Customer experience refers to your business's customers' perception of dealing with you. It's their overall experience with sales, service, and any interaction with your team.
CX is no longer a luxury. Competition is fiercer than ever, especially with the rise of eCommerce, pay-to-use applications, start-ups and corporate copy-cats. To thrive in an online setting, your business will need to take a hard look at its customer experience.
Customer loyalty is key to business success---whether you agree or not, the customer is king. They hold more power in the marketplace than ever before, and poor customer retention can have a devastating effect. Without a transparent view of how your business attracts, converts and retains customers and a strategy to do it better than the competition, you're leaving money on the table and possibly jeopardising your product or service.
As a company that builds web applications and websites, we intimately understand what makes a great customer experience. Drop our team a line if you're trying to piece together your strategy and need support. The worst that will happen is you get some free experience-backed advice.
In this article, we'll look at the fundamentals of CX--- the core concepts, the customer journey and how to map it, service design, and its evolution.
Core customer experience concepts
Customer experience revolves around three core principles:
- Discovery - how companies contact customers and make it relevant and meaningful.
- Engagement - how customers interact with the company and its products.
- Delivery - speed and accuracy. Customers are after fully-functioning products delivered on time.
However, there are three competing groups to consider when looking at the whole customer experience:
- Customer - how do you satisfy their needs? How do you build their trust?
- Brand - how do you stand out from your competitors? What are your unique selling propositions (USPs)?
- Organisation - what are your business priorities? Is it conversion, gathering leads or simply building trust through information?
Your business must meet a handful of criteria to achieve optimal CX. These are:
- Goal-oriented customer experience design
- Give a human touch
- Involve the organisation in the CX design process
- Plan and create the ideal customer experience, and
- Document the customer experience at every stage.
What is Customer Experience Management (CEM or CXM)?
Customer experience management, also known as CEM or CXM, is the term given to all marketing and analytical activities designed to facilitate customer engagement and create a great customer experience.
CXM has become synonymous with systems like Zendesk, Freshworks and Salesforce Service Cloud because they automate the collection of customer feedback, engagement analytics and interaction insights. However, you don't need to pay money to join in the CXM game.
The concept behind CXM is giving customers a way to provide feedback on their experience with your business's product or service. You are responsible for continually making adjustments to keep your customers happy.
Once you've gathered a few rounds of feedback and the obvious improvements have been taken care of, it can be time to look at help from a CXM platform. These platforms provide more customer touchpoints (web, mobile, email, social media) and omnichannel analytics to identify areas of potential CX improvement.
Start by mapping the customer journey
A customer journey map is a comprehensive, illustrated and annotated diagram of all possible stages and scenarios of interaction between the customer and the organisation. It's a concept that's been around since the 1980s, with models varying from five-step, seven-step, flow charts, funnels and beyond to improve customer experience at every stage.
There are five standard phases in a customer's buying journey.
1. Awareness phase
Most prospective customers start at the awareness phase. When a user has a problem or need and looks for an answer, they are first introduced to a company via advertising, word-of-mouth or social media.
2. Consideration phase
This stage reveals that the customer can solve their problem with this brand's product.
3. Purchase phase
The prospect becomes the customer by deciding to purchase the product.
4. Retention phase
The customer has possession of the product or service, and either they or an end user is using it. They might seek assistance or guidance from a community or a provider. There is an opportunity for the provider to engage with the customer to drive brand loyalty proactively.
5 Advocacy phase
When your customer spreads the word about your product, will it be positive?
By mapping these phases, you can begin the customer journey design iteration---a holistic, customer-centric, and iterative service design approach to improve the customer experience. It will involve software and systems, market research and the buy-in of customer support teams.
What is the customer journey design process?
The customer service or customer journey design can differ in phases depending on how established it is in your organisation. The following four phases are widely accepted as a good starting point if starting from scratch. Then you can branch out using more detailed frameworks.
Help your stakeholders understand the value of the service design you are about to undertake. Gather information about your customers' needs and the current state of service delivery in your organisation.
With the information you've gathered from customers, your stakeholders and the customer support team, you'll realise the problem or opportunity to work on improving.
You can make recommendations and develop different strategies to solve your problems. In this stage, you will also find the best solution by analysing all options and gaining the feedback of key people.
This is where you and your team work on your customer journey according to your chosen strategy.
Measuring the customer experience
Having accurate and complete CX metrics is vital to assessing the customer experience. It can tell you how likely a customer will return to your brand or refer you to others.
You can measure CX through surveys (via pop-ups or email), retention rates, and churn rates. Some other common metrics you'll encounter are:
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
Set up how you measure CX right, and you'll get a crystal clear picture of problem areas and opportunities, giving you all the data needed to make the best decisions.
Invest in customer retention by investing in CX
Building customer loyalty and increasing a company's revenue go hand-in-hand. It does require an investment, but the benefits are vast:
- Brings positive growth
- Deepens customer relationships
- Positive experiences increase word-of-mouth
- Fewer negative customer experiences
- Boosts morale and positivity in the workplace
- Attracts innovation and better branding, and
The role of customer support in shaping CX strategy
Customer support is arguably the most vital aspect of CX. They ensure the company meets its customers' needs and expectations. Customer support agents are the face of your business. Good agents have a wealth of knowledge about your product or service, the ability to build important relationships, and are in the best position to convert customers that are on the fence.
Picture this - a customer calls your support team directly because their subscription has expired and they want to renew. They never received an automated email or alert. Luckily, they were on the ball and knew time was nearly up. This is a call they had to make themselves, and there was a real risk the customer would let the subscription lapse, thus causing churn. Here would be an opportunity to improve the CX by looking into the alerts within the customer management software and ensuring no customers get missed.
All these interactions with the general population and their pain points gather into a feedback loop that gets shared with team leads and then onto product and project management teams.
Customer support can observe the customer journey at work and identify where gaps and opportunities exist. This is why investing in good hires, training and resources, technology and a strong team culture are vital for setting you and your customer support team up for success.
How the pandemic has changed CX
During the pandemic, a large portion of the developed world was forced to continue their lives from within their homes. The use of online platforms soared. Companies like Zoom became household names overnight.
Many new customers who hadn't previously dealt with businesses in an online setting were now forced to use digital tools and services. The influx of "noobie" customers had an importance of CX in two ways;
- A larger volume of customers naturally exposes poor experiences
- Less experienced customers don't follow normal patterns
- There was a boom in new SaaS and online service companies
As a result, the importance of CX was catalysed for a lot of companies that had ignored it in the past. When your customer service agents are passing back a flood of tickets reporting a bad experience, it's hard not to take notice.
Another less obvious trend during the pandemic was triggered by supply chain issues that left a lot of consumers unable to buy their regular branded products. Buying new products and trying new things meant that customers searched for new brand relationships. Savvy companies that valued CX saw this as an opportunity to throw resources behind their customer service teams to win new business.
Q: What is CX?
A: Customer Experience (CX) is a blanket term for all customer interactions with a business. It's more commonly known by the efforts a company puts into its customer relationship.
Q: What is a CX professional?
A: A Customer Experience professional works to analyse and improve how a business interacts with its customers. They typically work with a Customer Experience Management system to identify data trends and make suggestions for improving CX.
Q: What is a customer journey map?
A: A customer journey map is a visual representation of the path a customer takes from deciding to make a purchase to buying something with a business.
Q: What is the customer journey design process?
A: The customer journey design process involves thinking through every step a customer takes along the purchasing journey and optimising it to create a great customer experience.
Q: What's the difference between CX and UX (User Experience)?
User Experience (UX) is focused on providing users with the least friction as they interact with a product. UX mostly involves design and layout. Customer Experience (CX) is an umbrella term that describes all customer interactions and business interactions.
Does your organisation have a customer-first mindset? What CX initiatives do you have in place to improve the experience for your customers? You should get on board the CX train sharpish if you've answered anything less than two yeses. In the current economic marketplace, it's a business catastrophe to forget about your most important asset - your customer.
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