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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!