The transformation to the “experience economy” is well underway and those who embrace it are positioned to reap the rewards. What is the experience economy? It is built around the concept that customers value enjoyable, easy and useful interactions with a company (both in-person and through digital channels). Customers are willing to pay for that experience with premium pricing and loyalty leading to a higher customer lifetime time value to the company. Very smart companies also focus on employee experience – happier employees who thereby enhance their customers’ experience in a virtuous cycle – no one wants to spend their day dealing with (justifiably) cranky customers.
The core of this transformation to the experience economy is CX, or Customer Experience (Citizen Experience in the public sector). CX includes all customer interactions – no matter where, when, or why, putting their needs and desires at the center of all interactions - valuing what they value.
While this seems obvious, it is hard to do well and often requires a quantum shift in how we think about customers, ourselves, our tools and the ways in which we bring value to our customers. Within CX is a whole galaxy of concepts, tools, ideas and techniques to help guide you in becoming a “CX-pert”. This eBook is all about giving fuel to your CX transformation.
We all have had that exasperating experience when dealing with a company, where it seems like their one hand does not know what the other hand is doing – the emails, the phone calls, the... frustration. What is the cost of that bad experience? According to a recent PwC survey, about one-third of customers would consider moving on from a company after a bad experience – and that percentage only goes up as bad experiences multiply. Add in the cost of service recovery (making it right with the customer) and the costs become prohibitive and a leading cause of customer attrition.
If you are successful at winning in the experience economy, you will get paid back handsomely. In the same PwC survey, those organizations who are successful at CX can command a higher premium than their less advanced competition – often significantly higher. Good CX leads to higher customer loyalty, less churn and better overall life-time value (LTV) per customer. All powerful incentives to get CX right.
If the fear of losing customers, or the enticement of higher margins and more loyal customers is not enough, then consider the fact that CX has a huge impact on employee satisfaction and retention. Who wants to deal with angry customers or waste time dealing with disconnects between customer expectations and what they experience? No one. (Pro Tip: Good CX is a powerful tool when applied to your employees and vendors and positively impacts great customer experience from every angle).
Customer Experience is the totality of all experiences and interactions that a customer has with your organization. All of them - at every touchpoint with your organization.
In this increasingly digital-first world, that includes a myriad of digital interactions – often across many channels – but it’s important to understand that CX is not only about digital strategy (or customer service or branding) - though clearly all those things can have an impact on CX. CX is about every touchpoint and every experience, no matter the medium, the time, the place or the reason for the interaction.
CX can feel complex and, at times, overwhelming. If you keep three simple core values at the forefront of your thinking, your journey to CX success will be (and feel) a lot less difficult.
The Three Rules for CX Success are:
A Simple Journey
Show Them That You Know Them
Do it For Them
These rules are your “North Star” when it comes to making decisions regarding CX. While tools and technology are powerful and an important part of CX, the key to success is to always keep these simple rules front and center. Do this and you will succeed.
The first rule of good CX is to make sure the journey is simple. In all interactions, work to make your customers’ pathways and interactions with your organization as simple and straightforward as possible. It takes careful thought and planning to make sure you understand the myriad of offline and digital touchpoints - across many departments and through many different avenues - that your customer will interact with and build those into a cohesive, easy to intuit customer journey. The journey must be simple from the customer’s point-of-view, no matter if it starts with a phone call and then moves to online – or vice versa.
Too often, the demands of business structure and departmental functions are forced on the customer as something they need to deal with. The opposite needs to be true. The complexity of your business and its various functions need to melt away into a seamless experience that is low-friction and does not project the complexity and needs of your business operations onto the customer.
The key to good CX is understanding your customer’s journey in its entirety and from their perspective. You must understand and capture the customer’s entire journey to positively impact it. Too often, the customer’s journey is pigeon-holed into a narrow process that only considers a small portion, leaving much of the context and inflection points ill understood. Good CX demands that the full context of why a customer is interacting with you is understood so that it can be managed and optimized.
For example, it is not enough to have a good user experience designed into your website without first understanding why someone is there, how they got there and what they were doing before. Most important - what are they trying to accomplish? What is their state of mind? What are their attitudes? Only with the full foreknowledge of context around why someone is engaging with you, can you serve up great CX.
As part of making the journey as simple as possible, you need to understand the key inflection points that need to be influenced to help your customers along their way. In any customer journey there are a few key moments when your customer faces a point of action and/or interaction that has an outsized impact on their experience. What are those critical points where the whole arc of the experience can change? What are you doing to influence their decision and make their choices easy to understand and easy to execute? What are you doing to make YOUR employees and systems easy to work with to create a positive and valuable experience for your customers? A useful tool to understanding all of this is Customer Journey mapping (see A CX Tool Box).
Your solutions can be technically complex on the backend (and often need to be in order to bridge corporate silos) but must be very simple and straightforward when it comes to your customers’ engagement. Resist the temptation to “push” the complexity of your system or the segmented nature of departments within your organization onto the customer.
It is not your customer’s duty to understand your systems or your organization structure. That all needs to disappear into a single, smooth, delightful experience that masks the complexity and puts the customer’s feelings and needs first. It can be tough to make an experience seamless – from offline to online, from front-of-house to back-of-house, but this is where good CX can pay off.
Work hard at making it simple.
The second rule of good CX - demonstrate to your customers that you know them. Everyone wants to be heard, understood and treated as an individual. While the goal is to treat each customer as a singular individual, the truth is that in order to deliver CX at scale, you can’t. However, by understanding what is most important to your customers, you can group customers who care about similar things and act in similar ways into cohorts. This enables you to manage the complexity and deliver experiences that feel personalized and fulfill the needs and desires of your customers.
The CX Tool Box has tools and techniques to help you create a process that shows your customers that you know them – at scale.
To do this, you must:
Know what they want. At the center of good CX is knowing what your customers want. This sounds obvious, but we often make assumptions about what our customers want and why without the requisite data and research. Why do they need your service or product? What drives their emotions and desires? Don’t assume that what your customers want stays the same at all times. Context matters. For example, when someone is looking for urgent care in a healthcare app, what they would view as a good experience is very different than when they’re looking to change primary care physicians. What your customers want is dependent on context. It’s critical to plot out in detail their Customer Journey not only based on who they are and what they typically want or need, but also at various inflection points in their lives that could change their relationship with you and what they want.
Know how they interact with you. Knowing that your customers want to interact with you through different channels is critical to meeting your customers where they are. This means that you must account for all the various ways your customers connect with you – in person, via your website, over the phone, through social media, etc. and customize your service interactions with them through each of those channels. Adapt your services to the specific desires and expectations your customers have for each channel and make sure you deliver on those expectations. Don’t force customers into channels they don’t want to use unless you have no other choice.
Communicate and Reinforce. Show them that you know them. This often gets forgotten when gathering information and soliciting feedback from customers. Communicate to your customers that you hear them and are making improvements to the ways they interact with you - based on their feedback. People support what they help create or influence. Explicitly reinforce the message that your organization is customer-centric by demonstrating the steps that you’ve taken to improve their experience. Tell customers why you’ve made changes, especially if it’s in response to their feedback. Never let a good (CX) crisis go to waste. Your customers will have a heightened awareness during stressful situations – use it as an >opportunity to not only fix the problem, but enhance your reputation by acting swiftly and decisively - then communicate what you’ve done.
Deliver personalized experiences offering consideration of what you know about them and what data they have shared with you. Customers tell you a lot about themselves. The implicit bargain is that you use this information to better serve your customer. If you don’t, you will lose them. Use this information to make their interactions with you efficient, effective and relevant to their specific needs. If you already know something about them, don’t make them tell you again (think of Amazon’s 1-Click shopping). When you deliver information, make sure it is relevant to who they are and where they are in their journey. You can use personas and customer journey mapping to help dissect who your customers are and what they are looking for.
Your audiences have expectations of you and hold you responsible for delivering a superior experience based on the information they provide you. Customers share information with you with the expectation that you will use this information to make their lives better and easier- not just to market to them.
Predict their needs and actions. Good CX knows before you know. It intuits your next actions (without being intrusive or limiting your options). Use data and analytics to understand your customer’s actions and then design your interactions to make every step of that interaction as seamless as possible. To do this well, there needs to be a mash-up of good human-centered design with appropriate technology.
(A good DX platform (see the DX in CX) will turbo charge your ability to deliver personalized experiences at scale and actively adapt to your customer’s needs.)
Intuition about what your customers are looking for is key. It’s about context - understanding their needs and desires at various points in their journey, and how outside factors impact them. At each interaction where you can make your customers’ experience easier – do it. If you have information about what they want, use it and communicate with them about what you are doing. Don’t make them re-do and re-fill forms for information that you already have. (Think Amazon’s “1-Click” experience).
Understand what’s happening in your customer’s world and always be thinking of more value-add ways to be proactive and make their experience with your company successful and memorable. Prior to a recent federal government shutdown, a financial institution that served government and military families proactively reached out with pre-approved loans and other financial programs to support their customers who would lose paychecks during the shutdown. They understood and met their customer’s needs and turned a potential difficult situation into a positive experience.
Identifying and understanding often starts with Design Thinking. Done well, Design Thinking is a critical component in developing and refining the optimal CX for an organization.
Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to solving complex problems through rapid prototyping and learning to develop creative solutions, services and products. This process is more important to businesses now because of the speed of change necessitating innovative solutions that every sector faces. The reason many successful businesses such as Apple, Amazon, IBM, MassMutual and Fidelity have embraced Design Thinking is because they see the benefits it has across multiple areas of business.
It frames difficult business challenges in ways that are easier to dissect and understand.
It is rapid problem-solving and the foundation for strategic and tactical planning.
It allows businesses to test new solutions with users and get immediate feedback.
It is a continuous, iterative process – always moving forward toward better solutions.
It focuses on empathy with users and internal stakeholders – the key element to a better CX.
The discovery process in Design Thinking is often the most critical and difficult step. During the discovery, user experience experts look at all the ways that your organization interacts with its users, society, technologies and other businesses. This is the most critical step for designing a stellar user experience and an overall exceptional customer experience. If you fail to understand the interactions and motivations of each type of user in every scenario, you cannot craft a holistic strategy that optimizes CX.
There are various tools that exist for the discovery process to help you identify the problems you are trying to solve that correspond to creating good CX. A key to formulating a better CX strategy is fostering a culture and processes where these discovery findings are shared across departments within a company. This ensures a consistent CX approach and philosophy across every user touchpoint with every department. Without a uniformly high level of attention to CX across the company, an organization risks being defined by its inconsistencies – which will usually be the highest pain point of customer interaction with the company.
Many people think that CX innovation and problem solving starts when you put pen to paper to plan next steps. Blade Kotelly, a senior lecturer at MIT and co-instructor of the MIT Professional Education course “Mastering Innovation & Design Thinking” said that innovation is really established during the discovery phases of design thinking.
Even though there is little visible output created during the discovery (assets such as journey maps, personas, reports) the discovery phases are where you develop a deeper understanding for the customer and the problems they face. Kotelly refers to this finding as the “Experience Centerline,” which helps “ensure the product or service being created ultimately addresses a core human need.” Serving the human need with empathy and understanding creates the feeling of a good experience.
Once you have the concept ready to go, you need to design it, but design is more than how a product or service looks. Every interaction, every experience, every connection should be designed to create a good customer experience before, during and after each interaction.
Digital Experience (DX) Technology is part of this design. Technology can power customer experience by delivering information quickly and should be part of the ecosystem to improve the customer experience for internal and external stakeholders.
As early as 2012, Microsoft found that when a page takes over 250 milliseconds to load, websites begin to lose audiences. In person, your customers are willing to forgive issues that they feel are out of your control. In a digital space, however, they feel everything is within your control and expect a higher standard from brands.
Technology tools can solve a lot of CX problems. According to a research by Centric Digital, by 2020, 85% of a customer’s brand experience will occur without any human interaction - saving an organization’s time, resources and cost to deliver quality CX. For example, implementing artificial intelligence and automated CX helps customers find answers and solutions without any human interaction - creating a faster and more streamlined process.
However, the human touch remains enormously important to your customers. How often have you found yourself repeating the same actions when interacting with a company’s technology? PwC found that 59% of customers feel that organizations have lost touch with the human element of customer experiences. When technology fails users, they look to have a conversation with a real person about their problem.
For example, a customer is directed to use a chatbot on your site to resolve an issue with their account. The chatbot doesn’t give them the information they need, so they email customer service. They have to re-document the issue and explain why the chatbot didn’t help. Your company’s automated email response directs them to a number to call. When they call the customer service line, they find themselves repeating the issue for a third time (if not redirected to another bot!).
The chatbot gave the customer quick answers, but not the answers they needed. The email was simple, but redirected them again. The customer service representative was friendly, but the customer had to repeat themselves several times across multiple channels. This is not the best use of their time or your organization's resources - and the customer is still left with a poor impression of your company. All the technology was there, but it wasn’t connected in a way to maximize its utility and resolve the issue, thereby providing the best experience for your customer.
Incorporating a CRM system or service software into the customer experience design can alleviate the need for customers to repeat themselves - if the CRM tracks all customer interactions and ties them together across multiple channels. A connected system improves the customer experience, and your internal stakeholder’s experience as well. Your employees have the tools to focus on providing a solution faster to the customer, resulting in a more efficient use of their time and a more satisfied customer.
Digital technology done right can unite every aspect of your customers’ information and preferences with internal and external stakeholders to create a personalized experience unique to them and their needs. A good customer experience is designed for technology with human interaction without losing the focus of who the experience is being designed for.
In the changing world of education, for example, a student uses her university portal to access digital lectures and textbook content. Technology tracks her learning with quizzes and questions and suggests content to help her in the areas where she struggled. She has the ability to chat with professors and set appointments for office hours through an app. In her view, this is a system that is designed for her and her needs. It feels personal and she feels that the university is supportive of her and understands her needs.
Government employees can influence customer experience by using IoT technology combined with CRM and external communication systems to define, assess and resolve citizen’s issues. A city employee monitors pedestrian and vehicular traffic through bluetooth sensors along the streets. She shares this information with other departments to address congestion issues. If she finds that backed-up traffic is due to broken traffic light, she is able to schedule repairs quickly online with the public works department and track the status of the repairs – and communicate progress to its constituents in real-time through an app, social media or other channels.
Plan for delivering excellent customer experiences across all platforms and interaction points.
Ensure technology alignment using a Digital Experience Platform (DXP).
Determine Metrics/KPIs to track progress over time.
Good CX is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing journey that needs to be iterated and improved over time. It is not “set it and forget it”.
Below you will find tools and techniques to help you along your CX development journey – always remembering that the customer and their needs are paramount.
To be customer-centric you have to speak to and gather feedback from your customers. It is pretty simple. User interviews are at the core of design thinking, UX design and customer experiences. Interviews are one of the best ways to give you insights into your customer’s journey. You can gather information not only about their feelings, motivations, routines and how they use your services, but also what they expect out of your service.
There are technologies that allow you to gather ample amounts of data on your customers and measure if you are meeting your audience's online expectations. Technologies such as Qualtric Vocalize (VOC) use machine learning with natural language through open text to discover trends from your customers by measuring how a customer feels about a service experience. Chatbots and feedback loops are essential to easily gathering information. However, you shouldn’t assume that customers will take the time to tell you that they don’t like something, especially online. Feedback portals online often take too much time in the mind of your customers.
Interviewing customers expands your understanding of their customer journey and the opportunities and challenges it presents. Interacting directly with your customers tells the story behind the data, metrics and trends reported on by your technologies.
For example, imagine you’re a publisher. Data and analytics indicates most people read your daily digital newsletter in the morning. One of the customers you interview is a working mother of two young children. She receives your newsletter but may drop out because she’s too busy to read it during her hectic mornings. Using that insight, your team creates an audio newsletter that she can listen to on her commute. You’ve created a new product, a better customer experience and a customer for life.
Many strategists focus on the external users of a service and forget to give equal weight to the internal stakeholders. Stakeholder interviews give insight to internal needs, technologies and process issues that could be hindering your customer’s experience without your knowledge.
Empathy for internal stakeholders is just as important to good CX because it enables an organization to eliminate or mitigate their internal obstacles that derail a good customer experience. When internal opportunities and pain points are uncovered and alleviated with new processes or technology, it allows employees to focus more on key aspects of their role and servicing the needs of the customer.
In the hospitality industry, like most industries, the best companies strive for the holy grail of the “360 degree view” of their customers. Hotels have tons of information and data points on their guests through loyalty programs, CRM systems, reservation systems, satisfaction surveys and other databases. How that information is shared, who has access to it during the customer journey, and what authority they have to act on it under what circumstances all factor into how effective employees in different departments can be in influencing a guest’s experiences.
Reservation agents, loyalty marketers, front desk staff, concierges and operations staff all may have different views on how best to influence a guest’s off-site and on-site experience – and what information and authority they need to directly impact that experience for the better. Information gleaned from stakeholder interviews can also inform CX training and processes for front-line and back-office staff. Without a deep understanding of each of their perspectives through stakeholder interviews, a CX strategy cannot be optimally designed or implemented.
When done correctly by experts, interviews can illuminate details in the journey that can make the difference in the overall customer and digital experience.
Customer Journeys and User Journeys sound like the same thing. Customer or user, they are both descriptive maps of a person’s experience, so does it matter that they are different? In terms of the customer experience, yes.
We can simplify this. Customer journeys are used in CX; User journeys are used in UX. This is simple enough to remember, but UX and CX are related so it is important to understand the impact each has on the other.
A user journey details how you want people to complete specific tasks for a specific situation, such as purchasing a train ticket. User journey maps are typically created early in the design process and focus on the objectives of every interaction, every step, every page, key functions and features in the process and technical considerations.
Customer journeys are more fascinating. To start, the customer journey doesn’t begin when a customer first interacts with your product, service, or organization - it actually starts long before that. Something triggered your customer to engage or reach out. You need to know why - and what the initial catalyst was - so you can understand how to keep them engaged over time.
Mapping their customer journey by plotting their actions and emotions across entry points, all stages and key interactions of their journey, across all devices and channels, gives a high-level understanding of how customers use and experience your service or product before, during and after they actively interact and transact with your company.
The strategic CX goals of customer journey mapping include the “Four E's”:
Eliminate Bad Experiences - turn them into Neutral Experiences
Enhance Neutral Experiences - do what you can to make them Good Experiences
Energize Good Experiences - go from Good to Great!
Effectively Amplify Great Experiences – lean into your strengths and use Great Experiences to communicate and reinforce your customer-centricity
How should you use customer journey mapping to accomplish those CX goals?
Internal Focus - align all employees and departments in your company to focus on CX
Identify and Invest – use tools and tech that drive effective and efficient CX
Increase CSAT – follow the “Four Es” method
Insights – A Simple Journey. Show Them that You Know Them. Do it for Them
Inspire & Incentivize – empower your teams through Design Thinking/Sprints to make CX paramount
To create a truly customer-centric experience, your organization must develop a strategy that leverages the benefits of both User and Customer journeys.
Let’s suppose that a healthcare organization is developing an app that allows users to monitor their vital signs, food intake, exercise and prescriptions. There are specific tasks and connections between those tasks that can be outlined in multiple user maps to make the process and the use of the app smoother and more efficient.
That’s a good first step, but how best to address why a customer would want to use this product?
In mapping out a customer journey for a young female potential customer, it’s discovered that she had a recent doctor’s visit where the doctor set some goals to manage her health. Even though she is intrinsically motivated by those goals and the app could be a useful tool, she feels needs some motivation, and maybe additional information to feel successful. Understanding this need and emotion, the company adds access to interactive learning and technology to connect to an online community with others that have the same goals. The customer journey mapping helped make the app experience more effective by understanding how it would be best utilized to meet the customer’s goals.
User journey mapping helped make it more efficient. Customer journey mapping helped make it more effective. Done together, they lead to a better customer experience.
As we hope you have learned from this eBook, CX put the customer at the center of every interaction. And at each juncture where you need to make a CX decision, make sure you can square your decisions with the three rules of good CX.
A final parting thought is that the journey to good CX is just that, a journey. It’s OK if you don’t try and “boil the ocean”. Break off parts of the problem and work on them individually. Learn. Explore. It’s the only way to truly gain insight and understanding and become a CX-pert.