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The 7 biggest customer experience challenges & how to overcome them

There’s always more you can do to improve how users experience your product, site, or business—but as a process, this can become frustrating due to various customer experience (CX) challenges your team will face.

Last updated

5 Aug 2022

Some CX obstacles might prevent you from making the most of the benefits that come with delivering a consistent, high-quality customer experience. The good news is that there are ways to overcome these challenges—and delight customers—quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. 

This article gives you key insights into the seven toughest CX challenges you might face as you try to create a successful customer experience—and solutions to overcome them.

Turn customer experience challenges into opportunities

Use Hotjar to collect product experience insights, tackle the challenges that matter most, and create products your users love.

The 7 toughest customer experience challenges (and how to tackle them)

Focusing on your user experience is more important now than ever before. From product managers to marketers to UX designers to customer success managers—everyone involved in CX management is dealing with high customer expectations, intense competition, and more rapid customer interactions across an ever-increasing number of channels.

Improving CX involves meeting customer and company needs. It’s about guiding a team through research, development, and execution to maximize customer delight. This varied, agile, customer-centric workflow makes CX management exciting—and also uniquely challenging.

CX challenges range from:

  • Being aligned around understanding and meeting customer expectations

  • Setting up a consistent customer experience across all channels

  • Gaining buy-in for investing more heavily in existing customer experience initiatives, and more

Thankfully, CX leaders are not the type to shy away from a challenge. In fact, most thrive with a fast-paced, varied roadmap. Their first step in tackling digital customer experience challenges is to understand what’s standing in their way—and we're here to help.

These are the biggest challenges product teams and ecommerce businesses are likely to face when creating, executing, measuring, and improving the customer experience. Tackling each of these will help you improve the effectiveness of your product, website, or business—and how customers experience it.

1. Understanding customers: what they want, what they do, and why they do it

Great CX always starts with the customer. If you don’t understand how customers interact with your business from start to finish, delivering a seamless customer experience becomes a real challenge.

Too often, companies get attached to the product or service they’re building and lose sight of the people they’re building it for.

CX teams need to understand what their customers are doing and how it impacts their business. Without a customer-centric culture, you can't truly listen to or deliver personalized experiences for your customers. As a result, you’re more likely to struggle with retaining customers over the mid- to long-term.

The key to overcoming this challenge is to focus on truly understanding your customers, and use their feedback to deliver better experiences and engage in new ways.

Map out the customer journey

Every aspect of the customer journey feeds into an overall impression of your brand—from the moment a customer discovers your product, to interactions with your sales and support team, to the items sitting in their cart. 

A customer journey map gives you a visual overview of how customers interact with and experience your website, products, or business across multiple touchpoints so you can identify which business aspects support a good customer experience—and which touchpoints need improvements.

#A CJM example from the Hotjar team that highlights happy moments and pain points in the journey
A CJM example from the Hotjar team that highlights happy moments and pain points in the journey

Listen to your customers

Great CX is all about communication with your customers. You can’t create a great customer experience without empathy. 

Gathering voice-of-the-customer (VOC) feedback and sharing it throughout the company will help everyone understand pain points, validate ideas, and create a better experience:

  • Product teams will design with customers in mind

  • Marketing will produce messages more aligned with customer drives

  • Customer service and success teams will better relate to customer struggles and find creative solutions

Pro tip: make sure you hear what the customer says, respond to it, then pose follow-up questions that move the relationship forward.

For example, if you want to see how people use your product and what pain points it solves for them, you can send out a survey or set up user interviews and get the insights you need. Start by asking questions like:

  • Can you describe how you would use the product to do [task]?

  • Walk me through [task]—how would you do it?

  • How does this problem impact you?

  • How did you solve that issue?

  • What’s the hardest or most frustrating part about using the product?

  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

And include follow-up questions like:

  • You mentioned [X], can you tell me more about this?

  • That’s interesting. Could you elaborate on that or give me an example?

  • What do you mean by [X]?

Monitor communication channels

Strong communication leads to improved customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, but there are often challenges with communication at both the customer and company levels.

Placing customer response mechanisms in every channel where customer interaction is happening (webpages, email, text, social media, etc.) as part of an omnichannel strategy is an effective response to this challenge. 

This is helpful in other ways, as well; some channels—webpages and social media, in particular—offer data on customer behavior, which CX teams can study to predict how to best manage the customer journey.

Constantly monitor all communication channels to ensure well-balanced response rates and consistent, quality feedback from your potential and existing customers.

Pro tip: draw feedback at every stage of the customer journey, from pre- to post-purchase. 

You can use Hotjar to leverage product experience (PX) insights and identify issues within your customer experience, at every point in the customer journey:

These quick survey examples are a simple, non-intrusive way to get useful feedback to help boost sales

These quick survey examples are a simple, non-intrusive way to get useful feedback to help boost sales

2. Identifying and prioritizing CX problems and opportunities

Think of the basics of a CX strategy: 

  1. Understand customer needs 

  2. Measure the right metrics

  3. Identify the root cause of challenges and opportunities to improve

  4. Most importantly, take action

The challenge here lies in knowing what (and when) to prioritize on the journey to create a better customer experience. CX leaders can find themselves pulled between different tasks and stakeholders with varied—and often competing—priorities. So how do you know which opportunities to act on first, and which are worth investing your time and resources in?

To overcome it, start by identifying and quantifying the impact of CX obstacles and opportunities. Then, prioritize them using an objective, rather than subjective, approach. 

Focus on user data

Improving the customer experience requires a structured CX strategy designed to create and maintain a memorable customer experience. This becomes a problem when there's not enough customer data to work with, or when the data doesn't offer meaningful insights. It can cause CX efforts to miss the mark and leave problems unchecked.

Remove internal opinions from business decisions, and bring in customer-centric, unbiased data about user needs. 

Here’s an example of how you can use Hotjar to get clear insights on what matters to your users, discover issues, and prioritize fixes: 

#The Hotjar Feedback widget in action
The Hotjar Feedback widget in action

Assess the value of each task

Analyze customer behavior data across touchpoints and over time to uncover meaningful customer segments and quantify their effect on your business goals. Then, choose high-impact ideas and measure their timeline and economic impact. This will help you prioritize initiatives with clear customer and operational benefits.

You can even use a classic value vs effort matrix or Cost-Of-Delay (CoD) analysis to determine which tasks will give you the most return, and only focus on the high-value ones. 

Measure the impact of customer behavior on KPIs

Step back and ask yourself how each CX task will impact KPIs like user satisfaction, new client acquisition, reach, revenue, and retention. 

To do this, make sure every CX project has a metrics hypothesis associated with it before you start—one that factors in experience, operational, and financial success.

3. Using the right technology, for the right purpose

The CX challenges addressed so far depend on technologies designed specifically to solve a particular issue or overcome a distinct obstacle;in Hotjar’s instance, our tools focus on what will help customers achieve their goals and eradicate pain points—their success is ours. 

If the right technologies aren't in place, you'll have to rely on manual analyses or assumptions—and it might take two weeks to investigate something that could've been done in two hours.

Getting ahead of the challenges requires a firm commitment throughout the company to:

  • Invest in the proper tools to empower and enhance CX: with any changes and enhancements to the product or service, it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse of the customer experience. Behavior analytics and product experience insights tools like Hotjar never have a shortage of insights for improving CX: surveys, deep dives into session recordings, and conversations with key customers are great ways to fuel continuous improvement.

  • Consolidate customer data to create that unified view: tracking customer behavior through a single, centralized tool like Hotjar lets you Observe and Ask your customers for feedback. This allows for a more unified view of the customer experience, and a more accurate foundation for journey mapping.

  • Vet and implement CX tools carefully, testing frequently: you can’t just set it and forget it. If the basics aren’t in place, technology can distract and actually move teams farther away from understanding customer emotions, motivations, and expectations. Make sure to research, vet, and test CX tools, especially when it comes to using technology to allow customers to self-solve issues.

How to improve conversions without compromising a great user experience

When SEO and Customer Behavior Analyst Rachel Stephens decided to improve the customer experience at Totally Promotional, she knew that more accurate user data would help. 

Rachel needed a tool that would help her analyze on-site user behavior. She understood that small details can have a huge impact on ecommerce conversions—especially when they affect ease of use. And she knew that seeing exactly how users were interacting with the site would help her improve the user experience. The solution came in the form of Hotjar Heatmaps.

Product experience insights from Hotjar gave Rachel all the information she needed to prove what the problem was, and to develop a strategy to fix design and conversion issues:

“I was excited to share the results with our team and say, ‘Hey, these aren’t guesses. This is how users are really responding to our website.’”

Using Hotjar has made her day-to-day much easier, by helping take the guesswork out of whether a design change will improve conversions. Now, Rachel can use heatmaps, recorded user sessions, and other user behavior insights to make strategic site improvements and meaningful changes.

Rachel used Hotjar’s Session Recording tool to show designers that users did not understand a step—and what to do about it

Rachel used Hotjar’s Session Recording tool to show designers that users did not understand a step—and what to do about it

4. Lack of employee knowledge and training

Customer centricity begins with your internal customers—your team. For brands that don’t have a clear picture of both customer and employee experience data, you risk poor outcomes for everyone involved in the process.

It’s easy to overlook employee engagement and try to deploy CX outside of a holistic organizational approach. But your people deliver the customer experience, so you need to look at how to ensure everyone is brought along on the CX journey, and understand the role they play in the customers’ experience.

When we surveyed 2,000 CX professionals about their companies' CX strategies, lack of employee knowledge and training was highlighted as the biggest obstacle that keeps companies from reaching their CX goals. Even those who reported no obstacles still prioritized improving employee knowledge and training.

#Lack of employee knowledge and training is the #1 obstacle keeping companies from achieving their CX goals
Lack of employee knowledge and training is the

Great CX starts with your team—treat them right, and they’ll go the distance for your customers. Here’s how:

Develop a CX culture and help everyone see their role through the customer’s lens

A customer-centric culture is one that puts not just its customers, but all of its people first.  Being able to connect key metrics like Net Promoter ScoreŸ (NPS) and overall customer satisfaction to the daily work that people do helps teams understand why they come to work every day. It also allows employees to develop user empathy and better understand the impact of their individual roles.

Gather information and tailor your training 

Use your team’s expertise, inspire your leadership team, and give them the tools they need to inspire their people. Together, you can all rally around a powerful mission: a successful experience for every customer. 

Give employees direct feedback so they understand how to improve, and empower them to find creative solutions to customers’ problems. Create education and training sessions to familiarize your team with your CX strategy, and get their input.

5. Breaking down organizational silos

As you begin to better understand the customers’ varied interactions with your brand or product, and their needs and wants, it will start to shake the foundation of your organization—the way you work, and how you make decisions, collaborate, use data, and build products and services.

Companies that embrace customer-centricity need to transform their structures to reflect it. This includes breaking down silos, which is still a major challenge in CX management.

Silos don't just inhibit communication—they can distort the organization's view of the customer. They lead to inconsistent or competing objectives, marketing, service, and measurement. 

Organizations that aren’t internally aligned around understanding customers and improving outcomes risk creating inconsistent brand experiences throughout the customer journey. All too often, it’s the customer who has to stitch together the disconnects in their experience.

See it in action: when organizational silos get in the way of the customer experience.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example where every team has a different idea of what a good customer experience is: 

  • Customer success representatives focus on NPS

  • Product development is all about how quickly the team resolves issues 

  • The customer support contact center bases good CX on their on-hold time or average handle time

On their own, each department’s effort is impactful in part. However, none of them are measuring the impact of their particular resolution, or verifying whether they truly delivered a customer experience that encourages retention and repeat purchases. 

Prioritizing the wrong KPIs can also harm the customer experience, and hurt the company’s revenue. With the teams focusing on KPIs like speed and NPS—instead of fully resolving an issue—each department’s efforts could also potentially lead to a dissatisfying customer experience.

The key to overcoming this challenge involves a shared vision for the customer experience. It’s about bringing all groups within an organization together with a focus on making each experience more effortless for customers.

Silos need to be addressed from board level downwards, with equal accountability and collaboration between the heads of product, operations, marketing, and service.

Build cross-functional teams 

Great CX means simple, effective, and enjoyable interactions with your customers wherever they are on their journey. However, traditional corporate structures can make it harder to enforce more comprehensive CX strategies.

When product teams don’t connect with other teams and departments, they can end up working in a silo, forgetting you are part of a diverse company working towards the same business and product goals.

This forges a deep chasm between customer-facing teams in your organization, and the teams who could provide remedies to the issues customers may face.

Some methods of evangelizing cross-functional CX management are to:

  • Routinely review and discuss the customer journey

  • Share research and insights about customers

  • Invite people from other departments into the user research process

  • Circulate customer testimonials and praise to help keep the actual people top of mind

Creating a shared understanding among the team on how users experience your product will help the whole team prioritize brilliantly.

Building cross-functional teams also means you're more likely to avoid project management challenges like miscommunication, unnecessary product renditions, and workforce conflicts. When product teams fully realize the support available from other teams, you can collectively work towards goals faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Pro tip: build a strong product narrative and use PX insights tools like Hotjar to convince stakeholders when you need support or additional product team resources. Here’s how to create a product narrative to captivate your users and persuade your stakeholders.

Deploy CX inside of a holistic organizational approach

When different departments have complete ownership over various stages of the customer journey, the result is a disjointed and inconsistent customer experience.

Step back and revisit your customer journey. How much do you know about your customer’s experience at each touchpoint, or about your colleagues’ vision for each stage? Where does each department intersect? 

Creating a brilliant CX for your customers is like a puzzle where every employee potentially holds a piece. Connect your teams by conducting brainstorming meetings with representatives from different departments, and encourage different employees to routinely take the customer journey and provide feedback.

Shifting from a standard department-centric model to a more holistic organizational approach lets you work with other members of your organization to create seamless transitions for your customers, instead of abrupt hand-offs.

Consolidate customer data

CX is an enterprise-wide commitment, but often the relevant customer feedback doesn’t make it to the people who need it.

If departments like sales, marketing, and support keep separate customer databases, this can create considerable discontinuity to the customer experience. Each of these departments could be hosting only a portion of the complete portrait of the customer, leading to incorrect assumptions and assessments of their needs and priorities.

Having a strong CX strategy works on closing the customer feedback loop, so the insights it produces are available to every employee and department that can and should contribute.

Pro tip: start listening and keep evolving your customer experience.

How much and how often you evolve depends on your company, your market, and your culture. And that’s where your ability to listen to customers and prioritize their needs plays a crucial role. 

To know what to change, focus on metrics such as Net Promoter ScoreÂź, look at customer pain points, and find answers to questions like:

  • Why are customers frustrated?

  • Why are they refusing to recommend certain companies (including yours) to their friends?

  • What would win them over?

You can do it through different methods—sending out a survey, conducting phone interviews, even meeting up with your customers in person.

An example of a closed-ended survey question that leads into an open-ended one, for more context

6. Getting leadership/exec team buy-in

Say you’ve already successfully launched a customer experience roadmap but are still working to put the right people, systems, practices, and technology in place. Nothing gets the ball rolling like leadership buy-in.

Remember the 2,000 CX professionals we surveyed? We found that the companies with the most mature customer experience management had the strongest buy-in company-wide—it starts with leadership, and trickles down through the rest of the team.

How to overcome this challenge: customer experience starts with a strong customer-centric culture, and that tone is set from the top. Identify the people, process, and technology or infrastructure blockers. Then, prioritize your roadmap so it resonates with users and aligns with business goals.

Articulate business cases with clear, shared objectives

Forget one-size-fits-all mission statements. Instead, focus on goals that those particular stakeholders can get behind. Set clear, shared objectives that speak to your team, and adapt them when product or organizational situations change.

Gather user insights to bring your business case to life. You can spot patterns or discover new opportunities by connecting data found in Hotjar to tools like Google Sheets, Airtable, or Excel. Use the data to create eye-catching and easy-to-understand visuals like charts, graphs, and maps that impress your most critical stakeholders

When stakeholders can see when users have a negative experience in the product, it helps secure buy-in for the product opportunity.

Pro tip: start working on what matters with Hotjar.

Hotjar’s PX insights tools help you empathize with your customers, so you can understand and better communicate the impact of your work:

  • Use Hotjar's Feedback widget to get instant feedback on your product updates, then pair customer feedback with Session Recordings to connect the dots between what's happening, and why it happens

  • Use Heatmaps and Surveys to continuously gather user behavior data and PX insights that help you identify opportunities for improvement, and decide which ideas and initiatives to prioritize

#Use Hotjar Session Recordings to determine where your users are getting stuck

Hotjar Recordings show you how users really experience the customer journey on different devices

7. Quantifying CX return on investment (CX ROI) 

Measuring quantitative benefits or returns is the toughest challenge of tracking CX—and the reason most CX practitioners avoid ROI calculation. 

However, the ability to quantify the impact of CX efforts with hard metrics is an essential part of a successful customer experience: how can you build, measure, and regularly optimize your customer experience efforts if you don’t know the return on your CX investments? 

For it to be meaningfully implemented, a strong CX strategy requires considerable investment. That means the C-suite needs to have a firm view of the ROI for customer experience. Without it, CX leaders can face hurdles in budget approval.

To overcome this challenge, use a journey-based approach to measure and analyze CX and track quantifiable CX metrics to measure customer experience over time.

Select metrics that CX affects most heavily

All the time and effort spent in designing a modern, responsive customer experience can go to waste if you can't articulate in numbers the value it will bring to your organization.

To put CX initiatives on a level-footing with other business programs, it isn’t enough to simply provide the soft benefits. You need a quantitative assessment to make a strong business case and obtain approval for continued investment.

Track the business metrics most impacted by customer experience. These will often include:

  • Revenue 

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

  • Up-sells and cross-sells

  • Retention rate

  • Churn rate

  • Cost-to-Serve 

Monitor and detect changes in behavior, metrics, and KPIs

To assess the success of your CX efforts, you need to monitor changes that impact your business.

By tracking changes in behavior, metrics, and KPIs, you can discover how your customer interacts with your business, how this behavior changes based on their customer experience, and how your business metrics are ultimately impacted because of this changed behavior.

For example, let’s say you’re testing a new automated messaging feature to determine whether to roll it out to all customers. When it comes to metrics, the best way to measure customer satisfaction with the new feature is to track NPS in the context of specific customer journeys. 

You can use Hotjar to set up an NPS survey and measure and compare the Net Promoter Scores¼ of customers whose journeys included the new messaging system with those that didn’t.

#An example of a Hotjar on-page Survey that asks users how likely they are to recommend you on an NPS scale from 0 to 10
An example of a Hotjar on-page Survey that asks users how likely they are to recommend you on an NPS scale from 0 to 10

You might find that the NPS of those customers who participated in the test of the new messaging system increased, while the NPS of customers who used the existing process decreased. 

Heatmaps and Session Recordings will also show you how your users are using the new feature, and if there are things you need to improve before you decide on rolling it out.

The results of a journey-based analysis provide your team with a strong case to recommend a full rollout of the new automation feature to your entire customer base. 

Measure and track customer experience ROI over time

Returns and investments can change over time. Take a long-term view and keep measuring customer experience ROI over time to ensure that benefits and investments are developing in line with expectations. This will help you adjust your customer experience roadmap as needed.

Overcome CX challenges by letting customer experience insights lead the way

As customer expectations change, so do management tools and best practices. Successful CX management requires persistent and continuous improvement.

Wherever you are on your customer experience management journey, you’re probably going to find yourself confronted by one of these challenges—or even by several at once. By tackling core issues with alignment and communication, you’ll empower your company to pull together and develop a CX culture that’ll allow you to tackle roadblocks with agility.

Turn customer experience challenges into opportunities

Use Hotjar to collect product experience insights, tackle the challenges that matter most, and create products your users love.

FAQs about customer experience challenges