We hear a lot about how customer experience is the differentiator in today’s market. We’ll explore what it is and how to make it work for your business by:
- Defining your customer experience, minus the fluff
- Analyzing the right metrics (hint, numbers and people)
- Improving adoption through organization-wide best practices
What is customer experience?
Customer experience (CX) is the culmination of every interaction a consumer has with an organization—before, during, and after a purchase. Good customer experience fosters healthy as well as profitable relationships by prioritizing, evaluating, and improving customer sentiment.
Don’t let the jargon scare you.
Customer experience is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an intangible term meant to cover literally everything a customer (wait for it …) experiences.
Lots of big businesses and high-level CEO’s wax poetic about why you should care about customer experience, introducing it as some new concept. The truth is customer experience already exists at the core of your brand. Especially for small or medium-sized businesses.
The term is fairly new, but the idea is as old as sliced bread (and the breadmaker who anticipated the needs of his customers).
Our goal is to move past the abstract general definition so you can define your own customer experience.
But, how can you describe the indescribable?
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Use touch points to make CX concrete
Touch points are the first stop in making your customer experience workable. They include every interaction a customer has with your product or business.
Start with the obvious. Take out a piece of paper and write down a list of every touch point between your customers and your business.
I’m big on examples. So let’s breakdown the touch points for a growing SaaS company in the software development space.
Customer experience example: Software development business
I’ll call this example company “Ello.” Ello offers consulting and development services to other businesses looking to create or iterate on their software.
Here’s a sweeping overview of their customer touch points:
You could fork off in a number of directions to address different customer behaviors. Or, dive deeper into individual touch point to create a million more interactions. And, all of these efforts would be totally worth it to fully define your customer experience.
But, it would also be incredibly overwhelming.
Start with the basics and iterate down the line. Either go high level and focus on the entire customer lifecycle (from discovery to repeat customer), skimming the top without getting too buried in the details. Or, pick a specific subset (like the touch points leading up to a purchase) to really dive deep into all the possible interactions.
Specify brand vision
Think of customer experience like a paint-by-numbers kit. If touch points are the outline of the picture, then your brand’s voice, feel, and tone are the colors.
Like touch points, the “feel” of your customer experience should also be written down.
Don’t rely on the fact that you’re a small business with a tight knit team who all inherently know the voice of your brand. That won’t work for growth. And it leaves customer experience floating in the intangible atmosphere once again.
You can’t improve something that you can’t define.
Most likely, a company’s voice will come from its founder. You can see this at play in both enterprise-level businesses and early-stage startups.
At Ello, their founder is a former designer and deeply immersed in the women-in-tech community. She brings her eye for beauty to software development and has found a niche working with other women-led businesses.
Here’s how Ello defines their brand:
“We lead with care, kindness, and empathy to bring beautiful products to life.”
See how this is all starting to come together? Combine this brand vision with each of your touch points to build an extremely well-defined and consistent customer experience throughout every part of your business.
Customer experience analysis
No doubt you’ve heard the truism: You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Let’s keep this tangible train running and go over how to accurately measure your customer experience, as defined above. We’ll use both qualitative and quantitative analysis to create, implement, and track your success.
Qualitative analysis: Focus on customer experience design
Not all analysis needs to be analytical.
Qualitative feedback focuses on emotional, verbal, and subjective responses. It’s not as easy to put into a line graph as quantitative feedback. But these kinds of authentic human observations are the key to success.
The secret is treating qualitative feedback the same way you would treat the quantitative. Use the following framework to bring more context to these usually harder-to-grasp insights.
Use that brand voice from above to build a framework for your customer experience design.
Turn the intangible “feel” of your brand into a guide for actual design. Choose colors and shapes that reflect your company’s vision. Then, align these visual aspects with customer experience design best practices.
Minimize customer effort to maximize customer experience.
Weave these design elements into each customer touch point. Every interaction with your customers should exude your brand’s unique aesthetics.
Get each department on board to really build a customer-centric company.
- Product can make sure new features align with CX’s guidelines.
- Marketing can build an ad strategy that’s consistent with the product design.
- Sales can speak of your design as a unique selling proposition.
And, most importantly, the customer support team can craft emails with the right look and feel. As the team speaking to customers most frequently, it’s imperative that your customer support team align with the customer experience strategy as a whole.
There’s nothing more upsetting than pairing a beautifully designed website or product with an ugly, standardized support machine.
A company-who-shall-not-be-named recently lured me in with very cute Instagram ads and a perky website. I had trouble purchasing my item, though. I searched their website for a way to contact support (already not good). Then, I sent an email regarding my issue.
They replied with an uncharacteristically ugly response. Filled with ticket numbers, lots of bulky text, and no personality whatsoever. It seemed like they turned on a pre-populated message from their helpdesk without a second thought.
They lost a customer that day.
The greatest skill I picked up when running customer experience at a startup was to turn qualitative feedback into trackable analysis.
I used to yell into the void, “Customers don’t like this new feature!” And no one heard me.
So then, I started yelling, “100 customers don’t like this, which is double the amount from last month!” And suddenly, people heard me.
Take the intangible and make it tangible.
Specifically to measure customer experience design efforts, use the inbox, user studies, and customer experience management (CEM) tools.
- Ask your support team to tag incoming feedback with keywords, then build a report to track these keywords overtime.
- Customer support is a reactive arm, focused on resolving customer confusion and issues. So, from a high-level, the lower the amount of emails, the higher the customer satisfaction.
- Create a template to gather feedback.
- Fill out the same template for each different user study.
- Comb through various studies to find trends and pinpoint areas for design improvement.
Customer experience management (CEM) tools:
- CEM products are designed to give you an in-depth view of customer behaviors on your website or software.
- See exactly where customers are clicking and how long they are staying on certain pages to improve CX design.
Quantitative analysis: Focus on customer experience metrics
Lucky for us, the industry has already defined the key customer experience metrics. We’ll show you how to gather data points for those metrics, get customers to respond, then measure the results.
Customer experience professionals use surveys to furnish their metrics. These are the three most common customer experience surveys:
- NPS (Net Promoter Score): Asks the customer’s willingness to “promote” your business, a good predictor of growth.
- CSAT (Customer Satisfaction): Asks how satisfied the customer is with a particular interaction, a good predictor of retention.
- CES (Customer Effort Score): Asks how much effort the customer needed to put in to resolve an issue, a good way to pinpoint specific areas for improvement.
For optimal results, send these surveys out to customers on a regular basis. The product will always be changing, so it’s vital to continually gather your customer’s sentiment with minimal effort.
Marketing software and email platforms make it very easy to automate these correspondences. Most of them have pre-built surveys that you can trigger to send to customers at different points in their lifecycle. And, any inbox worth it’s weight offers a simple CSAT survey that you can add to the bottom of every email.
Once those survey results come pouring in, it’s time to get analytical. Let your inner spreadsheet-freak go wild. (Or, if you’re like me, ask your friend, the spreadsheet-freak, to go wild for you.)
The cool thing about these surveys is that they are all based on a simple number scale. This makes it easy to pull the data into a spreadsheet, find trends, and build charts.
Give yourself time to establish baselines. Especially if you are new to compiling metrics, don’t rush to draw conclusions until you have something realistic to compare it to.
It doesn’t make much sense to compare your NPS score with that of a totally different business. Finding the standard score for similar industry verticals is one way to go. But, comparing survey results to your own historical data is the surest way to set realistic baselines and goals.
This will take time. And, if your company is making some big changes, it may take a while to settle into more “average” looking scores.
Gather at least a month of data before making any conclusions or goals. Compare results from week-to-week, as well as month-to-month, and eventually year-to-year.
Start small. Once you’ve established your current scores for NPS, CSAT, or CEM, set a goal to move it up by one number by the end of the next quarter.
Then, get to work on actively improving it.
Customer experience best practices
Surveys are no good to you if you don’t actually look at the results.
Pick a cadence that works for you, typically weekly or monthly. That time frame should put enough meat on the bone to draw workable insights regarding your customer experience.
Don’t put in all this work only to keep it to yourself.
Throw it in your managers’ and co-workers’ faces as often as they will let you. Or, more effectively, just set up a recurring meeting. (This will also ensure you’re continuously evaluating the results.)
Let the team know you’ll be gathering the latest survey responses prior to each meeting and presenting the results.
Simplify findings as much as possible. Use a graph or chart to show increases or decreases in customer experience metrics by date.
Connect the dots to see how product or company updates affect customer experience.
If NPS goes way down after a new release, take the time to re-evaluate your strategy.
But, if NPS goes way up, celebrate knowing that you’ve successfully analyzed and taken action on the customer experience metrics that matter to your business.
Which leads us to …
Cycle everything back into the customer experience design so you can build a product or service that your customers love.
Like an improv group asking for suggestions, when it comes to bettering your customer experience, all you need to do is ask.
Keep your CX team busy, and your customers happy, with this never-ending loop.
Customer experience wrap up
Bring enormous value to your business with a unique customer experience. Treat it just as seriously as you would product development or sales to really take full advantage of it.
- Take the time to define your ideal customer experience.
Use touch points and a vision statement to knit this experience into every part of your business.
- Apply both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Qualitative feedback helps you focus on emotionally connecting with your customers.
Tangibly execute your customer experience vision through design. Apply it to every part of your product or service. Then, use your inbox, user studies, or CEM tools to track your progress.
Quantitative analysis establishes numerical baselines to measure the success of your customer experience efforts.
Create surveys to gather specific data from your customers. Send those surveys out on a regular basis to keep your findings relevant. Then, pull the data together to identify objective results.
- Look to customer experience best practices to evaluate, present, correlate, and incorporate your findings back into your business.
Stand out from the crowd by not only establishing a clear and consistent customer experience, but also using every resource available to constantly improve it.
It’s no coincidence that today’s most successful companies also have the most succinctly defined customer experience. Customer experience is the secret to business growth. It’s time to let the secret out!
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