You’ve probably heard of customer experience, also known as CX. It continues to be a popular topic, and it’s more than just a buzzword—it’s a strategy that can make or break your business. Research by Bain & Co. uncovered that companies that improve their retention rates by as little as 5% see an increase in profits between 25%-95%. In other words, it pays to develop lasting relationships with long-term customers.
But no matter how good your customer success and marketing teams are, their work won’t amount to much unless the entire company is on board. Today’s CX work doesn’t just happen in sales pitches and business reviews. Building a winning customer experience strategy means thinking about how every part of your business comes together…from welcome meetings, kickoffs, and onboardings to realignments, renewals, and upsells.
Do it right and you generate a positive perception—along with the potential for lucrative, long-term loyalty. Do it wrong? You’ll risk losing customers fast.
To help think holistically about your customer experience strategy, this article includes information about CX strategy essentials and how to develop a winning strategy with a solid CX framework in place. Additionally, you’ll find a short list of best practices to tie it all together and help everyone on your team present a unified experience for each of your customers.
Alignment Growth Strategies has been on the front lines helping businesses create repeat customers by providing a memorable and positive experience from start to renewal. Follow these steps to accomplish the customer experience objectives you’re after.
But first…let’s tackle why customer experience matters.
What is the role of customer experience?
You likely know that customer experience is more than just customer success. It includes every possible point of contact for a customer from an initial sales call to the onboarding process to all the interactions with company employees that a customer might have throughout their journey. And herein lies the value of a continual touchpoint perspective. The relationship between a company and a customer should be more than just a one-and-done sale…it should extend much further in order to expand the opportunities to serve customers and their unique needs now and in the future.
For this reason, it’s important to stop thinking of customer experience as something that belongs solely in your customer success department. Your low-touch teams like IT and finance have just as much of a role as your high-touch teams. If developed properly, dissatisfied customers will be given attention from teams who are equipped to not only understand the customer’s perspective, but also to provide a solution that jives with everything that the customer has come to expect. And that alone has the power to save a rocky relationship.
When it comes down to it, there are six key components of a good customer experience:
- Reliability – the ability for customers to be able to rely on your company, your products, or your services.
- Availability – providing ample opportunity for customers to reach you with questions.
- Simplicity – ensuring your company and services are easy to use–from sale to onboard
- Adaptability – the ability to work with customers and their unique needs.
- Innovation – keeping up with new business trends.
- Accountability – owning your products and your track record.
Companies that adopt these components for customer experience are dedicated to excellence—and their customers know it. A clear purpose and a well-articulated customer journey also help employees understand how they contribute to the company’s overall goals. They know how and why their work matters, which gives them a sense of meaningful purpose. In turn, that creates a more positive experience for the customers they serve. When you create a great experience, customers will trust you as an authority and will organically gravitate to you through positive word-of-mouth referrals.
What is a customer experience strategy?
A CX strategy reflects the careful alignment of your company’s goals, customer expectations, and the intersection of the two. You can think of your strategy as the big picture to get you to meet all the components of a good customer experience discussed above. But just because it’s big picture doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. A winning CX strategy is constantly evolving to meet the needs of your customers. We’ll talk about how to translate the big picture into actionable steps later…but for now, let’s talk about creating that big picture.
A clearly-defined customer experience strategy yields:
- Better employee engagement
- Higher customer retention
- Lower cost of customer acquisition
- Accelerated revenue growth
So CX strategy is good for business and can yield additional revenue and cost savings. But, how do you develop a customer experience strategy for your company? Start with a concrete plan to implement, define, or redefine your strategy. The good news is, there are actionable steps to take to develop the components of CX strategy your company needs to thrive. It all starts with developing a customer experience framework.
What is a customer experience framework?
So exactly what is a CX framework? Simply put, it’s the building blocks or principles companies use to meet, define, or redefine their customer experience strategy. In other words, it’s a set of steps or tools that can help you achieve stellar CX.
The sad truth is, so many companies don’t champion all, or even most, components of CX. And even those that do often struggle to intentionally improve customer experience regularly—especially in departments that don’t have a high touchpoint with customers. A solid CX framework ensures these elements stay at the front of everyone’s mind now and in the future.
How do you build a customer experience framework?
Here is a five step process to build a customer experience framework that works for your company. While the items that fall within each step will vary, based on your company and your goals, each high-level step should provide a detailed overview to work from.
Define and discover who you are
What are your company’s goals, missions, and values—especially as they relate to your customers? So often, companies develop missions that are focused on internal goals like meeting quarterly sales targets. And those are great for internal work. But that alone isn’t enough to build a solid CX strategy. Define and discover who your company is, as it relates to your customers. Learn more about how to do this by developing a mantra later in this article.
Consider this example: A B2B SaaS company called SaaS X has a platform that’s specifically designed for advanced manufacturing facilities. They have a goal to increase revenue by 8% next quarter. To achieve that goal, their sales team conducts proactive outreach to local and national manufacturing companies. Yet they’re continually falling short of their targets. Why? One reason might be that they’re focusing too much on their internal sales goals and not enough on what their product and their services can offer prospective companies.
Diagnose your problem areas
What areas do you want or need to improve upon? Does your customer success department regularly see one or two specific issues customers are facing? If so, it’s probably time to address it. Map out your customer journey and look for challenges that trip customers up along the way.
Looking at the SaaS X business above, their testimonials are all great! But, their customer success department deals with a few calls every week about how to integrate this platform with other common cloud products in the industry. If there’s a pattern, you need processes to easily identify and fix it.
Identify areas of opportunity
Problems aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes they offer a silving lining: an area of opportunity. Where might your company be able to improve? Are there pain points in your industry you can address more effectively than your competition? These could be large opportunities, but they could also be simple solutions like being more readily available when customers need you.
Moving along with the SaaS X business—they’ve discovered that many of their customers have a need for customer support as early as 6am, something that none of their competitors currently offer. They decide to offer an advanced support package to their customers that would provide them with product support during off hours.
Intentionally design, create, and test your experience
Design a detailed customer experience roadmap with your customers in mind and test it out. If your own employees struggle with it, you can certainly expect your customers will, too. Remember: customers want simple, easily adoptable solutions.
Looking back at the product integration issue our SaaS X company uncovered, they decided to expand their user guide and add a new integrations section to their onboarding phase. And, all their employees tested the feature before launch to work out the kinks.
Continuously seek improvement
CX strategy isn’t something you do one time and then forget about it. And your CX framework is the same. Develop key performance indicators that align with the key elements of your customer experience strategy. Track your KPIs and make improvements when there’s an issue.
SaaS X decided to track usage of their new integrations feature, including searches for new integrations that don’t have solutions. The customer success department reviews the responses quarterly before presenting them to the C-Suite. This allows the entire company to better track and understand the changing needs and wants of their customers while taking real-world data to guide prioritization.
What are customer experience strategy best practices?
Now that you understand the importance of customer experience and how to build a framework to support your strategy, let’s take a look at some high-level best practices to keep in mind as you develop your plans.
Construct a cross-functional customer experience framework
Some companies approach customer experience as a department, when in reality it isn’t. Customer experience is a philosophy that orchestrates the way departments operate within a company. High performing companies are aligned across every department to build trust and deliver customer experience excellence.
Product teams need to listen to sales and customer support teams to influence development priorities. Sales needs to understand how new product features work and how marketing is positioning them. Even the IT department has an opportunity to reinforce the company’s brand by ensuring excellent UX. All of these teams work together, along with leadership, to present a singular, unified, trustworthy experience for customers.
When companies become trusted advisors they are more likely to earn highly profitable, long-term customers. That means the customers’ experiences have to be consistent, regardless of the departments they interact with.
Develop a unique mantra to boost customer engagement.
When companies create their foundational principles, they often develop a Mission, Vision, and Values. These can be useful tools, but they’re about the company––not about the customer. Missions, Visions, and Values don’t function effectively as guides for customer engagement. Companies need to guide employee interaction with customers. They need a mantra.
Ali Cudby’s Keep Your Customers describes a company mantra as, “an internal message that gives your people a focal point. It is both a catchphrase and a rallying point.” The most famous example of a mantra is probably one of the worst: “The customer is always right.” 99.9% of the time, this mantra is wrong! The customer is not always right, and companies that bend to the whim of every unreasonable customer are in for a world of hurt. It simply isn’t sustainable.
Instead, consider the mantra adopted by Indianapolis-based ClusterTruck, a vertically-integrated, delivery-only restaurant business. When ClusterTruck launched, CEO Chris Baggott told his staff, “Don’t Ship Maybes.” ClusterTruck uses “Don’t Ship Maybes” in every department at the company, from the kitchen to HR. Their company mantra empowers employees to make decisions in tough customer-facing situations. Employees know if they can justify a decision by relating it back to the mantra.
Understand your company’s customer loyalty drivers.
Every point of interaction a customer has with your company results in an overarching question: Is that interaction going to build loyalty or block it?
Sometimes you don’t know the answer because that moment in your customer’s journey happened without you. For example, let’s say a software customer buys your product, but struggles when they sit down to use their purchase. They’re all alone with their computer, and their frustration will be your problem if you don’t have a good solution.
A good customer experience strategy builds experience maps with those moments in mind. They think through the challenges customers might face at a given point and thoughtfully design the customer’s journey accordingly. Experience maps minimize interactions that might block loyalty while doubling down on opportunities to build loyalty.
Prioritize the emotional connections.
People tend to think we’re rational creatures. Research says otherwise. McKinsey & Co. has determined that a whopping 70% of a purchase decision is actually made based on how people feel they’re being treated in the buying process. Feelings—not logic—rule the day.
But emotion doesn’t just drive buying behaviors. As humans, we are wired for connection. We want to feel seen, heard and valued. Best practice companies recognize this fundamental human need and know that people are loyal to organizations that appreciate them.
Appreciation occurs when companies can articulate customer needs and challenges. Companies that take the time to authentically understand their customers at that level can teach employees the empathy needed for connection.
Use Customer Experience Strategy Playbooks with Alignmint Growth Strategies
So, down to brass tacks: In order to deliver an exceptional and unique customer experience, companies must give employees the tools that lead to customer satisfaction. That means Playbooks. Playbooks clearly break down step-by-step processes at every phase of a customer’s journey to make it a pleasant one.
- Playbooks deliver interdepartmental action steps to ensure company-wide consistency
- They align with your company’s mantra for customer experience
- Playbooks enhance customer loyalty and minimize anything that blocks loyalty
- They are optimized to make people feel seen, heard and valued.
With Playbooks, employees know exactly what to do and how to be successful in their jobs, and customers receive consistent excellence from their experiences with your company.
Alignment Growth Strategies is committed to helping you develop and enhance your company’s customer experience strategy.
Start by seeing the financial impact of your company’s customer experience
Understanding your customer experience framework is a great place to start, but when you see the financial impact of your CX decisions it brings home exactly what you’re playing for. Check out our proprietary (and free!) Churn Virus White Paper and Calculator. The Calculator lets you input your company’s data so you can see the impact of churn on your revenue, long-term customer value and more. All in real-time.
Want help developing your company’s customer experience strategy?
Learn more about ways Alignmint Growth Strategies can help you apply these practices in your company.