CMO’s are in a unique position to own, understand, and implement customer experience not just as a marketing function but as a fundamental component of every aspect of a business. As a CMO you’ve known for years the importance of cultivating customer relationships and building a brand customers trust. Now, with customers demanding an even more consistent and comprehensive customer experience, you can connect marketing and branding activities not just to leads generated but also to higher sales conversion rates, greater customer retention and higher numbers of brand advocates.
Start at the beginning of this post for CX beginners and go to the end for specific CX measurement and implementation strategies.
What is the customer experience?
The customer experience is the summation of every interaction a customer has with an organization. These interactions span well beyond a conversation with a customer support rep or account manager. Every interaction with your company from the website to the product to your employees impacts a customer’s experience with and perception of your company.
Your product or services should inspire or wow your customers. And then, should issues or questions arise, you should feel confident in your customer support representatives to offer applicable solutions, and provide a memorable customer experience.
Why customer experience matters
Today’s customers expect a personalized customer experience — 33% of consumers who abandoned a business last year left because their experience wasn’t personalized. Another survey found 81% of marketers expect to be competing mostly on the basis of CX within the next two years.
CMOs who focus on developing a comprehensive customer experience program now will find themselves at a significant strategic advantage over those who wait to recognize the importance of delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Customer experience vs customer service
A customer considers the whole picture when thinking about what your business offers and so should you.
Both customer service and customer experience are important pieces in making your business a success. But you shouldn’t draw a hard line between the two. There’s quite a bit of overlap between how a customer uses a product or service and how they interact with the people supporting it. So, you’ll want to approach customer experience strategy and customer support as mostly one-in-the-same.
Customer experience (also known as CX), encapsulates the broader customer journey that people have across your organization, involving every interaction with your customers and your business including customer-facing services.
However, more importantly, it highlights and showcases how the customer experiences your product or service, their interactions with self-service support, their experience in-store, customer service and much more.
Customer service is the human part of the customer journey — it’s the assistance and advice given to a customer regarding any of your products or services.
It requires your customer-facing team to have a unique set of skills including patience, product knowledge, and perseverance so they can give the assistance any and all customers need, regardless of where they’re at in the customer journey.
So, what’s the difference between the two?
Customer experience involves the entire journey — from initial queries to purchase, as well as customer service. Customer service offers limited insight into what the customer wants and needs, whereas the customer experience covers a holistic overview. Keep in mind, understanding customer experience often involves analyzing data from teams who aren’t customer-facing but do contribute to a customer’s experience with your product or service.
How to measure customer experience
Customer experience is very important for sustained growth. You need to provide a positive customer experience in order to:
- Build brand loyalty
- Establish brand authority via recommendations
- Gather customer reviews to ensure a solid customer experience
- Retain revenue
- Attract new customers
In today’s market, the customer (not the seller or service provider) is the one with the power. Thanks in part to the rise of the internet, your customers have more options than ever before and it’s very easy to switch their loyalty to a competitor.
Customers also have a great deal of power when it comes to influencing your business’ reputation through online reviews and social media. For that reason, customers are your best resource for growing brand awareness in a positive way if you’re delivering a great customer experience.
To that end, you’ll want to measure the customer experience via the following metrics:
- Customer happiness — Are they happy? Leverage NPS testing strategies or other means of customer satisfaction survey results.
- Customer churn — What’s your customer churn rate and why do they leave? Compare and contrast why certain customers leave and why others stay.
- Customer preferences — What features do they like? What features do they wish your product or service had? Get their buy-in through surveys or personalized nurture campaigns.
- Customer support — What issues or trends are popping up when support is contacted? Sit down with your customer support team. Probe for frequently experienced issues. And while you’re at it, take a good hard (re: analytical) look at the support tickets.
What is customer experience management?
Customer experience management, or CEM, is a strategy used to track, oversee and organize all customer interactions. CEM helps a business focus on the needs of its customers, so your business can connect the dots within the customer experience — and give folks the customer experience they expect, want and deserve.
CEM software can be easily leveraged to bridge the gap between touchpoints or journey steps. And it can be used to automatically collect and analyze customer feedback for you to use, so you can easily and tactfully improve your client experience. A good CEM system delivers deep insights replete with an analytical dashboard, reporting options and other specialized integrations with your customer relationship management software.
11 customer experience strategies
To help you get on your way to creating and nurturing an effective and successful consumer experience strategy, we compiled eleven of the most important and relevant tactics.
So, what are you waiting for?
1.) Understand your audience and create buyer personas
In order to offer a great customer experience, you need to know a lot about your customers. You should know who they are, and what their motivations are — which is where creating buyer personas comes into play. Work hand-in-hand with your support and sales teams to identify customer personas as well as personality attributes.
From there, you can utilize these personas within your marketing and creative efforts, in turn empowering you to cast a wider, more accurate net. Plus it helps you gain a clearer understanding of your customers’ needs and enables your outreach efforts to be personalized to real people with relatable hurdles or experiences.
Spotify is a great example of using data to create a memorable customer experience with their clever, tongue-in-cheek marketing that draws from their users more unusual listening habits. Check out their 2018 advertising campaign — Spotify leveraged metrics and user statistics to create compelling marketing copy that represented actual Spotify users, cultivating a sense of familiarity and building rapport.
2.) Evaluate CX based on your brand’s mission and values
A successful CX strategy starts with creating alignment between your company’s stated value proposition and values and the customer’s perception of your business based on their experience with your company. What gaps are there between customer expectations and experience in your business? Are your internal processes doing a good enough job at supporting your customers? What tools could you use to improve the customer experience?
3.) Use CX-centric tools to help you
Creating seamless customer experiences can feel overwhelming. To get started, you’ll need to understand how customers interact with your product and what they expect from it. Using CX tools can simplify this process for you by capturing relevant customer data and offering actionable insights. Tools like this are equipped with various capabilities such as content management, customer analytics, and customer feedback. For example, try using:
- NPS surveys
- CSAT surveys
- Customer product reviews
- Site analytics (e.g. Google)
- Website heat map
- Churn rate
- Average resolution time (for customer support)
- Social media listening
4.) Work backward to create the ideal consumer experience
Start with the end, ideal experience and work backward toward the technology and processes you’ll need in order to create the ideal consumer experience. Unsure what it is? Start by mapping the customer journey. Doing so helps you identify opportunities where you can make a lasting impression and avoid CX failure as a customer moves between touchpoints. Remember to focus on practical issues too, like autofill on forms to save your users’ time.
5.) Hire team players and get the team invested in customer experience
You can’t deliver a great customer experience without the right employees. You should train your team to pay keen attention to customers — no detail should be spared. This can be as simple as noticing that a customer mentions a birthday and making the effort to give them birthday wishes when they come in. Doing so empowers your team to create a personalized customer experience. So, when you’re hiring, be sure to look for strong interpersonal skills, a solid ability to connect with a wide variety of people and patience.
6.) Eliminate bad or rogue design early on
User experience, or UX, is critical. Customers arrive at your site through a variety of mediums, but your brand needs to remain consistent no matter how a customer gets there. One bad or inconsistent experience could be enough to put them off, sending them to a competitor never to return. To avoid this, create a branded style guide and empower your teams with a brand templating platform, so they can create on-brand content whenever, wherever. Ultimately, you want your content to be easy to consume and even easier for customers to find the information they need from you.
7.) Pay attention to customer needs and use feedback loops
If you’re going to provide an experience your customer truly finds helpful, you need to know what your customer expects, wants and needs. To do this, create a feedback loop — post-interaction and real-time feedback surveys are a good start. From there, support staff can easily follow up over the phone and ask about their experience. Use social media and other means of customer interaction touchpoints to keep tabs on your reputation amongst your existing customer base — and prospective ones, too.
8.) Research your competitors
Take the time to analyze competitors and market trends to build a clear picture of who the competition is and what they’re doing in contrast to your organization. If you know your business needs to improve, use this market research to help you bridge the gap between where you’re currently at and where you want to be. Do this by creating strategic goals and objectives that help you implement a successful CX strategy.
9.) Building systems for effective resolutions
Customer feedback requires a company response. Implement an unobtrusive support system for every stage of the customer lifecycle. Make it easy for your customers to find the support solutions they need — whether it’s a live chat option, text messaging, webinars, social media, self-service solutions, email, or phone calls — you must make yourself available. Be sure to keep your response time promise relative to what’s realistic.
10.) Dial-in your brand personality
Make your brand personality and presence something that customers want to be a part of. A strong personality helps to build a large, loyal customer base. To get started, think about who your brand would be if it was a person. Then, define it relative to your brand mission and values. For example, are you:
- Inspiring, clever and approachable
- Reliable, influential, and authoritative
- Sincere, kind, and compassionate
- Charming, magical, and spirited
Alternatively, check out our brand archetype quiz jump start your brand personality efforts.
11.) Use machine learning or AI to deliver a seamless end-to-end experience
With artificial intelligence, you can set up auto-responses to routine customer queries and guide your customers with curated content. AI customer service interactions reduce the need for staff to attend to every customer query, enabling them to focus on more complicated, high-visibility problems. You could also use AI to segment your customer base and provide a more personalized experience. AI can use information from browsing data, pages visited and past interactions to send targeted messages automatically.
A seamless end-to-end customer experience provides your company a lot more than initial earned revenue — in exchange for going the extra 1% for your customers, you gain brand loyalty and authority within your industry. And in turn, you gain customers for life.