
Convert your initial strategy into the most important customer experience and sales steps. We like to call these the “moments of truth”. Our design team then creates behavioural measurements for each of these and converts them into a questionnaire. This is used by our independent field teams to base their evaluations on. It will also help you measure how your execution stands up against your planning.
It’s quite common for companies to fall into the trap of creating “shopping lists” with multiple questions that are not weighted. One of the petroleum companies we work with built a “focus list” with over 80 questions. What this illustrates is the lack of focus (somewhat ironic!) and it becomes practically impossible for field teams to accurately and quickly evaluate your execution and its impact.
helped them narrow down their focus to just eight key questions on service delivery in the forecourt and convenience store that are important to their growth and competitive advantage.
5. Review and assign weights
Good program design will identify any disagreements in how a strategy should be executed. For example, there could be differing points of view about the relative importance of upselling and welcoming customers into the stores. Both are equally important, but you need to identify priorities and assign proper weightage to all the items in your list.
Our improvement process requires clients to identify and close the loop on the most important gaps first. A common mistake companies do is fix the small things first. Doing so misses the whole point of building the customer experience program. You need to be focused on the things that will make a material difference to your key objectives, i.e. revenue growth and customer loyalty.
6. Engage your employees
For customer experience to truly improve your brand, the entire company–from the CEO to the store representative–has to be committed to the program. They need to be consistently creating excellent, memorable interactions with customers across all touch points. It’s important for everyone in the company to understand the importance and act in such a way that it reflects your company’s strategy.
The customer experience program cuts across different departments. Build a team of program champions by identifying influencers throughout your organization. It is crucial to look beyond titles and find people who are known to have a customer-centric approach and are passionate about the program. As one of the reports by SAS and the Harvard Business Review quotes, “A coordinated approach to customer experience management—and one that is built from the ground up— is more likely to take root.”
7. Measure and reiterate
You now have all the ingredients–a strategy, executive buy-in, customer inputs, weighted questionnaire and engaged employees–to getting started with your customer experience program. Put your plan to action and start improving performance.
Like any program, measuring customer experience involves hard metrics, for example units per transaction, sales conversion rates and Net Promoter Score. Our clients see significant increases in these during the first year of their programs and beyond.
Customer expectations are higher than ever, and businesses need to work hard to win their loyalty. CX is an area that benefits from continuous improvement and consistent efforts toward that commitment. When you achieve this, your organization benefits greatly.
You need to change your perspective and look “outside-in,” i.e. how a typical customer would see you. This changes your whole point of view. A successful CX program will delight customers along every step of the way, prevent problems before they arise and transform your company into a brand that customers will love and adore.
You can’t expect your CX strategy to be perfect right off the bat. It’s an area that can use continuous iterations. Work on the items defined above but keep in mind that customers’ needs and preferences can change over time. So, it’s not a bad idea to go back to the drawing board once a while.