Customer Experience Strategy

Embedding customer-centricity into organisational DNA

What is Customer Experience Strategy?

Customer Experience Strategy is an organisation’s overarching plan to enhance the experience of their customers both when interacting with the organisation generally and when using its products and services. Key elements of a Customer Experience Strategy include in-depth qualitative customer research, customer journey maps, culture change and much more (see greater detail below).

Why You Need A Customer Experience Strategy

Customer experience (CX) is everything related to a business that affects a customer’s perception and feelings about it. It is the overall “experience” that the customer goes away with after every interaction and transaction. Humans remember experiences – the positive as well as the negative. What is essential for any organisation looking for growth is to define not only a good experience, but a great experience, for each and every customer, every time, and with repeatability no matter which part of the organisation is touched by the customer.

Whether it’s a call to a contact centre, exposure to an advertisement or even something as mundane as the payment of a bill, every exchange between customers and businesses builds (or damages) the relationship.

Most importantly, it’s how customers view those experiences in aggregate that matters.

“Customer experience is how a customer feels about the sum of their interactions with a business,” said Dave Dyson, Sr. Customer Service Evangelist, Zendesk. “It involves every way a customer interacts with a company, at all stages of the customer journey including the marketing materials they see before they become a customer, the sales experience, the quality of the product or service itself, and the customer service they receive post-purchase.” 

Thus, a customer experience strategy is critical to the ongoing survival and growth of any business – and the lack of one can leave an organisation at a severe competitive disadvantage. By ensuring an organisation-wide focus on the customer experience, a CX strategy can be pivotal to an organisation’s ongoing success.

 

Customer Experience Vs Customer Service

The difference between customer service and customer experience is that customer service is one factor in the customer journey while customer experience is the sum of all a customer’s interactions with the brand.

In other words, customer service is one piece of the customer experience puzzle.

While organisations think they are delivering an amazing customer experience, they may actually only be delivering an adequate level of customer service. While the trend these days is for customer-service personnel to ask “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” this, in reality, creates a negative customer experience. It is a non-sensical question. If there was something else that could be done, the caller would ask for it. If there isn’t, and usually there isn’t, what is the point of the question?

In order to achieve great customer experience, great customer service must be provided. Conversely, great customer service might be provided while the overall customer experience is very poor. Customer experience is your customers’ holistic perception of their overall experience with your business or brand.

Only by driving the optimisation of customer experience throughout all areas of an organisation, can it truly claim to be customer-centric.

Why Being Customer-Centric Matters

History is littered with now struggling or defunct organisations who grew complacent that their customers would always return, believing their competitive advantage was strong enough to protect them from any new players. These organisations felt secure in their position, misguided in the belief that the barriers to entry were high enough and customer loyalty was strong enough to ward off any competitor who claimed to offer a superior customer experience.

With the advent of the internet and the digital era, we now know the belief to be a fallacy. The perceived competitive advantage is impenetrable, until it isn’t. When an organisation loses its focus on the customer, it leaves itself at the mercy to dynamic customer-centric players. Complacency seeps in and an inward focus becomes the dominant narrative. This is shown by this quote from the CEO of the Hilton Group Christopher Nassetta in 2015 when discussing the threat of Airbnb, “I strongly do not believe that they are a major threat to the core value proposition we have. I think it’s extremely hard for them to replicate what we’re doing”. If the Hilton Group had better understood their customer needs then, maybe they would have warded off the threat of Airbnb, instead of Airbnb now being worth more than the big five hotel chains combined.

An open door with balls flowing through signifying the opportunities flowing through customer centricity and customer experience strategy.
Water being poured onto a growing plant, signifying how the water of customer experience strategy can be leveraged for growth.

We have seen industries such as media, retail and travel disrupted beyond recognition, with others such as financial services, utilities and health being in the midst of game-changing transformation. The common thread that links these industries, was the lack of customer-centricity from the established players. While their customers’ expectations of what great customer experience looked like had changed significantly, they were in thrall to what had worked for them in the past being good enough to secure their future.

Poor customer experience just doesn’t cut it anymore. Customers now have a range of options to choose from and will go elsewhere if their expectations aren’t being matched. No barrier to entry is high enough to prevent the tech behemoths (e.g. Amazon, Google etc.) from entering the market. If they sense an opportunity to improve customer experience and the value that that entails, no business model is safe.

The organisations that have weathered the storm and come out stronger than before, are those that have placed the customer front and centre of their strategy. Customer-centric organisations have built robust business models that rely on delivering excellence in customer experience over all else. This has built customer loyalty by focusing on the customer’s lifetime value over any short-term gains that could diminish their experience.

Optimising customer experience and therefore embedding customer-centricity throughout the organisation provides the blueprint for any future growth, protecting the organisation from unforeseen threats.

Defining a Great Customer Experience

There is no single universal checklist to follow to guarantee good customer experience: every organisation is unique and so are their customers. However, a poll of 2000 CX professionals across many industries (hotjar.com) lists some of the key takeaways:

  • Make listening to customers a top priority across the business
  • Implement a system to help you collect feedback, analyse it, and act on it regularly
  • Reduce friction and solve your customers’ specific problems and unique challenges
  • It’s not rocket science: a good customer experience comes from asking your customers questions, listening to their responses, and actioning their feedback

In their book The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath define a “peak moment” of customer experience comprised as one or more of the following:

Elevation

Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, surprised, motivated

Pride

Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements. They are showing us at our best: when earning recognition, when we’re conquering challenges and showing courage.

Insight

Moments of insight deliver realisations and transformations.

Connection

Moments of connection bond us together
Many of the defining moments in our lives, and our customers’ lives, are the result of accident or luck but why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them?

How to create a Customer Experience Strategy: Six Key Elements

We at The Strategy Group have identified six key elements required to develop a Customer Experience Strategy. 

1. Understand What is Important to Your Customers.

There is no point trying to guess what is important to customers without getting out of the building and spending quality time with them in open-ended qualitative interviews. A good customer experience strategy must start by gaining a deep and nuanced understanding of the customers of an organsiation.

This exercise is usually best delivered by an external company. First, customers will be far less inhibited in opening up to an independent organisation. Second, there should be no bias when questioning, something that often creeps in if it is done by organisation itself.

A person helping another person up a hill, signifying how critical it is to understand the challenges of the customer for customer experience.
A picture of a person writing on a post it note, signifying how critical it is to generate insights from the customer to build a customer experience strategy.

2. Generate Insights From Interviews.

Understanding your customers’ needs and wants has become essential to ensuring your organisation is future-proof. Listening empowers you to learn from and talk to your customers to create ever-improving experiences.

Businesses with quality data are more likely to collect actionable customer insights, which can help them grow their bottoms line in the long run.

When consumer insight research is conducted properly, it will improve the effectiveness of how a company communicates to its customers, which is likely to change consumer behaviour, and therefore increase sales.

3. Develop A Journey Map.

Understanding how your customers interact with you holistically and across their whole journey is crucial to delivering an enhanced customer experience.

A journey map is this visual representation of that customer journey. It helps tell the story of your customers’ experiences with your brand across all touchpoints. The trick here is to generate the journey map from the customers’ lens, not from the inside out.

The other important element in this process is to ensure the journey map includes the “emotional” journey i.e. how did the customer “feel” along the journey, where were they happy, where were they frustrated.

Journey maps also gives managers an overview of the customer’s experience. They will see how customers move through the sales funnel, helping them identify opportunities to enhance the experience. The map will show how enhanced customer service can differentiate the organisation’s digital experience.

A picture of a paper aeroplane with 'customer'  on it flying through the air, past a customer experience strategy plan.
A picture of a child's hight being measured next to an arrow, signifying how important it is to identify the high's and low's in a customer's journey.

4. Elevate the Highs and Mitigate the Lows.

Within the customer journey identify high and low points and create strategies to accentuate the high points and remedy the low points accordingly. By focusing on the peaks (high points) – which draw in and delight customers, you can create a much more robust and meaningful journey which retains and grows the customer base. Further, by focusing on the troughs (low points), which can act as exist points for customers, you can meaningfully increase customer retention and assist ongoing growth.

5.Re-Imagine the Journey and Experience.

Routine is the enemy of innovative thinking, but so is precedent. Sometimes, we struggle to shift away from how we’ve always done things. Imagining a clean slate can help you change perspective and think outside the box as to what the customer journey could look like in an ideal world. An example of this could be how your organisation could engage with your customers using new digital technology.

A picture of a group of people holding hands and looking out across a vista, embodying the idea of finding fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to customer problems.
A picture of a person moving pieces on a post-modern chess board, representing the importance of strategic and long term thinking around customer experience.

6. Embed the Strategy into the Organisation.

Given the complexity of customer-centric transformation, it is easy for leaders to get distracted by changing priorities and short-term thinking. However, to realise the full business case benefits, it is crucial to embed new ways of working. Leading organisations must ensure they approach transformation as an ongoing process for continuous improvement – rather than a one-off, linear change.

The customer holds the keys to unlocking growth for any organisation.  Through championing the voice of the customer and delivering a truly great customer experience, your organisation can identify and unlock areas of unforeseen growth and future-proof your business model to beat off competition.

Heart inside a human head showing empathy

EMPATHISE

Listen to and understand your customers
People want what they want when where and how they want it. Expectations have shifted over the internet era and will continue to do so over time. To stay relevant, we need to be two steps ahead by knowing what customers want before they do. We can start to do this by observing and empathising with their needs, pains and jobs to be done.

two bell curve graphs

ANALYSE

Analyse and aggregate insights
Customers only care about what organisations are doing for them. If we understand what they do, we can design experiences that delight them. By mapping customer insights to your organisation’s value propositions, products and services we can find gaps and opportunities.

travel between point a to point b

STRATEGISE

Design a strategy to delight customers
It’s all about experiences. The reality is, nobody wants your product or service. Nobody wants a mortgage – they want the experience of living in the house. Design a strategy to upgrade the customer experience and evolve your value proposition to meet it. If customers continue to be delighted, they’ll keep coming back.

Call Us

We at The Strategy Group have a wealth of experience working with organisations to create and deliver customer-centric strategies that are tailored to their customers’ needs. We act as an independent party to interview customers, pulling out key insights and bringing those to life through visual journey maps. Working across the relevant teams we can re-imagine what that new and improved customer journey could look like through immersive and interactive workshops, keeping a sharp focus on the customer at all times. Finally, we pride ourselves on ensuring our work makes a lasting difference by receiving buy-in and embedding customer-centricity, giving our clients the internal recognition as the true drivers of growth within their organisation. You can learn more about Customer Experience Consulting, and the services The Strategy Group offers here.

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