In today’s world of online shopping and round-the-clock connectivity, consumers feel empowered like never before. This has led to a sharpened focus by companies to nail down their customer experience (CX) strategy to drive overall satisfaction and retain loyalty.
But while 80% of companies already believe they deliver “super experiences,” only 8% of customers agree. Here are some ways in which your customer experience strategy may be coming up short.
1. Consider the employee experience
In recent years, a new understanding has emerged regarding how customer experience and employee experience work more effectively in concert with one another. The idea goes a little something like this: Unhappy employees, more often than not, breed unhappy customers.
According to a 2016 McKinsey study, when one U.S. airport realized that its customers’ interaction with employees, rather than time spent standing in line, caused dissatisfaction, the airport committed months to reassessing its working culture. But the real turning point came when one frontline employee used a group work session to tell management: “I will care about what you say when I believe you care about me.”
Once employees began to feel that their opinions and ideas mattered, communication across the board improved and the airport began to see results.
McKinsey’s study also found that after remodelling its customer experience vision, the airport’s average retail spending per passenger grew 15%, resulting in happier customers, a better working culture, and growth for the organization. That’s more or less the definition of a win-win.
2. Embrace digital—if you haven’t already
Traditional customer experience has changed drastically since the arrival of digital and mobile tools. While most companies understand the importance of the “virtual” customer journey, learning how to implement the digital experience so it enhances, rather than compromises, the overall customer experience ultimately secures company success.
According to McKinsey, digital transformation and a focus on customer experience can generate a 20-30% increase in customer satisfaction and economic gains of 20-50%. Meanwhile in a recent Qualtrics study, more than 65% of customers said that their experience on the website or app would be at least a “very important” factor in their willingness to recommend a brand.
Evidence shows that introducing a more omnichannel approach to customer experience fills a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle for companies aiming to improve customer satisfaction. How well your company performs digitally boils down to how well you understand your customers’ needs, and how efficiently you meet them.
3. Make agility a priority
For companies holding on to traditional working models and corporate hierarchy, the message is increasingly clear: adapt to a new, modern structure or fail. Companies like Airbnb and Uber succeeded in disrupting long-standing industry norms by connecting buyers and sellers through simple, streamlined apps. In the process, they created a brand-new experience their customers never realized they wanted.
Ryan Burke, Global Growth Markets Leader at EY, identifies agility as a key area driving companies’ growth. “As technological, political, and employment trends evolve dramatically, fast-growing companies are building a new set of agile muscles,” he wrote in a 2017 LinkedIn post. “For these companies, agility means having an opportunistic mindset that embraces learning and doing through experimentation.”
So how does this feed into the customer experience? The vehicle industry provides a good example, Kieron McCann, director of marketing and strategy at Cognifide, wrote in 2018. Where once the industry focused on getting people into the showroom and making a sale, “the introduction of features like smart-device integration means the focus has shifted from the product (car) to the individual consumer (driver), opening up opportunities to connect and engage between purchase.”
Simply put, the process of delivering a positive customer experience no longer lies exclusively within certain silos of the organization. It requires a joined-up approach, with teams from across the company working and collaborating together to deliver engaging, personalized customer solutions to increase satisfaction and secure loyalty.
4. When you get customer feedback, act on it
Customer feedback offers one of the most valuable insights into building an effective customer-experience strategy. But it’s one thing to listen to what your customers have to say—and another to act on it.
In 2017, a Tesla driver named Paul Franks noticed some wear and tear on his steering wheel, which he believed was the result of rubbing against it when he got in and out of the car. He tweeted to Musk: “Can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel? Steering wheel is wearing.”
Within 30 minutes, Franks had a reply from the tech mogul. “Good point,” Musk tweeted back. “We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.”
He was as good as his word—the feature was soon added to all future Tesla releases and, through a software update, every Tesla already on the road received the upgrade, as well.
Acting on customers’ opinions helps to build a sense of significance, encourages engagement, and introduces a more personal element in the overall customer experience.
5. Put CX leadership in place
Despite companies realizing they should start paying more attention to their customers’ needs, strategies to improve overall customer experience still often tend to fall flat due to lack of leadership. According to a 2017 survey by Gartner, 81% of customer experience leaders claimed that CX would be the sole differentiator amongst competition in the coming years. But today, less than half of them have outlined its fundamental role in relation to actual business outcomes.
When it comes to implementing a successful customer experience strategy, having a dedicated team often dictates the future success of that strategy. Research by Adobe and Econsultancy found that companies that prioritize and effectively manage customer experience are three times more likely than their peers to significantly exceed their top business goals.
Having a skilled, dedicated team in place to lead customer experience strategy unites a common goal and saves the program from becoming stagnant and uninspiring.
6. Learn the difference between customer service and customer experience
While customer service comprises an intrinsic part of the customer experience, companies often make the mistake of using the terms interchangeably. This, in turn, makes their CX strategy more likely to fail.
“If you book a vacation on the phone and the person you are speaking with is friendly and helpful, that’s good customer service”, Steven MacDonald, head of digital marketing at Superoffice.com, wrote earlier this year. “Yet, if your tickets arrive early and the hotel upgrades your room, then that’s a great customer experience!”
A 2018 PwC study found that the four major components of a good customer experience include speed, convenience, consistency, and friendliness. So, while customer service definitely plays into the equation, it isn’t everything.
Having easy-to-use, helpful technology could help improve the customer experience, in addition to having clearly written website copy or product descriptions. By seeing the whole picture and understanding your customers’ unique journey, companies are more likely to introduce effective solutions for their brand and deliver a great overall customer experience.
7. Be sure not to automate everything
While any company seeking success in the 21st century needs to provide a good digital experience, too much digital can actually harm the overall customer experience. Customers may demand more automation, but a little human touch still goes a long way.
Amid the rise of digital business and automation, a recent PwC survey found that humans now play a more important role than ever in delivering a positive customer experience. Of 15,000 consumers surveyed across 12 countries, two-thirds said they felt companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience. Meanwhile, three quarters said they wanted more human interaction in the future, not less.
Companies can use anything from relatable social media posts and conversational website blogs to helpful live phone support or chat operators to demonstrate a more personable business approach. If customers feel let in” to the brand “family,” they’ll more likely engage, helping establish trust and build loyalty.
In just about any business sector, innovation is key to keeping one step ahead. But what exactly does innovation in the CX realm actually look like?
“CX innovation differs from other kinds of innovation,” brand-leadership expert Denise Lee Yohn told Forbes in 2019. “Instead of starting with a product, service, or core technology, innovation in CX starts with the customer and their journey.”
But staying ahead of the curve in customer experience leadership doesn’t just…happen. It requires a consistent and deliberate approach and a company-wide effort. In an effort to socialize insights about customers throughout the company, audio technology company Bose Corporation organized “CX Bootcamps.” These were designed to build employees’ skills in the five most highly valued brand behaviors: openness, relevance, emotion, empathy, and experience. The approach helped “build bridges between internal teams, improve processes, and remove churn by empowering employees to put the customer first.”
The Walt Disney Company, one of the most successful media and entertainment conglomerates in the world, also sets one of the most impressive examples of innovative customer experience in action. The organization’s “Magic Bands,” which arrive in the mail prior to a customer’s visit to a Disney resort, act as a hotel room key, ride reserver, and a method of making payments—as well as storing photos guests take during their visit.
Afterward, customers can expect a follow-up email from Disney thanking them for their visit and asking to share photos from the Magic Band. The result? A creative, seamless end-to-end customer journey.
9. Communicate your CX vision clearly
Even if a company has a dedicated team in place to deliver an effective CX strategy, if the vision and outcomes aren’t fully understood and communicated across the entire organization, it will never reap the full benefits.
“Your customer experience vision and company vision are always linked, and often one and the same,” customer-experience consultant Annette Franz wrote in 2017. “Without this North Star, employees can easily go off track and focus on projects or ideas that aren’t critical to what the business is trying to do.”
Strong vision statements are usually short, simple and specific, ensuring that everyone in the organization follows the same North Star.
Outdoor retailer Patagonia’s vision statement says: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” clearly defining both its business and environmental ambitions. Similarly, Ikea’s aspiration to “create a better everyday life for many people” sets the tone for the company, clarifying its aim to furnish homes to suit all lifestyles.
If you keep the needs and expectations of your brand’s customers firmly at the forefront of your CX vision, without vagueness or ambiguity, every employee in the company should clearly understand your company’s aim, and how to deliver it.
Originally published Jul 30, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023