In recent times, customer experience (CX) has become something of a buzzword in many companies. Customers are shifting more into focus, companies are beginning to bundle their customer satisfaction management in centralized units, and even small and midsized businesses are introducing continuous measuring systems that are activated after every customer contact.
Fittingly, a recent Gartner study found that 89 percent of all companies worldwide see exceptional service experiences as the most important key to success. Small wonder, given the increasingly interchangeable products and extremely transparent markets. As it is nearly impossible to differentiate on product these days, the commercial success of companies depends more on customer service and customer satisfaction, and not just in 10 years time. After all, happy customers remain loyal for longer, make greater and more frequent purchases, are willing to pay higher prices, and are happy to recommend companies and their brands and products, making them vital multipliers when it comes to winning new customers.
But how do you kindle this customer enthusiasm at every touchpoint along the entire customer journey? An efficient customer experience management system that intensifies and improves individual customer relationships will pave the way for this: It measures and analyzes how customers experience products and brands and does so at every touchpoint and in real time. And then it puts companies in a position to respond quickly and accurately to this customer feedback.
Companies aiming to establish a powerful customer experience management system should consider the following seven steps:
1. Manage customer satisfaction rather than just measuring it.
Recently, MaritzCX surveyed 341 CX decision-makers about their most important challenges and successes. The findings of the study were rather sobering: Only 22 percent felt that their voice of the customer programs werevery successful in influencing their companies' business performance. At the same time, corporate groups invest millions of dollars every year to provide lasting memories for customers. This means it is essential to create a fundamental change: Companies should transform their outdated customer satisfaction programs into effective management programs that are linked with concrete operational objectives and that contribute to business success in a way that is both demonstrable and measurable.
Instead of traditional customer surveys, the supporting analysis of operational data must move along the customer journey. It is from these that the feedback from various touchpoints and sources can be continually processed. The aim is then to be able to take immediate corrective action in real time while the customer experience is still ongoing.
2. Didn't receive feedback? Forecast it instead.
However, companies are also realizing that some consumers are growing weary of answering endless survey questions. New software solutions are available that can use the responses from customers participating in surveys to derive the behavior of non-participating customers as well. For this, they use customer data from almost every source, combining survey findings with operational customer data and analyzing them to break them down to individual levels afterwards. These big data elements provide relevant insight into individual transactions, thereby showing early on the opportunities and risks that exist with individual customers.
Using this process, for instance, companies can identify when customers are drifting away, even before the customers realize this themselves. However, companies can draw on the same level of precision to determine the behavior of customers whose loyalty is particularly important for them.
3. Link social media posts with other customer data.
Every day, millions of people discuss brands, products, and companies directly on company websites and blogs, but above all on diverse social media platforms. In view of these countless customer statements, companies are constantly exposed to the risk that even one single evaluation from a dissatisfied customer can tarnish the image of the entire company.
Modern software now makes it possible to monitor online reviews and, at the same time, integrate these data into other CX-relevant customer data. In this way, companies can identify both negative and positive feedback in good time, distribute them to the relevant positions within the company, and respond to them appropriately, including direct individual contact with the customer in question.
This reputation management in social media even makes it possible for companies to encourage customers to give more positive evaluations on social networks. Companies not only improve their online reputations but also increase customer proximity and conversion rates.
4. Forget data silos: Use information from all data sources systematically.
It is already possible for companies to obtain additional information about each individual customer through ongoing customer satisfaction tracking, social media monitoring, online communities, transaction data, sales data, and CRM databases. It is important, however, not to view these streams of knowledge as separate entities. Companies instead should strategically link the different information from various data sources with one another.
To replace previously existing data silos, state-of-the-art CX programs use suitable software, structured synthesis of relevant data, and an automated analysis. Only in this way is it possible to use existing data efficiently to gain insights, for instance by analyzing unstructured data such as open comments, call center interviews, customer email, or social media postings and to combine them with one another. In the end, the company receives a far clearer overview of the overall customer segment, and, above all, about individual customers as well.
5. Make customer data available to all staff.
Interviews that we have conducted for years in numerous companies with all levels of staff show that there are still many major difficulties associated with implementing customer feedback. The most important points of criticism, particularly from front-office staff, are not only the inadequate integration into the development of CX programs but also the lack of background information and extremely poor level of hands-on knowledge.
By contrast, with a successful CX management system, companies receive pertinent findings that they can make available to all relevant staff within a matter of seconds. From top management to customer service, everyone receives the data that is relevant to them exactly when and in the format they need it. This, in turn, results in greater insight gained, a better overview, and the chance to take faster and more effective action. In this way, staff can set the right priorities, start improving processes, and respond personally to customers. And this is the only way that individual cases can also be treated individually.
6. Make your CX program unique.
It's important to put together your own customer experience management strategy. Don't be afraid to look at what other people—both competitors and companies in other sectors—are doing. But learn from what you are observing rather than simply copying a concept. Bear in mind that your sector is different and that your company also sets itself apart in a certain way from the rest of your sector. Accordingly, your company's brand experience should stand out positively compared to direct competitors.
You should see all touchpoints along the customer journey as your own personal points of contact with your customer. Develop your marketing and CX strategies specifically for each individual touchpoint, making each interaction relevant for each of your customers in a personalized way. For this, leverage the insights available from all the customer data available in your entire company.
7. Customer experience is far more than marketing and customer feedback.
After all, customer experience is far more than just marketing and customer feedback. All parts of your company are needed to turn it into a wholly customer-centric organization. This means that each customer has a consistent experience along all the touchpoints. Because this is the only way to give rise to a clear and, ideally, unmistakable image of a provider. What is more, when you do away with confusion and disappointment, there is room for trust to develop. And trust is ultimately the most valuable currency when it comes to profitable long-term relationships with customers.
In essence, it is a question of viewing all commercial decisions from a customer perspective. This means that customer-oriented thinking should prevail throughout the company itself. A successful CX future can be secured when companies don't focus on their own products but rather on the wishes and needs of their customers. Examine your company with a critical eye: Evaluate the CX maturity and examine the structure, processes, staff selection, and rewards programs.
After all, company culture is responsible for whether your customer experience strategy succeeds or fails. Whether this leads to profitable growth will depend on the extent to which individual members of the staff believe in the importance of customer-centric thinking and the extent to which they apply this thinking in their everyday work.
Stephan Thun is CEO of Europe at MaritzCX.