CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Customer experience is the perspective customers have of your business, both during and after their initial buying journey. This perspective is influenced and informed by the product or service itself, as well as your customer-facing teams. But your opportunities in customer experience don’t start and end there. Marketing, customer retention strategies, and your reliability are also part of the overall customer experience. 

What is a good customer experience? At Alignmint we call it “heart and smart.” The customer’s emotional experience of your business—feeling seen, heard, and valued —is the heart that forms the foundation of brand loyalty. But without repeatable processes to achieve intentional consistency for each customer, it’s a roll of the dice whether every client will get the same great experience as the one before. That’s where you have to get smart.

Let’s explore the customer experience principles that can help you get your heart in the right place, as well as the management strategies and examples that inform the development of smart customer experience processes. 

Customer Experience Principles

The four basic customer experience principles all relate to how you make the customer feel. Your prospects and leads may not immediately see how your products or services differ from the competition, meaning the experience you provide and emotions you evoke are the way to stand out. According to a Gartner survey, more than two-thirds of companies now believe they compete primarily based on customer experience. 

Here are four customer experience principles to help you form the starting block for a customer experience strategy:

  • Know Your Customer: This principle has to evolve past generic personas to be relevant in the modern age. Customer expectations of products and services are changing every day. This means companies must regularly take proactive steps to listen to customers. This could start with surveys and self-reporting from clients themselves, and expand out to social media and other research. Follow the news, monitor your competitors, and most of all, react to what you learn.
  • Personalize Customer Experience: Personalization goes way beyond putting the right name at the top of a marketing email. Tracking a prospect’s behavior across interactions with your brand allows you to understand product usage and make informed future recommendations for upgrades or additional services. This principle might lead to improvements in revenue, but its intention is to make the customer feel appreciated and understood.
  • Unify Cross-Channel Approaches: The effort to present a unified front starts with marketing, ensuring your brand presence is consistent across social media, email, print, and other channels. But you must also engage every department in this effort. If sales and marketing are pushing two different sets of values, while customer support isn’t aligned with either in practice , this will add up to a problem. Every department must work together to co-create the best possible customer experience. 
  • Deliver Authentic Responses: When customers reach out to speak with you, this is a great opportunity, even if they are unhappy about something. These interactions are a chance to listen to what is going right and wrong, and your responses are a chance to reinforce customer loyalty or win it back. Across departments and unique circumstances, it’s important to stay focused on the emotional experience you want the customer to have, and the practical steps that will make it happen. 

What is Customer Experience Management?

Customer experience management is what makes a great customer experience. These are the processes a company establishes to put customer experience principles into practice. This includes customer journey management, minimizing the efforts customers must make across channels to get the service, products, or information they need. Customer journey management makes a customer’s adoption, ongoing use, and renewal of their purchases simple and successful. 

However, customer experience management is not just reactionary. This is also about delivering personalized experiences that meet or even go above and beyond customer expectations. A lot of this approach relies on data collection and application. What if you could offer a customer maintenance before they know they need it? Or host a timely webinar to help them understand changing regulations in their industry? These are examples of proactive, repeatable customer experience management processes that can manifest once every department is on the same page across your organization.

Examples of Good Customer Service Situations

We’ve talked in an abstract way about the principles and processes of customer experience. Now, let’s put this into perspective with some practical examples. 

  • Show Your Customers Shared Values: In 2021 Krispy Kreme made headlines by offering a free donut a day to any individual who gets the COVID-19 vaccine, but this isn’t the first time the company has given away donuts. In the past they have rewarded everything from impressive report cards to customer birthdays. By consistently reinforcing that customers deserve to be celebrated for all sorts of reasons, Krispy Kreme shows the customers they are more important than the product.  
  • Innovate Personalized Solutions: SaaS company FA Solutions wanted to go beyond cold-calling and use the chance of a conversation to make a great first impression, not burden the prospect with the need for fact-finding. They turned to Leadfeeder to get more insights about the people visiting their website, and used those insights to tailor personalized early pitches that have since eliminated the need for cold-calling.
  • Eliminate Silos: JetBlue went above and beyond to connect its Twitter feed to a real-life outcome for a passenger. When someone Tweeted about missing out on Starbucks because they had to rush to the gate, the customer service team notified the flight crew, who were able to get the passenger his caffeine fix before departure. 
  • Proactively Address Service Issues: When Amazon Web Services experienced an outage, Adobe knew this meant some of its services would also be down or experience issues. Before customers had a chance to start panicking, Adobe posted to social media about the pending issues. They knew this would be frustrating and they couldn’t offer a solution, so instead they added a video of puppies to bring humor to the situation and diffuse tensions. This not only answered customer concerns in advance but created a hub for users to share advice and vent. 

It’s no accident that these customer service guiding principles align with the customer experience principles we covered earlier. Whether it’s proactive or reactive, excellent technical support and customer service are foundational to customer experience. 

Why is Good Customer Experience Important?

Pop quiz: How much more expensive is it to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one? 

The claim that this is five times more expensive has been a go-to statistic for so long, we’d be hard pressed to find someone in business who hasn’t heard this figure. And while it’s backed up by plenty of research, it’s also become vogue to question if it’s something even worth thinking about—just take a look at this Forbes article that basically shrugs at our question.

We’re here to officially un-shrug this topic. The fact of the matter is that customer experience management is an increasingly important part of any successful business strategy.

Okay, that’s a lot of theoretical language. But what does it look like in practice? Let’s look at why customer experience matters by exploring three concrete benefits of good CX. 

Benefit #1: Good customer experience management saves marketing dollars.

Let’s go back to that old maxim about a new customer costing five times more than an existing one. It’s important to keep in mind that this figure is most relevant to product-driven businesses and industries where pushy salespeople are struggling to meet their quotas. Think about a car dealership and how much money is spent advertising on opaque channels like billboards and television. And how much of the customer experience is built around sellers getting people in the door, then fighting tooth and nail to keep them there until they buy.

In this old way of selling (and thinking about customer experience), it’s a numbers game; spend a ton of money, give a lot of people a rather unpleasant experience, and hope you sell enough to pay for the whole engine.  If you’re only selling once, this tactic still isn’t ideal, but it might pay the bills. But for B2B companies, it won’t even achieve that. 

For B2B companies, loyal customers are not just a nice-to-have. Retention is a necessity, because subscriptions and renewals are the only way to achieve growth. For instance, B2B SaaS companies rarely make a profit from a customer in year one. But if they never renew for a second year, that means you never make a profit at all. Concerning, right? 

In summary, consider the following: According to research from Invesp, the overall success rate of selling to a new customer is just 5-20%. That same rate for existing customers? A whopping 60-70%. 

Yet the same research shows that only 18% of companies are more focused on retention than acquisition. That’s a real head scratcher.  

Benefit #2: Good customer experience management builds trust.

When was the last time you saw an advertisement and actually believed it? All-in, blind faith, completely trusted that the product or service being pitched can actually do what it says, at the price it promises, and in a better way than the competition? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone; among Millennials alone, 84% of buyers simply don’t trust ads.

Buyers today expect to be able to do their own research and understand not just what a company can offer them, but how they do it. Case studies, customer testimonials, and reviews have a tremendous power to show customers what it feels like to do business with an organization—but a company can only hope to achieve a compelling base of this kind of evidence if they have satisfied customers willing to share their experiences. 

But the trust factor isn’t limited to leveraging satisfied customers as a means of acquiring new ones. It also extends to shaping how existing customers react when something goes wrong. Research suggests that 95% of customers will gladly stick with a company as long as they feel like an issue is resolved effectively and quickly. That’s something that can only happen if customer-facing employees are empowered to address negative experiences and provide real solutions.

By the way, providing that kind of experience really does matter when you look at the numbers—to the tune of $136.8 billion dollars lost by companies each year due to avoidable customer churn. 

Benefit #3: Good customer experience management increases revenue.

With that last figure in mind, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about exactly how much money is at stake in the customer experience game. According to research from Dan McCarthy and Russell Winer, the top 20% of a company’s customers can generate between 105% and 113% of a company’s total profits.

That’s right—they can account for more than 100% of profits.

Why? Because less satisfied customers might not actually make a company money. Loss leaders and turn-and-burn customers can be expensive to land… and simultaneously very easy to lose. That leaves the 20% of customers that are most satisfied to pick up the slack. What if your business invested in a customer experience management framework that aims even higher and keeps a greater percentage of customers happy and coming back for more?

What Are CX Strategies?

Customer experience (CX)  strategy and design is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of engagement. With that said, there are some high-level ideas that work well within any customer experience strategy framework. Though these ideas look different in practice at each business or organization, the underlying principle is consistent across industries and operational structures.

  • Provide a Clear Customer Experience Target: Before you can strategize how to achieve customer experience success, you have to know what defines it, and communicate that vision to your teams. Cultivating loyalty among your customers is a team effort, and it’s also one that must be true to your team’s shared values. A Bullseye message around your goals for customer experience reminds everyone involved of the core promises you are making to your customers–and the unique steps you are taking to achieve and exceed those promises with every interaction and touchpoint. It’s important to distinguish–your Bullseye is not your mission statement. This is not your strategic vision, but rather a clear, actionable message that each employee can rely on to guide their decision making in every situation that determines a customer’s perspective of your brand. 
  • Customer-Centric Processes to Build and Unblock Loyalty: Odds are that you already have individual employees that are providing a great customer experience. These loyalty builders might be a sales professional who always remembers their clients’ birthdays, or a customer service representative that can de-escalate and reassure even the most unhappy customer. Whether these awesome rockstars are achieving success by proactively building loyalty or removing your loyalty blockers, you need to identify them and make their behaviors a matter of process for everyone. Creating a Playbook for success takes the customer experience that some of your clients are already enjoying and makes it repeatable across the business. 
  • Find Data You Already Have and Use It: It is essential to gather data to understand your customers–but data is only as valuable as how you use it. This requires both data tracking and data measurement, then working backward from your most successful achievements to improve. Tracking is the data you focus on to tell the story about your customers–their age, their geographic location, how long they have been a customer, and their history as a customer are just some of the main data that is often tracked. Measuring data, on the other hand, means manipulating tracked data to gain insights about how to improve customer experience. For instance, if you decide to track customer location, your measurements might show a high volume of loyal customers in one city or region. That might inspire you to host a loyalty event in their area. And depending on how that succeeds, you can keep working backward from your outcomes to grow into the future.

These are just some customer experience strategies that work well for most businesses. Clarify who your business is and the Bullseye of how you want to make your customers feel, focus on making the work of high-achievers into your new Playbook for success, and work backward from your biggest wins to keep improving your aim at the target. We think the best news about all these strategies is that you already have what you need to get started.

Customer Experience Trends in 2021

Whether you are already providing a great customer experience or just starting out, everyone wants to know if they’re keeping up with the cutting-edge. Alignmint Growth Strategies managing director Ali Cudby says one emerging trend that allows businesses to monitor if they are achieving customer experience goals is alignment between sales and marketing. “Companies that align their sales and marketing departments are significantly better at closing deals,” she shared as one example with smartercx.com. Cudby cited the parallel language customers experience between sales and marketing as one small-yet-monumental shift that can manifest major benefits, including up to 200% more revenue.

Here are some more of the emerging customer experience trends and innovations that have been leading the CX industry in 2021. 

  • Contact Centers Getting More Respect: The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 pushed many call centers to their limits and beyond. As both the economy and world culture recover from the pandemic, it isn’t just these employees but their department in general getting more respect. This is not only where customer insights are captured, but distributed to the rest of the business. In a Forbes article, one CEO even predicted that contact centers will assume increasing ownership of all inbound customer interactions, including sales, digital marketing, and customer service.
  • Personalization Meets Privacy Protections: It’s long been broadcast that personalized marketing is the wave of the future. But a report from Accenture shared that almost 30% of consumers believe personalization has crossed the line into “creepy” on more than one occasion. Of this number, two-thirds say that a brand somehow had access to information that the consumer did not choose to share with them. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which started to be enforced in 2020, may set new nationwide precedents for consumer expectations about how their data is shared and used by companies they want to trust.
  • Empathy as a Success Metric: For years now Alignmint Growth Strategies has talked about customer empathy as a success metric for employees, and we’re happy that it is finally emerging into the mainstream. When employees make your employees feel authentically heard, seen, and valued, that is providing a great experience. But we can’t see, hear, and value others if we are unable to share and understand their feelings. To achieve empathy in authentic and transformative ways goes far beyond investing in training. Processes must help reinforce empathy as a common practice between employees and management before this can be paid outward to customers.
  • Clear Processes for a Remote Workforce: Empathy is particularly important in conjunction with another rising trend, remote work and hybrid work arrangements. With employees working outside the office some or all of the time, company leadership must find innovative ways to communicate the clear processes that allow employees to achieve success from anywhere. Developing laser-focused messaging like a customer experience Bullseye or best-practices Playbook communicates these changes and improvements in a way that can be used to build employee trust and confidence, rather than compromise them or make them feel isolated.

Get Support Developing Customer Experience Processes

If all of this data has you convinced of the importance of customer experience management, the next step is to do something about it. At Alignmint Growth Strategies, we use a four-part approach to help businesses in a variety of industries think critically about the experience they want for their customers and align to actually deliver that experience, nothing less. 

We have learned that every aspect of business improves the customer experience when it is approached
intentionally. From addressing trust and loyalty blockers to translating customer empathy into action, we are here to help your business hit your growth goals and crowd out the competition. 

It’s our job to help you learn more about what makes your customers tick, identify internal challenges to delivering a superior customer experience, and equip you with Playbooks that translate our findings into actionable steps for employees at every step of the business.

Ready to take that first step? Let’s talk.

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