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Debunking Linear Customer Journeys and How to Take a Holistic Approach

Maggie Lin on 13 March, 2018

Understanding why a customer purchased a particular product or service often gives businesses valuable insights into what is working and how they can continue to grow in their industry.

Understanding why a customer purchased a particular product or service often gives businesses valuable insights into what is working and how they can continue to grow in their industry.

In an attempt to better understand their customer’s path to purchase, businesses often try to map out the various touchpoints that occur and the different stages of awareness.

We call this the customer journey.

It’s characterized as a discrete set of touchpoints or steps that take a customer from the very first stages of buyer research through to the final stages of making a final purchasing decision.

When visually designing the customer journey map, most businesses usually come up with something similar to the example image you see below.


Source, CoversionXL

From this image, you can better grasp where a customer stands at each of the stages listed and how one stage can naturally lead to the next. You also get an idea of where some of these valuable touchpoints happen and how the company can be tuned in to customers at these different stages.

These visual journeys are important pieces to understanding customers and the overall customer experience.

However, it’s important to address that mapping out the journey as depicted above and viewing it as a straight line from awareness to purchase is a gross simplification of what is actually taking place.

In reality, the “journey” is rarely linear. There is no single path.

In A Digital Age, It’s All About the Customer Experience

Thanks to the modern world we live in, technology has opened the way for many channels of awareness (social media, online communities, content marketing, outbound marketing, etc), which allows customers to find their way to your business in more ways.

But it also means that the customer journey is difficult to predict or understand.

The touchpoints that lead one customer to your doorstep may not be the same ones another person goes through to reach the same result.

In other words, the customer journey is not linear.

Take a step back and think about how your customer could take one of any number of different paths to purchase. Rather than being something simple and linear, the buying decision is about the culmination of the entire customer experience and the various touchpoints your customer interacts with.

While we do what we can to track and pool all the data from marketing efforts to find our best acquisition channels, making sense of the marketing funnel, and how to understand the full customer experience is difficult through traditional models and methods.

So, rather than trying to map a customer journey to a linear path or going overboard by trying to keep up with the torrent of data available to you, there is a better way to gain and retain customers while keeping a competitive edge in your industry. 

A Holistic Approach To Customer Experience

With so many moving parts involved in modern day marketing, it can be easy to make the mistake of looking at things as individual parts that impact business rather than looking at things holistically.

In order to comprehend and control the customer experience, there must be a shift in thinking. Rather than a focus on specific paths to purchase, there must be an emphasis on holistic understanding.

Similar to how an engine is made up of many functional parts that are needed to make it run, a business also has many parts (marketing, sales, customer experience, so on) that power it forward.

Unlike traditional journey mapping exercises, thinking about the customer experience in a holistic way gives you multidimensional insight that’s hard to gain from old methods. It requires companies to take a step back and look at their entire customer experience throughout a range of touchpoints.

The benefits for doing things this way — by focusing on the entire customer experience — are numerous, but here are a few:

  • Allows you to strategically improve communication across a range of different touchpoints.
  • Gives individual team members a strong understanding about their individual actions and how these actions impact the overall customer experience.
  • Develops a clear framework for how to measure, assess, and improve the overall process.ramework for how to measure, assess, and improve the overall process.
  • Simplifies the process of identifying areas for improvement within your customer experience so that you can fix friction within channels and touchpoints.

So how can you get started and bring things up to speed with this fast-paced digital world?

Let’s take a closer look.

Preparing Your Brand For A Holistic Customer Journey

The customer journey is one of the main cogs that powers the entire customer experience.

Knowing the experience you want customers to have and then delivering that experience throughout the various touchpoints in their journey is a critical strategic initiative.

Companies that have taken a holistic approach to managing their customer experience tend to exhibit four main characteristics:

1. They are customer obsessed.

Customer feedback and desires are heard, which leads to industry-leading customer satisfaction and retention rates.

They usually have a community they’ve built to get a better grasp on who their customers really are and to allow them to communicate more easily and with more transparency than their competitors. And since they are focused on providing a great customer experience, they are constantly looking to better understand customers.

2. They are authentic and always on-brand.

While giving customers what they want is viewed as vital and unquestionably valuable, companies with excellent customer experiences stay focused on building an authentic and consistent brand.

If customer demands push the lines of staying on-brand, successful businesses choose authenticity rather than satisfying every ask.

You can look to a brand like REI as an example of this.

They’ve remained steadfast in delivering a consistent brand experience, which is at the heart of their customer relationships–and drives fierce loyalty among their customers.

3. They have strong in-house collaboration.

Cross-functional teams are a staple of most successful businesses. However, modern teams that successfully deliver an exceptional customer experience have managed to break the mold and make collaboration across all teams an organizational focus.

This involves getting the entire company to understand the customer experience vision, how individuals will impact that experience, aligning the incentives and processes to work holistically (there’s that word again!) within a company, and making it clear that communication and cooperation are not just urged but expected.

4. They are brutally pragmatic.

Brands and businesses with a competitive advantage usually excel at knowing which objectives are most important and how to prioritize initiatives accordingly.

These companies are both rigorous in their testing and brutally pragmatic about analyzing what works and changing what doesn’t work.

Test, listen, learn, tweak, repeat. Test ideas that comes from feedback and concrete data. Listen to more feedback about the implemented changes. Learn about what is working. Tweak what isn’t working. Repeat the process again.

All of these traits and actions can become a core part of your company to help you build a better customer experience.

While it’s true that there is a lot more dimension to the journey today than a couple decades ago, it’s clear that companies that put a focus on customers and give them an above and beyond experience are the ones that will lead in their markets.

If you’re looking for a way to design a better customer experience, we suggest you take a closer look at our article about the Customer Experience Maturity Model, which is an in-depth and actionable framework you can use to assess and prioritize your customer experience management process.

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Using AI to Power the Next Decade of Customer Experience

Mahesh Ram on 12 March, 2018

AI is becoming the new competitive battleground for delivering a superior customer service experience (CX). It is helping companies work smarter and transition from defense to offense, from heavy dependence on labor to intelligent automation.

Join Kate Leggett, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and Mahesh Ram in an exclusive webinar, “Investing in the Future of CX” on Wed, Mar 14 at 11:00am PST. We will discuss how CX will become faster, smarter—and yet, more human with AI.


Jeff Bezos once famously noted: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” 

Bezos was foreshadowing what today’s consumers now expect from business—speed, accuracy and consistency—across every interaction channel and especially for support. Omni-channel contact capabilities and the rise of conversational interfaces have raised the bar further for businesses to compete for consumer attention in the digital on-demand economy. Failing to meet this bar results in lost opportunity.

But racing to meet these rising expectations can incur massive costs for business without thoughtful planning and strategy. For example, if organizations try to meet these users’ rising expectations merely through increased staffing, it would be incredibly inefficient and expensive—and worse, the quality of service would greatly vary. It’s simply not scalable to throw labor at the problem. Yet if the fundamental goal of any business is to get closer to customers, what can companies do to deliver a superior customer experience that is both elegant and profitable?

Fortunately the answer is emerging before our very eyes. A recent study by Aspect found that nearly 3 out of 4 consumers prefer to solve their customer service issues on their own if presented with the right tools to do so. Personalized and intelligent automation, with artificial intelligence at its core, can be combined with time-honored principles of human-centered  service. Intelligent self-service solutions, powered by machine learning, can liberate companies to focus more on optimizing customer journeys and delighting consumers.

Moving from Defense to Offense

AI is becoming the new competitive battleground for delivering a superior customer service experience (CX). It is helping companies work smarter and transition from defense to offense, from heavy dependence on labor to intelligent automation. The leading brands are increasing their investment on customer-facing knowledge and education knowing that this knowledge “has wings” to “fly” to all consumer touchpoints and be instantly available to end-users on the device, browser and channel of their choice.

Today’s connected consumers demand much higher levels of choice and control: they want to choose the customer service experience that best suits their needs at that moment. They are trained to express themselves conversationally on any channel. They want their questions understood and resolved within the context of previous interactions. They want to seamlessly switch between different contact channels as it suits their busy lifestyles.

Companies are turning to AI for delivering this consistency and speed across all support channels.

AI helps businesses move from defense to offense

Improved self-service creates a slew of secondary benefits for companies and their employees.  As intelligent automation enables self-service for many (if not most) Tier 1 and Tier 2 tickets, agents become more empowered as well. They can handle more complex interactions that require more attention and greater personalization. Their engagement level goes up and their attrition rates go down. They go from being ‘agents’ to becoming ‘guides’ or ‘concierges’, which in turn ensure high CSAT ratings.

Intent to Resolution: An AI Journey

AI allows organizations to take in consumer issues via completely natural language, make sense of their actual intent (i.e., categorize them properly), and determine the user intent in real time. But understanding the intent of the ticket is only one part of the complex puzzle.  Self-service resolution requires deep AI and machine learning science that identifies the most relevant resolution from the vast repository of knowledge and serves it up in real time. If the question is not self-serviceable, AI must automatically detect this and redirect the question to a human agent minimizing user friction.

The AI algorithms are able to deliver intelligent automation at speed and scale. Understanding the question involves using natural language understanding that can handle complex utterances and go beyond mere keyword dependencies. This is a hard problem but once solved, it creates a miraculous experience. Once issues are aptly understood in context, supervised and unsupervised learning methodologies allow classification of the incoming user questions into relevant tags or categories. This is a multi-step process that involves sorting, optimizing and creating tags.

For instance, an ecommerce company might get frequent questions around pricing, discounts, shipping, refunds, returns and exchanges which might fall under more than one category.

A question may fall under multiple categories, as depicted in the graph above

The ability to automatically categorize tickets as they come in greatly improves the accuracy, quality and speed of providing resolutions that match the issue intent. Categorization also creates the ability for companies to have a deeper understanding of product issue trends, key defects, or gaps in knowledge.

AI and machine learning applications for customer experience are hard to build and design. When done well however, the use of AI empowers organizations to create delightful end-to-end customer journeys by providing instant resolutions in minutes as opposed to hours, or even days!

Moving from Tactical to Strategic

Artificial intelligence also employs sophisticated machine learning capabilities that leverage existing algorithms to learn from data, in order to build generalizable models that give accurate predictions, find unknown patterns and offer deep insights.

Companies are able to take the learnings from their customer interactions, build on them and then intelligently apply them to improve customer journeys across the board by taking into account the variable operating conditions. User journeys often vary depending on where they are is in the lifecycle of a product or a process, nature of their support issue, whether they are a first-time user or not, their demographic profile and other factors.

As systems continue to evolve and become more sophisticated over time, AI enables companies to be more strategic and targeted about who they serve, what channels they employ, and where they allocate their resources. As a result, they are able to achieve the magic equation where the key support metrics go up on the one hand and costs come down on the other.

Machine learning capabilities lend a competitive advantage to businesses. 

With technology on their side, organizations are in a position to make informed business decisions to achieve a sustainable ROI while creating a frictionless customer experience.


With customer service becoming a brand differentiator, organizations are using AI technology as an enabler to transition from individual silos and disjointed experiences to integrated and consistent experiences. Organizations are moving from defense to offense, and from tactical to strategic. Most importantly, end-users or consumers are happier and spend more money with these leading companies. As CX leaders, there has never been a better opportunity to build a leadership position for our brands that deliver an intelligent and effortless customer experience!

Join Kate Leggett, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and me in an exclusive webinar, “Investing in the Future of CX” on Wed, Mar 14 at 11:00am PST. We will discuss how CX will become faster, smarter—and yet, more human with AI.

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Rethinking Your Approach to Customer Loyalty and How it Can Impact Your Business

Kay Lim on 8 March, 2018

Companies seeking to safeguard and grow their revenue should focus on increasing the loyalty of existing customers rather than focusing primarily on customer acquisition.

Companies seeking to safeguard and grow their revenue should focus on increasing the loyalty of existing customers rather than focusing primarily on customer acquisition.

With the right mindset and organizational commitment, increasing customer loyalty is an attainable goal and one that should be a company priority.

The best businesses find a way to make customer loyalty programs work and the reason is simple: Loyal customers outspend other customers.

An Accenture report from 2017 describes that 66% of consumers spend more on brands that they’re loyal to. This finding shows a clear incentive for businesses to take the plunge into building a meaningful customer loyalty improvement program.

Creating an effective customer loyalty improvement program requires understanding the impact of customer loyalty, seeing loyalty programs from the customer’s point of view, and using practical objective methods for assessing where and how loyalty programs are the most effective.

Customer Loyalty Is Powerful

Customer loyalty over time guarantees the future of a business’ profitability.

Loyal customers are increasingly valuable the longer that they’re loyal.

A Bain & Company study reports that the longer customers have had a relationship with online retailers, the more they spend, amounting to a 67% increase in money spent after 31 months when compared to the first purchases in the relationship.

This relationship duration spending bonus holds up in other industries too. Customers spent 23% more on buying groceries after 31 months than they did in the first month buying from the same grocery store chain.

However, customer loyalty is even more powerful than these figures suggest.

Loyal Customers Provide Free Benefits For Companies

Loyal customers are overwhelmingly more profitable than other customers because loyal customers do more for a business than purely generating revenue during purchases.

As stated in Accenture’s report, 55% of consumers tell their friends about the brands that they’re loyal to, with 12% being loyal enough to applaud brands and defend them against detractors on social media.

Brand evangelists and brand defenders are often customers who have the deepest level of experience with a brand and they provide accurate information to their friends and social media followers and behave like another marketing channel.

Customers trust what their friends say about companies and this heavily influences their purchasing decisions. Customer loyalty can thus increase the rate of new customer acquisition as well.

It’s difficult to quantify the exact value of defenders on social media, but the social proof that loyal customers create for free is a powerful indicator and driver of future revenue.

The Impact Of Customer Loyalty Is Variable

Some industries benefit from customer loyalty more than others. McKinsey’s report on marketing led growth indicates that loyalty’s impact on a customer’s decision to buy varies across types of purchases.

According to the report, purchasing decisions for some products, such as auto insurance, are 76% driven by loyalty, whereas purchases of other products, like cosmetics, are only 4% driven by loyalty.

This means that companies seeking to improve customer loyalty should first think about whether they are selling products that are sold primarily via customer loyalty or whether their products are sold primarily via their features in comparison to other similar products.

Some Customers Are Routinely Loyal

The McKinsey report claims that 13% of consumers were completely loyal to their preferred brand and would never consider alternatives. The remaining 87% of consumers were willing to be disloyal if they found a product they preferred.

The twist is that 29% of consumers shopped around for a product before ultimately returning to the brand that they were initially loyal to. These consumers are first on the list for customer retention efforts because while they are open to other brands, they still feel a stronger tie to the initial brand they felt loyal to.

The best strategy for increasing customer loyalty is to target the 29% of customers who are vulnerable to disloyalty but are still loyal. Prevent losses first, then work on expanding loyalty to new customer segments.

Some Customers Will Not React Well To Loyalty Improvement Programs

Aside from the customers that are vulnerable to disloyalty, Accenture’s report finds that 23% of customers react negatively to loyalty improvement efforts. These customers are predominantly in younger demographics, who will be the potential customers of the future.

Be wary of over-handling this customer segment. While no loyalty program is perfect, putting additional thought into the approach for younger demographics would be beneficial.

Practical Steps For Increasing Customer Loyalty

Given the challenges of customer retention, coming up with an actionable strategy for improving loyalty for the right segment of customers requires getting creative.

The smoothest way forward is to think about a customer loyalty program from the perspective of the customer interacting with a business.

Give Customers The Channel They Want To Use

Customers’ reasons for staying loyal may be unrelated to a customer loyalty program, but that’s a good thing! Customers who are loyal before a loyalty program are customers who genuinely prefer your company and your product. Loyal customers also tend to have positive feelings towards the customer service these companies are providing.

A report discussing the results of the American Express’ 2017 Customer Service Barometer study states that more than 60% of consumers prefer to use digital self-service tools for simple inquiries. These tools include company websites, mobile applications, online chat, and voice response systems.

For more complicated inquiries, 40% of consumers reach for the phone with the hopes of talking to a human, and 23% of consumers try to find a way to talk to customer service face to face.

In a nutshell, customers prefer to use the easiest channels for the easiest inquiries, but are willing to invest more effort in getting service if they think their inquiry is more complicated.

If a company offers easy to use service channels, customers will find themselves exerting less effort to have their inquiries answered, improving both customer effort scores and loyalty.

Make things easy for your customers by giving them the self-service channels that they want to use and as an added bonus your company can save money on customer service costs.

Calibrate Pricing

Ease of interaction, while important, is not the only factor that can impact customer loyalty.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) conducted a survey in 2017 found that 92% of the consumers surveyed claimed that price and value were the biggest reasons to be loyal to a brand. The survey also found that price and value were 13% more likely to be ranked as the biggest loyalty factors in comparison to product quality.

For B2C companies this may be particularly helpful to know as this indicates that dropping prices may be a better way of ensuring loyalty than spending money to improve your product. Discounts for loyal customers are an effective way of making sure that loyal customers stay loyal and that other customers have an incentive to become loyal and continue to engage with your product offerings.

Use The Two Pie Model

Sometimes improving customer loyalty is simpler than adjusting pricing or introducing an easy to use support channel. Rather than focusing on making changes to increase loyalty directly, it can pay off to reduce the number of reasons that customers might have for being disloyal in the first place.

However, today most companies are trying to increase loyalty. As noted by a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, 89% of customer service managers stated that their strategy to increase customer loyalty was to exceed their customers’ expectations.

While logical that exceeding customers’ expectations would increase loyalty, thinking about it the other way around and focusing on reducing the reasons to be disloyal can make more sense for the business.

Exceeding expectations often requires extra work and can get expensive as your business continues to scale and is a tough bar to meet. In fact, in the same HBR study, 84% of customers reported that their expectations hadn’t been exceeded in their most recent customer service interaction.

The time, money, and effort put into exceeding their expectations may not always be the best way to move the needle.

To explain why this disconnect exists, HBR proposes using what they call the two pie model. Using this model can help businesses creatively think about improving customer loyalty.

One pie is the “loyalty” pie, which has many different small or medium sized slices that are drivers of customer loyalty.

Good customer service, a great product, and customer loyalty programs each have slices of the pie which are heftier in comparison to the other slices, but no single slice accounts for the majority of the pie. Customer loyalty has many factors and each factor contributes a little bit towards driving individual customers to remain customers.

The other pie is the “disloyalty” pie, which contains drivers of customer disloyalty. This pie contains a few large slices, with the largest slice– perhaps larger than half the pie– being poor customer service.

Poor customer service is overwhelmingly the most common reason for breaking customer relationships. Among millenials, 74% of those surveyed reported that a bad customer service experience would cause them to switch retailers. Importantly, Accenture found that in 2017, 77% of consumers were more likely to retract their loyalty than in prior years.

The takeaway is that reducing dissatisfaction can often encourage more customer loyalty than increasing satisfaction and can be easier to identify and take action on improving.

Create a Unique Loyalty Program That Differentiates Your Company

Be sure to reinvest in loyal customers relative to the revenue that they bring to the business.

Sometimes, the best way to do this is by providing them with loyalty benefits that address problems they might have with a competitor’s rewards program.

For example, Southwest Airlines links its Rapid Rewards loyalty point system to the amount that customers spend on their tickets rather than the distance that the ticket may take them like other airlines do.

As an airline, Southwest offers flights along common routes which cover great distances and are highly booked across all of the airlines who run those routes.

In order to compete with other airlines offering the same route, Southwest must be creative on how they differentiate their value to customers. Flying these routes thus generates a lot of reward miles for each Southwest customer. For the airlines who use the miles system, this system isn’t associated with higher revenue, customer loyalty, or even customer spending.

Because there are many other options for the same product — flights along a popular route– customers can easily go elsewhere. If Southwest rewarded customers for the distance that they flew, they’d often be rewarding the segment of customers most likely to be disloyal because of the nature of their business.

Instead, Southwest rewards customers who spend more. This means that customers who fly on more expensive (but shorter) routes will feel like they’re getting a better reward for staying loyal than they could with other airlines. These routes are also more likely to be underserved by other airlines, putting Southwest in a much stronger position to capture the market.   

This program differentiates Southwest from other airlines while costing the same amount as other airlines spend on loyalty programs; the difference is that the loyalty rewards given to Southwest customers scale perfectly with the amount that they spend.

Southwest retains the loyalty of profitable customers as a result. Likewise, customers that are easy to keep loyal because of their limited number of choices are more likely to stay loyal when they get a reward that’s structured in a way that benefits them.

Start A/B Testing

According to an A/B test case study by Marketing Experiments, optimizing the first seven seconds of a customer’s visit to a company’s website can result in a 14.65% increase in the rate of visitors to conversions. This means that if a company has a recurring customer base, there are probably ways to get more revenue from those customers.

Getting more revenue from existing customers is much easier than getting revenue from new customers.

In a marketing tell-all by Duolingo’s chief growth expert, one of the biggest insights gleaned from A/B testing was encouraging customers to engage with the app by sending push notifications telling the user that there was something new to see.

By simply adding a home screen notification counter to their iOS app’s icon, Duolingo saw a 6% increase in daily active users.

More importantly, by performing the test, Duolingo was able to learn what time of day individual users were the most likely to engage with the app after receiving a notification. They then used this information to build a habit for their users by notifying them slightly before they were most likely to engage with the app.

The lesson is clear: start running tests on customer segments so that you can guide them through engagement with your product.

Strong Loyalties Await

Combining these methods for increasing customer loyalty will bolster a company’s subset of loyal customers without breaking the budget.

The single biggest takeaway is that customers are often pleased with a frictionless experience whether that’s an interaction with the product itself or with customer service.

Use these methods to find unique areas of customer friction and create a plan to address them and make it easier to start your trek towards building a more loyal customer base.

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Customer Service Trends by Forrester Research

This report reveals the top 10 customer service trends for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros supporting customer service. It is a new customer playbook that every customer leader should read to stay competitive!

Read Report

Setting SMART Goals for Customer Service

Kevin Amaroli on 6 March, 2018

As a business, you’re constantly managing and balancing your company goals of increasing revenue, retaining customers, and improving internal processes, but are the goals you set effective at providing guidance to your employees on how to best accomplish them?

As a business, you’re constantly managing and balancing your company goals of increasing revenue, retaining customers, and improving internal processes, but are the goals you set effective at providing guidance to your employees on how to best accomplish them?

Especially within the context of customer service, setting the right goals and ensuring that those goals are designed for success can be difficult. The intent behind goals may be clear, but effective goal-making requires far more than communicating your desired end-state to your employees.

For example, a goal like “be polite to our customers” seems simple, yet your employees can struggle to execute them.

“Be polite to our customers” is challenging because it isn’t SMART–specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. You can accomplish the goal of being polite to customers, but it needs to be phrased in a way that is actionable and sets your employees up for success.

Developing effective goals for customer service reps is easy once you learn how to develop them the SMART way.


The SMART paradigm is a mental tool that you can use to guide your goal crafting. Think of it as a rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a goal. SMART won’t tell you anything specific about your organization’s needs–it’s just a method for implementing plans that serve the needs you have already identified.

Our goal as you read through the principles of SMART in the next few sections is to see how you can apply this to your company and your support initiatives.

There’s a bit of nuance to each SMART component, so have a recent example of a goal you set in mind because this framework can help evaluate how SMART your goal is and if there’s any room to define it further.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the single most important letter in SMART: specific.

S – Specific

SMART goals should be granular, comprehensive in content, and unambiguously phrased–especially if it requires more steps to accomplish.

The key to setting specific goals is the ability to proactively address questions that your employee might have after being tasked with a goal.

Specific goals preemptively answer questions like:

  • Who is responsible for working towards the goal?
  • What resources should be used to reach the goal?
  • What methods should be used to reach the goal?
  • Why is the goal worthwhile?
  • What obstacles/hazards need to be addressed to reach the goal without incident?
  • What is the deadline?

Having to organize and clarify your thoughts is an added bonus of setting specific goals. Creating a detailed roadmap to accomplish a goal by being specific is far more valuable than pointing your employees in a general direction and a broad goal.

Specificity is critical regardless of the scale of the goal. A nonspecific goal in a meeting might sound something like:

“We should make sure that the timesheets are done soon.”

This goal doesn’t specify the individuals responsible for accomplishing the goal, nor does it specify what aspects of which timesheets need to be completed, or by when.

It also doesn’t address why the goal is important, which means that employees will have a hard time connecting it to the bigger picture and be less motivated as a result.

A more specific version of the same goal would read:

“Mark should use our new software suite to process the contractor timesheets by Wednesday so that we can pay them by Friday.”

The means and the ends are both very clear when goals are specific. Implementing specificity in your company’s goal making process is an easy step that can lead to significant improvements.

The only way you’ll be able to effectively and accurately determine the impact of these improvements is if you set goals that are measurable in addition to being specific.

M – Measurable

Effective goals have measurable outcomes, which means that there is no ambiguity about whether a goal has been accomplished or not. Measurable goals make it easy when the time comes to assess progress.

Without measuring, it’s difficult to make course corrections or see the direct impact a program has made.

Luckily, setting measurable goals is easy in the context of customer service.

There are many metrics which can be used as measurements for progress toward a customer service goal. Improving a metric may be a goal in and of itself, so long as it’s connected to a larger picture.

The takeaway is to follow-up with measuring progress towards your goals as well as using those measurements to confirm that the goal has been reached.

A – Attainable

Progress is only possible if the goal is attainable and setting reasonable goals is important to the success and motivation of your team. 

For example, 100% customer satisfaction, while a great concept, is a challenging goal to set. A more attainable goal would be to increase customer satisfaction by 5% by the end of the year.

Setting goals which are attainable is important for a few reasons.

First, employees are more motivated to work on goals when completion is and feels possible. The satisfying feeling of attaining a goal is a powerful motivator.

Second, working on unattainable goals ties up resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

Finally, unattainable goals can lead to low morale.

It’s hard to keep employees motivated toward an unattainable goal because they feel like their best efforts will not allow them to reach the goal and this mindset only detracts from their ability to execute.

It’s easy to set goals you feel are attainable, but a good way of making sure that a goal is realistically attainable for your team is to check in with those responsible for executing the steps of the goal. If they say it’s not doable and express enough hesitation, work together to adjust the goal in a way that makes sense for everyone.

R – Relevant

Always take a step back to ensure the goals you set are relevant to your overall business or organizational initiatives.

The goals you create for your customer support team have to be in support of larger organizational goals. If your organization doesn’t experience a connection between increased customer satisfaction and increased revenue, it isn’t relevant to set a goal to improve customer satisfaction.

Conversely, it isn’t relevant for a customer support team to be tasked with increasing the company’s revenue because the goal isn’t something that they can completely and directly control. A more relevant goal is to improve a metric that is correlated to higher revenue that support can impact and improve on.

The exact nature of what is relevant will depend on the business, but a good rule of thumb is that relevant goals improve the company’s position upon completion.

If there’s no downstream benefit to the company as a whole, the goal may not be worth pursuing.

T – Timely

Defining a timetable for your goals helps create a sense of urgency for your team to take the first steps needed.

Remember to create deadlines for each of the steps required to reach a particular goal such that the nearest deadline is always a bite-sized step. This will guarantee steady progress toward the goal, or, failing that, provide early warning of stalled progress.

Tips On Setting SMART Goals

To tie everything together, it’s helpful to remember a few rules of thumb:

  • Set one goal at a time
  • Have goals displayed visually as a reminder
  • Ask employees for goal ideas
  • Break large goals down into small subgoals
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust goals after they’re set
  • Offer a reward once a goal is completed

If you’re still having a hard time setting SMART goals, it can help to test goals against a checklist. Write down the goal that you have in mind, then go through each letter of SMART and check them off if the goal meets the standard.

We hope this post helps you create SMART goals and would love to hear how it goes!

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Customer Experience Investment: Making the Case on the ROI of Improved Customer Service

Kaan Ersun on 1 March, 2018

Investing in customer service and investing in your overall customer experience are closely related but distinct concepts. Your customer experience incorporates your customer service funnel as well as your product’s features and design. This means that improving your product could easily be a way to provide a better customer experience, but it’s not the only way.

What’s the ROI on money and resources invested in improving your customer experience?

If you’re not sure, you’re not alone–but figuring out how much each cent invested in customer experience benefits your company is critical if you’re interested in increasing revenue.

You may be surprised at exactly how profitable investing in your customer experience can be. According to a report by McKinsey, strong customer experience improvement programs rapidly become self-funding.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that companies are scrambling to improve their customer experience.

What Does It Mean To Invest In Customer Experience?

Investing in customer service and investing in your overall customer experience are closely related but distinct concepts.

Your customer experience incorporates your customer service funnel as well as your product’s features and design. This means that improving your product could easily be a way to provide a better customer experience, but it’s not the only way.

In practical terms, investing in your customer experience could involve:

  • Hiring staff
  • Adding new customer support channels
  • Tracking new customer support metrics
  • Updating customer support training
  • Removing the most common friction points in the product
  • Streamlining the buying process
  • Improving follow-up with existing customers

Investing in customer experience doesn’t have to be expensive to start, but you need to be clear about what aspects of your customer experience you’d like to improve and the actions that you plan to take to improve it.

Which KPIs Are Useful To Track Customer Experience Improvement After Investment?

Before your company can start improving your customer experience, you need to decide how to measure success.

There are quite a few metrics your company can use to assess whether the customer service aspect of your customer experience improvement plan is working. The main metric most companies measure is CSAT. In fact, seventy-one percent of companies choose customer satisfaction as their primary metric for assessing their customer experience improvement campaigns, according to a study by Worldwide Business Research.

But don’t feel tied to any one metric because everyone else is concerned about it–track a handful and set goals that make sense for your business and your customer experience.

Expect Increased Revenue After Improving Customer Experience

It’s clear that businesses that can provide a stellar customer experience will have much higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Satisfied and loyal customers are responsible for contributing to the majority of your annual revenue.

The link between better customer experience and higher revenues is well established; according to a study by Oracle performed in 2011, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer experiences.

Likewise, a Harvard Business Review article estimated that customers who reported the best customer experiences spent 140% more than those who reported the poorest experiences.

The biggest factor in the high ROI of customer experience is customer retention.

Better Customer Experience Leads To Better Customer Retention

Stemming the money lost from unhappy customers will account for a large slice of the returns you’ll see from your investment into your company’s customer experience because it’s very expensive to lose customers.

It’s also extremely easy to lose customers, with a Forrester report finding that 53% of people say they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question. This is a clear signal that your company’s website needs to be extremely easy to navigate and provide instant resolutions to customers’ questions.

It’s also an indication that your customer service needs to be supremely good.

Beyond your company’s website, your customer service is an opportunity to improve how your customers feel about your company and their interactions with your company. Fifty-six percent of Millenials claimed that they’ve terminated one customer relationship to start anew with a different company after a poor customer service experience.

But what about retaining customers who are already satisfied?

Given that they’re likely to be the most profitable segment of customers, satisfied customers are a high priority to retain. According to Harvard Business Review, customers who reported a great customer experience had a 74% chance of still being a customer a year later. There’s more to the story, though.

A study by Adobe Digital Index indicates that for every 1% of customers who buy a product twice, revenues increase by 10%.

You’ll need to make it a priority to improve your customer service to reliably produce great customer experiences and retain more customers.

Invest In Customer Service To Invest In Customer Experience

Customer service that makes customers feel like you’re going the extra mile to please them is in short supply, with an American Express study finding that 42% of US customers think businesses are helpful but don’t do anything beyond the bare minimum.

The same study found that 22% of customers thought businesses took their patronage for granted, and 4% said businesses didn’t seem to care at all. But that doesn’t capture exactly how devastating poor customer experience is in terms of money lost.

A report by New Voice Media finds that businesses are losing upwards of $62 billion per year as a result of bad customer experience in customer service interactions. Any money spent improving your company’s customer experience during service will save a few customers from taking their business elsewhere.

Improving customer experience via customer service must include measures which make customers feel valued. The best part about making customers feel valued is that it doesn’t have to be expensive–it just needs to graciously give them what they want, pronto.

Cheaper Customer Service Can Provide Better Customer Experience And Higher ROI

The high ROI of investments in customer experience comes from more than mere customer retention; customer service costs can be reduced to increase profits as well.

McKinsey’s report on the ROI of customer experience finds that it costs as little as $1 to solve a customer issue on social media, which is far cheaper than if the same interaction was handled at a call center. Call center interactions could be as expensive as six times the cost of a social media customer service interaction.

This means that your company can drive your customers to social media customer service channels to simultaneously improve customer experience and cut costs–an appealing proposition for most businesses. The McKinsey report found that companies who prioritized social channels in their customer experience improvement campaigns bolstered their revenues by 6.7% year over year.

But perhaps the biggest way efficient customer service leads to better customer experience and increased revenues is by giving the customer the tools to help themselves through self-service. Seventy-three percent of customers want to solve their own problems rather than reach out to customer service–an investment in self-service experience not only saves your business money in the long run, it’s also what your customers prefer.

It’s far less expensive to provide customers with issue resolution tools which don’t require interaction with your staffed customer service channels.

Crunching The Numbers To Calculate The ROI Of Customer Experience

So, what will the exact ROI of investments into customer experience be for your company?

It’s difficult to predict, especially because 13% of companies surveyed by Worldwide Business Research claim that execution is the biggest obstacle to implementing a customer experience improvement strategy.

If you want a ballpark figure for how much to expect your customer experience investment to grow, check out this spreadsheet. It’s made with a few assumptions, but playing around with the numbers will give you a rough idea of what to expect and drive home the cost of losing customers to your leadership team and help you set priorities for 2

It’s clear that customer dissatisfaction is enormously expensive. Reducing any of the metrics of customer dissatisfaction by improving customer experience is a surefire way to pad your bottom line–so why wait?

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Customer Experience Is All That Matters

Jennifer Li on 27 February, 2018

In my product world today, this experience reminds me of the importance of both the product and customer experience. I’ve carried forth this lesson--it doesn’t matter how great your product claims to be or actually is; if your customer experience doesn’t deliver on the given expectations that come with your products or services, then none of that matters.

Every kid I know, at some point in their life, has gone through the phase of wanting to learn some magic tricks. I was no exception.

I still remember when my dad bought me my first magic trick set while he was away on a business trip. I remember tearing off the wrapping paper and I remember holding my breath as I opened the box. I was blown away by the assortment of props and the promise of over 100 different tricks.

It wasn’t until I carefully pulled out all of the props and lined them up on the table that I realized that something was missing–the instruction manual. Without it, how would I learn all these tricks?

I put on a brave face for my dad since he had travelled with a bulky magic box set to surprise me, but this was definitely one of those childhood experiences you always remember–you can have all the materials you need, but without the directions you can’t make magic happen!

Beyond my initial excitement, the company ultimately didn’t deliver and made a lasting impression.

In my product world today, this experience reminds me of the importance of both the product and customer experience. I’ve carried forth this lesson–it doesn’t matter how great your product claims to be or actually is; if your customer experience doesn’t deliver on the given expectations that come with your products or services, then none of that matters.

At the end of the day, customer experience drives growth, loyalty, and continued satisfaction for your customers. In my role it’s important to have a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, how they will interact with our solution, and how I can ensure on the product side, that the customer experience meets our customers expectations.

Let’s first talk about why customer experience matters.

Customer Experience: What Is It, And Why Does It Matter?

Customer experience is, simply put, the experience a person has throughout their entire relationship with your business.

The experience starts with the initial touchpoint your brand, products, or services have with a person, which could be anything from an advertisement on a blog to a word-of-mouth referral and continues long after a purchase takes place.

Again, it’s an ongoing relationship.

There have been multiple studies on the impact customer experience has on a company’s growth and returns. Watermark Consulting took a close look at the top 10 (leaders) and bottom 10 (laggards) of the publicly traded companies in the Customer Experience Index put together by Forrester Research.

When measuring the rating in customer experience of these Customer Experience leaders and laggards, they found that in the span of 5 years (2007-2011), the Leaders of this study grew their returns tremendously.



Source, Watermark Consulting.

In fact, Customer Experience leaders did so well that they generated 128% higher total returns than the laggards on the list. These significantly higher returns are directly impacted by the overall Customer Experience.

Through this one example, we can start to really understand the importance that Customer Experience has in business today. So what do the leaders on this list and others who excel in this area do differently?

The biggest difference is that they put the customer needs at the center of everything they do.

In order to effectively know and understand the needs of customers, companies study and analyze the touchpoints that take place for customers and the experience within the customer journey to find places that need improvement or where they can really double down.

This customer-first approach is the centerpiece for companies excelling in the modern business world and you can take advantage of these areas for your company to help gain another competitive edge.

How To Implement a Customer-First Approach

So you want to move your company into this customer-centric world and provide a stellar customer experience? Great!

But how do we do that?

Well, our first suggestion to you is that you study The Customer Experience Maturity Model, which is a stripped-down customer experience framework that will help you really dive into the more molecular details of designing and deploying a better Customer Experience.

To start, let’s simply break down the 3 primary steps from that framework. These are crucial to making any changes toward a customer-first company a reality.

1. The Top-Down Push

If everyone in the company is going to take a customer-first approach seriously, then the initiative needs to start at the top.

Shareholders and Executives need to seriously assess the benefits of an initiative like this and become the strongest advocates within the company for implementation to take effect. Without this weighted voice, the likelihood of any changes are slim.

2. Map Out The Customer Journey

The customer journey is just a part of the entire customer experience, but a key part of customer retention and loyalty. To effectively make changes, you need to first understand what the experience looks like today.

Journey mapping comes into play here and chances are you have more than one that you’ll need to create because in a digital world, the path to purchase is different for each of your customers. Not to mention, the path to purchase of one product or service will be different compared to another.

The goal here would be to find the journeys that currently exist. Look at marketing campaigns, content marketing, outreach, PR, paid advertising, and other channels you use to reach and acquire customers. Find the paths they take from initial contact to purchase. Survey customers to find crucial data. Look for the problems in the current journey and prioritize them. Then rework it.

Repeat this until you have a better understanding of your customers, their journey, and their perception of you.

3. Ensure a Feedback-Loop Implementation

If you’re ever going to improve the quality and consistency of your customer experience, then you’re going to want to find ways to integrate feedback loops into your activities.

A meaningful feedback loop provides a flow of insightful data and valuable feedback as you grow as a company.

Here’s the basic break down of a feedback loop:

  1. Build your feedback experiment. For the customer experience, this is where you’ll roll out tests for changes you think will best impact the experience. This also creates a baseline you can test against in the next go-around.
  2. Measure the data and feedback. Now that you have something that you’re using to test as your baseline, you need to analyze your data from various channels (marketing, emails, PPC, customer support, etc) and get feedback from your customers to see if the changes are having a positive impact on your customer experience and business.
  3. Learn from your experiment. The time you spend in the measurement phase of your loop should give you a better idea of if changes are made or if you need to stay the course. If a change is required, you need to figure out just what that change will look like. Then you need to take that change and start into the Build phase to begin the process again.

These steps are just the few things leading companies in the customer experience area are doing today.

Clearly, as we have moved into a world where the voice of the customer has become more prominent, placing an importance on putting our customers first and designing experiences they love will be what sets successful companies apart from others that fall behind.

The customer experience is really the only thing that matters—but it’s up to you to design ones that keep your customers happy and coming back for more. I hope this post helps you make customer happiness magic happen!

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eBook: The Art of Saying No to Customers

While most thought leadership pieces out there revolve around happy customers, in this eBook, we outline handy tips and tricks around managing stressful customer situations and nailing difficult conversations.

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How To Deal With Difficult Customers: Your Guide To Salvaging and Re-Building Relationships

Maggie Lin on 22 February, 2018

Do you have a plan for how to handle a very dissatisfied customer? If not, it’s time to create one so you can retain your difficult customers when things don’t go as expected. While your customer service hopefully doesn’t bump into difficult or irate customers very often, having a plan ensures your team is equipped to handle these challenging interactions and conversations.

Do you have a plan for how to handle a very dissatisfied customer?

If not, it’s time to create one so you can retain your difficult customers when things don’t go as expected. While your customer service hopefully doesn’t bump into difficult or irate customers very often, having a plan ensures your team is equipped to handle these challenging interactions and conversations.

It’s key to understand what makes customers upset and have a system in place that advises which strategy to use for different situations and personality types to smoothly address customer issues.

Identify The Type Of The Difficult Customer

Every difficult customer is unique, but there are a few archetypes that you can use to think about how you should respond. Each of these archetypes is based on the type of conflict style that the customer uses.

The Competitive Customer

The Competitive Customer speaks as though they know your business better than you do, and thinks that the perceived failure of service that they’re angry about is a personal slight against them.

They’ll likely threaten to terminate their relationship with your company, and they’ll bring every piece of leverage that they can find to make sure that they get their way. This type of customer wants to be compensated for their troubles.

The Competitive Customer is probably a bit heated, but not overtly irate or verbally abusive– they’re interested in communicating their discontent so that they can get what they want.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Competitive Customer feels that things should be done in a certain way, but isn’t too concerned with policy or logistics. They just want things done.

The Combatant Customer

The Combatant Customer is one that is likely to make a scene by raising their voice and refusing to communicate normally.

There’s a good chance that they’re having a bad day, but the only inkling you’ll get is that they’re too worked up to provide a cogent explanation of what went wrong and how they think it can be fixed.

These kinds of customers are the hardest to deal with because they can be abusive.

Even once they’ve calmed down, they’re typically defiant and difficult to communicate with because they’ve made up their mind: Your company is in the wrong.

The biggest thing you can do to make your communication with the Combatant Customer easier is to give them some time to cool off, which may not always be possible.

The Cooperative Yet Complaining Customer

The Cooperative Yet Complaining Customer is a customer that’s difficult, but not at a high risk of terminating the relationship with your company because they’re interested in finding a solution that allows them to continue the relationship.

This archetype of difficult customer is the most important to understand because they’re the easiest customer to retain by making a serious effort. That doesn’t mean solving their problem will be easy, though.

Customers that have complaints that have made it through your customer service without having those complaints adequately addressed likely require special treatment that you may or may not be able to provide easily.

If this is the case, you should be upfront about it with the customer and offer something else in return. Cooperative Yet Complaining Customers want to find a consensus solution, and they’re willing to give up a few of their initial demands to get a little back from the company. They’ll appreciate being addressed as an equal.

Don’t let the Cooperative Yet Complaining Customer’s politeness or empathetic tone throw you into complacency, though.

Remember, they can be cooperative and still decide that it’s better to take their business elsewhere after they complain. They may not necessarily let you know if the solution you implement for them is a letdown, so be sure to follow up consistently.

The Fed Up Customer

The Fed Up Customer likely had a bunch of smaller complaints pile up without seeking help before having a major mishap.

You can spot the Fed Up Customer right away by their clear list of complaints which they’ll provide you without being prompted. Each of the issues they experienced leading up to their confrontation with your customer service will be fresh in mind.

The Fed Up Customer may be the most difficult type of customer to retain because they’ve had time to simmer and build up resentment.

Unfortunately, customers who have had enough time to grow a list of complaints long enough to become fed up are likely customers who were loyal at one point and feel that your company hasn’t respected that loyalty.

This means that you need to try your hardest to retain your Fed Up Customers by taking swift action to show them that they’re valuable to your company.

The conflict style of the Fed Up Customer isn’t naturally abusive, and they may be swayed by your promise to rectify each of their issues in addition to a few gifts.

The Unreasonable Customer

The Unreasonable Customer may not be overtly angry or even dissatisfied–they’re difficult because their expectations are totally out of step with reality.

In a nutshell, the Unreasonable Customer may not know your product very well, and they may not be able to articulate their problems with it or goals for reaching out to you.

The result is that it can often seem like you and the Unreasonable Customer are speaking in different languages. It’s possible that the Unreasonable Customer may be so confused that they aren’t a good fit for your company’s product or service.

But you can’t know that until you go through the process of clarifying their thoughts and their issues via dialogue.

Follow The Tough Customer Relationship Repair Protocol

Knowing the types of difficult customers is the first step, the next step is knowing how to approach the situation.

There are a few tips that will make dealing with difficult customers easier:

  • If you suspect that your personality is clashing with the customer’s, substitute someone else as early in the process as you can; sometimes a little bit less friction can make all the difference.
  • Don’t interrupt your customer during the first three minutes of your conversation; this is the framing time that sets the tone for the rest of the dialogue.
  • Cultural miscommunication may interfere with conflict resolution and the relationship mending process. As soon as you suspect that this is the case, do some quick research on the norms of the customer’s culture so that you can identify why the miscommunication is happening.
  • Don’t restate company policies to the customer if they prohibit something the customer wants– it’s invalidating, and doesn’t move the conversation forward.
  • You may need to educate the customer substantially before you can move on in your relationship with them.

With these tips in mind, it’s time to communicate with the difficult customer.

Step 1: Reframe The Discussion’s Tone

As soon as you are in contact with the difficult customer, you need to build the foundation for a successful interaction.

If your customer is shouting, your response should not match their volume or verbal abuse. Talk more quietly and slowly than usual. If you are consistent, they may eventually match your tone.

For less overtly irate customers, stay positive and calm.

Take the lead in the discussion by advising your customer that you’re aware that they’ve had issues that haven’t been addressed and that the purpose of your conversation is to figure out how those issues can be resolved. Try to be brief. 

Finish this step by asking your customer to state their issues.

Step 2: Actively Listen But Don’t Cave

As your customer is describing their issues, don’t be passive.

Use active listening techniques and empathize with your customer’s concerns. Respond to each of your customer’s thoughts with “I” statements like “I understand how that would make you frustrated.”

Don’t let these statements be in agreement or disagreement with the customer, however. Your objective is to show the customer that you’re listening while privately identifying possible solutions early on in the process. 

The exception to the active listening practice is if you’re dealing with a Fed Up Customer– let them sound off without interruption, because they have a deck of complaints that needs airing out, and they’re impatient to unload.

Step 3: Clarify The Customer’s Complaints And Goals

Once your customer is done speaking, it’s time to start asking questions if there is any ambiguity about what they’ve said.

Get very specific about what the customer’s complaints are. Request examples. This doesn’t mean that you should be pushing back against the customer, the purpose of getting specific is to have customers state their own complaints concretely so that you will have well defined problems to solve.

If the customer has arrived at an impasse with previous layers of customer service, this is the time to expose the impasse and ask your customer what they think your company should do.

This is the most important step when you’re dealing with the Unreasonable Customer because you need to pin down exactly where the customer’s expectations weren’t met, which is tough when your customer’s expectations are impossible to live up to or merely misinformed.

With a Cooperative Yet Complaining customer, this step may be tough if the customer’s goals aren’t something that you can offer. It’s okay to come back to this step if the next step isn’t progressing.

Step 4: Assess And Implement Solutions

If there’s an obvious and easy solution to your customer’s issues that previous layers of customer service didn’t have the jurisdiction to implement, now is the time to consider using it.

If your company is at fault, admitting it is a good step to take, so long as you can rectify the mistake.

Suggest solutions that you can realistically do based on the problems you and the customer defined in the prior step, and see what the customer thinks.

This step can take a while, as you may need to bounce ideas against the customer, who may repeatedly shoot the ideas down. You can gently push back against the customer if their reasons for shooting down your proposed solutions are misinformed. 

On the other hand, if there is clearly no possible solution to the customer’s problem and the customer hasn’t come up with any useful ideas about how to rectify the situation, now is when you need to start planning the steps you’ll need to take to retain the customer anyway.

Remember that you need to look out for your company’s well-being, too–don’t give too much if the customer is refusing to accept the reality of what you’re capable of doing because you’ll almost certainly have to deal with them again in the future.

Don’t take the customer’s implacability personally during this step. The more effort that you put into making a good solution that addresses the customer’s needs, the easier it will be to mend the relationship. 

Step 5: Follow Up And Don’t Give Up

Your work isn’t over once you and the customer have agreed on a solution.

Follow up with the customer over the course of the next days and weeks to make sure that the solution is working and that it has addressed their issues. Be sure to pay extra attention to the customer during their next purchasing experience or interaction with customer service.

This step is where healing of the customer relationship begins.

There’s no way to accelerate your customer’s trust in your company again, but consistently following up will help you retain the customer and let them know that your company truly cares about their experience.

Remember that the goal should always be to find the best possible outcome.

In some extreme cases, that may be to cut ties and let the relationship end. But, most customers that are upset have a specific problem that’s driving their anger. Empathizing with them and working to understand the root issue will often help to diffuse even the most caustic situation.

Being prepared to deal with the situation is the best way to resolve issues without escalating them further.

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Customer-Centricity Model: A Framework for Delivering “Wow” Moments

Mahesh Ram on 20 February, 2018

This is about understanding the customer journey. Not as a linear story, but instead as a series of individual touchpoints and interactions that shape the overall customer experience. In each of these instances, the customer is thinking and feeling a certain way. In order to align the customer experience with their needs and expectations at that moment--i.e., a customer-centric model--you need to first understand how they may be thinking or feeling in these moments.

Last month, my package was stolen off my doorstep while I was at work. I had placed the order on Amazon and when I got a notification the package was delivered, I came back expecting to see a box by the door.

To my surprise and disappointment, when I got home, there was nothing. I looked around–high and low–to see if maybe the box had been left behind a bush or on the neighbor’s porch. It was nowhere to be found.

While upset that that my package was stolen (it was a birthday gift for my niece), I was also thinking about the hassle to order that same item again.

I contacted Amazon and to my surprise, rather than having to explain the situation and hopefully get a refund and place an order again on my own, they immediately put in the order to send me a replacement.

At this moment, my entire experience had taken a turn. What started out as a frustrating problem turned into a giant sigh of relief.

I was–in a word–delighted.

This example scenario illuminates the importance of customer-centricity.

Amazon has become an industry leader not just because they have lots of products or low prices, but because they lead the way in customer experience. They have implemented a customer-centricity model that allows them to continuously understand and anticipate the needs of the customer. Then, as a matter of process, they deliver on those needs.

This is about understanding the customer journey. Not as a linear story, but instead as a series of individual touch points and interactions that shape the overall customer experience.

In each of these instances, the customer is thinking and feeling a certain way. In order to align the customer experience with their needs and expectations at that moment–i.e., a customer-centric model–you need to first understand how they may be thinking or feeling in these moments.

Then, take steps to shape that interaction to align with the rest of the experience.

As this specific example illustrates, customer-centricity is about understanding both the positive and negative interactions that customers may encounter. It’s an iterative and evolving process with many moving parts.

Getting to “Wow”

Companies that are successful at delighting their customers throughout the experience are said to be customer-centric.

But the idea of customer experience can be difficult to quantify or understand–which, in turn, makes it difficult to manage in a strategic way. One way to measure your brand’s customer experience is by the number and frequency of “wow” moments.

The “wow” moment is a point in your customer experience when your customer feels delighted. It’s when you’re able to understand or anticipate their needs in a way that they never expected or go above and beyond to make sure that they walk away feeling happy and satisfied. It’s the moment when you replace a customer’s package in order to be sure that they have a positive interaction–whatever it takes.

Achieving this level of customer delight can be a complete game changer.

Companies usually try to compete on the strength of their products, features, or messaging. But these tangible, logical benefits can easily be overtaken by competitors. Customers may leave as soon as another company can offer the same functionality as a lower price. Or they’ll hop around to the newest and most interesting brand without any kind of long-term loyalty.

The true competitive advantage–for any firm–is customer experience.

This is shaped by the emotional relationship that customers have with a company. It’s determined by a series of interactions over a period of time, which shapes our overall feeling toward that business.

And in order to foster a positive emotional relationship with customers, your business must put their needs front and center in everything that you do. This requires both an intimate knowledge and understanding of your customers as well as a system and process to put that information into practice.

The Customer Centricity Framework

When it comes to customer-centricity, there’s a lot of discussion about how important it is. And there’s generally some abstract advice about how to become customer-centric (just put the customer at the center, of course!) But there’s not much literature on how to actually pursue this kind of experience–or what it looks like.

To give some context as to how a company can transition toward a customer-centric model, let’s explore a few different frameworks for understanding the philosophical and tactical underpinnings.

Simon Sinek’s famous “Start With Why” framework is a good starting place.

In his famous Ted Talk, Sinek outlined this framework as a way to put an emotional force at the center of any business. Its core mission–he argues–should always start with a defined “Why”. In other words, no matter what you do or sell, you should have a clear vision for why it is that you’re in business in the first place–what greater mission you think you can advance.

When we think of customer-centricity, we, of course, assume that it means that customers (and their needs) are meant to be at the center of our business. This is true. But it can’t just end with thinking about this.

It must be implemented in such a way where the customer’s needs become a driving force on the decisions and actions taken across your company.

This bring us to a version of thy Why/How/What framework where the central, driving idea has already been established. Why does the company do the things it does? What is the north star metrics that drives strategy and planning? It’s customer delight.

Now, we can see that the How and What–specific actions and implementation–all radiate out from this central driving force of customer delight.

Another framework and lens to view customer experience is to examine the pillars of the customer experience and the various touchpoints that exist from the customer’s perspective to understand how the customer experience is shaped and also how we can move that experience to align with the customer’s needs and expectations.

In this case, we can see how the use of a feedback loop allows you to shape the customer experience.

This is a core mechanism for building a customer-centric business model. You need a way to take feedback from customers–both explicit and implicit–and drive changes within the business. This requires an intentional system and process

The Importance of Customer Insight

There are the obvious ways to measure customer feedback through surveys, CSAT, NPS scoring, and other models.

But you can also use behavioral and analytics data to understand the unstated needs and wants for your customer.

How do they actually use your product or website, and which points seem to add confusion or frustration to the overall experience?

It’s important to understand that customer-centricity is not just about giving customers what they say they want. It’s about understanding your customers in such an intimate way that you’re able to anticipate what they need or expect, even if they aren’t able or willing to articulate it directly.

This isn’t about data–it’s about insight.

In order to accomplish this, study their habits–understand what the world looks like through their eyes. And, ultimately, try to gain insight about how they perceive the experience interacting with your brand.

Rather than allowing my experience with a lost package be a low point for me, Amazon understood that this was a key point in my relationship with their business. So, they actively took steps to correct the problem (even though it’s not their fault) and changed it from a negative interaction to a positive one, where I walked away feeling delighted.

At the core of any customer-centric model is–of course–the customer. But, beyond that, it’s the customer experience and working to make every interaction as enjoyable as possible. Customer delight should be a north-star metric.

In order to accomplish that, you need to understand the range of experiences that your customer may have, both positive and negative.

Using the idea of the customer journey from before, you can pinpoint specific interactions that the customer will encounter. And you can begin to parse out how they will feel at each moment. From here, you’ll be able to understand–and anticipate–when the customer’s experience turns negative.

Then, shape the experience based on those interactions. Take an active approach to identifying and fixing issues–even if they aren’t raised directly by your customers. Use feedback and analytics to drive those decisions.

Many companies say that they are focused on the customer or that they put the customer central. But the number of firms that truly embrace and enact a customer-centric model is fairly limited. This means there are even more benefits to be realized for companies that develop and execute a clear strategy for putting the customers at the center of operations.

In a competitive market, those who have customers at the center of everything they do will ultimately be rewarded with improved performance and customer loyalty.

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Customer Retention Field Guide: 18 Tactics That Keep Customers & Keep Them Happy

Maggie Lin on 14 February, 2018

Knowing that in every industry the best firms have upwards of a 93% customer retention rate annually, you know that you need to revamp your customer retention strategy--stat.

Bad news: you’ve just finished crunching the numbers for the month and–to your horror–you’ve determined that your customer churn rate is a staggering 3% monthly.

If you don’t reverse the tide of losing customers, your customer retention rate will be 64% annually. This is not good. Nearly 40% of your customers will leave over the course of the year.

Knowing that in every industry the best firms have upwards of a 93% customer retention rate annually, you know that you need to revamp your customer retention strategy–stat.

Why Does Customer Retention Matter?

Simply put, customer retention is a company’s biggest source of profit.


According to one estimate, improving your customer retention rate by 5% increases revenues by at least 25% and may increase them by as much as 95%. Other estimates are similarly confident, suggesting that for every 1% of customers who purchase your product more than once, your revenues will increase by 10%.

The exact percentage of revenue increase per retained customer depends on the segment of customers that you’re the best at retaining. If you can improve the retention rate for the 20% of your customer base which produces 80% of your revenue, you’ll be golden.

But how can you change your customer retention rate without making major changes to your product and suffering through further customer attrition in the meantime?

Try out the tactics in this field guide to customer retention and you’ll be on your way to a lower churn rate and higher revenues by hanging onto more of your best customers.

Customer Retention Tactics

1. Survey Everyone

Before you can start retaining customers, you need information.

To gather information, you need to start surveying all of your customers as frequently as possible. This means that you need to incorporate these surveys into your website and your customer service infrastructure.

But which surveys are the right ones?

The Bain & Company favorite for customer surveys is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS asks how likely your customers are to recommend your company or product to someone else.

Unsurprisingly, customers who are very likely to refer someone else buy 25% more products.

There are other surveys which you can implement, but frequently surveying your customers’ likelihood to refer means that your customer retention efforts will be off to a running start.

2. Track Everything

If you aren’t already tracking information on critical business metrics, now is the time to start.

These metrics include basic metrics like customer satisfaction but also include derived metrics like:

  • Customer churn rate
  • Customer acquisition rate
  • Average customer lifetime value
  • Average customer relationship duration
  • Average number of customer interactions with the company
  • Average number of customer interactions with support


Your company probably has this data, so crunch the numbers and gain valuable insights into your customer base.

Tracking everything also includes tracking where customers are clicking on your website as well as where they’re lingering after clicking. All customer interactions with your website should be recorded so that you can easily tell which areas are drawing the most attention.

3. Automate Everything

Automating your customers’ interactions with your company will lead to an improvedexperience, which will lead to them being more satisfied–and thus more likely to buy from your company in the future.

A 2015 study found that automated customer service was 60% correlated with customer perceptions of convenience, which was highly correlated with their satisfaction.

The study also states that automated customer service systems increased customer retention.Customer perceptions about customizability were greater with automated systems.

In a different case study discussing Solvvy’s partnership with TaskRabbit, AI-based customer service allowed for faster issue resolution, a 28% self-service resolution rate, and resulted in 8% higher customer satisfaction.

Retaining customers via automation gives your customers the power to resolve their issues without the additional friction and time commitment of speaking with a customer support representative.

4. Segment Your Customers

Segmenting your customers will help to determine which customers are the most likely to leave, and which customers are the most likely to stay. Like customer service, you can automate market segmentation.

When looking at segments of your customers, the aim is to find which features of your product are the most important to the segments that buy from you most frequently. Then, you can adjust your customer retention strategy for that segment.

5. Show You’re A Credible Source

Your customers aren’t going to give your product a chance if they don’t feel like you understand their needs. Likewise, your company needs to display your understanding of your product and its issues.

To be a credible and trustworthy source, you need to show your customers that you are an expert when it comes to the problems that they’re trying to solve by buying from you.

The first step to displaying your expertise is to populate your website with a knowledge base and blog regarding your company and your product.

Having a reputation for credibility by giving your customers access to a strong knowledge base empowers your customers. A study by Loudhouse shows that 53% of customers would rather resolve their own issues, and 27% of customers turn toward self-help portals on company websites in an attempt to do so.

Showing off a strong knowledge base means that customers can trust you to help them help themselves when they have an issue. The self-help portal on your website needs to be organized so that the most common issues have their solutions at the forefront.

When customers believe you are an expert when it comes to your product and also an expert in the way your product gets used, they’re more likely to be loyal.

6. Use Social Proofs And Signals

The bandwagon effect is real, and it can help you retain customers if you utilize it correctly.

People like to buy things that their friends buy, and they trust the brands that their friends trust.

To better retain customers, you need to show off the good relationship that you have with other current customers.

Featuring testimonials from current customers on your website and offering other examples of satisfied customers who have used your product is easy to implement and effective at creating social proof.

If you have been neglecting your social media channels, it’s time to fire them up again. Social media channels are a great way to deliver the social signal of reciprocity. When one of your customers follows you or likes one of your posts, do the same for them and leave a comment.

Respectful exchanges show that you’re paying attention to the customer, and their contacts on social media will see that, too. Customers are more satisfied when they get more attention.

7. Calibrate Customer Expectations

If your customer’s expectations are a mismatch for your actual product, your customer retention rate will suffer.

As a result, you need to get ahead of your customer’s expectations and make sure that they are formed correctly. In practice, this means:

  • Producing accurate marketing material that accurately conveys your product’s effectiveness
  • Discussing expectations explicitly with customers before making a sale
  • Checking in with customers to make sure that they’re getting what they expected

When you set the bar for what to expect, your customers will be pleased when you exceed the standard, which leads to more satisfaction and customer retention.

8. Build Strong Relationships

Strong relationships are critical to customer retention, and the strongest customer relationships are forged by positive interactions during sales and service.

According to a study published by Columbia University, 91% of customers of Toyota who had both a positive sales experience and a positive service experience intended to buy from Toyota again. But the customer retention value of sales interactions is not equal to the customer retention value of service interactions.


The study found that positive service experiences were more valuable to customer intent to buy again than positive sales experiences. Positive sales experiences only increased their intent to buy by 8%, whereas positive service experiences increased their intent to buy by 42%.

Focus your efforts on building strong relationships with your customers by improving your customer service. With effective customer service, your customers will be satisfied and feel a stronger connection to your company.

Start reaching out to customers after a sale or after a service call to see how they are doing and if they are enjoying their experience.

9. Personalize Your Customer Service

Strong customer relationships are personalized customer relationships, and the only way to personalize customer relationships is to know your customers as individuals.

In a Teradata case study, 47% of marketers agreed that personalization improved customer experiences and customer satisfaction. The study also found that 51% of companies are focused on personalizing the customer lifecycle. Companies are incorporating personalization as a way to retain their customers.

Sending out emails to customers with details specific to their recent customer service interaction is one common tactic to increase personalization you can implement immediately.

Aside from tailoring your emails to your customers, suggesting product features to your customer that they may find helpful is another way to personalize service.

10. Listen To Your Customers

Listening to your customers means giving your customers a sounding platform where they can complain to you or compliment you.

Your website should have a place where customers can send suggestions, and your customer service system should survey customers to see what they think.

It’s not enough to just wait around for your customers to talk to you before you start listening to them, however. You need to proactively solicit your customers for their thoughts.

Reach out to customers and ask them about their customer experience so far.

Start the dialogue by focusing the conversation on a recent interaction that the customer had with your company, then let the customer do the talking.

But remember: Listening is more than a data-gathering activity. It’s a way of building a stronger relationship by building an emotional connection between the customer and your company.

Customers enjoy the feeling of being listened to.

11. Respond To Your Customers Quickly– But Not Too Quickly

Customers are more satisfied when they get a fast response from your customer service. But if your customer service is rushed and seems disorganized, the customer will pick up on it and be dissatisfied.

The above is doubly true when the customer is using a service channel that is typically slower than others, like email. This is where automation is your friend.

When your customer reaches out to you with an issue via email, implement an automated response that confirms their message was received and that your customer service team will get back in touch with them as soon as possible.

12. Rectify Your Mistakes

What if your customer service or your product doesn’t meet a customer’s expectations? You need to make things right with the customer immediately if you want to retain them.

According to a study of customer responses to service failures, rectifying your mistakes in a way that negates dissatisfaction and leads to customer retention requires more than a courteous “we’re sorry.”

Politeness only improved the emotional state of dissatisfied customers by 4.8%.

In instances where customer service made a mistake, customers wanted distributive justice– discounts, perks, or other freebies–which improved their emotional state by as much as 75.6%.

The takeaway is very clear. When you make a mistake, the customer needs to have their issue fixed and then some.

Apologizing and being polite to your customer after making a mistake is still essential. But, if your customer service has data on historical mistakes with customers, reaching out to them with a gift in hand is a good way to restore their trust–especially if it’s unexpected.

13. Communicate With Customers Carefully

Communicating with customers on any occasion is an opportunity to improve customersatisfaction. But there is always a risk of the opposite.

This means that if your company has not yet implemented policies restricting who is allowed to talk to customers, it may be time to do so. While your employees may have good intentions, communications with customers need to be controlled.

Aside from making sure that only a few people in your company can communicate with customers, be sensitive to your customers and choose your words carefully. Use positive communication tactics when talking with customers and you’ll have customers that are more satisfied and will want to maintain their relationships with your company longer.

Ensure that everyone the customer interacts with is on the same page regarding wording and positive communication practices. Make a cheat-sheet for employees to use when talking to customers.

14. Adopt Your Customers’ Values As Your Own

Customers prefer to buy from companies that share their values.

According to a ConeComm global study of customers’ opinions about companies and their customer service, 91% of consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues which they value. 84% of consumers seek companies who share their values when buying a product.

As an example, if your customers highly value protecting the environment, your company should strive to be environmentally friendly and notify your customers of internal changes that you are making to achieve that goal.

Remember, your customers won’t know about your efforts unless you tell them. Make a section on your website which explains your values and periodically update it as you make progress.

15. Address Issues Before They Hit The Customer

If you know that there is going to be an issue that your customers will face, get in front of it rather than letting your customers stumble over it and come to you for support.

In practical terms, this means tracking the most common issues that your customer service deals with and addressing those issues by changing your product, your website’s knowledge base, or your marketing materials.

If things are going wrong for a large portion of your customer base, you should reach out to the unaffected customers and explain to them that other customers are encountering issues that you’re working hard to fix, and that they should feel free to use your customer service if they encounter the issue.

16. Go Out Of Your Way To Satisfy Customers

Customers will be particularly impressed when your company appears to be exerting a lot of effort on their behalf.

Your customer service needs to be flexible enough to look up answers to customer questions that they don’t know, and figure out solutions for customers with unique issues.

Going out of your way to satisfy customers may be expensive upfront, but it pays off with higher retention.

This also means that when your customers have an issue and reach out for support, you may want to throw them a freebie for their troubles. You should also be consistent about following up with your customers to see if there’s anything else you can help them with.

17. Make Your Customers’ Experience Easier

Your goal should be to make your customer experience as frictionless as possible.

A good way to measure friction is to implement Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys on your website and in your customer service funnel. CES scores help you identify areas in your service or in the use of your product that take a lot of effort for your customers.

You want your customer experience to be effortless, so when you have identified an aspect of your company that customers think requires a lot of effort, consider making it more streamlined.

Customers who have easy experiences are more likely to be satisfied and keep buying from your company.

18. Reward Your Loyal Customers

The capstone in your customer retention strategy should be rewarding your most loyal customers.

When you reward your customers, they get a nice reminder that you value them.

Here are a few ideas for customer rewards:

  • Discounts
  • Thank you notes
  • Small gifts through snail mail
  • Access to exclusive features
  • A positive mention on your website and social media channels

Take Action To Retain Your Customers

With this guide’s knowledge in hand, you can start implementing your new customer retention strategy with confidence.

Remember to gather as much data as you can. Use that data to find out what your customers care about, and prioritize your most valuable and most loyal customers by building strong relationships.

You can’t do everything at once, but you can take steps to improve customer retention and loyalty. Identify the most import opportunities and execute.

The most important part of customer retention is continuous improvement and with this guide in hand, you’re off to a great start.


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Case Study: Rover Decreases Ticket Volume by 24% Overnight

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The Customer Experience Maturity Model : How to Assess and Prioritize CX Progress

Kaan Ersun on 13 February, 2018

We live in the Age of The Customer—an era where customer’s voices, opinions and desires matter more than ever. So what do customers want? Depending on your industry, that will always differ. But one desire is universal: customers want great experiences.

We live in the Age of The Customer—an era where customer’s voices, opinions and desires matter more than ever.

So what do customers want?

Depending on your industry, that will always differ. But one desire is universal: customers want great experiences.

We can see that from studies showing the connection between companies who excel in giving exceptional customer experiences and the level of loyalty from their customers.

Giving your customers the best experience in your industry means gaining the upper hand and having repeat, happy customers. But even if the desire to craft a better customer experience is there, the question of how to do it often remains.

In times past, many followed a Customer Experience Management (CXM) approach, but in this fast-paced, technology-centric world, this type of reactive approach to customer experience may not provide the experience you’re hoping to achieve.

Instead, a proactive approach would be to use a Customer Experience Maturity Model (CXMM) as a framework for understanding the current state of your customer experience and setting goals for how to improve.

Why The Customer Experience Maturity Model?

When it comes to customer experience (CX), what are your firm’s strengths and weaknesses?

More importantly, what does this mean in the larger context?

This is where CXMM comes into play.

The Customer Experience Maturity Model eliminates the guesswork and gives companies a clear view of where they excel and areas where they need improvement. It works by breaking down the customer experience into 5 practices every company should master.

It’s a system–a framework you can use to gain into the broader aspects of what impacts a customer’s experience.

Understanding The Areas Within The Customer Experience Maturity Model

As mentioned above, the CXMM framework is broken down into 5 distinct aspects:

1. Data

2. Design

3. Delivery

4. Measurement

5. Culture

Each of these areas of practice is broken down even further into statements and scores that help contextualize and score your overall customer experience maturity.

To understand how well you’re doing in customer experience, you will need to look into each practice area in the CXMM, the criteria, and then score your own efforts to manage the customer experience.

Each of these areas of practice is broken down even further into statements and scores that help contextualize and score your overall customer experience maturity.

To understand how well you’re doing in customer experience, you will need to look into each practice area in the CXMM, the criteria, and then score your own efforts to manage the customer experience.


Download the CXMM framework >>

These 5 areas of action are cyclical, meaning that a “set it and forget it” attitude doesn’t work. Customers change, businesses need to pivot, and industries shift. With that being the case, there is always a need to look at things more than once to make sure the experience is consistently being evaluated and improved.

The CXMM is meant as an actionable framework that gives you direction on how to both measure and evolve your customer experience programs.

Let’s dig into each of the sections.

Practice Area #1: Data (Customer Understanding)

To design a better customer experience, you must first thoroughly understand your customers. Their wants, needs, desires–what’s most important to them.

That’s not always easy, and even though companies often feel they know their customers well, most just have a surface understanding of what makes them tick.

To understand your customer, you need data. And the level of customer data that you have will set the stage for the maturity of your customer experience management.

There are many ways to gather customer data and make it useful and insightful.

Get feedback from your customers about their interactions with your company. Their feedback is vital and could be collected in a few methods like an email or phone survey or even through direct mail.

Depending on your industry what that looks like will vary, but here are some suggestions of what to ask:

  • How would they rate their experience? The service?
  • How old are they? Vocation? Annual income?
  • Have they ever had a bad experience with your company? If yes, please let us know. Was that issue resolved to your liking?
  • Why did they choose your company?

Look for more data outside of the “normal” places. Customer service and marketing teams often have a lot of data that’s just floating around but not being used in any meaningful way. With the the right approach, you can collect this data and put it to good use.

Things like support tickets, emails, engagement with social media posts, and transcripts are often filled with feedback, customer requests, and data.

Gathering this information is not always easy, but there are tools which help you gather data.

Make sure you have customer personas in reach for everyone in the company to understand. How can employees be a part of designing a better experience if they don’t know who they’re helping? Spending time to build customer personas based on the data and insights you’re collecting and then having them on hand for your team members will go a long way in building the experience your customers genuinely desire.

Use analytics to monitor behavior. As you’ve probably encountered, most people don’t have a full grasp on why they do things or why they want things, so it’s frivolous to ask them to fully explain their behavior. Instead, you should set up analytics or use the analytics available to you in every place a customer may have an interaction with your company such as:

  • Websites
  • Landing pages
  • Emails
  • Advertisements
  • Social media

Track the data and A/B test where you’re able to. This data can help you understand how your customers interact and what seems to trigger various actions.

Practice Area #2: Design

The first step towards implementing improvements to your customer experience is design. You need to have the capacity and ability to develop a clear vision for what your customer experience should look like in order to implement it successfully.

Design your customer experience vision. How you envision the experience versus how others in the company might see it can be miles apart. Instead of letting this be something that is up to interpretation, take the time to document and design the customer experience vision.

A great example of those who know how to visualize and execute on the experience they have envisioned is Disney. The Disney Institute site is full of industry-leading content regarding customer experience.

Get key teammates involved in the designing of your CX vision. You can’t design this vision alone, nor should you. Since you are going to need help from executives in your company to execute on this, you should also pull them into the design process.

Product managers, sales leads, customer service managers, dev team leaders, business advisors–all of them have key insights to customers, the business goals, and company brand.

Their help will be invaluable so be sure to incorporate them and their ideas.

Make sure your customer experience vision is clear and available to everyone in your company. While team leads and executives are sure to help in executing a better experience, the vision you’ve all worked hard to design shouldn’t be kept to a select few. Instead, the entire company should see and understand the vision so that you’re all on the same page with a universal focus.

Does your vision and experience stick true to your brand? When trying to give your customers what they want in terms of CX, a common danger is implementing customer feedback without considering its bigger impact on the brand or overall experience.

If you try to give customers everything they say they want, you can go off-brand and move away from your core vision as a business. This is obviously not ideal and can actually damage the customer experience in the long run.

The art of designing a customer experience shouldn’t just be a laundry list items. It should be viewed holistically and carefully evaluated from multiple viewpoints.

Practice Area #3: Delivery

At this point, the following sentences should be true:

You know your customers and the experience they want. You know which levels of the experience are more important and your entire company now understands the customer experience vision.

If you can confidently say this is the case, then now is the time for implementation and delivery.

Define the activities for each employee. Saying and doing are very different things and that’s true in this case too. Each person in your company plays some role in shaping the overall customer experience. If they are to improve that experience, they need clear direction on how to deliver.

Use tools where needed. Tools can make everyone’s job easier. If you notice that people within the company are struggling to do their part or adhere to the vision for your brand’s customer experience, consider asking if there are tools available that can help.

Figure out if training is needed, then give it to those who need it most. You’re embarking on possibly an entire shift in your company culture and processes. That can mean a lot of changes and cultivating new habits into an established work routine.

Instead of giving them a thumbs up and sending employees into this new world unprepared, take time to gather feedback from those in your company to see how they feel about their role in delivering a great customer experience and if they would benefit from training.

If there is a consensus to the latter, pull in team leaders and put together a training day or sessions with feedback loops to help your employees feel prepared.

Measure your customer feedback for flaws in the system; create a feedback loop. Once your organization has started to deliver on its vision, it’s time to see what your customers think.

Use a survey and listen to those other data sources outlined in the first practice area. What do your customers think about your change to the experience? Are there more complaints? Are certain team members struggling with executing their part?

Get feedback from your customers and take a closer look at that data. If the problem lies in the vision design or the follow through, consider changing or tweaking as needed.

Practice Area #4: Measurement

Measure how the various interactions your customers have with the company impact their perception of you. In the digital age, there are multiple channels for reaching customers and all of these touchpoints affect the view your customers take of your company. You can try to assess these touchpoints through short surveys.

Use a chat system or email for customer support? Have the option to rate their experience afterwards.

Use emails for cold email sales? Let them give feedback at the end of the email sequence or after they purchase.

Those are just a couple examples. The point here is that you should be constantly measuring and assessing each touchpoint and using that data to drive your overall customer experience efforts.

Make the data meaningful. You can show your numbers and pie charts from dawn ‘til dusk, but what do they mean? How does that data translate into action on the part of team members?

Once you’ve collected data and measured it, you need to make sure everyone understands what that means, where they are doing well, and where more work is needed.

Measure how the various interactions your customers have with the company impact their perception of you. In the digital age, there are multiple channels for reaching customers and all of these touchpoints affect the view your customers take of your company. You can try to assess these touchpoints through short surveys.

Use a chat system or email for customer support? Have the option to rate their experience afterwards.

Use emails for cold email sales? Let them give feedback at the end of the email sequence or after they purchase.

Those are just a couple examples. The point here is that you should be constantly measuring and assessing each touchpoint and using that data to drive your overall customer experience efforts.

Make the data meaningful. You can show your numbers and pie charts from dawn ‘til dusk, but what do they mean? How does that data translate into action on the part of team members?

Once you’ve collected data and measured it, you need to make sure everyone understands what that means, where they are doing well, and where more work is needed.

Practice Area #5: Culture

Finally, we have to consider company culture. Your team, from the executives on down, will define a company culture–its exuding personality. Company culture comes down to having a set of core values and beliefs and making sure that you stick to them.

But why talk about this?

Because your company culture affects the customer experience. If your culture makes employees unhappy or if your employee personalities don’t fit well into you culture, the customer experience suffers.

Culture matters–and it’s important to measure and understand its impact.

Hire the right people. Empathy is often a key component to customer experience and, in general, it’s something that provides for a positive experience. Having an empathetic culture and hiring people who have this trait can go a long way.

This is something that stems from the hiring process and permeates throughout your entire company culture. During the interview process, it would be good to include scenario questions that ask how an employee would react in the situation. Have them answer more than one of these questions to get a better understanding for their capacity for empathy.

After hiring someone, some companies like Buffer have assigned books as a part of the onboarding process. A frequently recommended book is How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Institute habits that help keep CX and customers at the fore. People are creatures of habit and sometimes those habits get in the way of the customer experience. Have your team leaders–especially those who are responsible for many customer touchpoints–keep an eye on personal habits and those of the ones they oversee.

While habits may not need to change, there could be room for integrating new habits and routines into day-to-day work that can help employees keep customer experience and their impact on it top of mind.

Perhaps it could be as simple as sharing the words from a customer about how thankful, happy, or excited they are with something that happened thanks to the company. Maybe it’s giving employees who don’t work in customer service the chance to answer calls or support emails for an hour a month to see how they can personally touch a customer’s day and see the business from a customer’s perspective.

Don’t be afraid to get creative or to make these habits fun.

Build rewards into your culture and incorporate internal acts of gratitude. When employees go above and beyond what is expected of them to make a customer’s experience great, they should be rewarded.

When team leaders and other employees notice someone going above and beyond, they shouldn’t hold back in giving commendation. More than that, there should be incentives (bonuses, earning more time off, donations made in their name, etc.) that people can work toward.

So How Mature Is Your Company’s Customer Experience?

If you’ve worked all the way through the scoring sections, then you likely have a better view of just where your company stands in the Customer Experience Maturity Model.

In most cases, companies that work through this model often find there are areas that need some development and planning for execution. If that’s the case with your company, take heart knowing that designing a better customer experience is possible.

With the effort and focus of the company in designing your customer experience vision and delivering that vision as a company, moving closer to a better experience and gaining a competitive edge is very possible.

Applying Findings from the CXMM

Understanding the state of your customer experience is only the first step.

The next step is to identify the points of weakness and create a plan for how to improve.

Using the CXMM as a roadmap, you can focus on the areas where your company is currently struggling. Prioritize the most important areas and create a plan for how improve those areas.

Since a customer’s experience is determined by every interaction your company and the individual has with a customer, you need buy-in at every level.

  • Set expectations and accountability. Every employee plays a part in the customer experience, but they need to know how to play their part and what’s expected of them. Make these actions clear. Incorporate a level of accountability..
  • Consistency. Be sure you schedule these practices into your workflows and be consistent with them. (The accountability part of things will help with being consistent.)
  • Balance and coordinate. It’s not enough to have everyone working on the principles they are assigned. There is a need for coordinating these processes so that things flow smoothly across the entire organization.

There’s no quick fix for overhauling your customer experience.

But if you’re able to break it down, understand the areas that are most lacking, and develop a clear plan for improvement, then you can take the steps needed to move forward.

Refer to the CXMM periodically as both a benchmark and a roadmap.

As you evolve your customer experience, your score will improve. And so will the experience your customers receive.


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