Customer experience strategy

Amy Kleppinger
Publication Date
5 May 2022

Customer experience vs. digital customer experience  

It’s never been more important to understand the experiences customers have with your brand. Competition is greater than ever, and customer voices are more amplified. Scanning reviews before purchasing has become common practice, meaning bad experiences have lasting effects. 

That’s why many companies are restructuring their operations so the voice of their customer is front and center in decision making. This can be accomplished by bringing in a customer experience consultant or creating a role within the company focused on customer advocacy. 

Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with your brand - before, during and after purchase. Optimal experiences show customers your company cares about them, understands their needs, and takes the steps necessary to deliver seamless experiences.  

Marketing campaigns and customer service departments can be the most top of mind, but CX also includes word of mouth feedback, interactions with store personnel, and the full realm of digital experiences – how easy or difficult it is to use a website or mobile app, the content you create, and online reviews. Some other common digital CX touch points include chatbots, social media, and even voice skills.

The role of digital in your CX program 

Digital is an important part of an overall CX strategy. As the global pandemic pushed users to minimize their public exposure, digital touch points became a key driver of positive and negative brand perceptions. Consumers now make purchase decisions based on which retailers have the best online ordering experience, curbside delivery options, and lowest fee structures.  

Along with endless opportunities and potential benefits, digital CX also brings new challenges and situations to consider. As the total number of digital touchpoints increase, so too are the forks in the road where a customer can have a positive or negative brand experience.  

Digital customer experience strategy 

Creating a great digital customer experience is harder than just declaring your intentions.  It requires you to know your customers and their interactions with your products and brand. This means conducting interviews, reading reviews, and - perhaps most importantly - walking a mile in their shoes.  

Engage with your brand as a new customer would. What’s easy? What’s difficult? Where is your brand promise not being realized? Early in your process, create customer journey maps that highlight the details and experiences a customer will encounter at each stage of their engagement with you. How do they learn about your product, what research is publicly available, what are their avenues for engaging with your brand? With your employees?  

Gather as much knowledge about your customers as time and resources allow and use it to create personas or archetypes to help your company consider  how the decisions they’re making will impact the people they serve. What’s most important in this process is identifying key attributes that group your audience in a way that provides better insight and helps design experiences to meet their specific needs.  

Designing the right customer experience means knowing where your customers want to engage with you, current points of friction, and how to incorporate feedback. Working with a partner who has strategic frameworks to consider these challenges is often the most successful route to choose. Regardless of the approach you choose, it’s crucial to map out how you’ll measure and adjust your experience once it’s live. 

What does a good digital customer experience strategy look like? 

With advances in digital technology there is also an increased need for customers to share their personally identifiable information. Many consumers understand this has become a “necessary evil” but are more comfortable and forthcoming when they receive an equitable exchange of value - the service they receive and the way their information is used to personalize the experience makes it worth sharing. 

Thinking about the data you collect and what you do with it is essential to a good digital customer experience strategy. This, again, requires a comprehensive data strategy and possibly advanced AI techniques to find individual trends in the sea of data that digital tools can generate. 

Customer journey mapping 

One of the biggest hurdles in creating great CX is thinking you already know how your customers feel about your brand without doing the work to understand whether your hunches are correct. Creating one or more customer journey maps is a great way to impact meaningful change on behalf of your customers, reduce waste, and enable better innovation.  

There are countless ways to select the journey to focus on first – which journey is the most straightforward, where you have the most customer information, a journey for a large (but specific) and important cohort, or the journey where improvement would constitute a significant improvement. 

In customer journey mapping, you go through a series of exercises designed to help you better empathize with a specific group of your customers. This process can help you and other company stakeholders better understand your users and buyers, reduce points of friction that may prevent them from doing more business with you, create better experiences and ultimately grow your audience and business. There are many ways that teams can tackle this process and working with a customer experience professional is often helpful. 

Mind your metrics: key customer experience KPIs to track 

There’s an old saying in marketing – what gets measured gets managed. This is also true when in customer experience. Without metrics, it’s difficult to understand and demonstrate how your focus on customer experience management is making an impact.  

But teams can’t manage everything all the time, so it’s important to establish a data strategy that helps prioritize the most important metrics for a team to pay attention to in an ongoing evaluation of a customer experience program. This is something a partner can help you with. Some key categories and metrics to consider include: 

  • Customer loyalty - return purchases, return visits 
  • Lifetime customer value (LCV) - average purchase amount, purchase frequency 
  • Brand perception - Net Promoter Score (NPS), likelihood to recommend 
  • Ratings and reviews - app store rating, number of reviews, yelp score 
  • Digital metrics - monthly average users, downloads, unique visitors 

The business benefits of DCX excellence 

Think about experiences you’ve had as a customer. When you have a seamless experience, you’re more likely to engage with that vendor again rather than risk a hassle with another company. Countless studies back this.Here are a few statistics from Forbes that capture on the importance of CX:  

  • 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. 
  • 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue. 
  • 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors. 

Industry professionals call the idea of considering the many ways your brand can be accessed as omnichannel and understand that it can be difficult to seamlessly integrate newer platforms and technologies with more established channels. Unfortunately, customers don’t change their expectations based on where they engage.They expect the same brand and experience regardless of where it is had. To earn repeat business, maintaining DCX excellence can’t be an afterthought. 

The future of customer experience 

As consumers continue to gain more control over when and how they interact with brands, the importance of customer experience strategies also grows. To consider the future opportunities and challenges for CX professionals, we need to look at how technology is predicted to grow and expand its importance in consumer’s lives. A few examples include: 

The impact of Artificial Intelligence - An aspect of CX that will expand in the future is the  completeness with which a company will be able to understand its customers. Traditionally, brands had to rely on a limited number of market research techniques to have a handle on the voice of the consumer. These techniques included focus groups, surveys and other methodologies that relied primarily on individuals reporting their preferences, how they behaved or planned to behave in the future. With AI, companies can more completely understand both self reported data points and actual behavioral data by capturing and analyzing buying trends, website visits, customer service feedback, social media reviews and other observational touch points.  

Personalization - AI will allow companies to better understand customers, their patterns, and ultimately provide more personalized brand engagements. Creating these successful experiences will require comprehensive data strategies that guide customer learning, CX leaders who can cut through the endless possibilities to create on-brand and mutually beneficial experiences, and a clear understanding of how to deliver a fair exchange of value for the PII that consumers are willing (or unwilling) to share with brands.  

The Metaverse - If predictions hold and the metaverse becomes a part of our everyday lives, this will certainly multiply the importance of carefully considering digital customer experiences. The challenges of maintaining a seamless brand presence as customers toggle between in-person, 2D digital experiences, and virtual reality will require strategic planning and well thought out training, internal, and external communications.  

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