At its simplest, customer experience is your customers’ perception of how you treat them. What does it feel like to do business with you? Your “brand” is the sum total of all their experiences with your organization and every touchpoint matters. Your customers’ perception will impact their behavior, actions and ultimately brand loyalty, or lack thereof. Only when your business has defined what that experience or feeling should be, can it determine which processes, improvements and technologies are needed to support it.
In this hyper-connected era, one of the biggest challenges I see my clients struggle with across all industries is understanding the role of each channel on the path to purchase (or whatever your particular conversion point may be such as a renewal or a subscription).
Four steps to becoming more customer centric:
- Understand your customer. Develop personas (not just segments).
- Seek to understand and map the journey across your channels (touchpoints).
- Identify and remove pain points, find opportunities.
- Test and Learn, improve the experience. Repeat.
Understand your customer
Do you refer to your customers as people? Or do you only refer to them as accounts, segments, prospects or leads. If the latter, this does little to reinforce the concept that these are people with motivations, wants and reasons for visiting your store, your website or your social channels. Review all your research, survey and feedback data to start piecing together a persona.
Note that personas are different than segments. Segments are the fundamental way in which a business will typically categorize their customers from demographics to income level. Personas on the other hand go a bit deeper. They help to personalize your typical customer and include the behavioural attributes, their needs and motivations. They typically describe the “ideal” type of customer who can benefit the most from your products and services.
Whereas segments help determine whether features or products will resonate in the marketplace and should underpin a brand’s marketing, personas are useful for engaging with customers by knowing their motivation and preferred channels. Useful info from Hubspot if you want to dig deeper.
Start to Map the experience.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What is it like to interact with your brand? What are the major touch points? How often to you communicate with them and on which channels? This is becoming especially difficult in the digital age where the path to purchase is so fragmented and some channels are likely out of your control. You don’t need to map the entire journey at the outset. You might start with on-boarding, the purchasing process or face to face experiences. By quantifying the improvements in one small part of the journey, you can build a business case for analyzing the rest.
You likely have much more information on hand than you think from customer feedback to surveys and your channel analytics. The value of this exercise is to bring together the sometimes disparate silos of the organization to focus on the customer.
Companies that employ multiple channels including e-commerce and bricks and mortar, and that are at a later stage in digital maturity, typically adopt some form of technology or customer experience management platform which allows for cross channel tracking. But this should not deter an organization from starting! Getting key channel owners around a table to focus on the customer shouldn’t be difficult.
Identify and remove pain points, find opportunities.
Going through the mapping exercise, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask yourself:
- What task is the customer trying to complete at every stage of the buying cycle from awareness to discovery, purchase, delivery and retention. What questions might they have? How long is this phase?
- Which channels and touchpoints are they likely to use and in which combination? Do we have data to support our assumptions?
- What emotions are they feeling at they are going through these steps? Are they in a rush, are they looking for reassurance that this is the best deal at the best price?
- What are the weaknesses in the process from a brand perspective? What do we know needs improvement?
- What are the moments of truth? (i.e. those that are critical to a successful transaction or interaction)
- Who within the organization is involved in each step of this journey? Are there any disconnects between how we manage this experience? Do we understand each other’s roles?
The goal with this process is identifying roadblocks that can be immediately removed or finding immediate opportunities to improve the experience.
Optimize the experience, test and learn. Repeat.
This mapping effort must be clearly tied back to business goals and tangible key performance indicators in order to operationalize the process. Establishing a cross functional team is a good first step to begin to align functions, processes, channel execution and measurement. However, this takes a willingness from the top to align performance measures and rewards to the type of experience and relationship you are trying to achieve as a brand.
If you are just beginning on this journey, getting a group of engaged champions together to conduct the above exercise is a fantastic starting point. I realize this is an area of deep expertise for many talented agencies and experts. But I’ve seen brands jump into extensive mapping exercises to create beautiful diagrams which are never revisited because the exercise was not tied to a broader customer centric vision, or was undertaken as a one-off project. Starting simple can help build the case for broader investment.
Customer experience is everyone’s business. Understanding your customer’s journey, based on qualitative and quantitative data, will deepen your knowledge of how to engage with them, the types of products and services will resonate the most and ideally lead to revenue growth.