What is customer experience, anyway? Customer experience (CX) in its most basic form, is how you make your customers feel. It revolves around the perceptions and relationships between your customers and your brand. And it is worth investing in. A 2019 Walker study found that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for great customer experience. And by the end of 2020, “customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.”
By putting your customer at the focus of all you do, you can begin to weave your customer’s, wants, needs, and desires into your everyday work. The first step in improving your CX is gathering insights on your key audience through quantitative and qualitative research. This customer research can take many forms. Your research can include a combination of interviews, focus groups, social listening, surveys/polls, card sorting, heatmaps, and usability testing, depending on your objective. In the research phase, you should be working towards answering the following questions: What are my goals and objectives? Who is my audience? What is his/her journey? How can I improve his or her journey at each stage?
Many organizations understand the importance of research in informing business decisions, but too frequently that research is viewed as a formality, rather than a valuable resource to serve as the basis of strategic business decisions. Below are three steps to help you transform your audience research into actionable insights to improve your CX.
Step 1: Analyze your research:
One of the greatest challenges is how to organize and make sense of all the information you collected. Easily analyzed data is the result of well documented research. Well documented research starts with clearly outlined goals, objectives, research methods, and discussion guides (if applicable). With a strong foundation, the research process itself will go much more smoothly. Immediately after your research, look for patterns across your research. Begin to document these insights in a spreadsheet or use a tool like Optimal Workshop’s Reframer tool that allows you to import qualitative research and create themes using tags and theme builders.
Step 2: Organize your findings in the form of a customer journey map:
Once you have these insights, you can use them to inform your customer journey map. A customer journey map is a visualization of customer touchpoints and engagements with your brand. It is a great tool to keep all your tasks CX focused. First, start by outlining key steps your audience takes, before their first experience with your brand, through purchase, and beyond. Include brand touchpoints, barriers to engagement, your customer’s thoughts and feelings, how you might change touchpoints or steps to address barriers and any other insights from your research. HubSpot has numerous free customer journey templates that show you how to create a customer journey map and allow you to customize as you see fit.
Step 3: Disseminate learnings and delegate:
All departments are responsible for great CX, so coordinate onboarding sessions with your team members. Walk them through the research you conducted, any personas you created, the existing customer experience, the ideal journey, gaps between the current and ideal journey, and the tactics needed to bridge that gap. Once your whole team is onboarded, prioritize actions from high to low and delegate tasks to bring your customer-centric approach to life. Hold semi-regular brainstorming sessions to understand how your team might bring a new perspective to challenges your customers might be facing.
Step 4: Measure your CX and calibrate:
You may be wondering how to measure something as abstract as customer experience. If we define CX as how you make your customers feel, the metrics you choose to gauge should measure how your customers feel about your brand. Some ways to measure customer experience are to flat out ask them how you’re doing (customer satisfaction and customer feedback surveys) eavesdrop on them (social listening and sentiment analysis), observe their post engagement behavior (customer loyalty data) or a combination of all of the above! Salesforce found that 52% of marketers adapt their strategies and tactics based on customer interactions and feedback. And while 52% is certainly not bad, that means that only half of marketers are focusing on customer experience and putting their audience’s needs first. Ensure that once you obtain these new metrics, you use them to shift your tactics accordingly.
Great customer experience is an ongoing process and continually assessing how your team is meeting the needs of your customers and what others are doing, not only in your industry but across industries, is key to providing great customer experience. For more on customer experience, see what CX trends we have observed in the real estate market or how fellow DC brands are leveraging what they know about their customers to design solutions that address the needs of their audiences.