In today’s fast-paced, omnichannel environment, it’s more challenging than ever for businesses to deliver efficient, consistent and positive experiences for their customers. That’s why the most successful companies focus on the entire customer experience (CX), not just individual customer interactions.
How important is customer experience? It impacts both revenue and market share. According to a 2017 Gartner survey, more than two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX.
To be sure, the stakes are high. Here’s what the experts say about customer experience and how to effectively implement a successful CX strategy.
A journey, not just a call
Many organizations make the fatal mistake of focusing on direct customer interactions or individual touchpoints. In fact, crafting the ultimate customer experience requires a more holistic approach. “Even if employees execute well on individual touchpoint interactions,” McKinsey reports, “the overall customer experience can still disappoint.”
Customer experience is much more than the service delivered by your contact center agents. It also encompasses the design of products, the efficiency of the supply chain and the ability of dispersed teams to collaborate and communicate effectively.
The first step is to know your customer. This sounds deceptively simple, but it’s what many organizations skim over. Leading CX companies take a deep dive and develop customer segments, creating detailed personas using specific demographic information, buying habits, emotional needs and the like. This creates a concise, shorthand way to think about the customer, one that everyone in the company can understand. Most companies have just a handful of critical customer segments.
The next step is to map the entire customer lifecycle, identifying every way the organization interacts with the customer.
“Every single person in a company plays a direct or indirect role in determining whether it provides consistently good or consistently bad human or digital interactions,” emphasizes the Temkin Group, a CX consultancy. This customer journey unites all functions and creates a laser focus on the customers that impacts business outcomes. It also enables each department to clearly see how it affects key customers. In addition, the business can use the customer journey to evaluate and improve its processes.
CX experts agree that to create an experience that retains customers and brings in revenue, the whole organization needs to be on the bandwagon, from the CEO to the front-line customer rep. There must be a “collective sense of conviction and purpose,” stresses McKinsey, with each employee understanding their role, no matter what their function or department.
The Temkin Group identifies four core competencies essential for a successful CX strategy:
Purposeful Leadership. Management must articulate “an overarching, cohesive vision of the organization.” This vision needs to be clear in order to align employees’ day-to-day decisions.
Employee Engagement. Without buy-in from employees, no CX strategy will get off the ground. Positive customer experience only occurs when the overall culture values not just the customer (and the profits) but the people who make that experience happen. In a 2018 Temkin Group report, employees working in leading CX organizations rated their employer five times higher on engagement than those employed by poor-performing CX companies.
Compelling Brand Values. Behind every exceptional customer experience is a clear understanding of the company’s brand and what it promises to its customers. With this in place, employees can meet those customer expectations and troubleshoot where the CX strategy falls short.
Customer Connectedness. Every CX strategy needs a feedback loop. The organization must collect customer insights and integrate that data in real time throughout the company, informing all functions so that they can fix problems. McKinsey recommends “digitizing the processes behind the most important customer journeys” so that multi-disciplinary teams can quickly integrate the information and improve processes.
Measurement is also a key part of the customer-centric culture. Every team member must have a metric tied to the CX strategy, whether they’re in HR, IT, sales, operations, marketing or customer service.
Customer experience and the cloud
Functional silos are typical of many organizations. The marketing team does one thing while the sales team does another. Typical, too, is the vast amount of data each function collects that is rarely available to other departments. To create an excellent customer experience, all this data needs to be accessible to everyone.
The cloud provides the perfect environment for this. The “experience cloud” brings together data from every touchpoint along the customer journey. Customer data from multiple sources – including voice, social media, websites, chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) devices and a host of internal operational information – is used to create detailed customer profiles. Leading CX organizations use these to personalize customer interactions and continuously improve the customer experience.
New technology and CX
While it may seem counterintuitive, technology will play a large role in “humanizing” the customer experience, according to CX thought leaders. Recent advances in technologies such as cloud storage, processing power, machine learning, AI and natural language processing allow companies to identify and quantify their customers’ emotions, explains Isabelle Zdatny, CCXP, of the Qualtrics XM Institute. Speech and text analytics can pick up on customers’ emotions during calls or based on their digital behavior, providing real-time feedback to improve CX.
Virtual assistants can improve self-service experiences, as well, and free up live agents to handle more delicate or difficult situations. Technologies like augmented and virtual reality will enhance the shopping experience, predicts Arpana Luthra, Principal CX Consultant at Qualtrics, giving customers “a realistic feeling of the product or service experience much before they make a purchase decision."