Businesses today rely on trust and relationships more than ever. Randy Conley, a thought leader on trust, vouches that businesses and their customers can achieve this trust mindset only “by sitting on the same side of the table.” In a fiercely competitive world, this isn’t easy — which is why businesses need to plan carefully how to align their goals with customer needs.
Creating a solid customer experience strategy is fundamental to building authentic customer relationships, and therefore a successful business. Let’s review the best practices to create an effective customer experience strategy.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience (CX) is how customers perceive your brand based on interactions at different stages of their journey with your business, from their first interaction with your brand until post-purchase support. CX is from the viewpoint of the customer.
Often people confuse customer service for customer experience, but service is just one small part of customer experience. Service comes into the picture when a customer encounters a problem or question and approaches the business. CX, on the other hand, encompasses all stages of the customer’s journey across multiple touchpoints.
The sales experience, product design and quality, ease of use, brand perception, quality of customer service, and more make up the customer experience.
CX is a subjective feeling, but companies can tackle this abstractness by adopting a structured framework that includes the following components:
- Culture and People
- Tools and Technologies
Companies that master these components retain their customers for years — many of whom become advocates for the brand. These companies record consistent revenues and profits and survive even in difficult economic times, coming out stronger than before.
Adobe is a great example of a customer-centric organization. Beginning as a company that offered multimedia software, it has diversified across many products, including switching to a SaaS model with Adobe Experience Cloud. In 2020, the company’s stock value increased by 60 percent. In the first quarter of 2021, it boasted record revenues of $3.91 billion, and the company expects to finish the year with $15.45 billion revenues, a 20 percent jump over last year.
Adobe has prioritized user design and experience with a simple, clean, and beautiful interface in all its products — key differentiators that have turned its customers into loyal fans. Adobe has also demonstrated a growth mindset by acquiring and investing in new products, such as Adobe Sign. This has enabled the company to exceed customer expectations by delivering new and helpful functionalities.
CX is a part of Adobe’s culture, which you can see in its products, as well as its omnichannel marketing strategies across websites, apps, and social media. At the foundation of its impressive numbers and long-term results is a successful customer experience strategy.
What is Customer Experience Strategy?
Customer experience strategy is a set of concrete action plans and processes that help deliver a meaningful and engaging experience to customers throughout their buying journey.
Senior leaders often develop CX strategy with directives from executive-level discussions. Leaders must review the various departments in an organization and plan how each of them can adopt a customer-centric approach. The goal is for the entire organization to act in harmony and not in silos when it comes to CX.
Why should you invest your time and money in a CX strategy?
- Around 81 percent of organizations agree that CX offers a competitive edge, and 58 percent say it’s their primary differentiator, according to the 2020 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report by NTT.
- Companies that have high customer loyalty outperform their competitors by 2X on average, according to a Bain report.
In the case of Adobe, its customer experience strategy includes an integrated sales and marketing strategy on LinkedIn that helps them “deliver consistent, relevant experiences throughout their customer’s journey. The business now has more visibility into what’s happening within each department, enabling both Adobe marketers and sellers to fill in gaps and provide assistance when needed.”
Also, while sales and marketing are at the forefront of customer experience, it’s important that your strategy encompasses other seemingly peripheral functions, such as HR, finance, and vendor management.
“A customer journey is delivered by multiple functions, so if each one does not understand and appreciate the other, how can they possibly expect the customer to get what they want?”
— Ian Golding, author of “Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience”
8 Best Practices for Your Customer Experience Strategy
Despite appreciating the need for and benefits of a customer experience strategy, many companies struggle with its implementation. It’s understandable given the wide range of functions that a CX strategy needs to cover. To give you a headstart, we have compiled a list of eight best practices for your CX strategy.
1. Make interactions easy for the customer
At all stages of the buying journey, the ease of transaction can make or break your customer’s decision to purchase. You can differentiate yourself from highly similar competitors with:
- Pleasant and helpful support teams
- Simple, intuitive, and quick payment options
- Customized product options
- Useful product upgrades
- Proactive solutions to user issues
74 percent of customers switch brands when they face a difficult purchasing process, and 50 percent do so when they don’t get an easy-to-use mobile experience. At each point, the customer seeks convenience and simplicity.
Setting up self-service portals with case studies and walkthrough videos that explain your product and its benefits is one way to make information easily accessible to customers. Clarion Safety Systems, a designer and manufacturer of product safety labels and signage, follows this approach by offering “extensive safety video library, safety articles, data sheets, and FAQs” on its website. Also, its clean website design makes it effortless to locate an item — this factor is important because 75 percent of its revenue comes from site search, which can get cumbersome with more than 9,000 SKUs.
2. Build a customer community
What if you could convince your customers to work as your partners and service reps? Sounds far-fetched, but this is what you gain when you create a community of customers and prospects who assist one another. Building customer communities, both formal and informal, is an extension of creating self-help resources, such as FAQs on your website. A community benefits from an actual loyal customer solving the problems or answering the questions of another.
But why would customers spend their time doing this? Sometimes, the reason is simple pride of ownership, like the numerous video tutorials you find online for tech gadgets. In a B2B world, customers tend to engage closely with product owners since such collaborations lead to a win-win partnership. For example, customer feedback makes the product better, which is beneficial for both sides.
Savvy businesses incentivize this behavior through innovative programs. Take the case of Ping Identity. A leader in single sign-on solutions, Ping Identity devised a rewards and recognition program to give customers badges, T-shirts, and free flights to user conferences for their active participation in the community. This gamification strategy helped the company grow organically with the support of its loyal customers.
3. Leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the second important factor reshaping the CX industry, and it’s gradually edging its way to the top of the list. The potential of AI in CX is vast — from chatbots and virtual assistants in customer service to customer analytics and voice and language analysis.
In the world of commerce where you don’t have just one type of customer, AI tools help personalize products and services for your customers. IBM Watson Studio, for instance, is set up to use AI for CX analytics. IBM reports that AI has led to a 28 percent improvement in the Net Promoter Score for its clients.
You can also use AI to support your sales and marketing teams with a data-driven approach toward understanding buyer sentiment and being more sensitive to individual constraints.
Snowflake, a cloud-based data storage and analytics service, used Outreach’s machine-learning platform to get insights on which SDR activities helped them generate pipeline and build revenues. The platform’s metrics helped them address questions such as: Are we sending messages to the right people? How many people do we need to reach out to for conversion? Which touchpoint and sales sequences are converting at the highest rate? Using this data-driven approach, Snowflake made adjustments to their sales strategy and personalization at scale.
4. Personalize, don’t generalize
Buyers expect sellers to understand their unique needs. According to a report by Salesforce, 66 percent of business buyers expect sales reps to develop tailored solutions rather than pitch products, and 84 percent are more likely to buy from a company that demonstrates an understanding of their business goals. But, in reality, most sales interactions focus on products rather than solutions and feel transactional, as per the report.
It’s not straightforward to get personalization right, but you can start by segmenting your customers and understanding their different personas. To get sharper insights on individual profiles, you can use customer analytics solutions. You can set up real-time data reporting that allows you to respond to scenarios quickly.
Personalization applies to your sales and marketing strategies as well. In a 2020 report, 93 percent of B2B marketers say personalizing content has increased their organization’s revenue over time.
Account-based marketing (ABM) and account-based sales (ABS) are approaches that help you refine your content strategy (for example, customized emails) on a per-client basis. However, to replicate this strategy across a large number of clients, you need technology solutions. This is what Pendo, a product analytics platform provider, did. Its sales reps and account executives used automated solutions to collaborate on prospecting and personalization at scale.
5. Build an omnichannel experience
Most buyers engage in an average of eight channels before buying. They're consuming content through email, phone, social media, mobile apps, online chat, in-person, and more — and they expect a consistent experience across all these channels. Yet, two-thirds of sales teams do not have a cross-channel strategy.
This is concerning, especially in the post-pandemic environment where B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.
You need to create a seamless omnichannel experience in which the context is carried over from one to another. As customers switch from one channel to another, they need to feel like they are continuing the same conversation and not starting over every time. To achieve this, you need to see a single 360-degree view of the customer, train your agents to speak in a cohesive voice, and empower them with systems that contain contextual data.
MedUX, an umbrella company for brands offering telecommunication services and predictive data solutions, has successfully integrated its diverse systems to offer a single ecommerce platform. Its customers get real-time insight into inventory levels and seamlessly shift between physical and online stores.
6. Evaluate Customer Feedback Regularly
Gathering customer feedback in the form of surveys and KPIs (such as Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score, Customer Satisfaction, and Customer Churn) is crucial to your CX strategy.
Feedback helps you understand what the customer is thinking at the present moment. When you have major inflection points, such as a pandemic or an economic crisis, a structured feedback mechanism is critical to understanding your customers’ needs.
In the B2B world, gathering feedback gives revenue leaders an opportunity to engage in a mutual planning exercise with customers. You can partner with them to understand changing business needs, find gaps, and create future roadmaps. Identifying these gaps also helps point out problems with the CX strategy and channel your investments accordingly. For example:
- The team on the ground may not be in clear alignment with the leadership team’s vision. Solution: Invest in more training, define action plans, and set SMART goals.
- CX strategy is heavily focused on some parts of the customer journey while ignoring others. Solution: Add resources to focus on the missing links.
- The product doesn’t satisfy all of the customer requirements. Solution: Invest in an R&D and innovation lab.
- Integration points are clunky and error-prone. Solution: Look for different technology vendor partners or re-architect your product.
7. Hyperfocus on Customer Service
Service is at the heart of customer experience. A positive customer service interaction could build a loyal customer base — and worse, a negative exchange could result in customers switching to a competitor. All the effort you put into sales, marketing, and product could end up with nothing if, ultimately, your service is bad.
In the United States, the estimated cost of customers switching because of poor service is $1.6 trillion. Research also shows customers spend 17 percent more when purchasing from a company that offers great service. Although these numbers speak from a consumer perspective, they indicate how important service is for businesses.
Here are some of the key aspects B2B buyers want when they look for good service, ranked in order:
- Self-service tools
- Knowledgeable sales reps
- 24x7 service
- Accessible phone number
- Online returns processing
- Live chat with humans
The takeaway is that customers are looking for more than one solution. Sometimes they rely on websites and chatbots, but other times they seek live interactions. It’s therefore important to train your employees to offer consistent experience in all your service channels.
Buyers are also looking for convenience and quick response times. The difference in response times between leaders and laggards of CX is wide, almost 10 times in some cases. While laggards take 333 minutes to respond to an email, leaders take just 30 minutes. This pattern repeats in other service channels such as phone, in-person, social media, and web chat as well.
8. Measure the ROI of your CX strategy
To make the case for CX transformation to your board, you need to estimate and measure the ROI of your CX strategy. This seems similar to getting customer feedback, but the goal of feedback is to answer the question, “Are our customers happy?,” while the main focus here is to determine, “Is our company getting value out of CX initiatives?” Value equals financial benefits or actual numbers in the form of revenues, profits, and stock prices. It means finding out answers to questions such as, “Have the marketing expenses gone down since we started this new CX program?”
Creating a linkage between data and money isn’t easy, but some reports give positive indicators. The NTT report, for instance, shows that around 44 percent of organizations have a structured voice of the customer (VoC) program. The VoC program has in turn led to a 50 percent increase in revenue/profits and 38 percent decrease in costs.
Often, ROI measurement needs to happen at the start, before kicking off a CX program. This estimation can arguably be more challenging than post facto measurement. Forrester’s report titled, “CX Leaders: Get Funding Or Get Fired!” offers insights and frameworks to guide you in calculating and justifying the ROI of CX programs to the board.
Automate Your CX Strategy Implementation
To implement these CX best practices, you need contextual data, the ability to see patterns of customer usage, and solutions that enable simplicity and speed. Outreach’s portfolio of products gives the competitive edge you need in your CX transformation journey.
By integrating key components of CX, Outreach enables sellers and managers across the entire revenue team to exceed customer expectations and accelerate deals, so you can spend more time on initiatives that matter. See how you can reduce time spent on administrative tasks, highlight successful sales activities, coach sales reps in real time, and more.
Learn more about Outreach products and request a demo today.