Sometimes I struggle to sleep at night, things whirling through my unsettled mind like, “Did I put the bins out?” “What is that creaking sound?” “Why are there so many barriers to delivering truly integrated customer experience management?” Fortunately, eMarketer‘s latest report on the state of customer experience helped me settle, safe in the knowledge that no matter how far along your CX journey you’re at, there are plenty of ways to improve it.
Let’s start by defining customer experience. eMarketer hits the nail on the head in my book: “Every touchpoint a consumer has with a brand…is part of the customer experience.” It’s that simple! And therein lies the challenge: nowadays the consumer has a wealth of channels with which to interact with you – email, SMS, phone, social, app, in-store, carrier pigeon – and expects the interaction to feel the same for each channel. Your challenge as a marketer is to deliver the experience your customer expects, no matter the channel. This is hard to achieve – in fact, only 10% of organisations surveyed say they are very advanced at CX alignment (source: eConsultancy Digital Trends, Feb 2019).
So, in the spirit of helping me sleep better at night, I’ve come up with some top tips you can take at any stage of your CX maturity to help you master your customer experience.
1. Know your goals
Before you start on any journey, you need to know where you’re going, so be sure you understand what you want to achieve. There are a whole host of goals your CX strategy can achieve – conversions, brand advocacy, loyalty, retention, upsell, the list goes on – make sure they are prioritised and tie into your organisation’s goals (more on there here) and crucially, set KPIs that are monitored regularly.
2. Map out your ideal customer journey
If knowing where you’re going is the most important thing, then how you’re going to get there is the second. Ultimately happy customers, clients, members, supporters, and anyone else who experiences your brand will drive your success, so put yourselves in their shoes. Understand what it is like to be a consumer of your brand and map your journey accordingly.
3. Map out your data flows
Whether you use a best-in-breed, integrated stack, or an all-in-one platform, it’s all driven by API (or other data transfer protocols) and managed by rules and conditions. For a fantastic customer experience, these need to be robust and make sense. When you’re designing your CX strategy, start with the customer point of view, but then map out the data flow equivalent of this. Nowadays, everything can talk to everything else, which is why this follows the customer journey map.
4. Allow your audience to control the communication
Over the past few years, more and more regulation has sought to control and improve the use of consumer data. Be it GDPR, CASL, the Californian Anti-Spam Law, consumers are more aware than ever that they should be in control of their communications preferences. So, make sure you give them this control – over content, channel and frequency. And be up front about it, allowing them to provide and control their preferences at any point. This can benefit your organisation too, as customers opting down, taking a break, or changing their marketing channel are all preferable to unsubscribing.
5. Understand how your brand and tone of voice flexes across different channels
Now we’re moving into the realm of content, and it’s important to let your brand personality shine through in a manner appropriate to the channel and situation. For example, let’s look at excitement. You could be running a promotion, something for the consumer to get excited about naturally, but you also need to create urgency and scarcity as part of your nudge tactics, whilst bearing in mind your communication will be curtailed on twitter compared to an email message. But when the consumer converts, we’re into the world of transactional communication. Again, this is an opportunity to excite the consumer as their purchase is on the way. But the purpose of the message is also to reassure them their payment has been received and their goods are safely in transit. This is traditionally communicated through email and SMS — the first of which can still pull through your tone, the second should be performing pure reassurance. When planning your communications, make sure you’re not just thinking about what you need to convey, but also what your consumer needs to hear at that point.
6. Channels are no longer broadcast only
There is no longer any channel that is for one-way communication (yes, email – I’m looking at you here). So, when you are designing your CX strategy, make sure you build this in at every stage. Your goal is to build a relationship with your consumers, so you must consider how to close the feedback loop at each stage. And feedback can come in many forms – don’t just focus on traditional conversations. A click, an opt-down, a repeat purchase are all interactions that can indicate the success of your CX implementation.
7. Stay on top of your data hygiene
To deliver an outstanding customer experience, you need to know your customer, and accurate data is at the core of this. Everything you learn about your consumer can be used to deliver a better experience, from personalisation to efficient customer service. It will also keep you on the right side of the law and help prevent email deliverability issues.
8. Be personal, but not creepy
Consumers are more aware than ever of the power and value of their data. This means they expect a value exchange in return for giving you information about them. Your responsibility as a marketer is to make sure you’re only capturing what you need and using it effectively. Ask yourself what you would use it for – date of birth is always a good example. If you’re asking for this to help your profiling and segmentation, bear in mind the consumer could be providing this in order to receive a birthday promotion. Make sure you meet these expectations.
9. Test and learn
One important rule of customer experience is never to set it and forget it. There will always be something to improve and evolve as customers go through the journey. This is where incremental innovation comes in. When testing, you should only change one thing at a time, so you have a control group to benchmark performance again. Take your time and make sure you record outputs and review regularly – the results can be more than worth the time investment.
This is a heavily distilled list of tips, and each individual point can require as little or as much effort as you can muster. Whatever your level of CX maturity, it’s worth ensuring you’ve covered all these steps and revisited them if needed. It’s an ever-evolving landscape, but one well-worth staying on top of.