Ten top tips for improving your customer experience strategy
The core principle of value marketing is to put the customer at the heart of the business says Nick Hague. To do this, organisations must listen to the voice of the customer, which requires a comprehensive understanding of their needs and experiences through every touchpoint they have with the business.
There insights must be gathered throughout the organisation, not just in customer-facing departments, and should be integral to the company strategy. The ultimate goal is to act on customer feedback to meet and exceed expectations. Businesses that act accordingly can expect to be rewarded with higher levels of customer loyalty and brand advocacy, which can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
Effectively listening to the voice of the customer requires a well-planned and well-executed experience programme. Here are ten best-practice tips to consider when putting a new strategy in place.
- Get buy-in from the top
Getting buy-in from the top is vital to the success of any customer experience programme. This provides the mandate for action which can filter through the wider organisation to drive change and enforce customer-centricity.
Without having the leadership team on board with a customer experience programme from the outset, the time and resource that is invested into research may be wasted.
- Own the role
For companies seeking to lead their markets and differentiate on customer experience, it is no longer enough to manage the programme through marketing or insight functions alone. Firms must ensure that someone owns the customer experience role and their responsibility is not shared with other initiatives.
By having a member of staff dedicated to the strategy, such as a customer experience manager, the programme will have a better structure and a dedicated focus on understanding customer needs, including their delight and pain points.
- Map it out and build slowly
Surveying the customer experience needs to be done with care. Companies should take the time to consider all aspects of the programme up front, including a thorough mapping process that takes into account all touchpoints of the journey.
Understanding each interaction with the customer is critical and will help to inform which KPIs the business should be measuring.
- Start with a ‘deep dive’ into the customer experience
Before rolling out a comprehensive research programme, firms should gain a deep understanding of what their customers need and want from the business, especially if embarking on customer experience research for the first time.
A ‘deep dive’ stage up front will uncover where the organisation currently stands and help to ascertain the touchpoints that have the most impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as enabling resources to be prioritised when the programme matures.
- Start from the ground up
Once an in-depth understanding of the customer base is gained, the foundations for rolling out the experience programme need to be put into place.
At this point, success factors include finalising the right questions to ask different sets of customers, and determining the methodology for collating information, whether on the phone, online or via other means, such as SMS.
- Distribute the findings
Once available, findings should be distributed as widely as possible throughout the business, coming from the top down so every aspect of the organisation has full buy-in and understands what their customers expect.
The data needs to be disseminated in a way that reveals the most useful insights for each department and ensures relevant actions are taken across the organisation.
- Benchmark for success
Keep in mind that customer data alone will not provide the most effective benchmarks against which to measure your company’s performance.
It’s important to take the whole marketplace into consideration, and look closely at how competitors perform according to their customers. In other words, businesses should consider prospects as part of the customer experience programme.
Additionally, surveying lost or lapsed customers will enable your organisation to understand why they stopped doing business with you. It’s important to identify what could have been done to prevent them from leaving, and what could potentially be put in place to win back their loyalty.
- Engage employees
Developing an excellent customer experience starts from within, and, therefore, employee engagement should be aligned with customer outreach.
Engaged staff are naturally more productive, and will help to improve customer retention overall. A workforce that lives and breathes the attitudes its customers value will be the most profitable in the long run.
- Motivate your teams
To ensure a customer experience programme has longevity, organisations should put measures in place that link the programme internally to benefits and rewards.
Incentivising the process, often by remunerating high performing teams and individuals, is a mutually rewarding strategy. It can increase employee involvement and encourage them to project their positive feelings about the business and its services onto the customer.
- Continual measurement
As the customer experience programme matures, be sure to keep a finger on the pulse and register any changes in business or customer habits as they occur.
Benchmarking for continued success is imperative. A flexible approach to surveying customers’ wants and needs is the way forward. If this is done periodically, by measuring success every six or 12 months, it will ensure a significant return on your investment.
Companies with the best customer experience strategies will use insights to inform action plans in order to sustain an excellent level of service, from rewarding customer loyalty to handling any detractors as a matter of urgency.
Nick Hague is Director at market research consultancy, B2B International, which is headquartered in Manchester and has offices in London, New York, Chicago, Dusseldorf, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai.