There is probably nothing more important to the ongoing success of a business than a consistently excellent customer experience.
How many brands are you loyal to that provide a bad customer experience?
Customer Experience (CX) is more than customer service, more than the brand image your sales and marketing work so hard to project. In simple terms, everything your vendors and employees do on behalf of the company contributes to the customer experience.
But most organizations, and even customer experience professionals don’t think in these terms. It gets too complicated for most organizations. It’s much easier to think about customer touchpoints and pain points that can be identified and improved in a quest to create a great customer experience.
But what defines a great customer experience?
Seven Characteristics of a Great Customer Experience
It’s easy to get to know you
Transparency in what to expect
Effortless transactions (not just shopping, but problem solving and troubleshooting too)
Intentional friction (don’t over-optimize ALL transactions, sometimes waiting actually creates value by teasing the senses)
Interactions that make you feel valued not just as a customer, but as a person too
Occasional unexpected moments of delight
The Seven Characteristics of a Great Customer Experience serve as a set of guiding principles as you train employees, as you engage in service design, and as you pursue technology upgrades.
And what are the most important steps in a successful journey to a great customer experience?
Seven Steps to a Better Customer Experience
Make a shared commitment as an organizationInvolve your employees in the conversation to make sure they’re committed and have a chance to help prioritize areas of opportunity
Identify the key components of your current customer experienceWhat creates value for customers? What can’t you change because doing so would destroy value?
Identify your differentiated customer groupingsCustomers are not a homogeneous group. Create personas for a handful of customer groups that behave in distinctly different ways.
Talk to customersToo many customer experience efforts are birthed, and customer journey maps built without the team ever speaking to actual customers. Don’t assume!
Create a customer journey mapMake sure you map not only the customer touchpoints and pain points, but any points where lingering actually creates value. Focus each journey map on a single customer persona
Create a prioritized action planIt’s not enough to map the customer journey, people need to be excited about improving it and have a clear shared vision of when and where this is going to happen
Monitor progress vs. a baselineCreating a journey map and identifying improvement opportunities is important. But, instrumenting and measuring progress towards a better customer experience is a step that many miss. And this step is key to sustaining excitement, momentum, and support for a customer-centric culture over time. This requires technology.
The Seven Steps to a Better Customer Experience provide a simple framework to guide your pursuit of an improved customer experience, not just in the short-term, but also as part of a continuous improvement commitment.
Going Beyond Touchpoints and Pain Points
When CX professionals begin mapping customer journeys, we often do so through the lens of touchpoints, pain points and improvement opportunities. The purpose of these activities is to give everyone a shared picture of the steps a customer goes through and the exchanges that occur between the customer and the company across a certain period of time – a journey.
But, we can more richly understand the customer experience if we go beyond a touchpoint mindset and instead explore the interfaces at which customer interactions occur, the information exchanged, and the intelligence and insights that emerge from each exchange.
Below I have introduced the Five Keys to Digital Transformation, which are:
When considered more broadly, the Five Keys to Digital Transformation can be used to inform your customer experience improvement pursuits.
Central to customer experience is information. We must know what information customers need to be successful with our products and services. We must know what information our employees require to be successful in their job performance in service of our customers and our organization’s success.
Having good intelligence gathering in place provides us with the inputs we need to inform course corrections and better strategic decisions in service of our customers and our company.
Identifying actionable insights helps us understand why customers behave the way they do, what they value, what they prioritize, and ultimately what a good customer experience might look like.
At the edge of your organization are your interfaces, places where the organization connects with suppliers, partners, employees, and customers. Interfaces are the place where information, intelligence and insights are found, and interactions occur. The quality of your interfaces is usually determined by ease of use. Interfaces can include your web site, social media, salesforce, call centers, etc.
Interactions occur at the interfaces of the organization. Interactions don’t have to involve people, but often do. We have built interactive voice response systems, chatbots, and artificial intelligence systems to streamline our interactions with our customers. We must consider the customer experience upfront in any technology development project, otherwise we risk implementing a system that will actually cost us customers.
Consciously designing and continuously improving our interactions via delightful interfaces with the right information, intelligence and insights will turbo charge our customer experience potential.
Assembling the Ingredients into the Final Brew
In this article, we’ve discussed three distinct layers of crafting a better customer experience:
Focusing on the Seven Characteristics of a Great Customer Experience
Working through the Seven Steps to a Better Customer Experience
Leveraging the Five Keys to Digital Transformation in your customer experience efforts
And much a hand-pulled Guinness, when the three layers appear well-executed together, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Consciously designing effective information exchanges at efficient interfaces with delightful interactions should be your north star to experiences you can be proud of.
Pursuing this north star as you craft a better customer experience will ensure that it does indeed have the characteristics of a great one – in the first iteration and after improvement you undertake thereafter.
You now know what it takes to be a customer experience craftsperson. Enjoy the journey!