Customer experience is how a customer perceives any individual interaction, as well as overall interaction(s) he or she has with a business. These experiences can come from any touchpoint that a customer has with a business, whether it’s on the phone, online, email or through any other channel.
And with each of these channels and touch points, there is room for improvement and optimization. From offering a click-to-call on any channel so a customer doesn’t hit a dead end, to seeing what agent processes can be improved, customer experience optimization is the action of improving weak points of the customer journey in an effort to increase brand loyalty and perception.
Let’s look at a few ways you can optimize your customer experience.
- Customer experience optimization improves the entire customer journey and includes analyzing data and understanding customers.
- To understand customers, you first need to identify customer pain points by listening to customers, analyzing customer data, and evaluating customer behavior.
- Analyzing customer data helps make informed decisions and uncovers trends and patterns in customer behavior.
- It all boils down to a customer-centric strategy that helps you understand customer needs and create personalized experiences.
How customer experience has changed over the years
Not that long ago, customer experience was defined as the experience a consumer had when buying from a company. This almost always occurred in person or via a call center.
Today, customer experience has a much broader context and includes every encounter that a consumer has across a growing number of digital communication channels.
In a phone-first era, consumers engage with your brand in many more ways than ever before. This includes everything from social media platforms and your website to mobile apps, IVR systems, and, of course, phone interactions with agents. With this growing range of channels, customer expectations are rapidly evolving.
It’s no longer enough to have a great product or the lowest prices. To attract and keep customers, it’s about delivering exceptional service. This means optimizing it across channels to meet not only today’s customer expectations, but also tomorrow’s demands.
Why is customer experience optimization important?
The customer experience not only shapes consumers’ demand for your brand—it also influences their buying decisions and loyalty. So customer experience optimization is essential for driving revenue and building a solid reputation that generates new customers.
With a saturated market, consumers simply won’t stick with companies that deliver a bad customer experience. It’s easier than ever to find another source for nearly every product or service. Yet, the flip side is consumers will become repeat customers if a company provides a great customer experience. With each interaction that delivers this level of service, loyalty increases.
So what can you do to make it happen?
First: identify customer pain points.
Before you can optimize the customer experience, you have to know your customers. Optimization shouldn’t start with a roadmap or a goal—it should start with questions that lead you to knowing more about your customers.
Customer experience optimization involves targeting the customer’s needs and expectations in order to provide a positive experience. But to target effectively, you have to know where customers are getting stuck, what resonates with them, and where they find value as well as agony.
A few places to start in identifying pain points:
- Listen to customers. Listening is key to understanding their wants and needs. This includes conducting surveys, gathering feedback on social media, and tracking customer interactions with your business. Your best bet is a great voice of customer tool.
- Analyze customer data. We’ll dive more into this in the next section, but the process of analyzing should identify areas that need improvement or changes in order to meet customer demands. The data collected should be used as a basis of making decisions about where customers are getting stuck.
- Look internally for answers. Odds are good that your customer-facing teams know exactly where customers are facing roadblocks—because they hear about them constantly.
There’s a lot of listening and evaluating involved in identifying customer pain points. And while that might sound tedious, it’s absolutely paramount to begin with to keep teams aligned on priorities and talk about the problems with shared language.
Second: analyze customer data.
This might seem like a no-brainer—any project that you’re working on likely involves an analysis of customer data.
But how deep is that analysis? Are you asking questions beyond the basic reports you’re given, or looking deeper than what the metrics tell you? There’s always a reason (often more than one) that the data is the way that it is. But it takes determination and persistence to dig beyond the surface and truly understand your customer’s frustrations.
If you haven’t gone deep into analysis, it’s likely due to one of these disadvantages. It’s worth putting them down on paper so you know what you’re signing up for:
|Advantages of analyzing||Disadvantages of analyzing|
|Quickly identify areas for improvement.||Data analysis takes time and resources.|
|Uncover hidden customer trends.||Data may not always provide accurate insights.|
|Pinpoint weak points in service delivery.||Over reliance on data can lead to tunnel vision.|
Okay, so you’ve been talked into doing the deep dive into analysis world. What deserves your attention? Here are a few areas to go deep on:
- Handle time: Yes, this is an agent-performance metric, and not a traditional customer pain point. But if you look into calls with the longest handle times and compare them with the shortest, you might see some really obvious problems communicated by customers in those extra minutes on the phone.
- Customer effort score (CES): Isolate surveys with low CES and then see what their interactions or comments were like. This is likely the best indicator of customer pain, as higher effort and customer pain go hand in hand. By the way, if you’re not measuring CES, you definitely should.
- User flows and screens: If you have a behavior tracking tool on your site that allows you to view random user sessions, these types of recordings are like treasure maps for roadblocks. You can then plot out user journeys and experience maps to get a physical sense of what your customers go through. Airbnb has famously done this with over 150 screens.
And set goals before optimizing.
It doesn’t matter what project you’re looking to work on—if you don’t set goals, you don’t know how well your optimizations did. Here are a few aspects you can use as jumping points:
- Satisfaction: base your goal on satisfaction scores, like CSAT or CES.
- Attributed revenue: attach an incremental revenue increase to your work and see if your changes improved revenue.
- Cost savings: sometimes a process needs optimizing because it’s too expensive, so bringing costs down will be your guide.
- Service levels: set your goals around speed of service.
There are of course many other ways to set goals. And it’s worth setting goals even if you don’t have comparison numbers to start with. For example, if you’re implementing a new survey method to capture customer satisfaction, you might not know what your CSAT scores will be, but you can make a goal as to how many responses you expect to get after implementing.
Next: start optimizing your customer experience.
Once you’ve identified which pain point to focus on and you’ve finished your data analysis of that pain point, it’s time to make changes. The following strategies can help you ensure that every customer interaction is fine-tuned to build stronger, more personalized interactions and relationships.
Optimize your online presence.
The customer experience begins with pre-awareness and continues through the initial purchase and hopefully to ongoing loyalty. This means that every aspect of your business’s online presence should be functional, consistent and optimized for a range of devices.
Consumers should be able to navigate through your website and across other online channels seamlessly. It’s simply a prerequisite for doing business today.
Understand customer journeys.
Leverage historical data from past interactions to gain greater knowledge of what customers want and need. By mapping out common customer journeys, you can identify areas for improvement and develop new strategies to optimize the overall customer experience.
Strive for omnichannel engagement.
Someone who begins their journey on your website may begin a conversation using web chat before moving over to a voice channel. To provide seamless engagement, interaction context and customer data must be able to shift wherever the customer goes on their journey. This begins with having the right infrastructure to support omnichannel journeys.
Check it out: For many brands, it’s worth having a connective tool to bridge context between channels. Mindful Scheduler accomplishes this from online to voice, with Mindful Handoff carrying the conversation in between experiences.
Switch to skills-based routing.
Outdated queue-based routing is one of the biggest hindrances to customer experience optimization. Having all callers sit in a single queue waiting for the next available agent is a recipe for frustration and call abandonment. With a skills-based routing approach, you can match callers with the best agent based on their specific needs. This dramatically improves first call resolutions, as well as the overall customer experience.
Improve IVR capabilities.
Your IVR system is often the first point of contact between your business and your customers. This makes it an important component of your customer experience. By maximizing its efficiency, you can not only route customers more effectively, but also obtain transactional history that can be linked to tailor service and deliver a seamless experience. Some ways to do this include:
- Ensure agents have real-time access to information collected in the IVR.
- Tailor menu options to increase first call resolutions, minimize internal transfers, and reduce repetition.
- Offer callback as an option to enable customers to control their time while knowing they’ll get help without the need to remain on hold.
- Provide callers regular updates on their position in the queue.
- Limit IVR to no more than five options.
For more: Look at ten ways to optimize your IVR.
Continuously monitor service levels.
Customer experience optimization can’t happen in a vacuum. This includes focusing on metrics, such as first call resolution (FCR), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT). It also means continuously asking for feedback from both customers and employees to truly understand what is working and what isn’t.
Optimization is not a one-time project. Rather, it should be thought of as a continuous process that evolves along with customer expectations, business needs, and technological advancements.
In today’s competitive market environment, offering an optimized customer experience is the most important and effective brand differentiator. With the commitment to focus on the customer and the processes to make positive change, your business can stand out amongst the others and secure customers who will remain loyal.
Finally: measure the impact of your optimization efforts.
Measuring the effects of your efforts is the hardest part of any project—even more so when it comes to optimizing overarching processes like customer experience.
If you followed the process in the second step and actually set goals before making changes, measurement gets a bit easier. Start with a hypothesis, set a target with some KPIs to the best of your ability, and then the measurement phase means you get to rest your brain a bit and just see if your goals are being hit.
If you’re looking for more ideas for how to efficiently measure the impact of customer experience optimization initiatives, here are a handful:
- Track key customer satisfaction scores like CSAT, NPS, and CES.
- Monitor customer complaints and feedback to identify areas needing improvement with a real-time voice of customer tool..
- Measure changes in sales revenue over time.
- Analyze website usage data to determine how customers interact with your site—especially if there are key pages you’ve updated in the project.
- Hold a post-mortem with stakeholders (especially customer-facing folks!) and see how they think the changes are going.
It’s also important to engage with customers directly on a regular basis so that you can gain deeper insights into their needs and wants. This will help inform effective optimization strategies that align with current market demands and trends.
Knowing how well your efforts are performing is essential for making the necessary adjustments to ensure maximum success in improving the overall customer experience.
And if you’re about to get started, we have a few stops we’d suggest before diving in:
- Make sure you know what metrics you should be tracking and what each stat is indicating.
- Start collecting feedback with a real-time voice of customer tool to get a baseline.
- Get some thought starters on ways you can directly turn customer feedback into a CX optimization.
Frequently asked questions
How do I know if my customer experience optimization efforts are successful?
The best way to know if your optimizations are successful is to set KPIs and measure them after the fact. Come up with a hunch, gather some data, create a hypothesis using KPIs, and then see if your hypothesis was correct after the project wraps.
But in general, you can measure if your efforts to optimize customer experience are successful by examining metrics such as customer satisfaction and retention, sales increases, and the overall sentiment of customers.
By gathering feedback from your customers through surveys and reviews, you can identify areas of improvement and determine what strategies are working best.
What is the best way to collect customer feedback?
Collecting customer feedback is the only way to know if your optimizations are effective. We suggest three key ways to get customer feedback: ask, listen, and follow.
Using surveys, ask customers about their experience after every interaction. Follow-up as quickly as possible after the interaction to get the most accurate responses.
Use voice and text analysis tools to systematically listen to customer sentiment from the words they say. This should always be held in comparison to survey data for accuracy.
If you have an active audience, follow your customers closely on social media (or employ a tool that accomplishes this for you) to gauge how customers are speaking about your brand to their friends.
How can I prioritize customer experience optimization efforts?
The number one way to prioritize your customer experience optimization efforts is to ask yourself what matters most to you and your customers. In the midst of many competing priorities, try to gauge the cost of certain optimizations so that you can see the potential lost or gained revenue for each project.
For example, if you think your handle times are too long and you want to improve agency efficiency, determine how much money could be saved by shaving off a certain amount of time (or use an ROI calculator) and then weight that cost against your other projects.
How can I quickly identify customer pain points?
The best way to identify customer pain points is to ask them, typically with surveys. But do identify quickly, you need to collect, review, and react to responses in real time.
This requires a real-time voice of customer tool that can collect customer feedback at any point in their journey and then immediately deliver that feedback to your employees. The faster the turnaround to understanding the customer, the quicker you’ll be to identifying and feeling those pain points.
How can I ensure customer experience optimization efforts are properly implemented?
To ensure proper implementation of your efforts, start by regularly monitoring customer feedback. Ask questions to better understand their experience and look for patterns in the responses.
Make sure that everyone involved in the process is aware of the plan and accountable for its successful execution. With regular communication and follow-up, you can ensure customer experience optimization efforts are properly implemented.
This post was originally published in June 2018 and has since been updated.