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Strategy

3 Building Blocks of a Superior Customer Experience Strategy

What is "Customer Experience" (CX)? Here’s how to construct a timeless approach that makes customers feel valued. Earn their priceless loyalty

Sam Hurley
March 19 2018

There are still many companies that get it wrong…

Revenue doesn’t come first — your customers do.

“Of course they do! You need customers to gain revenue, right?” However, I’m not merely referring to how the standard business model works. I’m talking about the very culture of a brand.

At its heart, an experience-led organization prioritizes the happiness and enjoyment levels of its customers — rather than placing evident, primary focus on money.

What does this mean from an analytical viewpoint?

‘Customer Experience’ (CX) is the measure of a customer’s opinion and sentiment towards your brand and the value it provides based on the customer’s entire journey, from first to current touchpoint.

So, how exactly does this translate to business success?

Again and again, people naturally gravitate towards brands that make them feel good; no matter where they are situated in their own unique purchase (or repurchase) journey.

When customers are openly appreciated and rewarded with exceptional end-to-end experiences, the benefits (mainly, overall profitability) are undeniable — repeat buyers are the lifeblood of many thriving businesses.

“86% of people who received great Customer Experience were likely to buy again from the same company.”

(Source: Temkin Group)

(Infographic Source: SuperOffice)

And loyalty isn’t just a chance event! It’s the result of a well-planned strategy, dedicated to making every brand interaction an utter joy…

Here are 3 core building blocks you can lay down for heightened customer experiences. When meaningfully implemented, they shape the lasting foundations of retained custom.

Block #1: Assessment, Vision & Preparation

First, it’s a good idea to review urgency and your surrounding competitive landscape — balancing the advantages of a fully-fledged CX strat with budget, time, and customer expectations in your specific industry.

While breathtaking CX is clearly in demand more than ever, be pragmatic in your approach.

A large budget isn’t your silver bullet — it’s how you treat customers that really counts, and a warming company culture is priceless…

Can you enhance your Customer Experience by a degree that is both affordable and sets you apart from your competition, without needing to become the next IBM or Amazon?

Use this effective top-level tool from Forrester to determine your market position:

An additional SWOT analysis is also helpful to complete.

Your road to better CX lies ahead; the above exercise will indicate which route to take in terms of tech and timelines — depending on the size and nature of your company.

Now, a brand needs clarity regarding its own distinctive level of Customer Experience — to be forged and communicated both internally and externally.

This is known as a Customer Experience Statement (CES or vision statement), and primarily serves two functions:

1) It creates purpose and helps to keep everybody on the same page, whether across a small team or multiple large teams.

and

2) It adds practical and emotional depth to your company, in the eyes of both your customers and employees.

Not only does a CX Statement define the actions required to enhance the satisfaction levels of customers (in ways that really matter to them) — it also signifies your company identity, in the form of its values and customer-focused objectives.

(Infographic Source: E Source)

Here are a couple of CX Statement examples from popular brands:

McDonald’s: To 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 many people.

Don’t be fooled by the brevity of these statements; they will have been meticulously designed.

Your statement (or vision) is the most important step in the whole process of building a CX strategy. Ensure it is accurate, significant and evocative!

“A Customer Experience initiative that lacks a strong, clear vision often fails to achieve its intended result.”

(Source: Olive Huang, Research Director @ Gartner)

 

(Infographic Source: Gartner)

Once drafted, don’t just let your CX Statement gather dust —you’re already one step closer to delighting your customers!

[Straight-talking, top-notch marketer and writer, Adam Fout, expands on the need for ‘customer delight’ — particularly concerning customer feedback.]

You must think hard about the necessary prep to communicate your vision with impact, and ensure everything is in place for launch…

Yes, launch! Navigate your CX strategy as you would any other major business decision.

Make a big point of the change in motion, and engrain it into your people from here onwards.

To get taken seriously and avoid a flop, plan your comms well in advance:

  • Prepare an internal document that thoroughly details the company’s initial CX Statement
  • Draft an accompanying, explanatory email
  • Hold formal meetings to discuss intentions and a plan of action, including allocated budget, team responsibilities (minus silos), tools in scope, and public launch
  • Encourage ongoing input from employees, on every aspect of the movement (this also incentivizes the team)
  • Structure ‘always-on’ communication channels (like Slack), specifically for internal feedback

While this fundamental work is in progress, it’s time to delve deep into the hearts and minds of your audience…

Block #2: Empathy & Personalization

To successfully deploy a CX strategy and bring your vision to life, you must fully understand and appreciate the background, behaviors and feelings of target customers.

This empathy sparks connection, and connection generates loyalty…

  • What are their demographics?
  • What makes them happy, sad, annoyed or satisfied with a brand?
  • How do they view your brand and the experience it provides?
  • What do they really need, and what do they really want?

-ultimately-

  • How can your company make their lives better?

Answers can be gained through primary market research (surveys, polls, interviews, customer feedback) plus of course, your historical / behavioral data from Google Analytics and any CRM platform you may be using — which can often collectively become a goldmine in terms of vital information to act upon.

Joining the dots between all the data = Ability to craft accurate personas of your typical customer types.

And this is important.

Let’s say Joanne is a single 39 year-old lady, who often uses her mobile to browse your latest fashion ranges, before looking again on a tablet — to finally buy in-store. She is tech-savvy and enjoys luxury brands. Joanne likes to feel spoilt, and also has little patience…

This is just a simple reference! You can expand on your personas as much as you deem necessary — the whole point is to become your customer, and feel what they feel.

[Here’s a great article explaining how to build personas + pitfalls to avoid.]

The result?

Your team are much better equipped to provide a rich and convenient customer journey, from marketing initiatives right through to User Experience (UX) and sales support.

(Source: Munro American)

A step even further: Customer journey maps add yet another dimension to your customer personas — allowing you to visualize touchpoints throughout the purchase journey of each, in order to optimize their particular experience as much as possible.

Every interaction and/or ‘moment of truth’ is an opportunity to magnetize your customer, by minimizing pain points and boosting joy.

Journey mapping is an extremely beneficial exercise for any team looking to provide consistency in every brand engagement.

Here is an example of a customer journey map template from Nielsen Norman Group:

REMEMBER: It is always a customer *journey,* never a detached event (or set of random events).

Greet every customer with empathy — understand their journey, wants and needs — and you will reap the rewards of retention!

Now, it would be wrong to mention customer journeys while skipping over omnichannel and personalization…

“87% of customers say brands need to invest more effort into providing a seamless and consistent experience across channels.”

(Source: Zendesk)

It’s 2018 — many customers want impeccable, frictionless service. They expect you to immediately recognize and accommodate their individual tendencies, no matter how many times they visit your website, app or store (and completely regardless of channel, device or location).

Hiral Rana [from E2M] hit the nail on its head:

“Mobile and Social Media deliver seamless customer experiences. Businesses should be future-ready with omnichannel marketing / big data to lure, engage and most importantly, retain customers…

These trends will only continue as buyers become more tech-savvy; making informed decisions.”

 

(Infographic Source: YITSOL)

Sounds difficult..? It certainly can be!

Thankfully, there are tracking and analytical tools out there to make life easier:

User IDs (Google Analytics)
Adobe Business Catalyst
IBM Watson

Business Catalyst and Watson also offer personalization, although there are advanced standalone solutions worth checking out:

Optimove
Evergage
Zeta Global

Empathy and personalization inject magic dust into your customers’ emotions. They feel special. They feel wanted. They feel closer to your brand.

Think about one time when a company went the extra mile for you (or even appeared to, through the use of clever automation) — and how this influenced your future loyalty!

[I bet you also had no problem remembering the occasion?]

A strong emotional connection drives recall, decisions and purchases.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic — but creatures of emotion.”

(Source: Adobe via Dale Carnegie)

Block #3: Feedback, Measurement & Improvement

Last but by no means least, this CX strategy building block is absolutely crucial to cumulative success.

Unfortunately (as with anything in business), CX is not a once-and-done campaign — expecting perfection on launch is impractical.

Your strategy will forever evolve as you continually learn from your customers. However, for this to work, you need to actually listen to them and take appropriate, considered action.

— Feedback (constant or in real-time)
— Measurement (using the right metrics and KPIs)
— Improvement (always ongoing)

This eternal looping of progression is what will truly make your brand a CX leader in its field.

(Infographic Source: Loyalty Insights: From feedback to action, by Rob Markey & Fred Reichheld via Bain)

Just ensure you close the loop. Action via the voice of the customer (VoC) is key!

(Infographic Source: Temkin Group)

That said, let’s cover the main points of our final building block:

FEEDBACK

You can never gain enough feedback (however, don’t hound customers!).

Your CX strategy must take into account the ease at which customers can provide it…

For maximum amounts of insightful responses:

  • Make it simple and quick for customers to reply across any channel or device
  • Apply emoji-based answers for even greater speed / experience, when applicable 😎
  • Provide an option of length, should they wish to go all out and share stories
  • Make it clear how their feedback will be used, and demonstrate its value
  • Reward customers for their time and help (cash, discounts, prize draws etc.)
  • PERSONALLY RESPOND TO THEIR INPUT (AT SPEED) AND SAY THANK YOU

The power of ‘thank you’ goes a long, long way.

Tools to consider (that also help prevent repetitive hounding):

Help Scout
Customer Thermometer
Rant & Rave (real-time feedback / sentiment monitoring tool)

MEASUREMENT

It’s essential to know there isn’t a universal CX metric — everything measured must be in alignment with your brand’s unique objectives, granular targets, and definition of ROI.

You could even create a primary KPI based on multiple metrics, combined together or otherwise calculated in some way…

Here are 7 popular standalone metrics to use, also closely associated with Customer Service operations:

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

How your brand (and its experience) is perceived by customers.

How? Best conducted using a mix of closed / open questions.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A measure of how likely your customers are to recommend your brand to a friend, family member or colleague.

How? The above question on a scale of 0 – 10, as a percentage.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The amount of effort customers invest to complete a particular task, requested by you.

How? Typically a range from 1 – 5.

Average Handling Time (ART) / First Response Time (FRT)

AHT = Average time taken to solve a customer query.

FRT = How quickly agents provide support to customers, following their initial enquiry.

“75% of online customers expect help within 5 minutes.”

(Source: McKinsey)

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

How well agents solve customer queries, first time.

How? More on the specific calculations here.

Customer Retention Rate

How many customers you successfully retain in a period of time.

How? Find the calculations here.

(Infographic Source: Forrester)

Whenever feasible, tie customer feedback to individual members of your team who made it happen. Tools like Help Scout, Zendesk and Intercom aid this process.

In addition to the company-wide metrics above, individual team member metrics are extremely useful in identifying those who are leading your organization towards CX mastery (and those who may need guidance).

REMEMBER: Your CX efforts involve your team just as much as your customers. All parties are in this together. All must be harmonized.

Listen and gather feedback from your employees in real-time, too. For instance, they may have received some negative customer feedback as a result of slow company systems or procedures, preventing them from responding promptly…

Qualitative data is where the real gems are often found. Discover the story behind your numbers before making any decisions.

IMPROVEMENT

As comprehensive as this all may seem, your work is never done!

Continuously optimize your CX strategy and deployment with zest, tending to it with devoted love and care as you would your customers and employees themselves. It’s entirely worth pursuing.

 (Infographic Source: Temkin Group)

PLUS: Openly communicate the fact you are always improving. This vulnerability is often endearing.

Just be cautious when benchmarking your progress against competitors, as every company is different. Focus on your customers, and use internal benchmarks.

The team @ Amazon of course, have enough clout to say:

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company…”

Use this as inspiration!

Put your customers in the driving seat, and see where they take your business…

Beyond the sea of tech and buzzwords, all it really boils down to is human relationships. Build solid 1:1 connections, and you can never go wrong.

When your brand and its troops are on the ground, actively listening / engaging with audiences and customers almost as friends (not acting like a distant, corporate identity run by robots) — you will discover the world as they see it, while building a vast crowd of advocates rooting for you…

Customers will become loyal brand devotees, remaining with you through thick and thin.

For a commendable Customer Experience strategy, use available AI tech to scale your 1:1 relationships (in true Amazon fashion) — while radiating the message of ‘being human’ from your company’s core.

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Sam Hurley

Sam is a passionate 'people connector', Personal Branding expert & Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ. He has achieved success for SMEs, national and international organizations, while being ranked as the world’s #1 digital influencer by Webinale, #2 most influential digital marketer by Onalytica and world’s #3 content marketing influencer by ScribbleLive. Sam loves a high-octane action movie and his all time favorite supercar is the Lamborghini Aventador! Catch him on social for cosmic amounts of Digital Marketing tips.

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