Both a popular buzzword in communication services, and an essential driver of customer retention, you might be surprised to learn that the concept of ‘the customer experience’ (CX) stretches all the way back to 1994 (Engineering Customer Experiences, Lewis Carbone). With that said, CX has never been more important than it is today – and never has the absence of a customer experience strategy represented such an operational risk. According to SuperOffice, developing CX is the top priority for over 45% of businesses in the next five years (SuperOffice).
Developing a positive customer experience does not happen by accident, nor does it happen overnight. It happens as the result of careful design and customer-centric problem-solving. Forward-planning is central to building an effective customer experience strategy. One of the most powerful tools businesses can implement in order to ensure a great customer experience is a virtual contact centre, such as our VCC. This future-proof cloud contact centre software centralises all touchpoints related to customer service and the customer journey, helping to:
- Encourage positive customer feedback and customer satisfaction
- Create the conditions for customer loyalty
- Reduce pain points and minimise churn
- Facilitate an omnichannel customer journey map, including social media functionality
- Support customer data accessibility and accuracy
- Drive ROI and bring your organisation closer to its business goals
Thanks to the streamlining and efficiency-driving potential of a virtual contact centre, your marketing and customer support team can focus on developing and delivering a great customer experience; this is the phenomenon we’ll be exploring here.
What is Customer Experience (CX) Strategy?
Essentially, your customer experience strategy refers to the top-level, long-term game plan for how your organisation intends to deliver a good customer experience. It draws on elements such as target audience and buyer personas, key touchpoints, pain points, educational resources solutions and the insights gathered from customer data to generate a (hopefully customer-centric and optimised) customer journey.
In the words of Hubspot:
“If customer experience (CX) refers to the sum of every interaction a customer has with a business, both pre- and post-sale, the customer experience strategy defines the actionable plans in place to deliver a positive, meaningful experience across those interactions.”
When figuring out how to build a customer experience strategy, it’s important to remember that proper design should include departments beyond those with customer-facing responsibilities. While collecting data and feedback from these staff is a natural first step, further insight into your customer base can be gathered from a wide range of employees. This breadth, depth and diversity of research is the best foundation upon which to build a customer experience strategy.
Why customer experience (CX) management is important
An optimal customer experience should not be seen as a lofty-but-unrealistic ideal. With the correct planning and appropriate tools – such as our VCC – it is an entirely achievable operational standard. Get in touch now to book a free discovery call of our future-proof software.
Across all sectors, including charities, retail and construction, environments have become brutally competitive. Users are spoiled for choice, and often, it is the value – or lack thereof – of the customer experience that decides whether your business retains its customers. Strikingly, according to Cision PR Newswire, 81% of organisations see CX as a competitive differentiator (Cision PR Newswire). Effective customer experience management is the best way to ensure your company stands apart from your competitors.
Aside from improving retention and reducing churn, customer experience management can:
- Increase brand loyalty through personalised interactions
- Encourage positive word-of-mouth marketing and customer feedback
- Help achieve core metrics such as NPS (net promoter score) or CSAT (customer satisfaction score)
- Decrease the cost of operations
Customer experience vs customer service
Your customer experience and customer service do share a certain amount of overlap, and are related in many ways. However, there exists a nuance between the two, and this is a point worth addressing.
Essentially, CX is defined as delivering excellence at every touchpoint of the customer journey. Sometimes, this doesn’t necessarily mean customers will have an interaction with members of your support team; with customer service, they probably will. Moreover, customer service occurs during a single user touchpoint or interaction, rather than across the entire customer journey map.
CX may also be defined as a proactive approach, where your organisation takes steps to improve the overall customer experience before the fact. On the other hand, customer service is more reactive, where users present your customer support team with an issue they’ve already experienced.
Let’s approach the question through two conflicting examples:
Imagine a user researches your brand via the internet, and uses Google My Business to find directions to the store. Upon entering the store, they browse your products for a while before being approached by a sales agent, who helps them with their specific inquiry. With the business settled, the customer stays to chat for a while, and enjoys a free coffee before heading out of the door. With their curiosity piqued, they use their mobile device to explore and engage with your social media channels.
Everything that happens here is part of customer experience; it connects various touchpoints to make up a wider customer journey map.
Now imagine a customer visits your store, seeking a refund. They locate the returns desk and interact with the support staff there. This in itself is a customer service touchpoint; it is a singular interaction.
Many businesses fall into the trap of viewing customer service as simple interaction in a vacuum; isolated, unrelated events that begin and end without being connected to any other touchpoints. In today’s customer-centric, omnichannel world, this is a mistake. Future-proof companies recognise that CX is comprised of several or many individual customer service touchpoints.
What Makes a Great Customer Experience?
With customer experience defined in these terms, we’ll move to examining an ‘ingredients list’ for a good customer experience. Rather than looking at customer experience design as a sequential process or a series of ‘one and done’ steps, aim to see it more as a set of standards and customer-centric mentality around CX.
While a positive customer experience can yield some impressive and valuable results, it requires careful design and consideration in order to execute correctly. There’s a fair amount of behind-the-scenes work and ongoing tweaks needed to get your customer experience strategy right, and make sure it stays that way.
Elements of customer experience strategy
Below, we’ve delineated the elements, best practices and perspectives that go into building a great customer experience strategy.
- Make objective assessments of your current customer service strategy
Problem-recognition, and problem-solving, will be important elements in customer experience strategy design. In order to effect positive improvements, you’ll need an accurate understanding of what already works well for your organisation, and what could be improved.
- Maintain a real-time customer journey map
Think of the customer journey as the way CX unfolds; the overall shape it takes. One of the most popular solutions for visualising this user flow is through a customer journey map, outlining the various interactions that make up your CX. This is something you’ll want to have handy in strategy design. Include target audience specifications, pain points and opportunities for upsell. And, importantly, if something changes in your customer journey, update the map.
- Commit to ongoing staff training
Educational resources solutions and/or eLearning should be a significant part of your customer experience strategy design. Often, it is your customer support staff who deliver the interactions that make up your CX – so it makes sense to equip them with the knowledge and tools to provide your users with real value. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that training is something you do once and never return to: software is updated periodically, trends change, and customer satisfaction refreshers are always useful. Of course, future-proof software like our virtual contact centre is intuitive and designed for ease of use by all staff members, and this can dramatically help upskilling and onboarding.
- Keep across your customer needs and expectations
The most successful customer-centric journeys focus on the specific needs, pain points, aspirations, motivations and benefits of the target audience. Customer expectations and needs might vary wildly, depending on segmentation parameters; buyer personas can be extremely helpful to your marketing and customer support staff in ensuring the overall customer experience is tailored to your target audience.
- Anticipate, don’t react
Proactivity is essential for a great customer experience strategy. Rather than dealing with issues and enquiries as they happen, get ahead of the game and aim to anticipate those same issues before the customer ever experiences them. Again, the visibility and proactive customer-centricity of a virtual contact centre can be massively useful on this front.
- Offer self-service solutions where possible
In the omnichannel world of today, a large amount of customer service and satisfaction actually happens without the user ever interacting with a human agent. Customers expect business to offer the tools and resources they need to settle any issues by themselves; in this day and age, having to go through the process of contacting support staff can quickly snowball into non-optimised (if not wasted) use of time. As part of your virtual contact centre you might set up a bot using AI-powered chat, for instance, to help customers navigate the most frequently asked questions.
- Collect customer feedback periodically
Customer data is like the fuel that powers experience improvement; without it, you’ll essentially be shooting blind. People are often quite willing to leave valuable reviews and feedback, but you have to ask them at the right time, and in the right way. The value of proper research and data in CX cannot be underestimated, but you need to be strategic about when, where and how you harvest it. To that end, our VCC does the hard work for you, collecting vital customer information and enabling insightful statistical reports for better-informed decisions.
- Monitor performance continuously
And, to take things full circle, ensure you’re monitoring your agent and team performance levels. Customer loyalty goes a long way, but the modern user isn’t deaf to a good deal and if they think a competitor brand can offer better service, or a better price, they’ll likely make the switch. Routinely check your team’s performance to make sure the customer experience is reliably delivering the value it was designed to.
How to Build a Solid Customer Experience Strategy in 2022
Work through the above list of best practices to cultivate a culture of customer-centricity and optimised CX within your organisation. Take the time to do things right; a lot of the CX groundwork may not be visible in the overall customer experience, or even in the strategy itself, but will undoubtedly pay massive dividends.
Once that forward-facing culture has taken root, and you’ve equipped your customer service team with a virtual contact centre designed to optimise the CX, you can look to the construction of the strategy. Here’s how to build a customer experience strategy in 2022 and beyond:
- Determine which channels your customers are most active in, and ensure your virtual contact centre is equipped with modules to meet them there. (Luckily, our VCC includes social media, email, SMS, VoIP, AI chat and more, so you can be sure no customers slip through the cracks.)
- Focus on making every customer service interaction booth smooth and convenient: anytime, anywhere.
- Ensure all interactions and touchpoints are consistent, both with each other and your overall brand identity.
- Gather customer feedback, collect data and use it to inform ongoing enhancements. Again, a customer-centric VCC technology can help greatly with this.
- Personalise, personalise, personalise: wherever possible, offer your customer base a unique and tailored experience. You might offer a targeted upsell based on prior shopping activity, for example.
- Prioritise usability. The importance of simplicity is paramount. Customers should find every service you offer easy-to-use, streamlined and efficient. Remember this as you progress with CRM software (customer relationship management), omnichannel functionality and customer relationships.
- Implement future-proof technology where you can. Forward-facing technology like AI and ML are built to streamline services and increase efficiency.
Maximising the CX and More with a VCC
Maximising the potential of your customer experience is no mean feat; it takes time, dedication and commitment – alongside the right technology tools for the job – to start making tangible headway.
But, though it’s an ongoing battle, it’s one worth fighting.
If you’re wondering how to build a customer experience strategy and aren’t sure where to begin, the first step is to create a culture of customer-centricity within your operations. This is the essential groundwork of a good customer experience. Next, you should look to purpose-built technology solutions (our VCC, for example) to get your team in the best possible position. With this work done, you can go about designing, carrying out and optimising your customer experience strategy for ongoing ROI, streamlined operations and, most importantly, happy customers – every time.
Start maximising your CX now with our cloud-based communications software. Book a free demo and watch as you turn one-time users into lifelong customers, thanks to a customer experience that blends excellence with empathy.