Customer experience management is a top priority for many enterprises, particularly as we look beyond 2016 to the competitive landscape. Today, customer experience heavily influences customer retention, customer loyalty, and customer advocacy – all desirable outcomes for modern organizations.
Managing the customer experience, however, is a facet of business operations that proves challenging. From utilizing the right technology to support customer experience, to empowering employees with a sense of ownership that cultivates a strong desire to provide exceptional experiences for customers, to developing systems and protocols to create a consistent experience across touch points and channels, there are myriad considerations to weigh when designing a customer experience management program.
We’ve rounded up 55 tips from customer experience thought leaders to help you navigate the complex maze of customer experience management, encompassing challenges, best practices, examples, and strategies for creating amazing customer experiences from the top down in your organization.
Click on a category name below to jump to a specific section:
- How to Think Like Your Customer to Improve Customer Experience
- Gaining Employee Buy-In and Fostering a Customer-Centric Culture
- Using Technology to Create Exceptional Customer Experiences
- Using Data Effectively to Drive Customer Experience
How to Think Like Your Customer to Improve Customer Experience
1. Solve customer problems before your customers even realize the problem exists. “When we were creating our product, we wanted to empower companies to create outstanding customer experiences and customer happiness — one of the best ways to do that is to solve your customers’ problems before they realize they exist.
“By staying one step ahead of the customer, not only are you able to proactively solve problems and create a seamless customer experience, you are able to plan your customer outreach and personalize it. For example, if you notice a problem with a particular user segment, you can pull their contact information and user history and incorporate that into a personalized email or in-app dynamic message. Being proactive allows you to remain in control at all times of the user’s brand experience.” – Rob Carpenter, 10 Quick Ways to Improve Customer Experience, Evergage; Twitter: @Evergage
2. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. “Anyone who runs a company or manages people tends to be full of ideas. These ideas do not always coincide with whatever is on the minds of the customers at large. When they visit your website, it only takes them a few seconds to compare your presentation and prices to your competitors, and if they like what they see somewhere else, they won’t even bother to order. Your website needs to be both simple and engaging so that a customer is drawn in to stay and finds it easy to navigate.” – Shariq Toor, 7 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience, FirstSource; Twitter: @firstsource
3. Use storytelling to improve the customer experience. “Every organization has stories which people can connect to and will improve customer experience—both employee and customer stories.
“So how do you figure out what stories to tell? Where do you find these stories?
“In Spin Sucks (the book) and the accompanying workbook (which you can download HERE), Gini Dietrich takes you through important steps to find and tell your own organizational stories.
“There are also great examples all around to take cues from, for example:
- Look at non-profits. They tend to excel at storytelling, and for profit businesses can learn a lot through the ways they use stories to connect with their donors, influencers, and community at large.
- What Hampton Inn and Suites has done with their Hamptonality Moments video series.
- Think outside the customer testimonial box, and get creative with how you engage happy (or even not so happy) customers to share their stories.” – Laura Petrolino, Three Ways to Improve Customer Experience Today, SpinSucks; Twitter: @SpinSucks
4. Don’t try to delight your customers. Instead, get specific. “Instead, define exactly what you mean by ‘delight’ and focus your efforts there. ‘Delight’ in an engineer’s mind might mean more features. For someone who is financially focused, ‘delight’ could well equal cheaper. For the salesperson, it could mean more customer freebies. For the inexperienced user, it could mean a simpler interface — and on and on. CX innovators should flee from fuzzy truisms such as ‘delight the customer’ and aim for something more specific.” – Christy Pettey, Five Innovation Tips to Improve the Customer Experience, Gartner; Twitter: @Gartner_inc
5. It’s more about avoiding a negative experience. Make it memorable. “Step into their [your customer’s] shoes and ask yourself: What type of experience would I want? It’s more than simply avoiding negative experiences. It’s about creating a memorable one that will leave your customers wanting more. Map out your customer experience process: When do they first interact with your company? When do they stop? Extending the length of your customer’s experience will provide a greater opportunity to create a positive experience and build a strong relationship.” – Peter Karpas, Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience With These 5 Tips, Entrepreneur; Twitter: @PeterKarpas, @Entrepreneur
6. Remember that repeat customers are not necessarily loyal customers. “Be passionate about customer relationships.”Remember that only extremely satisfied customers are genuinely loyal; don’t assume that repeat customers are loyal customers. Your positive attitude toward your customers does not mean that the relationship is mutual (you could be the only game in town… today).
“Customers who feel appreciated, respected, valued and recognized are loyal because they have an emotional connection to your company.” – Dr. Stephanie Parson, 12 Tips for a Positive Customer Experience, CSM Magazine
7. Look at the bigger picture: the complete customer journey. “All customer experiences are part of a broader journey, and to understand that, the business must get beyond looking at every customer interaction as a standalone event. This may be important in terms of evaluating internal processes and the performance of contact center agents, but that’s not how customers think. Every customer has taken a personal journey with your business, sometimes going back well before actually buying from you.
“The more that end-to-end journey is understood, the better you’ll be able to keep serving customer needs over time. This is what the emerging field of Customer Experience Management focuses on, and as Big Data becomes more mainstream, businesses will have unprecedented capabilities for mapping that journey and extracting rich insights to keep it moving forward.” – Jon Arnold, Top 6 Tips for Shaping the Customer Experience in 2016, Enterprise Management 360; Twitter: @em360mag
8. Always over-deliver. “Customer service is delivering. Customer experience is over-delivering. Over-delivering usually means offering more stuff (services or products) than was originally agreed upon, or delivering sooner than a deadline.
“Watch it: if you over-deliver after making a mistake, that’s still not customer experience. When you make a mistake, you are “down one.” You offer something so that you’ll be back in good graces. This isn’t a bad thing to do. I’d say it’s a good thing to do. But just know that when you made a mistake, you were at a deficit. Now you’re back breaking even. Over-delivering must be unsolicited to be customer experience.” – Anna Wickham, 4 Tips for Improving Customer Experience in Your Business, The Worldly Blend; Twitter: @aewickham
9. Map your insights, identify gaps, then ideate. “From the insights you pull from your customers, map out exactly where in the customer journey you need more focused attention. In the end, if your customers aren’t raving fans, then you’re still working hard for the initial sale, rather than enjoying the multiplication effect that comes when your customers convince their friends to become new customers.
“Once you’ve identified where you need the most help, it’s time to ideate and come up with a minimum of three ways to fill in the gaps you’ve identified in your customer journey. This way, you have several options to work with to build a better customer experience.” – Bill Carmody, 5 Customer Experience Tips, MarketingNW.com; Twitter: @marketingnw
10. Map your customer journey, but go beyond by understanding and improving on your customer journey map over time. “While the mere exercise of mapping your customer’s journey has value, the ultimate goal is to improve your customer’s experience by understanding what they go through at each touch point and improving the quality of that experience.
“Using the 80/20 approach, start with your most important touch points, and ask one question: how can I make this quicker and easier? Can I remove parts of the process to make it go quicker? Can I empower employees to make the process easier by solving more issues in real time? Of course, there is much more to a quality customer interaction than just timeliness and easiness, but they are great places to start.
“While customer journey mapping is infinitely more complex than the seven foundational tips listed above, the simple act of getting started with journey mapping will provide you tremendous, actionable insights into your customers’ experiences with your organization.
“Just remember that a customer journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Adam Toporek, 7 Tips to Get Started with Customer Journey Mapping, Convince and Convert; Twitter: @adamtoporek, @Convince
11. Remember that the customer is at the center of the customer’s universe. “What matters to the customer is the customer, and the people the customer cares about, a category that only tangentially at best includes you, the service provider.
“Seth Godin once pointed out that ‘when you hand someone a photo album or a yearbook, the first thing they will do is seek out their own picture.’
“I would extend this thinking even further. Every minute the customer is with you, the customer is thinking about his own reality. Or the reality of his relationship with the people who matter to him.
“Think about this reality–because it is reality. Incorporate it into everything you do in business. You’ll be amazed at the rewards you reap.” – Micah Solomon, The customer is at the center of the customer’s universe., MicahSolomon.com; Twitter: @MicahSolomon
12. Understand the underpinnings of the customer service experience. “Understanding emotional underpinnings of the customer service experience has become pivotal to optimizing both a positive relationship and desirable post-service behavior. It is also an essential element of customer-centricity. If an organization fails to identify, on a prioritized and granular basis, which emotionally-driven elements of service value are, and aren’t, being delivered, even the best and most proactive solutions will not build desired customer loyalty.
“Customer-centricity, after all, is about more than structure, strategy and systems. It’s about the differentiation and engagement that lead to bonding between the organization and its stakeholders. It’s also about giving stakeholders a personal investment in the organization and its ongoing success. It’s about the enterprise becoming more proactive, transparent and open, connecting with customers through branded, emotional experiences and sustained value delivery, resulting in its operation as a ‘conscious capitalist’. One golden opportunity to do this is through personalized service delivery.” – Colin Shaw, Industry Secrets Leaked: Predicting Customer Behavior, Beyond Philosophy; Twitter: @BeyondP
13. Align business goals with customer demands. “Demanding customers—more empowered than ever by technology—long ago made the idea of customer experience management a boardroom priority. Satisfy your customers or your competitors soon will. There’s an upside to succeeding at customer experience management, too. Work by Forrester Research and others demonstrates that customer experience leaders outperform laggards on revenue growth and shareholder returns.
“Leaders seem to understand this combined threat and opportunity:
- Forrester Research further reports that 57% of companies aspire to be the customer experience leader in their industry.¹
- Gartner reports that by 2016 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience.
“Unfortunately, many organizations undertake ambitious customer experience management initiatives and fail to see any meaningful benefit. Customer defections continue and revenue growth remains sluggish. And it’s only going to get more challenging going forward. Simple arithmetic dictates that 57% of companies can’t simultaneously lead their industries by competing on customer experience.
“The fundamental problem traces to an all-too-common ‘inside-out’ perspective on customers and their expectations. Inside-out thinking mistakenly focuses on what’s important or interesting to the organization, not the customer. It overlooks an essential truth: your customers’ perceptions are your reality. Their internal, personal sense of what they expected and experienced must therefore be at the core of your customer experience thinking.” – James Gardner, Are you doing customer experience management all wrong?, Connective DX; Twitter: @jamesagardner
Gaining Employee Buy-In and Fostering a Customer-Centric Culture
14. Get to know your customers outside of their interactions with your company. “There’s value in getting to know your customers outside of their interactions with your company. In other words, finding out what the rest of their lives look like. This isn’t easy either, but it’s important. Otherwise you can only create an environment that is comfortable for people who are more or less similar to you. To give you a simple example of this: I worked with some car dealers recently who had the most male-defined waiting rooms you can imagine. Although more than 50 percent of their purchases (and, I’ll bet, even more of the decision-makers on purchases) are women, the overwhelmingly male managers were who had picked out the furniture and even the magazines for the waiting areas. They would have done better to have someone (most likely female) who understood the norms and expectations of their customers a bit better.”Seeing your business from the viewpoint of your customers isn’t easy, and won’t always come naturally. But it’s worth it.” – Micah Solomon, a customer experience consultant, customer service speaker and bestselling author, How To Improve The Customer Experience By 180 Degrees, Forbes; Twitter: @micahsolomon, @Forbes
15. Hire for values, not skill-set. “There are people in this world who do things impetuously. They don’t pause to think of repercussions of impulsive behavior. They do not behave well under stress and pressure. These are not people who should be working in your contact centers. The hiring process for your contact centers should be critical–as critical as engineering hires. Remember 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. I told you last week it’s absolutely key to hire people who are great with people. These employees are good listeners. They have sound judgement. There is a world shortage of common sense. You can easily train employees but you can’t change the fabric of who they are. Hire contact center agents who have a wealth of common sense.” – Blake Morgan, 5 Ways Company Culture Can Improve Your Customer Experience, Forbes; Twitter: @BlakeMichelleM,@Forbes
16. Get employee buy-in. “According to expert Michael Lowenstein, employees are the key to optimizing the customer experience. First, organizations need to make sure they have hired loyal employees who are committed to the company and fully understand the company’s mission. Employee loyalty and satisfaction play a big role in improving the customer experience — an unhappy employee usually won’t provide the type of customer experience the company is after. For organizations looking to get employee buy-in for their customer experience initiatives, expert Lior Arussy recommends building a business case that explains why the initiative is important, from a customer’s point of view.” – How to improve the customer experience in 10 steps, SearchCRM – TechTarget; Twitter: @SearchCRM
17. Recognize performance. “Establish a program to nurture and recognize outstanding performance. Make sure both customers and team members are encouraged to participate. Continuous improvement needs reinforcement. An ongoing recognition program keeps customer service in focus.” – Bill Hogg, 12 Steps to Improve Your Customer Experience, BillHogg.ca; Twitter: @BillHogg
18. Develop a brand personality that your customers can relate to. “While most of the hotel staff were delightful and added to our good time, one hotel’s customer service person spent breakfast talking with the residents. As a result, visitors felt a personal connection with her, and many took pictures with her since she was important to their vacation. For your product, this doesn’t have to be the head of the company but someone who interacts well with prospects and customers.” – Heidi Cohen, Five Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience, ClickZ; Twitter: @ClickZ
19. Find out what outcomes customers expect and how they make value judgments of each outcome. “Find out what outcomes customers expect. This is different from product or service features. Those are just means‐to‐an‐end. The outcome is what the customer really buys. Find out how customers make value judgments of each outcome. This is different from satisfaction levels. They want outcome A to be minimized, or outcome B to be increased — get the customers’ wording for this, and maintain that wording to measure your performance.” – Lynn Hunsaker, 10 Tips for Inventing Great Customer Experiences , Clear Action; Twitter: @ClearAction
20. Set out to inspire employees. “Intentionally focusing on experiences is going to take courage on your part. Most companies, most managers, and most employees don’t even try to create experiences. So when you do, you are going to stand out. It’s human nature to want to blend in, to avoid being noticed. Not only that but you’re going to be self-conscious so, after you take a baby step in one direction, your natural inclination will be to pull back. Before you decide to quit before you’ve started, consider this: Those who inspire us typically take risks outside the norm. Don’t you love it when you are inspired? I do and so do our peers. You can be a source of inspiration but, to do that, you have to aspire to be inspirational. And to be inspirational, you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone—and stay there.
“You can create great experiences for your customers and employees—experiences that will inspire them and leave them with a memorable impression. In the process, you will sell more, engender greater employee morale, and enhance your organization’s success. And you might even have fun in the process.” – Brent Johnson, 10 Tips to Create Great Customer Experiences, PC Mag; Twitter: @TheRainMarketer, @PCMag
21. Make sure you’ve covered the five elements of CX. “Utility, convenience, community, connection, and choice – experts consider these 5 elements the essential part of a great digital customer experience. Determine if your brand offers:
- Utility – Something valuable
- Convenience – Easy accessibility
- Community – Customer to customer interaction
- Connection – A sense of belonging
- Choice – Customer empowerment” – Elenis Carmago, 5 Tips To Make Your Digital Customer Experience A Success, CXperience (WalkMe); Twitter: @WalkMeInc
22. Stress the importance of using positive language. “Positive language is a great way to avoid accidental conflicts sprung from miscommunication. While the change is subtle, the effects are drastic.
“Say one of your products is backordered for a month and you need to relay this information to a customer immediately. Consider the following responses:
- Negative language: ‘I can’t get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.’
- Positive language: ‘That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!’
“Redirecting the conversation from negative to positive places focus on the proposed solution. When the outcome takes center stage, it reduces the odds that customers will be upset. ” – Gregory Ciotti, 15 Traits of Top-Tier Support Departments, Help Scout; Twitter: @helpscout
23. Outline a governance structure. “Without a governance structure in place, we perpetuate silo thinking and fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment. Why? Because a governance structure outlines people, roles, and responsibilities when it comes to your customer experience strategy. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization? We often see this piece of the governance structure refer to a core program team, an executive sponsor, and cross-functional champions. Your oversight committee should include the team of people you believe will best carry out the strategy, driven by your corporate and customer experience vision, for your organization.
“You’ll need to have clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed. Who will drive the efforts and how? How will you transform to a customer-centric culture? How will organizational buy-in be achieved? How do you continue to motivate employees to focus on the customer? How will you listen to customers? Who will use the data and how? Where does accountability lie? What processes and policies must be in place in order to roll out these efforts? How will change management be handled? How will you measure success? How does it all tie in to our desired business outcomes?” – Annette Franz, The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience, CX Journey; Twitter: @CXJourney
24. You must have a Single Point of Accountability (SPA) for effective customer experience management. “In my last post, I outlined that your customer experience needs a Single Point of Accountability (SPA). Who within your business will lead your company’s customer experience? I outlined in that post that the CEO can’t do it. While your CEO must be a proponent of your efforts, she can’t be doing the work. Your company must appoint someone to lead the strategy, build the team and execute on the plan.
“An emerging role within companies of all sizes and industries is the Chief Customer Officer. Munchery, the ventured-back delivery company, recently recruited Pascal Rigo to become their Chief Customer Experience Officer after he sold his company La Boulange to Starbucks for $100 million. When I read the article, I was elated because I, and many others, have been promoting the need for this role within companies for years.
“Whether you’re a venture-back company, valued at a billion dollars, or a $25M company, your customer experience needs a SPA. One of my clients, one of Las Vegas’ largest HVAC companies, recently appointed their customer experience SPA. This company, in an industry not immediately recognized for their customer experience strategy, understood that their customer experience needs a leader within the organization with me even having to make a case for it.
“Do you have a customer experience SPA within your company today? Do they have everything they need to succeed, including the education, the budget and the software required to thrive?
“If you don’t have a SPA, do you know someone in your company that could take on that role and succeed? If not, do you know how you will recruit this individual?” – Michel Falcon, Necessary Steps to Build Your Company’s 2016 Customer Experience Plan, MichelFalcon.com; Twitter: @MichelFalcon
25. Implement best practices company-wide. “Generally, CEM is focused on revenue-oriented programs, and it is implemented company-wide by less than half of B2B companies. For example, less than one in four companies has company-wide implementation of these best practices:
- Identifying all buying influencers within customer companies
- Analyzing lost sales
- Calculating lifetime value of customers
- Basing front-line decisions on customer experience or customer lifetime value
- Segmenting customers by lifetime value or customer experience parameters
“Most implementations are within a functional area. The Service organization typically drives most of the customer well-being programs, such as complaint resolution, voice of the customer, customer touch points, and customer experience improvement. Marketing is usually the organization that drives customer intelligence, references, advocacy, loyalty, and internal branding.” – Lynn Hunsaker, President of Marketing Operations Partners and Customer Experience Strategist at ClearAction, Customer Experience Best Practices Study, Marketing Operations Partners; Twitter: @MOPartners
26. Address customer issues on the channel on which they raised them. Empower your front-line staff with the tools they need to create great experiences. “Address and solve their issues on the channel on which they raised them. We’ve all been in a situation whereby we’ve raised an issue online only to be told to visit a bricks-and-mortar service center to get it resolved. Or perhaps asked an after sales service person standing in our homes for something additional to what was originally ordered only to be told to call the contact center. Its inconvenient and frustrating. Empower your frontline staff and give them the tools they need to satisfy customer needs.” – Ben Motteram, One Tip for 2016, CXpert; Twitter: @CXpert
27. Culture change must occur to put customer experience theory into practice. “Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways of changing a culture. The more everyone in a business starts to TALK about the customer and experiences of the customer, the more likely that the behaviors of that organization will change. When a CEO opens a meeting by talking about a recent experience of their own – with passion and sincerity – it is an incredibly powerful message to everyone listening that ‘we do not want to be doing this to our customers’. Continually sharing stories and examples of what you want and do not want to see helps every employee understand the direction that you are going in – culturally.” – Ian Golding, Customer Centric Culture: Putting Theory into Practice, IJGolding.com; Twitter: @ijgolding
28. Developing customer experience should come first, and it becomes the foundation for advertising, marketing assets, and other communication. “There is no doubt that, in a socially connected world, authenticity is one of the most important facets every business should be built around. However, if brands are truly going to deliver authenticity, many need to change their focus. We hear lots of talk about brands being authentic today. Shiny vision statements assure customers that brands will fulfill promises and become more than just an image-led machine. The talk is often very positive and well meaning. Yet when the process begins to take shape, many brand consultancies and marketing agencies resort to focusing most of their resources on the very things they set out to surpass. Dress it up any way you like, brand image and advertising seems to be the glass ceiling in the pursuit to authenticity.
“Not for a second am I questioning the value of consultants and agencies, but if brands are to achieve genuine change; the role of the ‘agency’ needs to change first. The focus must be honed in on developing real consumer experiences before developing polished advertising and image assets to create false expectations – only then will brands and agencies achieve authenticity. Before settling for a market-leading logo, brands, consultancies and agencies need to go head to head with the experience they currently provide for the customers. If the customer experience is poor, the font of the logo won’t be worth the billboard it’s printed on.” – Tim Wade, Authenticity: The Great Charade, CX Talk; Twitter: @ShaunSmith_CEM
29. Anticipate customer expectations and reactions. “As executives and employees absorb customer comments on a daily basis, their work can be attuned to its ripple effect on customers’ well-being. By anticipating what customers want and how customers will react to a team’s decisions and deliverables, mis-steps can be avoided, saving significant time, effort, morale, and costs both for your company and for your customers.
“Anticipation is integral to value creation. When executives’ and employees’ hearts and minds are close to the customer they are more likely to generate ideas that innovate the customer experience and create highly appreciated innovative products and services to propel the company’s growth.” – Lynn Hunsaker, Customer Experience for the Future: Momentum Drives Company Growth, InsideCXM; Twitter: @InsideCXM
30. Begin with a service vision to create consistency in your customer experience. “It begins with creating a service vision, and continues with the development and implementation of organization-wide service standards.
“Service standards grow out of the service vision. They illustrate how ‘The Acme Way’ or ‘The IT Department Style’ looks in thought and action everywhere – in the call center, on the sales floor, or in the check-out line. Behaviors that consistently breed customer loyalty won’t occur without standards and behaviors aligned with the service vision. Also, service vision breakdowns often happen at the intersection of two internal units that only care about their side of the equation. If there are precise, worked-out-in advance standards about inter-departmental operations and cooperation – and if units are held accountable for meeting them – you have a blueprint for efficient and effective execution.
“The overall goal is consistent practice and aligned efforts. Such consistency – delivering on promises again and again – builds trust in customers and helps cement their loyalty to the unit or organization. Service standards are the key 8 or 10 practices that are crucial to making the service vision come true for customers.” – Chip Bell and John R. Patterson, Finding Your Way To Customer Experience Consistency, Take Their Breath Away; Twitter: @johnrpatt, @chiprbell
31. Develop effective governance practices. “At its core, customer experience management comes down to governance. But what is governance, really? You’ve probably got a hundred different governance processes in your organization, none of them exactly the same. The word “governance” may stir up images of executives in closed-door meetings talking about compliance. And yes, teams of senior decision makers are an important component of governance practices at many organizations. But customer experience governance isn’t about a committee that hands out edicts from on high. And I’m not suggesting that you form a police force to issue tickets for customer experience infractions.
“Customer experience governance is about helping you drive accountability by assigning specific customer experience management tasks to specific people within your organization. It’s also about developing new business processes and establishing oversight across your company’s customer experience initiatives. When implemented well, governance practices will help you monitor customer experience quality, improve it on a continuous basis, and keep bad experiences from getting out the door in the first place.
“In Forrester’s book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of customer experience governance through a case study about the software company Adobe. Adobe recently created a physical listening post in its headquarters where it aggregates the voice of the customer. Flat screen panels, each displaying a different type of input, dominate one wall of the room. Screens on the far left show insights from Facebook, Twitter, and other social forums; the middle screens pipe in real-time video from the company’s call centers in Asia, Europe, and North America; and on the right screens display the top issues bubbling up in Adobe’s customer relationship management system and customer surveys.” – Kerry Bodine, Governance: The Key To Customer Experience Management, Think Customers Blog at 1to1Media; Twitter: @1to1media, @kerrybodine
Using Technology to Create Exceptional Customer Experiences
32. Simplify and standardize your offers. “Your offer should be easy to understand. Having something customized is sometimes valuable, but not always. Design the complexity out of your offer and the purchase process. Your prospects will choose you because they understand what you’re offering and can purchase it easily.”You’ll find a process for how to turn your high-cost customized offer into a streamlined standardized product in John Warillow’s book Built to Sell. If you are a service business, start by mapping out the process that you use to deliver your service. Create online forms that take the place of long meetings.
“Embrace this new way of buying, selling and interacting in a digital world. This is really a mindset issue. The longer we try to hang on to the way it used to be or should be, the more difficult it will be to do something new and different.
“Create a new normal that includes and acknowledges the mobile and digital customer experience. Don’t try to adapt the new technology to your old thinking. Instead, use the new technology as a tool to help you achieve what you never thought was possible in your business.” – Ivana Taylor, 6 Techniques to Improve Customer Experience, American Express OPEN Forum; Twitter: @DIYMarketers, @AmexOpen
33. Use technology to enhance the experience; don’t rely on technology to create the experience. “Technology is a great enabler of the customer experience. Nowadays with marketing automation tools, workflow tools and customer relationship management tools, you can leverage personal data and information to create a better experience for customers.
“The challenge is making sure you use technology to enhance the experience, rather than rely on it to create the experience (read more on this).
“LAX airport has adapted technology to help be more useful to customers. They’ve taken a ‘Youtility’ approach – for example – they now offer free wifi for all customers which means everyone can access important information on the go.
“They also have a free mobile app that you can download. Numerous benefits here – it helps customers check flight status and access information – instantly.
“They have also adopted TSA Pre, which allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at participating U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel. The benefits of this include faster transit through airport security, shorter lines and no need to remove belts, shoes and jackets.
“These three little improvements in the customer experience have been a result of adopting new technology. LAX didn’t have to offer free wifi, mobile apps and TSA Pre – but they wanted to – they recognized the need to create improved customer experiences.” – Ross Beard, How To Improve The Customer Experience (Just Like LAX Airport), Client Heartbeat; Twitter: @ClientHeartbeat
34. Make it personal. “The Issue: Routing your customers through phone trees may have been fine for cutting costs, but “customers expect to be treated as individuals in their moment of need,” according to Forrester. Companies that deliver on this will be rewarded, and companies that fail will be punished.
“What IT should do: Forrester said leading companies are leveraging business intelligence systems to derive customer insights that they then apply to creating an effective customer experience interface. All of this is done with the goal of providing responsive, predictive customer care. Laggards will use old-school customer segmentation techniques instead, and will struggle to keep up.” – Jessica Davis, Improving Customer Experiences: 10 Ways IT Can Help, InformationWeek; Twitter: @InformationWeek
35. Choose technology based on the problems it can solve for your customers. “Each of your customer-facing technologies leaves an impression. Before you add another potential technological hurdle for your customers, take time to think about the technology’s tangible effects on your customer experience.
“If you’ve ever set up a new computer for a family member, or suffered through a slow-internet video call—you know people take to new technologies at different speeds.
“That sort of learning curve is important to understand. For example, consider Chloe, a technology Best Buy is piloting in Chelsea. Chloe is essentially a robot warehouse picker. Customers choose items through a touchscreen, and Chloe retrieves them.
“I guess Chloe may appeal to digital natives as an electronics-warehouse-jukebox-claw-game. However, I’m not sure how they’d see Chloe as essentially different or better than shopping online after the novelty wears off. And if I think about the perspective of digital laggards, I can see Chloe as another alien interface between them and their goal.
“Here’s my point: focus on pain points for your customers and relieving them. Try to be empathetic as you think about how to improve the customer experience with technology.” – George Jacob, How to Improve the Customer Experience: 3 Tech Questions, PeopleMetrics; Twitter: @PeopleMetrics
36. Never create operational efficiencies at the expense of the customer experience. “A digital transformation strategy that provides options based on customer preferences is the way to go. While it is important to create operational efficiencies to reduce costs, it should never be at the sacrifice of the customer experience. Your customers are the reason you are in business and the reason you will stay in business. Of course, let us not forget that when digital platforms and data intelligence are used right, it can reduce friction and provide conveniences that can exponentially enhance the customer experience. Regardless of what your digital transformation requirements are, decisions need to be based on the preferences of your customers. Remember, digital strategies are designed to satisfy human needs.” – Jason Burnham, 5 important ways to improve customer experience, iMedia Connection; Twitter: @iMediaTweet
37. Don’t offer silos of communication options. “Your service experience should allow customers to start an interaction over one communication channel and complete it over a different one. For example, they should be able to start an interaction over the phone and follow up with an e-mail containing more detailed information.”To provide this kind of experience, channels can’t be implemented in silos. Instead, they must be integrated so that agents have a full view of all customer interactions over both traditional and social channels. In addition, if a service request has been escalated from a Web self-service session, agents should have access to the full session history so they don’t repeat questions or searches—thereby degrading the customer experience.
“Companies like T-Mobile take cross-channel communication a step further. If a customer can’t find the right information via Web self-service, he or she can escalate a question to a chat or an e-mail agent. As the customer is supplying additional information, the company runs an under-the-covers search through its knowledge base to locate possible answers. T-Mobile then presents these answers to the customer, who can decide whether the answer meets his or her needs. If not, the customer can continue to request help from an agent.” – Kate Leggett, Nine Ways to Enhance the Customer Experience, Baseline; Twitter: @baselinemag
38. Accelerate adoption. “Keeping pace with consumers will make all the difference to their experience in 2016. Consumers are more willing to try new things now than ever before, adopting technologies at an ever increasing speed; a process called hyperadoption. It is important to clarify that customers do not adopt devices at breakneck speeds. Rather, consumers hyperadopt outcomes.”A great example of a hyperadopted outcome is WhatsApp, a popular messaging app. By offering the service for free, WhatsApp reduced the risk of testing it out. And when you reduce the risk of new behaviors, you lose less with a negative outcome and gain more from a positive outcome. This process, in turn, increases customer interest and adoption, creating a network effect. The question you need to ask yourself is: How can you increase the adoption of your products and services? First, anticipate the outcomes customers can expect, and then be hyperresponsive to invite your customers to experience these new outcomes through digital channels. These outcomes will resonate with users and they will embrace your brand.” – Andrea Bailiff-Gush, Four Tips for Delivering Unforgettable Customer Experiences, CleverBridge; Twitter: @cleverbridge
39. Create a ‘No Silo Zone.’ “Since customer expectations have shifted towards immediate, friendly, customized products and services across all channels, the need for understanding their current thinking has grown exponentially. What makes prospects buy, and when? What is your ideal customer profile? What keeps customers coming back? Which marketing campaigns have been most successful? Tracking and analyzing information can answer these questions and provide critical insight on next steps for improving CX and keeping clients.
“Create a ‘No Silo Zone.’ Marketing and IT departments must become closer partners, to harness data and extract the most useful facts. Vast quantities of data without analyzing and then applying it, is useless. Understanding how the data can improve each customer’s journey is the key to acquiring more new clients and retaining current ones.” – Denise Graziano, Big Data & Customer Experience – Tips to Bridge the Gap for Increased Revenue & Client Retention, Business2Community; Twitter: @GrazianoAssoc, @B2Community
40. Build a business case by conducting a channel assessment. “Perform a channel assessment to determine which channels are effective, which are not, and which channels are not in your portfolio, but should be. Use future-view journey mapping to identify gaps that need to be filled and where you can generate additional value from existing channels.” – Mark Lister, vice president, Experience Engineering, and James M. A. Williams, director of experience engineering, Ness SES, 5 Steps to Build an Effective Omnichannel Strategy, IT Business Edge; Twitter: @ITBusinessEdge
41. Enable two-way communication and provide self-service and automated options, but make it easy for customers to reach a human. “Allow customers to interact with your business through social media, email and a website and ensure responses are sent in a timely manner. Even better, implement real-time communications through chat windows or mobile phone. Many customers may prefer self-serve and automated options, but to cover all your bases also ensure they can reach a human being whenever they need to.” – 8 Best Practices for Customer Experience Management, ShoreTel; Twitter: @shoretel
42. Create low-effort experiences. “Consumer research from several sources has revealed a very distinct trend. Today’s customers want low-effort experiences.
- A survey of 97,000 customer revealed that exceeding customer expectations is not always enough to retain customers. Instead, customers are more likely to remain loyal to brands that require minimal effort when engaging with them. Yet many brands are not delivering the low-effort, multichannel experiences customers desire. (Corporate Executive Board).
- A U.S. study of 27,000 customers across 14 industries validated that high-quality, low-effort experiences deliver positive business results. Positive experiences correlated to increases in revenue growth and customer satisfaction. (McKinsey)
- A consumer study showed that brands who make purchase decision journeys easier for customers were 86 percent more likely to motivate consumers to buy. Moreover, these brands earned higher repurchase rates and were more than 115 percent more likely to be recommended by consumers than brands with more complex purchase journeys. (Customer Experience Board)
“Top performers make sure they are accessible on the channels customers prefer. Often, consumers use multiple channels in their buying journey—from research, through down select, and purchase.
“Companies need to eliminate information silos so that every front-line representative—from the contact center to a branch location—has up-to-date detail on customer interactions. Streamlining systems can also eliminate the common problem of asking customers to repeat or reenter information multiple times—a major source of customer irritation.” – Connie Harrington, What Makes a Great Customer Experience?, SkyCreek; Twitter: @SkyCreek1
43. Make the customer experience glitch-free. “Glitch-free customer experiences build engagement. Half of customers who don’t run into problems when they buy are fully engaged, a recent Gallup poll found.
“This is where it gets even better: 54% of customers who’ve had problems that were fixed to their satisfaction end up fully engaged.
“But beware: If there’s a problem, and it’s not fixed well, only 15% of customers become engaged, researchers found.” – Michele McGovern, How to build — or destroy — customer engagement in minutes, Customer Experience Insight; Twitter: @sheknowsservice
Using Data Effectively to Drive Customer Experience
44. Integrate systems to centralize customer data. “Integrating business systems that centralize accounting, order management, CRM, and ecommerce processes give your people a single data source to draw on for all things customer related. When everyone has access to the same customer information and transactions, it’s easier to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It allows salespeople to spot opportunities to cross-sell and upsell, and teams can confidently track pending orders, service issues, or overdue invoices. Real-time visibility into the customer transaction means employees can provide a more consistent service experience, building customer satisfaction and developing longer term, more profitable relationships.
“At the same time, end-to-end information is immediately available to individual teams. Your marketing, finance, sales, and inventory managers can all pull the exact data they need to understand trends and improve the accuracy of their forecasting. Because they all draw from the same data source, your company will have a more holistic insight into customer behavior at each stage of the transaction. More comprehensive insight allows the business to plan promotions, approaches, or new products that will win and retain more customers.” – How Integrated Software Solutions Improve your Customers’ Experience, NetSuite; Twitter: @NetSuite
45. Monitor all touchpoints. “While many organizations recognize the importance of collating customer feedback and using analytic tools, it appears that departmental and channel silos are still an issue.
- 60% of companies gather feedback about their interactions with a company; however only 33% analyze customer insight across organizational boundaries (Source: Forrester).” – Peter McKean, Managing Director, Synthetix, 10 quick and key ways to improve your customer experience, MyCustomer.com; Twitter: @MyCustomer
46. Capture data and use it effectively to create personalized and authentic experiences. “If 89% of customers say having to repeat information is their #1 frustration (Orange Silicon Valley report), you better be able to track and trace where your customers came from, and any effort they’ve already made to engage with you about their product. A popular example of this is when you call the bank and you call the debit department but you want to talk to the credit card department. All information must be repeated. This is a real way to kill the mood with the customer.
“The idea is to capture as much data about your customer to personalize the experience and make it authentic. Consider Director Product Marketing Strategy at 7 inc. Daniel Hong’s comments in an interview for the Orange report mentioned earlier. He talks about how there is data to collect such as (take a deep breath before reading this list) transaction history from ERP and CRM systems, real-time web and IVR data, location data, chat and voice interaction transcripts, billing information, agent performance and disposition data, survey data and social data—and all of that you can leverage to improve the customer experience in real time. The data is out there to create a personalized experience but most companies aren’t connecting the dots–generally because they have very disconnected technologies and lack standard workflows and processes. The problem isn’t the data, it’s knowing how to capture it and what to do with it.” – Blake Morgan, 5 Tips To Make Your Customer Experience Millennial Friendly, Forbes; Twitter: @BlakeMichelleM, @Forbes
47. Make decisions based on data, not opinions. “Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once famously said, ‘If you have facts, present them and we’ll use them. But if you have opinions, we’re gonna use mine.’
“Making effective decisions about how to improve the experience your customers (and potential customers) have requires the careful analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data from your business and the competition.
“This can be hard for our egos. We like to think we were hired because of our excellent instincts. But, like Google Ventures Partner Ken Norton explains:
‘A delightful thing happens when you stop relying on the opinion of the highest paid person in the room and start demanding data: you move faster. Rather than arguing for weeks, you test your assumptions and see what works and what doesn’t.'” – Spencer Lanoue, 7 Customer Experience Tips for Differentiating Your Company, UserTesting; Twitter: @usertesting
48. Know your Customer Effort Score (CES). “By utilizing technology intelligently, it is possible to bring even greater satisfaction to your customers without putting forth more effort. The Customer Effort Score (CES), helps companies understand how the customer perceives their experience relative to their expectations—regardless of the channel.
“Companies will be eager to improve their CES scores in the new year. The most effective way to improve these scores is by implementing automated solutions. Integrating disparate applications and building connectivity to simplify workflows will automatically launch work processes based on ‘triggers’ to create a better way of working. Contrary to popular belief, these technologies are non-invasive, have a small IT footprint, and are scalable to grow along with a business.” – Anna Convery, 5 Tips for Improving Your Customer Experience—and Your Bottom Line, DestinationCRM; Twitter: @CRM
49. Use predictive insights to deliver optimized responses in real-time. “To provide an experience where customers can navigate across multiple devices (mobile or desk-bound), brands must deliver engagement and shopping experiences that recognize each device and automatically adjust interactions to deliver seamless experiences. You will want to be able to respond to each customer’s interactions in real time and extend relevant content and offers based on an individual’s real-time activity, when their engagement is at its highest.” – Natalie Petouhoff (Dr. Natalie), Webinar About Best Practices: Customer Experience Management, Technology, Roles and Strategy, Dr. Natalie; Twitter: @drnatalie
50. Define metrics that help measure critical emotions in influential experiences. “Start by defining metrics for critical emotions and experiences that have a high impact on your customer relationships. Then, define emotion metrics. In recent interviews, nearly all of the CX pros who measure emotions do so retrospectively rather than in real time. That is because it is easier and adds value nonetheless. For the same reason, many started with metrics that measure positive or negative sentiment as opposed to discrete emotions. For example, Lenovo uses text analysis software to measure changes in sentiment scores quarter over quarter and monitors when sentiment falls below a threshold.” – Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, Measure Emotions In Customer Experiences To Improve Loyalty, Forrester; Twitter: @maxieschmidt
51. Identify your most strategically important customers (your most profitable customers) and what they value most. “Knowing who are your most profitable customers is all very well, but if you do not know what these customers value and the three or four most important attributes which drive their intention to repurchase you cannot influence their behavior. Without the answers to these questions you may have data, but you do not have insight.
“A key component of a branded customer experience is being differentiated in a way that is valuable to target customers.
“At Harrah’s, the gaming experience was redesigned to increase customer satisfaction and differentiate the brand. So for example, its Total Gold loyalty program was transformed into ‘Total Rewards,’ which segmented customers into Gold, Platinum and Diamond categories, depending on their loyalty to Harrah’s. Harrah’s executives discovered that delays at reception were a turn-off for customers, so Gold customers benefit from fast-track lines; Platinum customers have shorter lines still; and Diamond customers have no lines at all. Harrah’s share of these customers spend rose significantly.” – Shaun Smith, Customer Experience Management: 10 Best Practices to Create Real Business Value, CustomerTHINK; Twitter: @CustomerThink, @ShaunSmith_CEM
52. Aim for real-time optimization for every individual customer. “For most marketers, the goal should be to make in-session decisions as to what customers should see, what offers you recommend and what you say to them.”Craft a custom experience for each visitor, and they’ll buy more.
“Do all of this, and they’ll be back.” – Paul Dunay, Six Tips For Turning Big Data Into Great Customer Experiences, Forbes; Twitter: @PaulDunay
53. Don’t overlook small data. “The industry buzz is all about big data, but there is gold to be mined at the small-data level, too. Small data refers to the individualized, personal tidbits buried in unstructured data and direct personal feedback from customers. Data collected from customer surveys and interviews can reveal deep knowledge about how and why customers use your product, what could be improved and how it benefits them. This information, when applied properly, can enhance the one-to-one customer experience like nothing else.
“The more data a business has about its customers, the better. But, data comes in many flavors and sizes, from raw quantitative analysis to nuanced, personal insights. Combining these insights provides a more complete picture of a business’ customers and can drastically enhance customer experience.” – Sara Vera, 5 Ways Customer Data Can Up Your Customer-Experience Game, Entrepreneur; Twitter: @SaraVeraSF
54. Analyzing customer data is the single best way to get inside your customers’ heads. “Analyzing customer data is the key to getting into the mind of your audience and taking their experience to the next level.
“Here are some quick tips to help pull data off the bench and into your customer experience improvement strategy:
- Determine who is performing a particular action? (Purchasing UFC fights.)
- Pinpoint when, specifically, these customers are acting? (Day of program? Day before?)
- Identify what other paths these customers are taking consistently? (Other programs/ sports packages purchases.)
“Deep exploration of customer and market data is an asset in creating a more intuitive cross-channel customer experience. Identifying each customers’ needs and tendencies helps brands create a journey that feels personal and empowering, regardless of the channels they choose.” – Dan Gordon, SVP Strategy & Development, West Interactive Services, Data Can Be Your Customer Experience MVP, Execs in the Know; Twitter: @ExecsInTheKnow
55. Identify customer pain points – and then solve them. “Most companies know what some of their customers’ pain points are (if they don’t, they aren’t paying attention to their customers). Those who are digging deep into the data to solve those difficulties are improving their customers’ experience.
“Take Delta. All airlines know a top concern for passengers is lost baggage, particularly when they are on a flight that’s delayed and missed connections involved. Delta looked further into their data and created a solution that would remove the uncertainty of where a passenger’s bag might be.
“Customers can now snap a photo of their baggage tag using the ‘Track My Bag’ feature on the Delta app and then keep tabs on their luggage as it makes its way to the final destination. Even if a bag doesn’t make it on the intended flight, passengers save time tracking it down. Finding a new way to put big data to use for the benefit of their passengers put Delta out front in a competitive market.” – 5 ways companies are using big data to help their customers, VentureBeat; Twitter: @VentureBeat