In 2018, there’s only one way to acquire new customers and foster bulletproof customer loyalty:
A strong customer experience strategy.
The challenge to delivering memorable experiences is consistency. How do you delight customers over and over again to keep them coming back?
In this guide, you’ll learn how to put together an effective customer experience strategy to boost customer acquisition and maintain a healthy retention rate. By providing a great experience, your churn will decrease, and operational ROI will grow.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience (or CX) is the perception your customers and wider audience has of your brand. You may have brand mission statements, but if your customer perceives something different, then they are the ones who define the customer experience.
You may set out to create the highest quality products and deliver the best customer service. But if your customer receives faulty products, they will perceive you as a low-quality brand.
In a nutshell, your CX is the series (or sequence) of interactions a customer has with your brand. These interactions fall into one of the following customer life-stages:
According to The Temkin Group, there was a severe decline in CX between 2015 and 2016. That started changing in 2017, where the number of brands scoring a “good” or “excellent” rating went from 18% to 38%.
It’s clear that brands are focusing more resources and budget on providing great experiences for their customers. With that in mind, now is the time to get ahead of the curve.
What Makes a Great Customer Experience?
One common misconception is that CX is the same as customer service. Yes, these interactions are part of the overall customer experience, but not the entire experience itself.
Let’s say a customer buys a product from you. Upon receiving it, certain items are missing, and the customer calls your support team. There are several ways you can handle this:
- Your support team could deal with the matter, ship the missing items, and close the support ticket. This is good customer experience.
- Or, your support team could ship the missing items with next day shipping, alongside a 50% discount AND some bonus gifts they weren’t expecting. This is great customer experience.
Indeed, great CX is about sweating the small things. Traditionally, your customer’s first interaction used to be directly with an employee in your brand – whether that be a sales rep or customer support team.
These days, the first touchpoint is way before this. It could be through your website, owned content, or social media. Customer perception is set long before they become a customer.
This is why so many brands are putting more attention on creating the best CX possible. Without customers, a business can’t exist. Therefore, customer experience is not just about acquiring customers, but keeping them.
In a survey conducted by Bloomberg, 80% of companies rated customer experience as their top strategic objective:
What’s interesting is that, while 80% of companies believe they’re delivering world-class customer experience, only 8% of customer seem to agree. There’s a serious disconnect between what the customer wants and what brands are delivering.
So, why is this happening? The main reason is usually core leadership and internal teams are not working together.
A good customer experience strategy can only happen when all areas of the organization come together. CX isn’t a set of tricks and tactics — it’s a company-wide strategy that involves every department. Marketing, product, customer support, and even HR must come together.
There are now entire job roles dedicated to this practice! In fact, at time of writing, there are over 108,000 customer experience vacancies on Indeed.com:
Bottom line: having a strong customer experience strategy is key for long-term success. The question is, how do you build one that’s right for your company’s goals?
In this guide, I’ll show you how to create a strategy that delivers the best strategy for your audience. From the marketing funnel all the way to advocacy, you’ll learn how to use CX to acquire and nurture customers for life.
Step 1: Define Your Vision
It shouldn’t be a surprise that great CX is customer-driven.
A strong customer experience strategy begins by putting your customer’s needs first. The first step towards this is to create “mission statements” that you communicate across the entire company.
For example, everyone knows that the insurance industry is in need of a shake-up. The entire customer journey is often confusing and frustrating. With expensive monthly fees and poor customer support, customers are already primed to expect little value.
This is why Lemonade brings such a breath of fresh air to an otherwise stale industry. Their business model is completely different from most traditional insurance providers. They take simple, fixed fees from monthly payments and use AI technology to payout customer claims in an instant.
Dissecting Lemonade’s customer journey, you could assume their CX vision includes:
- Adding a fun, lovable personality to a stale industry.
- Alleviating customer anxiety through an already turbulent process.
- Streamlining the process with agility in mind. Everything must be fast.
Vision often leads to innovation. Lemonade looked at the insurance industry and saw what to do differently. The way they do it is the startup-style, subscription-based business model and cutting-edge AI technology:
These are elements nobody has ever seen in the industry before, which is why 87% of their customers are first-time insurance buyers!
When defining your vision, start by looking at what makes you dissatisfied with the status-quo. Get your teams together from all areas of the organization. Conduct brainstorming sessions and uncover what everyone hates about the industry.
Competitive analysis is also a must. Put yourself in “customer mode” and go through your competitor’s customer journey. Map out each stage to get a complete understanding of their processes.
From here, you can begin identifying the gaps you can fill.
Step 2: Understand Your Customers and The Journey
Internal brainstorming and competitive research are great. But nothing beats talking to your customers directly.
To put your customer needs first, you need to understand them fully. There are two steps to this:
- Segmenting your customer groups into personas
- Conducting in-depth customer research
Proper customer segmentation allows you to communicate with your audience more effectively. Focus on the individual pains of each persona instead of trying to appeal to them all at once.
Start by collecting data. The “Audience” section in your Google Analytics account can provide top-level insight to get you started:
Customer surveys are also invaluable. Collect quantitative insight to inform every stage of the customer journey, including:
- Their biggest pain points when doing business in your industry
- The perception of your brand
- Why they buy certain products or services
- Where they get their information
- How they make their purchasing decisions
Then there’s our SpotRight platform, which aggregates consumer data from multiple sources to provide in-depth insights into hyper-granular customer segments:
Quantitative data is only the first step. To truly understand your customers, you must speak with them on a regular basis.
Existing customers have already experienced your customer journey. These are the best people to conduct customer interviews with.
Start by identifying a handful of customers from a variety of cohorts. Reach out to those who have purchased only once as well as advocates who rave about your brand to their friends.
When asking questions, keep them open-ended. “Seed” questions will get them to open up about a certain topic. Then, use “probing” questions to dig deeper into their responses.
Once you’ve collected insight on your customer segments, collect them into persona documents. This documentation represents your customer groups and provides a vehicle to communicate their needs across every area of the organization:
This customer insight will drive your customer experience strategy. Make the collection of customer feedback a habit. Create processes within each customer-facing team that collects insight in real time.
For example, after a support call, send them an email asking them how they felt about the interaction. Send simple NPS emails to capture feedback after a customer purchases from you or uses your product. You’ll learn more about NPS in step 5.
Step 3: Collaborate with Leadership & Workforce
Reading this, you may be the person in charge of the customer experience strategy.
But it’s your employees that deliver on the promise. Great CX starts with employees who are positioned to deliver and care about the experience they provide customers with.
One airport employee once told a board member: “I will care about what you say when I believe you care about me.” This quote distills what Richard Branson advocates: your employees are your biggest priority.
Happy employees, who feel cared for, will care for your customers. This is the first step to collaborating with other teams within your organization.
Every single senior decision maker must have this in mind when leading their teams. It should be integrated into the fabric of your organization.
Disney is a prime example of this. From the cast members to Disneyland employees, everyone shares what Disney calls the “Common Purpose.” That purpose is to “create happiness.”
Bring leadership together in a series of workshops to refine and decide upon your vision. Once you’ve defined this purpose, it’s time to set objectives for each team.
Make things clear by defining these objectives as outcomes. Using Lemonade as an example, these outcomes may include:
- Ease: Reducing friction for customers to sign up and make claims.
- Transparency: Disrupting the insurance space through innovation, lifting the hood on how we do it in the process.
- Affordable: Fixed subscription prices for customers from all walks of life.
From here, you must empower leadership to communicate and structure this change with their teams. This is a collaborative effort, as the responsibility of all teams is different. Ideally, you should equip everyone with the following:
- Objectives: What are the department-specific outcomes this team must deliver on? For marketing, this may be “acquiring customers by delivering value and being helpful.”
- Activities: What are the inputs and actions? For example, “create value-driven content across all major marketing channels.”
- KPIs: What are the metrics each team will be measured against?
- Review: How often will results be measured and how will you act upon the feedback?
The structure you follow will depend on your organization and each team. However you do this, make sure you match objectives with activity-based goals.
Step 4: Execution: The Six CX Elements
Now your teams are informed on your customer experience strategy and their respective objectives.
It’s time to execute.
There are six CX elements that every strategy must follow. Here, I’ll show you what these areas are and how to optimize each of them.
Customer communication relies on engaging in the communities, social platforms, and marketing channels where they frequent. Again, customer surveys are a useful tool to uncover these channels.
Your customers are constantly talking about your industry, topic, and brand. Therefore, you must be engaging with them when they have questions and problems that you can solve.
Several tools can help you monitor online conversations. One tool is Mention, which can monitor brand mentions, topics, and hashtags all across the web:
Uncover the channels your customers already engage on. Analyze how they communicate to create contextual messaging and content on each platform. Make this form of engagement a priority.
2. Service Convenience
The brand no longer defines the customer journey. Customers are more empowered than ever to find the information they need to answer their questions.
Therefore, you must provide reliable end-to-end service to stand out. 24/7 support on every channel is non-negotiable. If you make your customer wait for a response, you’ve lost.
This example from JetBlue shows how simple it can be. Esaí Vélez was flying with them only to find his TV screen was out-of-order:
Instead of coming up with excuses, JetBlue responded with the following:
“We always hate it when that happens. Send us a DM with your confirmation code to get you a credit for the non-working TV.”
The results? A very happy customer:
Make speed a priority by training your employees to have an in-depth understanding of your product, service, and processes. Having a knowledgebase provides support teams with quick access to the information they need to help your customers with ease.
3. Purchase Convenience
It should be just as easy to buy from you as it is to communicate with you. In other words, spending cash should be a breeze.
Use streamlined checkout processes to make buying seamless. Use UX principles that get out of the customers’ way and reduces friction to purchase from you.
It’s likely you have a treasure-trove of data on your customer’s preferences and behavior. Use this to deliver personalized messaging, content, and product recommendations to your customers.
This level of personalization shows your customer you value them. For example, Without Prejudice increased sales by 30% thanks to personalized product recommendations:
5. Ease of Use
Every touch point should be simple and easy to navigate. For example, if your website is still not optimized for mobile, you’re falling at this hurdle (and neglecting more than 50% of your customer base).
Here are some methods of making your customer experience simple and easy to use:
- Make everything work on mobile devices.
- Provide one-click checkout (like Amazon does with their Prime membership).
- Limit navigational options on landing pages and during checkout.
- Remove unnecessary hurdles for reaching your customer support teams.
- Make content and information simple to locate and search for.
6. Channel Flexibility
A delightful level of service must be congruent across all marketing and communication channels.
From desktop to mobile and social media to live chat. The customer experience must be consistent across each platform.
To do this effectively, you must have a complete birds-eye view of all brand-to-customer engagement. This is where monitoring tools like Mention become useful.
Have this discussion with leadership early on. What is the voice and tonality you want to set? Decide on how you want your communications to look and feel.
Step 5: How to Measure Customer Experience ROI
To continuously optimize and improve upon your customer experience strategy, you must measure every touch-point throughout the journey.
Business-critical metrics should be your “north star” when measuring the CX effectiveness. The KPIs you set during step 3 is key, as well as strategic metrics such as sales, revenue, and ROI.
CX effectiveness should also be measured using customer-driven metrics. Here, I’ll break down four CX KPIs you should regularly monitor to understand customer satisfaction.
1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS is the percentage of customers who advocate your brand, products, and services enough to refer you to a friend.
The easiest way to measure this is to ask your customers, on a scale of 1-10, how likely they are to recommend you to a friend (or colleague):
As illustrated above, NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of promoters (those who answer 9-10) and subtracting the percentage of detractors (those who answer 0 to 6).
The higher your NPS, the more delightful your customer experience is.
2. Customer Effort Score (CES)
CES helps you understand how much effort a customer must put in to complete an action. This includes buying from you and how long it takes to get a problem resolved with customer support.
Measure this by capturing feedback immediately after an action has been completed. For example, after a customer support interaction, you might ask “How easy was it for you to get an answer to your question today?”
The responses can range from “very easy” to “very hard.” You can also position these questions with “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree:”
3. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
CSAT is how satisfied a customer is with an experience they have with your brand. Like CES, this involves asking multiple-choice questions:
Each question asks the customer to rate their satisfaction on the experience or service they’ve received. Each experience is rated on a scale from “not at all satisfied” to “very satisfied.”
While NPS is a measure of customer loyalty, CSAT is better for understanding overall customer satisfaction.
4. Churn Rate
Finally, churn rate is the percentage of customers who stop buying from you or cancel a subscription-based product or service.
To calculate churn, divide the number of lost customers by the total number of active customer within a specific period of time.
This should be a key metric for measuring customer loyalty. To optimize retention, aim to reduce your churn rate.
Advanced Customer Experience Approaches
In this guide, I’ve shared the step-by-step process of establishing a successful customer experience strategy.
To wrap things up, I want to share a handful of advanced approaches to supercharge your customer experience.
These techniques touch upon other principles covered in this guide and can be applied to all areas of your company.
1. Reduce Customer Effort
The foundation of customer satisfaction is ease of use and simplicity. It’s your job to identify the experiences that require a high amount of effort and make them as painless as possible.
As illustrated in “The Effortless Experience,” a high amount of effort can actually make customers disloyal to your brand:
Instead of creating novel customer experiences aimed to “delight” the customer, focus on making things easy for them. Simplify first, then implement additions that delight.
2. Brand as Experience
Your customer experience can also be your biggest differentiator. For example, everyone knows IKEA provides a specific experience. Customers know exactly what to expect when you go through their doors.
This carefully crafted experience is difficult for competitors to emulate. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. Something as simple as a personalized note to your customers can go a long way.
IKEA stands out in the furniture market by using store design as a vehicle to craft a memorable experience. The one-way-systems and added extras, like the meatballs and daycare area for your kids, are all engineered to delight customers:
Create a more memorable experience by sweating the small stuff first, then the big stuff. Think about ways you can throw added extras that nobody else would think of adding.
3. Innovate to Differentiate
If you’re imitating everyone else in your industry, there’s no way you can stand out. According to Forrester, 72% of customer experience execs aim to copy companies in other industries in order to innovate completely.
This may sound smart, but it’s not always the right approach. What works for other industries may not work for you, and by taking CX outside of the right context can end up backfiring on you.
Don’t follow the lead. Think outside the box and be willing to take risks. Look at the IKEA example above. No other furniture brand has ever put a Swedish restaurant in their stores.
One of the biggest benefits of a strong customer experience strategy is differentiation. By having a unique, memorable experience, your customer loyalty will skyrocket, as will acquisition.
As you now know, it’s important to have all stakeholders across your organization involved. There must be complete buy-in from every corner of the brand. Do this, and you’re more likely to succeed.
Tell us, how are you currently providing your customers with a killer customer experience?