Last updated Jan 14 2020
How to build and improve your CX strategy
Building a great customer experience and continuously improving it requires company-wide commitment—and that can’t happen with just a handful of meetings. You’ll need a comprehensive plan that gets everyone on the same page, which is what a customer experience strategy is all about.
What is a customer experience strategy?
A customer experience (CX) strategy is the set of plans, actions, and guidelines designed to create and maintain a memorable customer experience.
A successful CX strategy demands something from every department, because your customers' experience always spans the entire journey: it begins the moment they discover your company and continues across all subsequent interactions including purchases, support calls, repurchases, and word-of-mouth referrals.
Why is a customer experience strategy important for your business?
Customers expect a great deal of personal care these days, and if you can’t give it to them, they’re more likely than ever to walk away.
It makes sense: not long ago when a customer left for a competitor, the switch involved a fair bit of risk and no guarantees. For example, a customer might go through the trouble of finding a new supplier only to learn that they have an inferior product after all, or terrible support, problems with fulfillment, etc. Rather than wasting time to end up back at square one, many customers would stomach whatever issues they had and stick with a mediocre supplier.
Today, these risks are reduced because customers can easily research a company (on Facebook, Google Reviews, Yelp!, etc.) before giving it a try. In other words, your customers have options like never before, and you’ve got to make a real impression if you want to retain their business.
The good news? If you create a flawless customer journey, you are likely to be successful. And it all begins with a great customer experience strategy.
How to develop your customer experience strategy
If you’re ready to build your strategy and you want to do it right, the following three steps will help you create stronger customer relationships that live beyond the initial purchase—and hopefully last a lifetime.
1. Facilitate a customer-centric company culture
We strongly believe that the best customer experience is rooted in one principle: treat your customers how you would like to be treated.
This mindset begins at the top: when leadership and executives model a customer-first mindset and fully buy into the strategy, the rest of the company is more likely to follow suit. A culture of one-to-one interactions and constant improvement of product, service, and operations will provide an intimate, successful experience for every customer.
5 tips for building a customer-centric culture
When we surveyed 2,000 CX professionals about their companies’ CX strategies, 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 get there:
- 1. Ensure leadership buy-in: make sure the C-suite understands that a great customer experience can increase loyalty, and higher retention rates lead to greater profits.
- 2. Develop empathy through customer feedback: gathering voice-of-the-customer (VOC) feedback and sharing it throughout the company will help everyone create a better experience (more on this below). Product teams will design with customers in mind, Marketing will produce messages more aligned with customer drives, and customer service will better relate to customer struggles and find creative solutions.
- 3. Build customer-centricity from day one: ensure that all new hires understand your company’s mission, values, and commitment to creating a seamless customer experience. Each employee has the power to impact the experience—and they need to be educated about it, and empowered to improve it.
- 4. Offer continual training and support: making customer-centricity a core feature of your business requires regular training to reinforce its principles. Give employees direct feedback so they understand how to improve, and empower them to find creative solutions to customers’ problems.
- 5. Encourage transparency: transparency is important when it comes to your improvement efforts because it unites everyone and pushes them toward the same goal. Be honest about wrong turns, and explain the rationale for trying and adopting new approaches.
The expert's corner
The experience extends beyond the screen. It’s the sum of all the little touchpoints that someone has with the product or company—the content on social media, the interaction they have with customer service, the emails you send them, the in-store experience or packaging, and the actual digital product experience.
Too often, companies get attached to the product and lose sight of the people. Some tangible ways to help evangelize the story of the product 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, and circulate customer testimonials and praise to help keep the actual people top of mind.
Delivering a great product experience may help the customer achieve an outcome.
But what stops them from moving to a competitor that comes along is that trust and loyalty that’s formed through all the little touchpoints in the entire experience.
Sarah Doody - UX Designer, Product Strategist, Design Educator
2. Let customer feedback lead the way
You probably have some idea of what your customers want, but there are needs, drives, and struggles you haven’t considered if you’ve never gathered their feedback. That’s why the most successful companies base everything they do—from product creation to marketing and fulfillment—on what customers tell them they want.
Why is it so important to gather customer feedback?
Figuring out what your customers want can have a huge payoff. In our state of CX survey, we found that customer feedback was the number one driver of successful CX strategies. In the same year, a Forrester study showed that customer experience-led companies achieve an average order value that is 1.9x greater than non-experience-led companies.
3 tools for gathering customer feedback
- 1. On-page surveys and feedback widgets: website feedback tools like Hotjar Polls slide in on a page while people are visiting it, and you can ask any question you’ll like about any aspect of your business—from how they heard about you, to what they’re looking for, to what they’re struggling to find.
You can also use feedback widgets to collect visual feedback via angry-to-happy emoji scales. Point is: there are plenty of ways to collect feedback from visitors who are on your website—and to prove it, here is a guide to website feedback with 10 practical use cases.
- 2. Customer interviews: customer interviews won’t give you the volume of data that surveys will, but they offer something else that’s equally valuable: interviews help you empathize with your customers by hearing their stories, and you can uncover pain points and psychological drives they were maybe not even aware of until you asked.
- 3. Net Promoter Score® (NPS): NPS is a measure of customer loyalty and satisfaction that has been shown to correlate with business growth. You can track this metric by using NPS software that asks customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to others on a scale of 0-10 (but there is more to it than just a number: read through this introduction to NPS if you want to find out more).
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.
- Support tickets & chat logs: if you use a customer support ticketing system like Zendesk, you’re capturing all kinds of information about your customers and the experience they’re having with your company and products. Mining the data within your support tickets, along with chat logs for both sales and support, will help you spot trends and opportunities for improvement.
Pro tip: since support ticket and chat log data is essentially a big pile of open-ended feedback, you can use the method we recommend for analyzing open-ended questions when it comes to analyzing the feedback and deriving actionable insight.
The expert's corner
Talk to your customers. I don't care if this means polling, surveying, or hopping on the phone. But if you want to create an excellent customer experience, you need to understand your customer on a deep level.
We make it a habit to talk to our customers on the phone to understand what they need and what they want.
We deploy surveys to our top customers to help redefine our messaging and product development (to attract more top customers).
For example, we'll ask questions like:
- What attracted you to [insert brand / product]?
- Did you have any concerns before [buying / joining] [brand / product]?
- Since [buying / joining], what has been the biggest benefit to you?
- If you could describe this [brand / product] in one sentence, how would you describe it?
- What is your favorite part of this [brand / product]?
And then, we quantify the data so we can rank it by asking a 0-10 question like: "How likely are you to recommend this [brand / product] to a friend?"
With this data, we have always been able to pull out messaging and data that has improved our marketing, customer onboarding, and products.
Additionally, we apply surveys to people who cancel or want a refund because we want to find out where we can improve overall.
Overall, if you want to deliver an amazing customer experience, the single most important thing you can do is learn more about your customers so you can custom tailor that experience to them.
It's not magic. It's not science. It is simply building a tighter relationship with your customer.
Eric Carlson - Founder, 10XFactory
3. Create memorable human experiences + reduce friction
Have you ever been led through a sales funnel that lacked a human touch? It might be hard to put your finger on it, but the experience may just leave you feeling like a cog in an automated wheel. Even worse: have you ever struggled with a website or a product to the point where you realized it wasn't worth your time, and you just left?
Why is a frictionless and human experience so important?
Consider how frustrated you’d feel in the following situations:
- You’ve got questions about a product or service that the website can’t answer, and you can’t find an easy way to reach out for help
- You finally reach a salesperson, but they rattle off a canned pitch without listening to your concerns
- You need to return a product, but there are so many hoops to jump through you just want to give up
This company probably wouldn’t win your loyalty, much less your referral, because they failed to deliver a human experience. To make matters worse, the entire process included unnecessary friction, making it every step much harder than it needed to be.
3 tips for creating a memorable experience
- 1. Speak in your customers’ language: mine your feedback data to identify common customer pain points, and explain how you can solve them. Include testimonials that show how you’ve done it and Frequently Asked Questions that provide real value to curious prospects. Re-use your customers’ actual words wherever you can—salespeak doesn’t make for very human interactions.
- 2. Train your team to listen: although not everyone wants to speak with a human being, some might appreciate having the option. Train your sales staff to listen first, so they can resonate with a prospect’s emotional state. Then, and only then, can they work to turn the prospect into a customer.
- 3. Don’t make people wait: communicate fulfillment and/or shipping information immediately, offer quick delivery and easy returns, and give easy access to customer support.
Pro tip: respond quickly and, if you can offer multi-channel support (phone, chat, email). Our State of CX survey found that waiting for a response is the #1 cause of frustration for customers throughout their experience.
The expert's corner
Throughout my years in customer experience, I've worked on initiatives on surprising and delighting / going above and beyond / wowing when the opportunity strikes.
These approaches are important, and they have an impact on word of mouth growth. But time after time, I've learned that delivering an outstanding experience always comes back to one, much simpler thing:
The faster you help someone, the more impressed they are with your service. This is reflected in every CSAT survey again and again.
So the one thing I'd say to do is: scale your support operations with a focus on getting back to your customers as fast as possible and wow them with timely, helpful replies.
Emily Sergent - Former Director of Customer Experience, Hotjar
Use customer feedback to improve CX
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