Last updated Mar 10 2021
Analyzing and measuring the customer experience
Whether your company is large or small, gaining a competitive advantage starts with measuring your customers’ experience and analyzing the results, so you can use the insight to improve your CX strategy. Let’s take a look at what you need to get started.
3 things you need to get started
To measure and analyze the customer experience, you need three things in place. You need to have:
1. Identify your ideal customers
Ideal customers are those who would get the most value from your products or services if given the opportunity to buy them—and also the ones who, if offered an amazing experience, will keep coming back again. They’re the backbone of your customer base.
If you’re not entirely sure who those customers are, don’t worry: you can find them by launching a simple on-page survey that asks your website visitors who they are, what they do, and how they use your products or services. You can then narrow your focus on the customers who purchase at the highest frequency, have done so recently, and spend the most money.
Once you’ve got some general idea of who your ideal customers are, you can start digging deeper and build the user personas that will guide you through the rest of the steps.
2. Identify key customer touchpoints
There’s nothing wrong with collecting random, unstructured feedback from your customers—feedback is feedback, after all—but if you’re trying to fix and improve things, you’ll need to be laser-focused. There are certain touchpoints that demand special attention (even if your customers don’t pinpoint them as problem spots):
- Point-of-sale/immediately following purchase
- New customer onboarding
- Lost deals
- Customer renewals
- Customer cancellations
- First-time website visits
- Product returns
- Closed support tickets (20 mins after)
3. Collect customer feedback and insights
There are several ways you can go about collecting feedback and insights from your customer—let’s show you six:
Run customer experience surveys
Once you’ve identified the main checkpoints you want to investigate, you can set up customer experience surveys there. Common CX surveys include:
- Net Promoter Score® (NPS): NPS measures the likelihood that customers will recommend you to friends or colleagues, and it’s an excellent predictor of future growth.
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): CSAT questions are used to determine whether a customer is satisfied with a specific element of their experience (e.g., the support they received).
- Customer Effort Score (CES): CES evaluates the effort required for a customer to achieve a goal (e.g., fix a problem, place an order).
- Milestone surveys: companies send out these surveys at key touch-points throughout the customer lifecycle (e.g., 2 weeks after the initial purchase, or immediately following the completion of onboarding).
Pro tip: start small. When setting up surveys for the first time, choose a single checkpoint instead of going all in and setting up surveys everywhere. This will help you contextualize the feedback first; later on, the more surveys you run, the better you’ll become at gathering data. You can read more about creating and launching a CX survey in a separate chapter of this guide.
Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
Conduct unscripted interviews
Interviews are more labor-intensive than setting up an on-page survey on your website, but there are some powerful insights to be gained by sitting down with some of your ideal customers and hearing them tell their unique stories: not only will you gain greater empathy for them—you’re almost guaranteed to stumble across needs, drivers, and barriers to purchase you never knew existed.
The expert's corner
Adele Revella, Founder and CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute, believes that a great customer interview begins with a single question:
“What happened the day you first discovered you needed to solve this kind of problem or achieve this kind of goal?”
You’re not asking about the day they chose to buy your product: you want them to talk about the day they discovered a compelling need to spend money and solve a problem or achieve a goal.
Follow that thread, asking for more detail when appropriate, and you’ll discover things about their experience you typically won’t learn from a survey. What makes interviews so effective is that they might hit upon things that the customers weren’t consciously aware of themselves.
Pro tip: invite your CEO and other execs to sit in on the interviews (or, at least, listen to recordings). That way they’ll come to better empathize with the customers, and they’ll have a stronger appreciation for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Explore your web analytics data
Web analytics is the collection, reporting, measurement, and analysis of website data. It enables you to view aggregate website activity and even map out your entire website ecosystem.
Web analytics is not about collecting feedback but will give you plenty of contextual insight. By observing page views, drop-off rates, traffic patterns, and traffic sources in Google Analytics (or any other analytics software), you’ll be able to figure out which customer stories represent larger patterns. For example, if one user reports struggling when ordering a specific product, you can look at that order page and see how many others dropped off as well.
Hire mystery shoppers (if you have a physical store)
In addition to an online presence, you might have a brick-and-mortar store: if that’s the case, consider hiring mystery shoppers to experience the customer journey and report back. They’ll help you determine whether your staff is helpful, your products are easy to find, and if the whole process is effortless. If you discover an issue, you can redesign processes and train your staff accordingly.
Track user sentiment (for larger companies)
Whether you have tens or hundreds of social media followers, you can use sentiment analysis to gauge how customers view your brand. At its most advanced, sentiment analysis (also known as ‘opinion mining’) uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to classify public sentiment as positive, neutral, or negative; at its most basic, it’s about keeping a spreadsheet record of the comments you receive. Later, you will crunch the numbers and figure out which products and processes are impacting your customer experience.
How to analyze customer experience
Once all the data points are in your hand, it’s important to address both the individual complaint (the micro-level) and the company processes, policies, product issues, and/or cultural mindset that created the problem in the first place (the macro-level).
Address the micro-level issues
Have a supervisor or manager reach out to the customer who made the complaint. Let them share their story and vent if they need to, then work to make things right wherever possible:
- If the issue stems from a failure on the part of an employee, a manager can commit to educating them on the proper approach.
- If the issue stems from a company policy, the manager can offer to explain the rationale behind the policy (without defending it), assuming the customer seems receptive. And while the manager should never commit to changing the policy on the spot, they can commit to discussing it with the policymakers to explore other alternatives.
Address the macro-level issues
Take a look at the big picture and identify where, in the customer journey, the largest complaints occur from your ideal customers. Remember, not all feedback is created equal, and you don’t want to bend over backward trying to please users who will never become paying customers.
To ensure your improvement projects have the highest impact, consider the following two factors:
- How common is the experience? Does it affect 4% or of your users? Or 40%?
- How serious is the issue? Does it keep people from converting? Or is it a minor annoyance?
Once you’ve identified the most common, serious problems, you can address them by changing company policies, training staff, redesigning your website, making changes and running usability testing sessions, and rethinking your processes in ways that optimize the customer experience.
Pro tip: when it comes to converting ideal prospects, we suggest you gather feedback from visitors who almost failed to convert—they’ll help you figure out what you need to do to win over the ones who would make great customers, but need more convincing.
Study the trends
A real commitment to customer experience means taking regular measurements at those crucial checkpoints identified above.
Whether you want to study and discuss the trends weekly or monthly is up to you, but regular customer experience analysis is vital because it tells you whether your efforts are paying off. If you notice a downward trend, you’ve got to look deeper and identify the root cause.
5 customer experience metrics to track
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS measures customer engagement by asking how likely customers are to recommend your company to colleagues and friends.
Why track it? Tracking your NPS is important because, as a predictor of company growth, this metric can help you observe trends and evaluate the impact of your efforts, so you can double down on what works and fix what seems to be causing problems.
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): CSAT typically uses a binary scale (Yes/No, Thumbs up/Thumbs down) or a 5- to 7-point scale (1: very difficult and 7: very easy) to ask customers whether they’re satisfied with their experience.
Why track it? A sudden drop in CSAT scores likely means you’ve got a problem that needs immediate attention.
- Customer Effort Score (CES): CES tells you how much effort your customers need to make in order to achieve a goal or solve a problem.
Why track it? A fluctuation in CES means your customers are struggling to get their needs met. It’s important to quickly identify the issue (e.g., a website glitch, an ineffective policy, a product flaw) and fix it ASAP.
- Response Time: Response time is the amount of time it takes for a customer to receive a response to a request for help.
Why track it? It’s easy to fixate on revenue as you watch your numbers grow, but as your company scales, you’ll need to scale your support team as well—otherwise, you’ll risk losing a healthy portion of your gains. When you notice that customer response time is on the rise, it’s usually time to hire more Customer Support staff or look into internal processes that might need re-optimizing.
- Sentiment: sentiment analysis uses machine learning to determine how people feel about your brand and your products based on what they post on social media. It only really works for larger brands with thousands of social media mentions per day, so if you’re not there yet... keep it in mind for the future!
Why track it? Companies live and die by their reputations. Struggling brands can rise from the ashes to achieve greatness, but your best bet is to address complaints before they come to define your brand.
Use customer feedback to improve CX
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