We continually hear companies say that customer experience is extremely important to them. Yet, according to a Bain & Company survey (downloads as a PDF), 80 percent of businesses believe their customer experience is superior, while only 8 percent of customers agree.
Clearly there is a disconnect between what companies hope to achieve with their customers and what they're actually doing. As marketers, it is our responsibility to provide leadership to narrow the gap between how our organization believes we're performing for the customer and what the customer knows to be true about how we're performing. The disconnect can be resolved by a comprehensive customer experience management (CXM) strategy and practice that crosses organizational silos to deliver a consistent and compelling experience.
We have entered the age of the empowered customer, who has access to more information about your products and services than ever before, and the ability to share their opinions and experiences with a mass audience. In this new world, where the customer is in control, brands must continuously enhance, optimize, enable and support the customer journey through an effective CXM strategy. The reality is the customer experience cannot be managed; it can only be enabled and enhanced because the "C" in CXM is now in control. That being said, there are sound CXM practices that brands can utilize to acquire, serve, retain and drive commitment from their customers.
The following seven steps offer a framework for marketers before, during and after activities.
1. Create Personas for Your Most Valuable Customer Segments
A great place to start is to deeply understand the behavioral characteristics of your most important customer segments. Define the personas of these key customers, as well as the most common experiences that make up their journeys. For example, how do they become aware of your offering? How do they evaluate your products or services? What types of content and materials are they most likely to engage with and share?
2. Create a Visual Map of the Experiences That Make Up the Journey
Once you understand the behaviors and preferences of your key customer segments, you can map these along a path to unpack the experiences that make up the journey and uncover the enablers and barriers for each experience. While no two customer journeys will be exactly alike, there will be commonalities among the experiences that they require on their paths to purchase and post-purchase journeys.
3. Model Best Practices
Companies should continually compare their positions relative to top competitors to validate perceived market position and provide perspective to help with real-time management of programs, campaigns and initiatives that affect the overall customer experience.
Modeling industry and competitive best practices helps pinpoint areas for improvement within your own organizations and also identifies areas for competitive differentiation. Looking at companies in other industries that are scoring well with customers is another way to learn and note best practices.
Publicly available social data provide the ability to implement models and scoring systems to track best practices. As marketers, we have an instinctual understanding of how our competitors are performing, and social data put a quantitative measure to this. Social data allow us to understand the experiences from the customers' viewpoints, as evidenced in their comments, ratings, reviews, blogs, tweets and posts. Because these are observations on the customer experience in the words of the customer, organizing these conversations by journey stage allows marketers to pinpoint challenges and opportunities in the journey. Measured and scored properly, these user-generated conversations allow marketers to implement a data-driven approach to understanding best practices and to more deeply understand where they are performing well and where they are not.
Viewing this competitive intelligence through the lens of social data establishes best practices for an organization to symbiotically and efficiently support the customer journey and make it consistent, regardless of which department within the organization is involved.
4. Build Playbooks
Organizations can leverage insights generated from best practice models to develop playbooks. Use these playbooks as prescriptive guidance for how to move customers along their journeys toward desired behaviors and outcomes. Playbooks illustrate key audience personas, campaign guidance, predictive insight and approaches to the customer journey at each step.
5. Break Down Organizational Silos
Understand your customers' experiences from the outside in—from their vantage points, not yours. Ideally, your brand will create a seamless experience for your customer, not a disjointed set of disparate activities driven by siloed divisions or departments. Successful customer experience strategy creates a seamless flow of information to and from customers. Too often, the organizational silos and the interaction between them negatively impact the customer experience. Breaking down these silos to create a seamless set of experiences across the customer journey is a key to enhance customer experience.
6. Execute and Align KPIs
Armed with best practices and playbooks, organizations can execute on key market, product and corporate initiatives. Following this process, organizations can develop views of the customers that are unique to them and then assign the representative key performance indicators (KPIs) for measurement and tracking. When putting KPIs for CXM in place, it is critical to measure both the most important customer behaviors, as well as organizational behaviors. Aligning these is critical to success, as the wrong measurement structure will create undesired behaviors in both customers and the people within your organization.
7. Measure, Monitor and Pivot
Once all the above stages have been completed, and programs or campaigns are in place and running, organizations can continually review the health of their initiatives through the lens of the customer's experience. Establishing KPIs that relate to the key experiences in the customer journey provides a framework to measure and monitor activities as they relate to the experiences of your customers. Companies that excel in creating superior experiences for their customers continually measure and monitor the impact of their activities relative to the needs of the customer.
You need to walk more than a mile in your customers' shoes to fully appreciate the experiences along the journey to buying your product or service, becoming a brand advocate or evangelist, and eventually becoming so engaged with your brand that they share its content with others on the social Web. You need to have a relentless focus to find and remove barriers in the journey. This is best accomplished when you glean information on the customer journey through listening, talking and understanding. The companies that embrace the use of "Big Data" and social media to meet this challenge will position themselves better to take a leadership position in the market and truly connect with their customers.