We all know that customer experience (CX) plays a vital role in how our brand is perceived and the uptake of products and services. But you may not fully understand how to measure and reshape it.

In these uncertain times, progressive brands are doubling down on CX and using it to get closer to their customers. Mapping touchpoints, reducing friction and optimising the user journey.

Here are a few pointers to get you thinking about how to create or refine your strategy. 

First up, what is customer experience?

Customer experience, also known as CX, is the customers’ perception of your brand. It’s the result of every interaction a customer has with your business, the entire end-to-end journey.

It isn’t the same as customer service. That’s just one part of the whole experience.

In other words, CX is bigger and includes every touchpoint, pre- and post-sale, whereas customer service covers specific touchpoints within the overall experience, usually around help or assistance.

CX is holistic and to be successful it needs to be managed on a cross-functional basis. Marketers working closely with sales, CRM, customer service and other internal teams.

Why is CX so important to your business?

Companies that create an exceptional CX can set themselves apart from competitors.

The better the customer experience, the more repeat custom and recommendations you’ll get and this helps to create a virtuous circle. Here’s how Hubspot describe the importance of CX:

“Customer experience is of critical importance to the sustained growth of a business. It's important to ensure a positive customer experience so customers build brand loyalty and affinity, evangelize your product or service and refer their friends, and leave you positive customer reviews that will help your business retain revenue and earn new customers.”

Source: 7 ways to create a great customer experience strategy

In short, the benefits of great CX include:

  1. Increased customer loyalty.
  2. Increased customer satisfaction.
  3. Better word-of-mouth marketing, positive reviews, and recommendations.
  4. Higher retention (return customers), with reduced churn.
  5. Fewer complaints and product returns.
  6. Less friction in the buyer’s journey.
  7. Better sales and customer acquisition

Customer experience-led companies achieve an average order value that is 1.9x greater than non-experience-led companies, according to a Forrester study.

What is good (and bad) customer experience?

If asked to recall a great experience, it probably wouldn’t take you long to think of one. Perhaps it was the seamless process, quality of service, or aftercare. Or maybe the whole experience.

The same goes for poor experience. In a study by Hotjar, it was found that customer frustrations came in all shapes and sizes. These were the most commonly reported issues:

Source: Hotjar Customer Experience Guide

Response time is the number one pain point. Interestingly, complaints about rude/angry employees drop by almost 6x as a company goes from the lowest level to a more mature customer experience.

These are common complaints, but in practice the CX will be unique to your business.

Getting started: how to use customer feedback?

Customer feedback should lead your CX strategy. For that you’ll need a reliable method of collecting insight, which will allow you to take action and make impactful changes.

This will help to create positive touchpoints and reduce the friction between them. That’s why the most successful brands focus their efforts on what their customers tell them.

Every project at RKH starts with a discovery stage and that includes customer feedback. Here are some of the ways we recommend for gathering insight:

  1. Customer interviews. Identify your ideal customers and interview them. This will allow you to uncover user needs, pain points and psychological drivers or motivations.
  2. Surveys and polls. Once you’ve mapped the key customer checkpoints, there are various surveys you can use. Polls and feedback widgets are also a great way of capturing data.
  3. Support tickets. If you’re using a customer support ticketing system like Zendesk, you’re capturing all kinds of information and you can use this to spot customer trends.
  4. Message tagging. You can track sentiment and message trends in social media. At its most advanced, Natural Language Processing (NLP) can automatically classify them. At its most basic, you can manually tag messages and pull the analytics.
  5. Consumer trends. It can be helpful to look at broad consumer insights to help guide your CX strategy. Decoding attitudinal and behavioural patterns within your target demographics.
  6. Competitor analysis. By following the journey and mapping key touchpoints, you can compare your CX against competitors. Giving you the strategic upper hand.
  7. Industry insights. It’s always good to benchmark and contextualise your company against the wider industry. This can help spot threats and seize opportunities.

You’re probably collecting customer feedback without even realising it. But it needs to be measured and analysed in order to to pinpoint improvements to the CX and unlock its growth potential.

Ways to measure and analyse customer experience?

On the surface, CX can seem subjective and difficult to measure. Each customer can have a different experience to the next. But a variety of metrics can be used, individually or together.

The first step is to identify user personas and map the CX journey. That’ll give you a sense of the key customer touchpoints where you want the experience to be measured. These include post-purchase, customer renewals, cancellations, product returns etc.

When you’ve done that, there are several ways to go about collecting feedback. CX professionals tend to lean on surveys and these are the most common:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): this measures the likelihood that customers will recommend your brand to friends or colleagues, and it’s a good predictor of future growth.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): these questions are used to determine whether a customer is satisfied with a specific element of their experience (e.g. the support they received).
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): this evaluates the effort required for a customer to achieve a goal (e.g. fix a problem, place an order).
  • Time To Resolution (TTR): the average length of time it takes customer service teams to resolve an issue or ticket after it’s been opened by a customer.

As noted above, it’s also advisable to track sentiment and conduct customer interviews to dive deeper into user needs and pain points. Web analytics can also provide plenty of contextual insight.

What are the most important CX trends to consider?

In a 2018 survey of CX professionals, Hotjar asked respondents to categorise the company they worked for into one of four levels: ignore, novice, competent, and mature. The main findings were:

  • CX leaders prioritise delivering an outstanding experience over everything else i.e. above sales, customer satisfaction, retention.
  • They focus on 'old-school' methods such as talking directly to customers and having the best talent on board rather than ‘over-hyped’ methods such as chatbots.
  • Customer feedback is the #1 driver of successful CX strategies. The least mature companies rely on market trends and intuition.
  • Leading brands involve the majority of their workforce in CX initiatives. In fact, 3 out of 10 mature companies have over half of their workforce involved.

Their methods vary. Competent and mature groups use surveys and calls to understand customers, whereas those towards the lower end rely more on social media and live chat.

Source: Hotjar Customer Experience Guide

So as you develop your CX strategy, you’ll need to gather more customer feedback. Lack of employee knowledge and training is the #1 blocker, so you’ll also want to invest in that area and make sure it’s rolled out consistently across teams.

Best practice: what are the key areas of digital CX?

There are six key areas of digital CX according to Customer Strategist Journal and these can be used to determine the digital maturity of your organisation. In short, these are:

  1. Reachability: What channels is your business active on? How are these channels being used?
  2. Service convenience: Can customers self-serve? What types of channels are being used to provide service?
  3. Purchase convenience: Is there friction in the purchase process?
  4. Personalisation: How well does your business meet/cater to individual customer needs?
  5. Simplicity and ease of use: Are service/informational channels optimized for mobile? Is the customer journey bogged down or straightforward?
  6. Channel flexibility: Is context about the customer being used and applied across all channels? Is there a history of behavior, transactions, and conversations across touch points available for each customer?

Source: How to Define a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy

How to develop and improve your CX strategy?

There are some suggestions above to get you started, but building truly great experiences is about continuous improvement and demands company-wide commitment.

For your CX strategy to be successful, you need engagement from every department. That’s because it spans the entire user journey - from initial discovery up to the point of purchase, support, repeat custom and word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are a few things that are important to CX strategy:

  1. Customer-centric culture. You need to get leadership buy-in and for it to be instilled across the business. That involves including it in your brand values, training employees and focussing on core principles like empathy and transparency.
  2. Lean on user research and feedback. Listen to what your customers have to say and become an experience-led company. That means surveys and interviews, but you can also crowdsource product or feature requests from the community.
  3. Provide a human touch. Use the language your audience uses, train your team to listen and look for ways to make the process more meaningful or memorable. Be communicative and don’t make people wait. Embrace technology, but don’t rely too heavily on automation.

How to create a memorable CX and reduce friction?

When starting out, your focus should be on creating memorable human experiences. It can be useful to measure CX at key touchpoints, but for optimal results you should be looking at the complete customer journey and for ways to reduce friction.

“Too many companies focus on individual interaction touchpoints devoted to billing, onboarding, service calls, and the like. In contrast, a customer journey spans a progression of touchpoints and has a clearly defined beginning and end… even if employees execute well on individual touchpoint interactions, the overall experience can still disappoint.”

Redesigning your business in a more customer-first way doesn’t come easy, but McKinsey suggests doing this in three stages: observe, shape, reform.

Start by mapping the journey and seeing interactions from the customer’s perspective. It helps to have a clear CX aspiration and common purpose, which should be aligned with your brand strategy.

Only then can you reshape it and remove pain points in the journey. Apply behavioural psychology to help improve satisfaction and merge sequences of interactions to give a feeling of progress. Provide simple options to give customers a sense of control and choice.

You can reinvent the journey with digital technology, adding convenience and personalisation to enhance the CX. But you’ll also need to get all employees onboard, especially those on the frontline, and support this with governance and leadership.

Five key takeaways for your CX strategy

  1. CX is a team sport. It’s cross-functional and requires leadership and engagement across the business. Everyone has a part to play, it’s cultural.
  2. Focus on establishing key touchpoints for measuring CX, but don’t let this blindside you or cause you to neglect the end-to-end journey.
  3. Focus on creating memorable human experiences, one-to-one connections and removing friction in the customer journey.
  4. Start by observing before acting. Conduct surveys and customer interviews, but also leverage the information you have access to.
  5. Be guided by customer feedback and minimise common frustrations such as response time and unresolved issues. Work your way up to personalisation.

For more CX inspiration, take a look at these examples of great customer experience.

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