We live in a hyper-connected world. As with most consumers, the chances are that they won't remember the specifics on what channels they used, the offer they got, and the number of times they interacted with your brand. However, I bet they will remember whether it was an excellent experience or a poor one. That's what Customer Experience (CX) is - The aftertaste they have from interacting with your brand, and it's up to you if you want this aftertaste to be good or bad, memorable or uneventful.
Here are seven priorities you, CX Professionals, need to think of to create a solid and lasting CX vision and strategy. Note that most of these priorities are based on Forrester's Mastering CX Certification program I recently followed.
1- Put Customers First (always)
Ten years ago, I took a certification class from the Pragmatic Institute, and I can still remember the framework they introduced me to. I will never forget what the coach said about it at the time. He said, "Your life as a Product Professional is busy, and if there's only one thing you should never skip in this framework is understanding your Market Problems and always having your customer's needs and wants in mind." This statement has never been closer to consumers' expectations than today.
Whether you are CX Professionals in a B2C or a B2B business, identifying and understanding your customer's needs should be at the heart of any successful business strategy. Understanding who they are, what they need, and why they need it will inform many aspects of your business process and will help you build products and services your target audience expects. Putting customers first will also help your organization think outside-in and align internal teams never lose sight of market demands.
2- Define Your CX Function
Establishing a solid CX function should be one of the first critical priorities to develop within your organization. This function ensures that product leaders follow a customer-centric approach and deliver a consistent, relevant, and uninterrupted customer experience across all channels throughout all stages of the buyer's journey.
The CX function has three core missions and three enablers, ensuring this function is understood, sponsored, and followed across the entire organization.
The three core missions of the CX function are:
— Develop a CX vision and strategy where the vision describes how your business plans to deliver customer-centric experiences and where the strategy is your activities needed to fulfill your vision.
— Drive adoption of CX management where you will need to involve key stakeholders to help you extend your CX function's internal reach and efficiency.
— Coordinate CX transformation where you will need to socialize your strategy and keep everyone aligned and focused on the CX vision.
The three core enablers to the CX function are:
— Executive support where you need to identify internal executive sponsors who understand the CX function and will play a key role as advocates at the top level to help you influence other leaders.
— Essential skills to allow you to identify the right tools to support your vision and strategy.
— Cross-functional mandate where you need to partner with other teams within your organization and establish roles and responsibilities.
3- Identify Customer Insights
To build lasting customer-centric experiences, you must perfect the art of understanding your customers from what they want, how they behave, and how they feel as they interact with your company/brand and experience your products and services. This understanding is possible by collecting and analyzing data to generate customer insights.
Here are some steps to consider to help you collect and analyze customer data with the business objective to generate customer insights:
— Articulate Your Business Goals - Clear goals keep insights lifecycle focused on the right business outcome. They should also be written down and socialized across the organization to keep everyone aligned. I always try to stick to the SMART framework when establishing goals in that they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
— Identify Your Data Sources - Building a 360-degree view of your customers plays a pivotal role in creating lasting experiences. However, more data doesn't always mean more insights. The focus should instead be to identify relevant data which produce better insights. The better-suited data to collect should always be about customers (demographic, behavioral, transactional, psychographic, and research).
— Analyze Data to Generate Insights - The purpose of collecting data is to generate insights and inform the business on how best to achieve its objectives. Our market is rich with analytical techniques to interpret data. Forrester's Periodic Table for Insights is a great resource to map all available methods CX Professionals and Data Scientists have at their disposal to analyze data and generate business insights.
— Take Action - Turning insights into actions must always be driven by the business goals set against the CX strategy. It is also essential to document and test results with a test group.
— Measure the Impact on CX and the Business - At the end of the day, showing the impact of CX on the business will help you justify and cement your CX vision's efforts. You should review your business KPIs and measure them against control groups in this step. Analyzing your impact will also provide opportunities to expand to additional KPIs.
— Close the Loop - Insights-to-action is not always a linear process and may reveal opportunities you may have missed when you first defined your KPIs. It is not uncommon for organizations to adjust or change their objectives based on customer insights.
4- Take Action on Customer Insights
This step is about embedding customer insights into your business using Customer Journey Maps. Journey Mapping is one or several documents used to illustrate customer interactions, needs, and perceptions through their relationship with your business. These journeys provide detailed insights into the customer experience and can unveil pain points and potential roadblocks during the journey.
To create successful journeys that truly represent what your customers need, how they behave and feel throughout their journey with your business, you will need to make sure to follow these best practices:
— Framing the Journey Mapping Effort - This includes identifying the individual who will drive this effort, the reasons why you are using journey mapping, and why people should devote their time to this effort. It is also essential to rally stakeholders and link the mapping exercise to business objectives.
— Creating the Journey Map - There are many ways to develop Journey Maps, and different methods are available to CX Professionals. The most effective are those anchored in a deep understanding of what customers want and how to solve their challenges. It comes with no surprise that the more customer research you have, the better your assumptions will be as you create your Journey Maps.
— Ensuring Gains from Journey Mapping - The key goal of Journey Mapping is to identify short and long-term customer experience improvements. Short-term wins could be solving pain points in the journey, while long-term gains could spot more substantial changes within the business.
5- Design Experiences that Drive Loyalty
Well-designed products drive great customer experiences, and great customer experiences lead to customer loyalty. One of CX's priorities is to design products that are laser-focused on solving customer problems. In this context, Design refers to the functional capabilities of a product and its user interface and experience. Rather than jumping directly to solutions, you should first understand user problems.
The following three phases will help you design customer-centric products:
— Problem - Quantitative and qualitative research helps you identify challenges your customers have and unveil business opportunities for your organization. This phase's output will be a clear problem statement you may want to solve as an organization.
— Solution - Journey mapping and prototyping are used to start solving the problem. The output of this phase is to create a viable and tested solution before moving to the last phase.
— Implementation - Product developments are engaged, and several production iterations are conducted using customer feedback. Journey analytics provide customer insights to continuously adjust the product based on customers' perceptions and behaviors.
6- Enable CX with Technology.
In addition to people and processes, a successful CX Strategy relies on technology, and it has a significant impact on your organization's ability to create and optimize the customer experience.
To develop your CX technology roadmap and to continuously improve your process, you need to assess the phase you are in today:
— Listening to Your Customers - what do you have to gather customer feedback and insight?
— Proper Analysis and Reporting - how is customer feedback analyzed and distributed within your organization?
— Insight-Based Experience Organization - how is this customer feedback used to drive business decisions?
— Coordinated Activities to Manage CX - how are you coordinating the activities of all internal stakeholders, so they collectively deliver the best customer experience?
— Audit the Existing CX Technology Portfolio - You need to understand what technology exists and make an inventory of necessary capabilities and skillsets.
— Fill Capabilities and Gaps - What capabilities and skillsets are required and lacking in your organization.
— Integrate Technology to Support Omnichannel Experiences - The close-loop approach you need to aim for to improve customer experiences and positively move the needle on your business objectives.
7- Measure CX performance and prove ROI.
Every organization aims at measuring its efforts, and CX programs are no different. Good measurement comes with clear business goals, solid customer data and insights, and prioritizing actions to improve the customer experience.
Try to avoid the following pitfalls:
— Trying to Build an Enterprise Program First - Instead, start by measuring tangible efforts around journeys, products, regions, and use results to make your case internally and expand your CX scope.
— Adopting an OOTB Metric Too Quickly Without Analysis - Instead, choose a metric that makes more sense to your customers, financial goals, and employee empowerment of CX.
— Relying Too Heavily on Customer Perceptions - Instead, combine your perceptions with operational data coming directly from customer behaviors, transactions, and feedback.
As CX Professionals, your organization is counting on you to be a customer advocate, establish a customer-centric mindset within your organization, and help create stellar customer experiences. Understanding and applying these seven priorities will provide you with a headstart to identify the opportunities and gaps you have today and establish a solid CX vision and strategy.
Feel free to leave a comment below and share where you are on your CX Journey.