Consumers have more control than ever before. Not only are myriad options available to consumers when it comes to just about anything they need to purchase, from cosmetics to cars to selecting the right doctor, but the information surrounding each choice is abounding.
As marketers and brand evangelists, one of the challenges we’ve long faced is finding ways to cut through the clutter - a way to be heard in the boisterous battlefield of brands taking place across screens everywhere.
Lucky for us marketers, even in a world where consumers feel like they have options and control, we have the ability to help steer those options and influence that control. We can do this by latching onto, understanding, and managing the “customer experience” (CX). According to Forrester, CX is defined, at its most simple and basic form, as how customers perceive each of their interactions with your company (or brand).
Let’s stop and think about that for just a second because Customer Experience is HOT right now. And when something is hot, there are usually going to be winners and losers. Which side do you want to be on?
Winning in CX means you are privy to every interaction someone has with your brand (what that interaction is and how the customer feels about it) and you’re working on ways to enhance each of those interactions for each individual, essentially managing the experience across all channels, systems and platforms. Pretty straightforward but, admittedly, not terribly easy to accomplish - and that’s why there are a number of companies leading in CX while others are lagging.
If you’re on the losing end, then this is for you and I’m bringing some optimism. We’re going to help you start to narrow that gap and, at the very least, start nipping at your competitors heels.
Getting Started With CX
CX can start and end in many different places. If you’re looking around and it feels like the rest of the world is moving fast on this phenomenon, then it’s time to get started yourself. Here are two things we can do to make sure no one is gaining too much ground before we’ve even put pen to paper.
1. Organizational Alignment
So cheesy and cliche, I know!!
Before we can do anything to enhance our customers’ experiences and interactions with our brand, we have to realize that from a team standpoint - and from an organizational standpoint - we are going to need to make adjustments. A different way of thinking and working has to be given the opportunity to encroach on the values and processes we have in place today. This is not saying it’s time to displace all we know and all we’ve done, but rather to complement it with a purely customer-focused lens and not necessarily a profit/revenue/ROI lens yet.
Getting a strong handle on change management is an imperative fundamental step in CX. Internal alignment will set you confidently on a path toward putting the customer first and managing their experiences. The best way to do this is to put together a core CX team - a group of stakeholders from various groups and disciplines that will have a portion of their role focused on rallying the organization behind improving the Customer Experience to yield stronger business results.
Though the size and composition of this team will vary by organization, you’ll want to consider having, at minimum, a member of the Senior Leadership Team (even if as an executive sponsor), someone who represents the voice of your customers, a systems architect, a marketing team representative, a business strategist, an analytics/measurement guru, a content person, a UX role, and a customer service/support player. With this core, figuring out which way to build your CX team out should be easier.
Remember, this team’s mission is not to change everything in a day, but rather to start a movement toward gaining understanding and buy-in throughout the company about how improving CX will impact business (You know, the whole “It’s not a sprint…” thing).
Together, this team should be able to map out all of the systems and groups - be them integrated, orchestrated, or in silos - that pertain to how a customer discovers, engages with, purchases from, remains loyal to, and is serviced by your brand. And that is where you start.
Once your CX team is formed, off, and running, you want to make sure you’re doing work that isn’t re-working what others are doing. The goal of organizational alignment is to eliminate strategies that exist in silos. This is all part of the bigger picture and should be extrapolated to CX. With this mindset, we’re no longer treating our customers in a silo (e.g. treating them differently by channel but with no context of how they interact in other channels).
Some potential activities this group can also take on:
Develop a customer experience statement or vision (something the company can easily remember and rally behind)
Creating and/or enriching user personas
Auditing/understanding (and potentially redefining) channel strategy
Creating internal advocacy and value proposition for CX
Defining problem statements; identifying areas of friction in the customer purchase funnel
2. Start With The Basics
OK...close your eyes (after you read this sentence), start breathing in and out real deep, and shake your hands at the wrist for about 15 seconds (GO!).
Fresh mindset? Great, now let’s talk. First, ask yourself this question:
“Do I understand what all of the interaction points are that my audience has with my brand before, during, and after a sale/transaction?”
If yes, excellent, and we should probably talk about optimizing each of those at an individual level. (Really, if you’re here, if you have all of your customer touchpoints mapped out, if you know a ton about all of your different customers, then let’s talk about personalizing each individual touch in all of your channels.)
If you don’t have the full picture of your customers’ journeys yet (the more likely answer...you’re not alone), then starting with journey mapping could be the answer for your newly formed CX team. A journey map is a series of illustrations and diagrams that portray in detail each stage a customer goes through when interacting with your brand on all channels, traditional and digital (including all stages of the purchase funnel: awareness, discovery, engagement, purchase, loyalty, customer support).
Creating a journey map gives us the opportunity to understand where there are obstacles, hindrances, or friction that prevent customers, or certain subsets of customers, from moving further down the funnel.
To learn more about journey mapping, download our whitepaper, The No-Fail Guide to Digital Customer Experience Investment.
As you embark on this exercise, remember, your customer journey map is not the ultimate solution, it is a stepping stone and a huge milestone toward improving CX. Journey Maps are the artifact that tell us where the ultimate solutions will need to be implemented.
I’ll stop here because if you aren’t already doing these things, your competitors are. Go close that gap!