8 Tips to Build a Winning Customer Experience Strategy

By Phil Britt, Contributor to CMS Wire

Customer experience is critical to business success. CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand and price combined. Delivering an easy and convenient interaction experience creates a good impression, but not one that lasts, according to Gartner in a recent report, Creating a High-Impact Customer Experience Strategy.

“Companies expect their CX teams to outperform their competitors and deliver a world-class customer experience,” the Gartner report said. “Moreover, 63% of business leaders believe that to build customer loyalty, their CX teams must be primarily focused on creating new and innovative experiences for their customers.”

A thoughtful, dynamic CX strategy is critical to the success of any organization’s CX effort.

Define the Why

A clear articulation of the heart of the company’s approach to customer experience is the critical initial component of a business’ CX strategy, said, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. “Since retention is grounded in how customers feel about their experience with a company, articulating and incorporating that ‘why’ is vitally important.”

Retention is essential, Cudby said. “Companies that prioritize growth must implement churn reduction strategies, so they keep the customers they’ve worked so hard to win. Churn is the ultimate leaky bucket. No matter how many new customers go into a bucket, if there are holes that lead to churn, it will be hard for any company to fill the bucket and hit key revenue targets.”

Define CX From the Customer’s Perspective

“The customer experience is defined by the customer — not some executive or institutional belief in what it is,” said Howard Pyle, founder, ExperienceFutures.org and former senior vice president, global CX and design at MetLife. “I’ve heard so many leaders say they know their customers, but really they just know their business. Once you objectively look at each customer through a lens of data and research, CX metrics become points of alignment — a common objective that short circuits internal politics.”

Align Your Cross-Functional Teams With the Customer Journey

Those involved in helping to develop and maintain CX invariably come from across an organization, not just from the CX or even from the wider marketing team. “Teams that align themselves with the customer journey are by definition cross-functional,” Pyle said. Think about most CX in a digital era — there are apps, social, websites, and other channels all built with common platforms, data, and design. The customer experience isn’t one of those teams, it’s all of them together.

“Clients can improve the customer experience by working with their CX provider to journey map the experience from beginning to end, added Julie Casteel, CMO and chief strategic accounts officer at Ibex. “Consider what is the path the customer has to go down to get their issues resolved. What tools and technologies does the customer service agent have to solve that issue? Often they’re mismatched. To fix those breakage points and begin to deliver an optimal experience in which the customer feels truly valued, those need to be mapped together.”

Be Consistent and Reliable

A company’s CX strategy should include consistency and reliability in customer service, said Vivek Astvansh, assistant professor of marketing at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. “Reliability refers to customers having the same experience, regardless of the day and the time, whether they are in physical store or the webstore, whether they are in pre-purchase or post-purchase stage, whether they are interacting with a live agent or a bot, etc.,” Astvansh said.

Since customer experience is mostly driven by employees — who are bound to have idiosyncrasies — CX is far less reliable than what companies and customers want it to be. What makes reliability critical is companies’ gradual adoption of robots and AI apps for serving customers, Astvansh added. Unlike a live agent, a chatbot does not experience emotional labor while responding to an angry customer. Instead, the chatbot can learn from the caller’s past conversations and speak in a way that is most likely to offer a superior experience to the caller.

“A single tone of voice can be used throughout the entire customer interaction with advanced solutions,” added Jennifer Kline Shernoff, ADA senior vice president of product and design. If the conversation needs to be transferred to a live agent, the hand-off is seamless and efficient. Whether it’s a human agent or advanced AI responding, customers and prospects will feel that they’re getting 100% of the brand’s attention throughout the interaction.”

Ensure You Have Sufficient Resources

Closely related to consistency and reliability is availability, according to Astvansh. Customers want their issues handled quickly, efficiently and correctly, or they will seek out a competitor. “Availability refers to how much effort a customer must make to receive information from the company,” Astvansh said. “The company must be available at ‘all times’ to serve customers. The fluidity of workdays/hours in contemporary times makes availability in time critical. Next, a company should — ideally — make itself available where the customers are, rather than ask customers to move to a different website/app. Again, the contemporary world of messaging apps makes availability in space critical. For example, a company’s chatbot must reside at these apps and not on its own app or website.”

The Gartner report also emphasized the need for a CX strategy to be mindful of their customers’ time and needs, with touchpoint innovations allowing automated completion of many CX needs.

Employees Critical to CX Success

It’s important to empower agents to raise their hand and volunteer their ideas so they can spark positive change, Casteel said They see the same issues over and over again. And they often have great suggestions to improve the customer experience. “Empower agents to make positive changes,” Casteel said. Among the questions to ask in developing a CX strategy: Do your call center agents feel empowered? Agents are on the front lines.

“[Don’t] forget that great customer experience (CX) starts with satisfied employees. In fact, a 5 % increase in employee engagement has been shown to lead to a 3% jump in revenue. And companies with happy employees also see 81% higher customer satisfaction. Knowing that, it’s no surprise employee satisfaction is a priority for many executives,” said management consultant firm West Monroe Partners publication.

A customer’s experience is ultimately tied to employee actions. Even in an automated world, employees must have a path to deliver a great experience to customers so that the relationship grows over time, Cudby added. “Companies want to sell more of their suite of solutions, deeper into the company, for longer engagements.  The key to this rosy future is realized when a company creates and engrains specific and actionable processes that employees can implement consistently. That’s the smart of CX.”

Include Measurability

The CX strategic plan should include ways to measure the success of (or lack thereof) of the strategy. Otherwise, a company could continue to follow a strategy that isn’t working, said Rick Kelly, Fuel Cycle chief product officer. Among the measurements to include are how are you performing against objectives and which areas are doing well and which need rectifying,

“Develop CX metrics to evaluate the quality of your experience. By setting goals and objectives for constant improvements, you’ll be able to meet customer needs,” Kelly said.

Be Dynamic

Market conditions change, a factor demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic as companies went to remote or hybrid customer service support, shifted more to ecommerce, made major shifts to digital interactions and dealt with other changes that greatly shifted marketing, CX and business practices.“Businesses need to ensure their CX strategy is agile and adaptable because the market and customer demands are constantly changing,” said Katrina Klier CMO at PROS. “Technology needs to play a critical role in any CX strategy as online selling has opened up a large amount of new data to marketers. Successful marketing leaders must take advantage of insights from AI and data analytics to understand their evolving customers from as many angles as possible. Change can be scary, but having a solid technology stack in play will drive better business, growth and profits during times of uncertainty.”

Marketing and sales continue to evolve and grow more digital, Klier added. The limited online contact many companies have with their customers puts marketing teams in a more difficult position to drive sales and maximize outreach. Therefore, talent that can manage within the uncertainty and fluidity that is the new market normal is key. Employees that are digital natives or have learned digital fluency will continue to be a necessary and key asset to organizations.

Article originally appeared on CMS Wire.

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