There’s a big gap between what companies think customers want and what customers are actually looking for in the brand experience.
According to a study by Bain & Company, 80% of brands believe that they’re delivering an excellent experience for their buyers. However, it doesn’t align with the perception of customers: only 8% of buyers believe this is true.
That’s where having a clear customer experience strategy comes in. It’s a roadmap that your team follows to make sure that the customer has a positive experience at each touchpoint in their journey.
A customer experience strategy plays an essential role in the success of your company. It’s what differentiates you from other companies in the market, drives loyalty, and creates a positive association with your brand in the user’s mind.
After all, customers are willing to pay 16% more for brands that deliver an excellent customer experience. And 95% of customers who view a company’s customer experience as “very good” are also more likely to recommend it to others.
First, let’s cover what we mean when we say customer experience strategy, and look at why it’s important before covering the steps to create and implement one.
What is a customer experience strategy?
At 30,000 feet, customer experience strategies are concrete action plans businesses can deploy to ensure every customer has a positive experience throughout their entire customer journey. Meeting customer expectations—no matter where your customers are in their journey—is critical to a brand’s success.
From start to finish, a well-planned CX strategy takes every customer touchpoint into account, such as:
- The way a customer discovers your business through marketing channels
- The user experience of your website, mobile app, or other self-service options
- How convenient it is for customers to get in touch with your contact center and customer support
- How well customer service staff or call centers handle questions and pain points over phone calls
- The ease and satisfaction of making purchase decisions
- The level of customer service received after making a purchase
Once a business deploys a CX strategy, businesses can then actively send out customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys to measure and monitor its effectiveness. The results are then averaged together to show a business’s CSAT scores.
Don’t have a customer experience strategy mapped out yet? We’ve got you covered. Check out our article on How to Create a Customer Experience Strategy.
Why is having a CX strategy so important?
Higher customer satisfaction directly translates into better Net Promoter Scores (NPS), higher customer engagement, lower churn rates, higher brand loyalty, and, ultimately, greater revenue. Here are just a few of the mind blowing stats showcasing the importance of customer satisfaction and having an excellent CX strategy:
- A 5% boost in customer satisfaction can generate up to 25% more in profits.
- After only a single bad experience, 17% of US consumers say that was enough to walk away from a business; 59% state they would take their business elsewhere after several poor experiences.
- Companies who provide excellent customer experiences are 60% more profitable than non-customer-centric companies
Creating and implementing a great customer experience strategy takes time, planning, and intentional action across every one of your business’s internal departments.
To reach your CX goals, start with a thorough process to design your customer experience strategy.
Create an amazing customer experience strategy in six steps.
We’ve outlined how to create a customer experience strategy that drives more revenue and boosts customer satisfaction, along with steps you can take to implement your CX strategy swiftly and confidently.
1. Define your customer experience vision.
Your customer experience vision is a statement of what your company stands for and the value it wants to bring for buyers. It serves as a starting point for the direction of your goals and customer experience strategy.
Here are famous examples of customer experience vision statements from top companies:
- IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”
- Whirlpool: “Be the best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home.”
- Avon: “To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women—globally.”
- Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
The first step to defining your brand vision is understanding how your product improves the customer’s life. Ask yourself: What challenges are you solving for them? What positive feedback have you received from customers in the past?
Next, determine the core values that your company holds dear. What gets your team excited to wake up in the morning and do what it does?
2. Evaluate how your company currently handles customer experience.
Evaluating your current or assumed customer experience strategy helps identify where you’re doing great and what areas need improvement. You’ll have a clear picture of whether you’re meeting the customer’s needs.
Here are a few areas to start your research and evaluation.
Conduct customer interviews.
An effective way to analyze your current customer experience strategy is to talk to your customers directly. It’s the perfect opportunity to ask all your questions about their experience with your brand, such as what they’re not satisfied with.
Utilize real-time feedback platforms like Survey Dynamix to collect relevant and personalized feedback at critical points along the customer experience. You’ll gain raw insight into customer perceptions without needing to incentivize via email or cold call a list of customers.
Look into customer satisfaction metrics.
One analytical way to examine your existing customer experience is by looking at customer satisfaction metrics.
Lean on Net Promoter Score (NPS), a metric that measures how likely customers are to recommend your brand to others based on a rating from 0 to 10, to gain a general evaluation of your brand’s perception.
Utilize Customer Effort Score (CES) to measure how much work it takes the customer to solve an issue. The more effort a customer has to invest in resolving their problems, the more friction there is in your customer experience.
Walk through the customer journey.
We’ll get into customer journey mapping in the next section, but this first step is used to take an inventory of your journeys and experiences as they exist today. Define a customer journey map based on the various goals customers come to your brand with today, and how they’d go about accomplishing those goals.
Define the path it takes for a customer who has a problem with billing and starts online. Or a customer who needs to request a return or refund and starts by calling your toll free number. Then map out the explicit steps it takes for that customer to have their needs fulfilled—or identify where that isn’t currently possible.
3. Create a customer journey map.
A customer journey map is a representation of the different actions that the customer takes toward a desired outcome or goal (for example, making a purchase).
For this step, the goal is to create an ideal journey map based on 1) your vision of customer experience (the first step of this post) and 2) the capabilities your brand has today, with a feasible path to future growth. Start with what’s possible, and forecast what a preferred process would be if you could implement tools or resources to accomplish it.
Understanding each step of the buyer journey helps you find ways to reduce friction and optimize the customer experience. The different steps involved in creating a customer journey map include:
- Define your buyer persona: The buyer persona helps paint a clear picture of who your ideal customer is. It includes vital information such as their job, demographics, and goals.
- Identify all touchpoints: What touchpoints do customers use to interact with your brand? For example, they could include email, your website, or social media pages.
- Define pain points and frustrations: Identify what prevents the customer from achieving what they want in their customer journey. For example, these obstacles could be long wait times or high-volume periods in customer service.
- Find solutions to overcome the frustrations: After identifying your customer’s pain points, start coming up with solutions to fix them. In the case of long wait times that we mentioned, an example of a solution could be integrating a virtual queue.
Creating a customer journey map pushes you to truly understand your prospect’s needs by putting yourself in their shoes. It allows you to then come up with a strategy to build a customer experience that matches their needs.
4. Build an emotional connection with the customer.
Building an emotional connection with the customer increases their engagement and loyalty. According to Harvard Business Review, customers that feel more emotionally connected to brands are 52% more valuable.
One tactic to build an emotional connection with your audience is storytelling, which can come in different ways. You can create video testimonials of customers describing how your product solves their challenges or content that explains your brand’s history for more authenticity.
Personalization is also key to bonding with the customer and creating a unique experience. It can be as simple as using their name in your emails or providing tailored offers based on the customer’s behavior and preferences. It makes the customer feel that you’re reaching out to them as a friend, not just a prospect.
5. Support your staff for better customer service.
A critical way to improve your customer experience is by investing in your customer support staff. By providing your team with the tools they need for success, they can do a better job of serving customers.
Provide agents with customer context.
Callers hate repeating themselves. This can add an average of 10-30 seconds to every call! With the right tools, your agents can be equipped with customer context, improving average handle time with ease.
Start by bridging the gap between digital and voice channels. Use a click-to-schedule widget like Mindful on your digital properties when self-service reaches its limit, so the customer’s path, experience ID, and expressed need can carry directly into their voice conversation. This gives the support agent everything they need to know for an efficient and empathy-building conversation.
Provide agents with calmer customers.
No one likes to wait. Fewer like to wait on hold. So it’s a natural conclusion that customers who have to hold will come to a call with frustration or anger. Not only will they take time to vent to the agent (increasing AHT), but they’ll also leave lower NPS and CSAT ratings for your brand.
This highlights the power of a premier callback solution, like Mindful. We recommend offering the option for callback any time the estimated wait time is above two minutes, and we see handle times reduced by 10-30 seconds on average, and NPS increased by 3-5% on average.
We’ve also found that customers are likely to wait 300% longer in a virtual queue than they are on hold while still being a promoter. Offering callback is quite simply an obvious choice for brands that want a better contact center experience.
Provide agents with an insured schedule.
The pandemic has taken its toll on the contact center. Brands are still scrambling to meet the ways COVID has changed customer service, but one of the most glaring gaps is in staffing.
Between restaffing after furloughs, the incomprehensible rise in call volume and service demand, and the new remote world that allows agents to work remotely, staffing up—and retaining staff—has been nearly impossible.
To meet rising demand, many of our clients have moved to a scheduled-only call model. In the case of customer Connecticut Department of Labor, a scheduled model removed tens of thousands of repeat calls, while giving each caller a guaranteed time to speak with an agent. And the agents finally got to go home on time.
Call scheduling is great for customers. But it’s also an incredible benefit to agents. When queues are maxed out, wait times are racked up to hours—or days, in some cases—agent stress is through the roof. The guilt (and, sometimes, requirement) to stay after your shift and pick up more calls is an incredible burden.
By offering callback scheduling, you can give agents an expected schedule. Call peaks are smoothed out with predictability. No guilt is had over customers that have been on hold for hours. Agents can have a clearly defined final call for the day, bringing agent happiness to all-time highs.
6. Make feedback an essential part of your strategy.
To create the best customer experience strategy, make sure to have a systemic approach to collecting customer feedback. Not only does it show the customer that you value them, but you can use this feedback to identify friction and continually improve their experience.
For example, after you’ve resolved an issue, follow up with a customer satisfaction survey via email to let them judge the quality of your service. Make sure you’re using short questions and that you’re straight to the point.
But the best feedback is immediate. Look to solutions like Survey Dynamix to gain real-time insight into the customer experience so your team can make immediate changes to contact center operations, agent enablement, digital product processes, and self-serve options.
With your eyes fixed on improving the customer experience, let’s look at the steps to implement your new strategy.
Implementing a customer experience strategy takes focus.
No matter how much talking or planning you do, your customer experience strategy won’t bring any value to your business until you implement it in your day-to-day operations. From the C-Suite and product development team to your customer service representatives, everyone in your business needs to be on the same page as to what your customer experience strategy is and, even more importantly, the unique role they play in executing it.
We’ve outlined five critical steps every business must take to make their customer experience strategy a reality.
1. Set a concrete timeline and project plan.
The first step in executing your customer experience strategy is to make sure your CX goals are as specific and measurable as possible.
We’re all too familiar with how “as soon as you can” can often translate to “when you get around to it,” or how easy it can be to dismiss someone’s perception of our business as “their personal preference.”
That mindset won’t fly when it comes to implementing your strategy.
You need to treat your customer experience strategy like any other major business endeavor you undertake. CX plans shouldn’t just be theoretical niceties to strive for—they’re business goals that play a vital role in your success.
Many people are familiar with SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In step one, you want to make sure you establish specific goals for your customer experience strategy.
Examples of these goals can include:
- Ensure customer service staff make a certain number of attempts to establish a Personal Emotional Connection with customers over the phone. To make it easier, you can use AI speech analytics tools to track how your agents are doing.
- Keep your First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Average Handling Time (AHT) metrics over a certain threshold.
- Enroll a certain number of new customer in a customer loyalty program every quarter.
- Maintain and exceeding a particular CSAT score range.
Each of these examples contain specific values your business can aim for, which leads us directly into step two.
2. Give teams a way to know how they’re doing.
Once you’ve set specific customer experience goals, you need to establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) for your team that will help you measure those goals and track your progress.
There are hundreds of customer experience KPIs that your business can track, ranging from the organizational and departmental level, to the performance of individual employees. So which KPIs should you measure? Start by referring back to your specific goals to help determine which metrics are the most critical to your success.
Notice that the examples in step one are not only specific, but they’re also measurable. For example:
- You can use call recording software and artificial intelligence to monitor whether or not an individual customer service rep does in fact make one or two attempts to emotionally connect with a customer.
- Your customer loyalty department can quickly gauge whether or not they’re succeeding in enrolling new customers into loyalty programs by looking at quarterly benchmarks.
- CSAT surveys and scores can be used to gauge the effectiveness of your entire business in creating an excellent customer experience.
Whatever your goals, make them measurable in order to create a sense of accountability and ownership within your business.
3. Keep your targets in range.
Now that you’ve set your business, department, and individual goals, you need to double-check that they’re actually achievable (the A of SMART). Otherwise, any attempt to improve the customer experience—no matter how well-intentioned or planned—will result in exhaustion and disappointment.
For instance, while having an NPS score of 100 (the highest score possible) would be ideal, it’s highly unlikely that every one of your customers will be active, word-of-mouth promoters of your business.
Similarly, you might set a low AHT goal for your call center, but that goal could lower your FCR numbers as your customer support team may spend less time making sure the customer’s call is handled correctly the first time.
It might be difficult to know which metrics and initiatives are attainable at the start, so don’t be afraid to move benchmarks higher or lower and reevaluate every month, quarter, or year. Providing an excellent customer experience is a cross-departmental effort. Keep the limits of your business and employees in mind when setting specific and measurable goals, and seek to make them both challenging and achievable to motivate your team to boldly press forward.
4. Make it a real job, not an add-on.
While a mandate from the C-Suite always helps, when it comes down to brass tacks, people only deliver effective work when they know what’s in it for them. This is the R of SMART: creating relevancy.
So your next critical success factor (CSF) depends on positioning the CX strategy as a genuine and necessary part of each department’s and team member’s job description—not a make-work scheme from the corner office.
To do so, look at your customer experience strategy through your employee’s eyes. Ask:
- What metrics lead to success in their job?
- How is their performance measured?
- How are we recognizing and rewarding them for their service?
Make it a priority to talk to managers in every department. Come away from those meetings with a list of candidates who could implement your CX plan, and work out which parts of that implementation will lead to kudos from their managers and peers. When managers and employees understand that 86% of great experiences lead to a repurchase, and that they’ll be recognized and rewarded for their work, you create internal momentum for your CX strategy and an overall better employee experience.
Is the candidate in your sales department and scored on lead gen numbers and conversion rates? Demonstrate how their part of the project might lead to two hot referrals per week from delighted customers, or a 20% uplift in positive responses. Motivate your team by appealing to their drivers, and you’ve turned grudging acceptance into enthusiastic understanding. Make implementation worth their while.
5. Create a sense of shared enterprise.
Forty-one percent of professionals believe organizational barriers are a significant factor in failed CX projects. Implementing an effective CX strategy means creating a sense of shared success between each department and leadership level of your business. It involves the call center, the IT experts, the field sales professional, marketing department, executives, and more. Many of these departments may have never worked together before, so it’s your job to get them into the same room to collaborate and set a clear timeline for implementation and results.
A kickoff where you introduce your team to each other and outline their responsibilities can work wonders for execution. Building those relational bonds and mapping out responsibilities and choke points in the strategy will not only help spread the effort and draw on the brainpower of your entire team, but it will also eliminate the need to have every CX query bounce back to you. For example, if the sales department needs more up-to-date marketing material to help their call staff, they will know exactly who to go to.
And always remember to reward those collaborative actions when they occur. It will keep your implementation on track. That’s the T of SMART goals: Keep your goals time-bound.
6. Listen to customer feedback.
There’s one more factor that doesn’t fit into the SMART acronym for implementing a customer experience strategy. It’s C: customer interactions. Listen to customers who have a direct experience with your business.
It’s critical that you and your team are constantly soliciting feedback from your customers—whether that’s through informal phone conversations, dedicated CSAT survey, or, ideally, both. Sometimes, simple conversations to learn about a customer’s personal experience with your business or brand in real time can be worth several months of strategizing behind closed doors. Plus, addressing customer needs and concerns will positively increase customer retention and lower customer churn.
Always remember that customer strategy begins and ends with the customer—wherever, whenever, and whoever the interaction involves. There are countless ways to implement a CX strategy, but the SMART objective model is an effective roadmap to get started. Prepare your team, give them relevant goals they can measure, and keep lines of communication open between departments to create a better customer experience.
Having an effective customer experience strategy will help make your brand stand out from the crowd and delight more customers. As a result, you’ll increase loyalty and create more brand advocates. Just as customer experience leader Jeanne Bliss says: “Customers who love you will market for you more powerfully than you can possibly market yourself.”
This post was originally published in May 2018, and has since been updated.