“Customer experience (CX) is the new Marketing battlefront,” declared Gartner in their Customer Experience study. More than two-thirds of the respondents said their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX, and 81% say in two years’ time they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX. It’s no wonder then than optimizing CX is the number one opportunity for many organizations, according to Adobe’s 8th annual “Digital Trends” report.
There’s good reason to invest in improving customer experience. The Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking study by Dimension Data found that 84% of organizations working to improve CX have experienced an increase in revenue.
So what is customer experience, and how can you improve it? Forrester defines customer experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” We like to use this definition for CX: “The sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.” Essentially, customer experience is the entire experience through which we satisfy customers’ needs and create value.
We have learned from our Marketing Performance Management Benchmark studies, which showed that Marketing organizations that consistently understand and improve the customer experience employ these four best practices, they:
- Connect customer experience and associated metrics to business outcomes
- Map key customer touch points and identify potential breakpoints
- Capture perception and expectation data for each interaction point
- Develop systems, tools, processes, skills and content to deliver a differentiated experience
Let’s focus on the first two practices, Connecting Customer Experience and Business Outcomes and Mapping Touchpoints and Breakpoints.
Customer Experience and Business Outcomes
Achieving business outcomes such as new product adoption, category ownership, and customer lifetime value, are impacted by the customer experience. Repeat purchase, advocacy/referrals, brand preference, and increased footprint/share of wallet among customers are also dependent on providing a great experience. Best-in-class Marketing organizations recognize that these outcomes are as much affected by what happens after the sale as what happens before the sale. They think beyond the buying process and initial customer acquisition. They understand that their objectives, strategies and programs must also encompass the customer retention and growth part of the equation.
Touchpoints and Breakpoints
Achieving outcomes and owning objectives and metrics requires a customer-centric view of the entire experience. Customer experience occurs at every interaction your customer has with your company. We call these interactions Moments of Truth (MOT). These are the crucial interactions that determine whether the customer becomes or remains loyal. Regardless of whether you insert a human or a machine (think automated voice systems) into these particular interactions, when it breaks, the effect is damaging.
Best-in-class marketers either drive, or participate in, the process of matching touchpoints and potential breakpoints or these MOTs across the entire customer experience. This includes awareness and discovery to contact and interaction, from consumption to usage, and from cultivation and advocacy to community. Mapping the customer experience is something every organization can do. It takes work, and you will want to validate the map with customers; the good news is that this provides you with a great opportunity to interact with your customer advisory board.
The breakpoints deserve your greatest attention and provide your greatest opportunity for improvement.
Identify and Address Your Breakpoints with these 5 steps
- Make a list of all the universal touchpoints that can be applied across all your customers. You can create more specific experience maps as time goes on.
- Review your data to identify those touchpoints that most frequently break. Start with data from your call center, emails from customers, social listening. This work may require you to involve many people from across the organization. We recommend holding working sessions.
- Conduct customer interviews and work with your customer advisory board to validate the breakpoints, determine which ones have the greatest impact on experience, and capture and understand the expected and actual emotional, experiential and functional experiences for these breakpoints.
- Analyze the data and create a schema to weight and rank each breakpoint to help with prioritizing which breakpoints to address first.
- Document your learnings.
- Build a plan to address James Allen’s “Three D’s,” the key factors that he believes enables organizations to offer an exceptional customer experience:
- Design the correct incentive for the correctly identified consumer and offer it in an enticing environment.
- Deliver the proposed experience by focusing the entire team across various functions.
- Develop consistency in execution.
With more touchpoints, more competition, shorter product lifecycles, and greater price transparency than ever before, customer experience expectations will continually change. So, improving the customer experience must be an ongoing process and developing the right processes provides high return on investment for companies of all sizes.
No doubt, this is well worth the effort. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in – improving the experience for your customers is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales. Sometimes it helps to get a professional’s outside perspective to help you identify and map your breakpoints.