The chatter about Customer Experience (aka CX) has been growing for the past few years. Initially, this was an offshoot of user experience (UX) for e-commerce companies but quickly grew to be the catchphrase that seeks to map the activities in each consumer funnel, quantify their quality and measure their impact. This has been critical for businesses seeking efficient growth because their CX can often be tuned without increasing their marketing budget. Yet these changes aren’t just driven by business performance needs. The realities, demands and importance of CX mirror the complexities of growing consumer expectations. In fact, a holistic CX strategy in place is no longer optional. It is an imperative step to sustainable, profitable growth, operational excellence, customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
At the foundation of any successful customer experience strategy is a clear understanding of the various ways prospects and customers interact with your brand, how they prefer to interact with your brand, and how you can ensure a smooth path to purchase and a competitive advantage. In this edition of Plain Talk, we’ll approach the best way to improve your business performance through enhanced customer experience, beginning with a CX audit.
What are the elements of CX?
Imagine any exposure, action, interaction or condition that would be a part of your customer’s experience with your brand from the cradle to the grave. That’s your CX. Your values, brand, marketing and media mix, good PR, bad PR, social channel content and engagement, online UX, retail engagements, call centers, website, ads, even market conditions. These are just some of the elements to consider when conducting a CX audit. Absolutely everything can be on the table, and every possible scenario between a user and a given product or service can be considered. And the goal isn’t just to sell. The goal is to attract and retain satisfied customers through a frictionless customer journey while offering the kind of empathy and user satisfaction along the way that makes your brand irresistible.
CX as your secret weapon
How your company is viewed in the context of your competitors is a key factor that can provide insights into where you are succeeding, where more work is needed and where new approaches can be developed to meet evolving customer needs. A CX audit is not only an opportunity to discover successes, faults or gaps but also an opportunity to identify areas to differentiate. Going beyond the status quo can set you apart, but in order to stand out, you must first understand the status quo. Your organizational performance in relation to your competitors is a key output of a CX audit and can quantify goals to aim for and eventually surpass to emerge as an industry leader.
Culture gut check – Are you ready for a CX audit?
Before you start, you need to have an honest look at your culture and team and make sure they are aligned with the potential for change. A successful CX audit will require the stakeholders in your company to be open to close examination and the likelihood of change. In many ways, a CX analysis will closely align with internal change management and demand the ability to be objective in scrutinizing each aspect of your business, recognizing flaws or friction and taking the necessary steps toward progress.
People tend to resist change. It is uncomfortable, and by definition, it is a replacement of the past – a status quo that many within the organization likely helped to create. Time has been devoted and people have become invested in ideas that may now require reinspection, or complete overhauls to align with the changing state of customer needs and expectations. That’s why it’s important your team recognizes the exercise isn’t “about them.” Rather, it’s about the customers and prospects who keep the lights on and doors open, and about better aligning with their needs. It’s looking from the outside in and viewing yourselves through the eyes of prospects and customers. Similarly, make sure you and your team have agreed that there will be no “sacred cows” or politics in the process. Everything about the consumer experience should be open for consideration.
If stakeholders in your company are not prepared for change, investing in a CX audit and analysis won’t deliver the results you need to grow. However, if your company is committed to improvement and empowers your teams to optimize for success, a CX audit will be an incredibly powerful tool to help you reach your goals. By enlisting and empowering your team to be part of the solution, you’ll mitigate their fear of feeling criticized and motivate them to collaborate.
Starting with the basics
Your vision and values are the foundation of your brand behavior, and your brand behavior is at the root of your CX. Without clearly defined and socialized vision and values, a brand is hollow. Look around. What is the vision of your organization? What is your purpose (beyond making money or increasing shareholder value)? Leadership has a responsibility to ensure the fundamental core values of their organization are socialized and reflected in every engagement. To accomplish this, the vision must be clearly communicated, understood and supported by everyone from the janitor to the C-suite. While operational elements to achieve business goals may change, values should hold firm, and every engagement is an opportunity to express those values and deliver quality, meaningful and memorable moments.
Shall we begin?
OK, so your company vision is solid and socialized. Your team understands the purpose of a CX audit and their role in making it successful, and you’ve agreed there will be no sacred cows. What now? A good CX audit can be broken down into six steps.
1. Gather your data sources – For years, you’ve been amassing customer data and maybe you use it (maybe you don’t), but this is a great time to start. Depending on your business, this might include retail store sales, seasonality, online sales reports, website traffic, ad schedules and performance, price promotion performance, etc., as well as data about reviews, customer sentiment (think social listening), call center activity, complaints to your customer service team, returns and so on. Also, look at these elements (whatever is available) for your top competitors. The right mix of data will depend on your business vertical, but you get the idea.
2. Do a CSAT – If your data (above) does not include a recent customer satisfaction survey (not just net promoter score), then now is the time. These can be done online, affordably and swiftly and can be customized for your business and competitive set. It’s a BIG miss not to regularly conduct CSATs and a big miss not to use a fresh CSAT for your CX audit.
3. Build your funnel (or chain?) – A customer “funnel” shows where each activity or touchpoint that is reflected in your data resides. While “funnel” is the most common term, it might be easier to think of your CX as a chain instead. A chain where you are looking for weak links.
4. Now, look for the weak links – Where are you losing them? For example, do you have a high click-through rate on your campaign but low conversion? Examine the landing page and see where you are failing to meet expectations. Do you have a subscription model? If so, don’t just look at how you are winning new subscribers but why you are losing old ones. Where is the leak in your bucket? Do you have low review scores on Amazon? Google? Facebook? You may have a service or product quality issue that requires immediate attention. The data science provides the clues, but ultimately there will be some “art” or soft skills in determining how to repair your CX.
5. Act – A CX audit will ideally produce a prioritized list of benchmarks and action items to which your teams will have to respond. Some will be quick and easy changes. Some, like a product issue, may take longer to resolve but armed with this information, you have a road map to an “unfair advantage” over competitors and happy, loyal customers. The only sin here is to not act. Tackle the quick/easy/cheap opportunities immediately, and then build a roadmap for bigger challenges that will get you where you need to be.
6. Rinse and repeat – With a set of benchmarks and a roadmap, you’ve begun the iterative process of improving your CX. Make regular management versus your CX benchmarks a key part of your marketing plan moving forward.
Progress not perfection
We’ve all heard of Murphy’s law, but CX implementation abides by Kanter’s law, which underscores the importance of perseverance when undergoing organizational change that a CX audit often leads to. People get excited about the beginning, and we feel achievement in the end, but everything looks like failure in the middle.
A CX audit is essentially an optimization of your customer experience like you optimize your media spend and is, therefore, an iterative process that just seeks improvement. You’ll try some things that have measurable impact and some things that are total duds. Just keep your eyes on the prize. If your goal is to delight the customer, there will always be opportunities to do so, and with a clear understanding of your CX, you’ll be in a position to adjust or pivot to the needs of the market whenever they present themselves.
But I’m an SMB. Is a CX audit for me?
Customer experience audits are not just for monster enterprise-sized companies. SMBs can also find considerable value in undergoing even a basic CX analysis and can often be nimble enough to adapt more quickly than enterprise-sized companies. This puts SMBs in a unique position to optimize, differentiate, and even develop key value propositions that arise from a better understanding of how consumers are engaging with their brand. And remember, since you are seeking progress rather than perfection, you can take on CX in smaller bites. Any of the data categories above can be the subject of a “mini” audit. Some progress will always be better than none.
A helping a hand
Often, we see one of the obstacles to improving CX is simply that everyone in a company already has a “day job,” and there simply isn’t time to project-manage something the scale of a CX audit, but with a little organization, it is possible to succeed. When executed properly, CX investments yield remarkable results: more customers, sales and loyalty. Hopefully, we’ve motivated you here to get working on your CX. If you have any questions about how to do this in your specific business vertical or just need a hand, give us a call at 502-499-4029 or drop us a note here, and we’ll be happy to help.