What is Customer Experience (CX)?
Your brand’s Customer Experience (CX) encompasses all interactions and touchpoints that a customer has with your company across all channels and mediums. Customer perception of your company at any point in time defines the Customer Experience. Is it positive? Negative? Invigorating? Exhausting?
Your customers engage with you through an initial awareness and purchase process and then, hopefully, a continuous cycle of repurchasing or purchasing new services and products from your brand. Every interaction with your brand is part of their Customer Experience.
Key Elements of Any Customer Experience
- Touchpoints: Any interaction with a client. These can occur in person or online. It can occur with a sales representative, customer service representative, someone in billing, or even a post on Instagram.
- Customer Perceptions: How the customer perceives these interactions. Your intentions for your brands are one thing, but how customers engage with your brand and internalize these experiences matters most.
- Full-cycle Customer Journey: CX includes your customers’ entire journey – from initial brand awareness to purchase and payment experience to follow-up marketing aimed at repeat purchases.
- Multichannel Effort: Every touchpoint matters. You may only be active on Instagram and through email marketing engagements with your customers, but if they learn about your product from a Reddit review or a podcast mention, it’s part of their Customer Experience. Similarly, you may be hyper-focused on an in-store experience, but if they purchase your item at a discount on Amazon, that’s also part of their CX.
- Emotions: How your brand makes your customer feel. Most people – in both B2C and B2B, purchase on emotion. They want to like and feel good about what they’re buying. Logical often plays second fiddle. If they find your brand exhausting, off-putting, or negative in any way, you’ve got a problem.
Why is It Important to Consider and Improve My Customer Experience?
Your company’s Customer Experience is arguably more important than your product or service. A positive CX translates into loyal, satisfied customers who will return again and again, and often even – bonus! – influence their networks into giving your offerings a try.
On the flip side, a poor experience usually results in customer dissatisfaction and loss of their business. Your company could end up constantly scrambling for new business rather than growing through a strong foundation of loyal customers.
What are the top 5 characteristics of an Exceptional Customer Experience Strategy?
Customer Experiences look different for each business (and should be customized for each!), but most include these five tenants of a successful strategy.
1. Customer-Centric Focus
Delivering an exceptional customer experience means putting the customer at the center of most business decisions and strategy. Unsure of how to update your invoicing process? Focus on not just optimizing your internal process but enhancing the customers’ process, too. This could mean a simplified and streamlined payment system, a more transparent one, or even a 100% self-service one. Your company should strive to understand and prioritize your customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points and make decisions accordingly.
2. Channel Consistency
Your customer engages with your brand in a variety of ways across a variety of channels. Consider how they purchase in the first place – is it through your website? Then, that experience should be easy and streamlined. They shouldn’t be looking for how to convert or buy; the option should be right in front of them. And that’s just one channel and one touchpoint. When they have a question about an invoice, do your customers typically email or call? Whatever they choose, this should be a streamlined and pleasant experience. And when they’re scrolling Instagram after hours, the brand messaging they see on your posts should match the brand they experience in their other interactions. However they engage with your company, customers should receive the same exceptional level of service, regardless of the touchpoint.
3. Customized and Personalized Messaging
Most companies collect vast amounts of data about their products, services, customers, employees, etc. It’s they do with this data that sets a business apart. Your customer data gives you important clues into their true Customer Experience. This information makes it easy to improve it while also delivering customized brand interactions. Consider a client who visits your website for a specific service but always stops just short of converting. You can isolate this data and send a custom promo to incentivize them to take that final step. Or, If you know a customer tends to gravitate to a specific product line, you can tailor dynamic marketing emails so that these items always show in the preview pane for them. This all lends to a smooth and enjoyable Customer Experience, propelled forward by relevant content, recommendations, and offers that resonate with individual preferences and behaviors.
4. Proactive Problem Solving
Most customers define how they feel about a brand following an issue they have. And this issue can be anything – purchasing difficulty, invoice errors, underwhelming service delivery – you name it. This puts a company on the defensive – they not only have to overcome the roadblock with the customer but also boomerang back into a positive space hard and fast enough to make the issue a distant memory.
Instead, we recommend proactively anticipating problems through careful customer monitoring. You can automate this in most CRM systems and be alerted to potential problems to fix before they become big. Sometimes, you can even fix the issue before the customer becomes aware. Data collected from these predictive analytics also allows you to provide preemptive support that minimizes disruptions in the buying cycle. You can find and smooth out wrinkles before they become jarring roadblocks for customers.
5. Continuous Improvement
A good strategy never ends but constantly evolves. As your company grows and your customers grow with you, embrace a culture of continuous improvement for your Customer Experience strategy to keep it accurate and innovative. Collect critical customer feedback and regularly report against your customer KPIs to find ways to adapt your strategy to changing customer and marketing dynamics.
These five factors collectively contribute to creating a customer experience that satisfies and delights customers, fostering loyalty and advocacy for the brand.
How Do I Take this Online to Establish a Full-Circle Digital Customer Experience?
Most businesses have taken their Customer Experience online, even if they don’t have a comprehensive strategy for their full list of digital channels. It’s the companies who intentionally and thoughtfully ensure a reliable brand experience from online channel to channel that leave a lasting impression on customers and inspire brand loyalty.
Documented Omni-channel Strategy
This, of course, starts with a clearly defined and documented CX strategy that outlines your goals, target audience, and key performance indicators overall and also for each channel, as you’ll need a sub-strategy and guide for each channel. The goal is to ensure consistency – a seamless and unified customer journey, regardless of platform or channel.
Constant Data Monitoring for Better Personalization
Then, you need a way to monitor your efforts, which will vary by channel. Some systems collect and display this data in one place, making things much easier for your marketing, sales, and customer service teams. Leverage this data to personalize your content and customer touchpoints for tailored experiences that will keep your customers returning for more.
Online Customer Support
As businesses shift their customer service online, they must first decide which channels they offer – if they trim or add. For example, some customers love to avoid conversations with real people and interact with a chatbot conveniently pinned to the bottom right corner of your website. Others like to talk to a real person about critical matters, like billing, or more complex issues that a chatbot couldn’t navigate quickly or well. Your business must lean on customer data to determine which options make the most sense.
Regardless of your choice, your customers should engage with the same brand tone and receive the same information across every channel. If you make your chatbot bubbly and enthusiastic, encourage your live CSRs to have a positive, upbeat attitude with customers instead of a more business-like approach. Your CX guide will, of course, help you make these decisions.
We also recommend implementing self-service functionality on one of your digital channels (probably a website), where customers can find the answers and resources they need. As a bonus, this increase in efficiency also allows your company to shift CSR productivity to where it’s needed most.
Creating a full-circle digital Customer Experience involves a strategic approach that combines data, personalization, and seamless multichannel engagement to provide customers with a comprehensive and satisfactory online journey.
8 Aspects of an Exceptional Digital Customer Experience
The aspects we shared are, of course, just a jumping point for a digital CX. Below, we’re sharing the top ten elements of a successful strategy.
1. Extensive Customer Research
Before building digital environments for your customers, you must understand how they prefer to interact with your brand online. Take everything you know about your customers from your general research – their needs, preferred messaging, etc.- and combine it with research about their preferred digital channels. Competitor research may be appropriate here, although we recommend creating a niche strategy for your company, not a copied one. Then, you can curate your findings into an elevated customer experience by taking your audiences online with your brand.
2. Channel Flexibility
Your customers likely engage with a variety of digital channels. That means your brand has multiple channel opportunities to interact with them. Of course, you can’t maintain a strong brand presence on every channel, but putting effort into a handful of the right ones can deliver a personalized customer experience that inspires brand loyalty.
These channels can include websites, mobile applications, social media (so many to choose from), chat platforms, and more. Focus on only as many as you can deliver a consistent user experience across.
3. Thoughtful, Agile, User-Centric Design
Once you have chosen your channels, focus on designing an intuitive and user-friendly experience. Your website and/or application should load quickly, and navigation through the channel should be simple. Cater your messaging and digital assets toward your users’ needs, behaviors, and motivations. Tailor your design to the users’ tasks and goals, ensuring ease of use and relevance. Don’t forget about device variation either – your messaging, visuals, and other assets should work on desktop, mobile, and tablet if that’s what your customers use.
We also recommend you continuously gather customer feedback for iterative design improvements. This responsibility never ends. As customer needs change and channels evolve, you should regularly adapt your channels.
4. Omnichannel Integration
Once you have your channels and their design set, your next step is to connect them. This often requires a system to serve as “home base” for all your customer data. With this tool, you can integrate data and communication across channels to provide a seamless experience and ensure your customers can transition between channels without losing context. Many CRMs – like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Adobe – can manage customer data if you customize your implementation for your business needs.
Our Salesforce team, for example, can provide the following custom development services on the platform:
- Personalized customer service workflows leveraging custom data housed in the CRM
- Custom integrations with other systems, like marketing automation and invoicing systems, for a unified and consistent customer experience across all touchpoints
- Automated yet personalized customer communications
- Custom reports and dashboards for deeper insights into your customer interactions and preferences
Our custom application development team can alternatively create a unique web solution to serve as your foundation for your digital customer experience. If you don’t want to make one system your home base to maintain 100 percent control, this is a great option.
Contact our team if you’d like to learn more about these services.
5. Streamlined Purchase Experience
Companies with an exemplary digital customer experience offer a streamlined purchase process. Purchases made digitally – through a website or mobile application – should have clear navigation and an easy-to-understand checkout process. Checkout should be secure, and transparent pricing should be prioritized. If made offline – like in a contracting process – communication is clear throughout every step.
Companies should showcase customer reviews, testimonials, and ratings to build trust during this journey. Additionally, consider personalized recommendations in this phase, as they not only encourage the customer to feel truly understood by your brand but also encourage additional sales.
6. Prioritized Customer Service and Support
Customers aren’t only engaging with your brand to purchase, though. They’re often seeking out your digital channels in pursuit of help. Your company has many options to fulfill this need – you can offer self-service support through FAQs, knowledge bases, and chatbots to assist customers. Many people don’t want to interact with others; they just want an answer to their question or a solution to their problem on their own time. Making it findable not only makes these customers happy but also saves your business resources.
Other customers like to speak directly with someone. For them, consider a phone line, email support, and chatbots. Online communities with brand advocates can also provide answers to customers.
Regardless of the options you offer, we recommend keeping the customer experience consistent in tone, messaging, and visuals. Consider implementing a feedback loop so every customer’s inquiry is finalized, and customer service is truly prioritized.
7. Clear Data Analytics & Insights
One of the best things about working with digital channels is the sheer amount of data you can collect and analyze. With the right analysis, you can easily gain insights into your customers’ behavior and preferences and then use them to tailor your channel marketing strategies and personalized recommendations.
You can also monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your digital customer experience. In addition to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and customer churn rates, also consider channel metrics like page engagement rates, average resolution time for your chatbots, first response time for your online CSRs, social follower engagement, and more.
8. Security & Privacy Management
Good customer management goes beyond the obvious interaction. Once you have customer data in your possession, you must protect it. Prioritize protecting customer data and online transactions. You can then communicate your commitment to data privacy and compliance and educate customers about how you use their information.
Putting It All Together
If you start with a solid customer experience strategy and then follow these eight aspects of an exceptional digital CX strategy, you’re well on your way to loyal and profitable customers. Remember to be flexible and adapt to changing customer preferences, channel requirements, and market conditions. And always put the customer first!
Launching Your Digital Customer Experience
Tackling a comprehensive and consistent customer experience is no small undertaking. Our team can help you put the technology you need in place to make things easier and more efficient. We build custom applications that elevate your company’s digital customer experience and integrate them with your other critical business systems. If you’d like to learn more, please contact our team, and we’ll set up a meeting with one of our CX consultants.