Improving the Customer Experience: Where to Start
by Melanie, on 20 Oct 2020
If you have at least one customer, they've had an experience dealing with your company. So, you have a customer experience, even if your team hasn't put much thought into – or resources behind – making it anything specific. And, while this might sound like an airy-fairy marketing concept, it isn't.
Even if you're already convinced that working on your company's CX is a critical initiative, it's important to remember why it's so important and the tangible value it can deliver so that you stay motivated and do it well.
Let's look at some important customer experience (CX) statistics that should sway even our most skeptical readers.
- 84% of companies that work to improve their CX report an increase in revenue (source)
- Client-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies not focused on their customer (source)
- Experience-driven businesses report almost 2x higher YoY growth in customer retention, repeat purchase rates, average order values, and customer lifetime value (source)
- Companies that are considered CX leaders generate 3x greater returns than CX laggards, as measured by their stock performance (source)
- 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs (source)
Whenever I hear someone wanting to start a new strategic initiative and wondering where and how to begin, I steer them toward a classic gap analysis:
- Assess where you are now.
- Set a clear vision for where you want to be.
- Identify the steps to get there.
- Prioritize those actions into short-term vs. long-term and high-priority vs. low-priority tasks.
- Delegate and execute.
Improving the experience that your company delivers to its customers can be managed the same way, although some of the steps may require a more nuanced approach, so let's delve in deeper.
1 / Assess Where You Are Now
Pinpointing where you are now is one of the most crucial steps to improving your customer experience, so this section is the primary focus of our post. There are so many ways to do this! Pick a few and do them well. Here are some suggestions:
Survey your current, previous, and potential customers. Here are some questions that you might want to include:
- Does the product/service help you achieve your goals?
- Which of the following words would you use to describe our product? (Then supply a short list of adjectives)
- What would you improve if you could?
- What can our employees do better?
- Why did you choose our product/service rather than our competitors'?
Conduct interviews with current, previous, and potential customers. Also, conduct internal interviews with the people who interact with your customers. While some of this input might overlap with questions on a survey, actually having a conversation with people allows you to add color and rich, qualitative information to your analysis.
Don't script these interviews too carefully. The point isn't to just run a survey over the phone. Ask how the person felt while working with your company, service, or product. How did they feel about switching to you?
Tip for surveys and interviews: don't structure them to deliver the answers you want to hear. Be aware of your biases and listen with an open mind. Do your best not to get defensive! The feedback you receive is gold for your company.
OutsourceD Market Research
Hire a third party to conduct market research that isn't specific to your company or brand. Since the onset of COVID, many companies have cut this budget and brought the capability in-house (source) but the independent viewpoint is certainly worth the investment, if you can afford it.
Read the Latest Research
One of the best resources you can access to learn more about your customers' expectations is what is trending and changing in the consumer market and what is happening in other forward-thinking B2B industries.
We recommend that you closely follow 3-5 brands that you consider "aspirational" in terms of the customer experience they deliver – preferably in industry sectors other than your own. Their content, look and feel, and customer interactions can provide inspiration for your own CX.
As the world, and specifically your customer's world, has shifted so fundamentally during 2020, invest time in staying on top of trends and stats that provide insight into the changing business environment and customer needs. The more nimbly you can adjust, the better positioned you will be to wow your customers.
Analyze Your Data
Review your marketing, sales, and service analytics and data. After all, this is one of the main reasons why you collect it! Review website stats, look through sales pipeline data, and service/success reports. Word of caution: stay focused; this activity can become a major distraction if you're not careful!
Here are 11 stats that you may want to consider analyzing (in no particular order):
1. Visitor Intent
Why are people coming to your website? Survey visitors when they come to your website to find out why they are visiting.
2. Social Listening
What are people saying about you online? Use technology to capture mentions of your brand and track the corresponding sentiment (how many posts sounded positive, neutral, or negative).
3. Customer Acquisition Cost
How much does it cost you to land a new customer? See also referral rates, below, since referrals can be one of the most cost-effective ways to acquire new customers.
How much has your company made in a given time period? Higher revenue usually signals a better customer experience, though it's impossible to completely determine cause and effect. Keep in mind, this is part art, part science.
5. Customer Retention
How many customers have made repeat purchases?
6. Customer Lifetime Value
How much is a customer worth to your business over their whole lifetime? This one can be tricky for newer businesses since you won't have seen a whole lifecycle yet. Nevertheless, you can still make an educated guess and fine tune your calculations as you gain more data.
7. Churn Rate
How many companies stopped doing business with you over a particular time period?
8. Net Promoter Score
NPS has become one of the go-to metrics for tracking customer experience. You will have seen surveys asking how likely you are to recommend a product or company to a friend or colleague on a scale of 1-10. Here is a handy article on NPS best practices and ideas for creative ways you can use your NPS score.
9. Customer Effort Score
There are a variety of metrics that track service quality and whether a customer's issue was resolved to their satisfaction. CES is one that captures feedback straight from the customer on how much effort they had to invest to get their issue resolved.
10. Referral Rate
How often do your customers refer other companies, friends, and colleagues to your business?
11. Employee Morale
“If the employees come first, then they’re happy. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders.” – Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines
If you're missing some of this data, add capturing it to your list of action items in Step 3.
Audit Documentation & Processes for CX Strategy
Have you created customer personas and journey maps? How frequently do you refer back to them?
Do other team members that interact with your customers also make use of them?
Do you have a CX vision? Do your employees know it and support it?
2 / Setting Your CX Vision
This is your opportunity to articulate how you want customers to experience your company.
"A customer experience vision is an aspirational statement on how your organization has chosen to service its customers. It is a standard that employees should be able to strive for, and a banner that your company can look to when making decisions that will affect its customers." – Qualtrics
Remember to also decide who you don't want to serve. You can't be all things to all people. To deliver a great experience to your ideal target customers, it probably means delivering a less-than-ideal experience to your less-than-ideal customers.
3 / Identify Steps to Get There
Based on where you assess your CX to be today and where you want it to be in the future, make a detailed list of the things that will get you closer to your vision. Feel free to brainstorm and then cull the list later.
Some things will need to be done in a particular order, while others can be accomplished in parallel. A lot will depend on the resources at your disposal.
4 / Prioritize Action Items
Now that you've identified the things you can do to improve the customer experience in the direction of your vision, it's time to decide what is realistic.
If you're struggling to get internal buy-in, start with the low hanging fruit. Maybe that's as simple as capturing some additional CX metrics to strengthen your case for action or tweaking something small in the service process.
Categorize your action items as short-term, mid-term, or long-term. Look for things on the short-term list that are easy to implement and that are most impactful at a tactical level.
5 / Delegate & Execute
Hopefully you have colleagues who support the CX initiative that you can ask to own some of the action items. If your resources are limited, perhaps you can bring in a consultant to help you deliver the vision faster.
The key here is that, while you can spend a lot of time formulating a strategy, you and your team must follow through on action items and be accountable to each other for making things happen.
Over the past decade, CX has become one of the cornerstones of successful businesses, and I believe that COVID has further increased its importance.
As we deal with pandemic fatigue and become remote working warriors, we all deserve to have things made as simple, convenient, and delightful as possible. Even if it's for no other reason, please work to improve your CX so that you're doing what you can to make life a little bit easier for others.
And finally, be honest with yourself about how well your company does CX now. Decide where you want it to be and what you have to do to get it there. Then, make it happen.