In today’s hyper-competitive world, business success is increasingly dependent upon your ability to build enduring relationships, which in turn demands a rare capability: creating and delivering unique and compelling customer experience, supported by a management system that enables you to choreograph, improve and measure every customer interaction with your company.
If your company doesn’t have a coherent customer experience strategy or is just beginning to think about taking a formal approach to improving the customer experience, here are nine critical questions and answers that may clear things up and help you move forward:
1. What exactly is “Customer Experience?”
Customer or user experience — often referred to as CX and UX — is the overall feeling or perception your customers have of your brand, based on the sum of all of their interactions with your company. Those interactions are shaped by nearly everything your company does, from internal processes to products and services to customer service and support. That’s why one of the most critical areas of strategic focus for any company is improving the customer or user experience.
2. How is Customer Experience different from Customer Satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is simply a measurable delta between expectation and outcome. For example, if your marketing messaging promises one thing, but what your customers actually experience is something different, that difference will be reflected in your measure of customer satisfaction. While customer satisfaction is a component of customer experience, there are many other components that influence the customer’s overall experience. Customers today are more informed than ever and what might be deemed as satisfactory will likely not meet tomorrow’s expectations.
3. What exactly does “customer journey” mean?
The customer journey refers to the progression customers go through over time as they engage in what is ideally an enduring relationship with your company. When a customer needs a specific job to be done, they typically conduct research to identify potential solutions, make a decision on which solution to select, conduct a transaction to acquire it, and then begin using it and developing a longer-term relationship with the solution provider. The myriad touchpoints along the way between you/your solution and the customer form what is referred to as the customer journey.
4. What is the customer journey map?
As the name implies, a customer journey map can be thought of as a visual representation of typical customer experience over time as they interact with your products, processes, and people. One way to think of a customer journey map is that it is a visual story designed to provide insights into the customer’s journey that enable you to continuously improve the customer experience.
5. Why do customer journey maps matter?
A good customer journey map can help transform your company by becoming the true starting point for your daily work. Instead of starting with your functional silos, you start with your customers’ lives. The customer journey map should become the narrative through which you talk about your business priorities. The stages of the experience will guide how you organize and use customer feedback to tell the story of customers’ lives. Your prioritized customer touchpoints will help focus investments, be a guide for how leaders ask for accountability, and drive focus on important operational metrics everyone understands and cares about as much as sales goals. Your planning will be guided by understanding where you are meeting, exceeding or disappointing the expectations of your customers, by stage of the experience.
6. How is a customer journey map produced?
A good customer journey map should be produced collaboratively, preferably with both employees and customers. Typically, interactive workshops are conducted with your employee teams to define the “as-is” experience for specific types or categories of customers. Key jobs-to-be-done, key goals, touchpoints, pain points, emotions, customer-focused problem statements get mapped. Internal processes that might be impacting the customer experience should be examined as well, along with improvement opportunities. After validating each journey map with real customers, you can then begin to consider crafting the “ideal experience.”
It helps to use a framework to guide your efforts, such as this Customer Journey Canvas:
7. Do I need a Customer Experience system?
Taking a systems approach — versus a more fragmented, ad hoc, or purely tactical approach — is valuable for two reasons. First, because it will help you operationally answer the most important questions in the mind of your customer, such as: Can I trust them? Will they help me make the right choice? Will they get it right the first time? Are they reliable? Do they have my back when things go wrong? Do they “know” me and proactively help me?
Second, it will help you deliberately transform how you grow revenue, because improving the lives of your customers becomes the central focus, not just meeting a monetary target. Enabling your customers to achieve their desired outcomes with your products and services has a direct impact on your ability to grow revenue profitably. Everything you do should be in service of delighting your customers so you can drive long term value. In order to do that, you must optimize the customer experience throughout the customer life cycle. And to do that, you must embed a customer-centric mindset within and across all functions.
In other words, take a systems approach to the customer experience.
8. Does a customer experience system work for B2B as well as B2C?
Absolutely! However, the B2B space can indeed be a bit more complex than B2C: there can be multiple decision-makers (aka customers) and channels to navigate, sales processes that have been in place for years, and competitive dynamics. Understanding the experience and documenting the pain points is just as important and can unlock opportunities to better address client needs and ultimately improving financial performance.
9. What are the key elements of a good customer experience system?
Done right, a customer experience system can be a turnkey solution to achieving and sustaining a friction-free experience for your most valued customers. Good customer experience is composed of three integrated elements: Measure, Map, and Manage.
Customer engagement and loyalty levels along several dimensions and across every touchpoint should be quantified, using metrics such as Customer Satisfaction (CS) or Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Mapping and validating the customer journey(s), both as-is and “ideal.”
Innovation opportunities and continuous improvement projects identified in the MAP phase are launched, tracked and managed.
There comes a point in every startup’s maturity when taking a disciplined, systems approach to the customer experience becomes a burning platform. It helps to consider avoiding that heat entirely by proactively considering how to measure, map and manage the all-important customer experience!