Elevating the Customer Experience
How to Establish an Effective Customer Experience Strategy
The Change Agent
Optimizing the customer experience, with clear line of sight into your customers’ journeys, will unlock growth and lead to better outcomes for your business.
The Journey of Customer Experience
There are a lot of ways brands influence customer purchasing decisions and compete for customer loyalty. But there’s a reason brands absolutely obsess over delivering exceptional customer experiences—it plays a huge role in the buying decision. In fact, 90% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service if it comes with great CX.1
Customer experience is the quality of the relationship a customer has with your company. CX is shaped by the cumulative interactions a customer has with your brand, from viewing ads on social media to conversations with your sales force or customer support team to walking into a physical store.
In general, most organizations have a good idea about how their customers experience their brand. It’s become standard practice for companies to have robust customer satisfaction or voice-of-the-customer programs that track customer delight and customer pain points.
of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service if it comes with great CX.1
So where do you start? Step one begins with really getting to know the customer and their journey. The work of shaping a CX strategy should follow these steps:
- Spend time reflecting on your goals for your relationship with your customer and do some baseline investigation of your internal tools and processes.
- Get to know your customer and learn about their relevant (and sometimes not so relevant but illuminating) needs and frustrations.
- Distill what you’ve observed into key learning and opportunity areas, creating maps of the customer’s current experiences.
- Generate ideas, imagining new possibilities for or in support of customer interactions.
- Sort, group and prioritize these ideas into a recommendation and roadmap.
- Share your findings in a way that illuminates the vision’s possibilities and provides you with the inspiration and communication tools to move forward.
It’s important to consider that initiatives included in a CX strategy may not all be customer-facing. Great customer experiences are dependent on strong internal relationships and processes, integrated tools and shared data.
The customer experience is shaped by the entirety of a customer’s journey rather than any single interaction. The customer journey is rarely, if ever, linear. Your customers start and stop and retrace their steps. They jump from a digital channel to an in-store experience and back again. Customers create their own path to purchase rather than follow a predetermined process. This can make it nearly impossible to understand the customer’s context—where have they been, where are they now and where are they going?
Mapping your customers’ journey provides clear, simple references and shared understanding of their interactions with your brand as well as insight into their needs. Customer journey maps help you identify commonalities and opportunities to serve customers more efficiently, fixing pain points and repeating processes that resulted in successful interactions. Focus on making each experience a little better than it was yesterday. Optimizing the customer experience, with clear line of sight into your customers’ journeys, will unlock growth and lead to better outcomes for your business.
Sitecore explored the future of customer experience in a recent white paper, and we explore some of their perspectives here.
Moving CX Forward
What does it mean to meet ever-increasing expectations and the subsequent integration of in-person and digital across the customer journey?
Sitecore: It means meeting the customer wherever they are, helping them move seamlessly from channel to platform, to in-person experience and back again. It could include, for example, digital interactions in-store (touch screen search points), integration of offline experiences in e-commerce (augmented reality virtual “try-ons”) and a seamless mix of AI and human (chatbots that defer to humans when questions become too complex).
85% of consumers expect consistent interactions across departments.2
What is the importance of a centralized customer database?
Sitecore: “Meet the customers where they are” may be a popular mantra, but it is deceptively simplistic. This is an all but impossible task without robust customer data management, centralization and at least some degree of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The sheer volume of touchpoints in a customer journey is mind-boggling. Devices could include desktop, tablet, mobile, smartwatch, smart speaker, smart TV, smart car and platforms such as web, mobile web, app, social media, messenger, voice. They all have vastly different levels of data availability, brand integration and customer engagement.
What is technology’s role in moving toward next-level customer experiences?
Sitecore: Having the right technology can effectively align teams, streamline processes and connect systems to transform workflows. But technology alone doesn’t always suffice; organizations need the right teams with relevant skills strategically placed so that their contributions to the customer experience can make a difference. Only then can systems and data be harnessed in a way that goes beyond the delivery basics to support messaging that scales seamlessly across channels.
What is the best way forward?
Sitecore: Most organizations have yet to attain the next level of digital transformation. If they expect to succeed in today’s environment that is driven by rising consumer expectations, they must bite the bullet and begin the behind-the-scenes transformation to build a next-generation operating model. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in our recent research, when asked about their organization’s top three business goals, the top response was “better leveraging technology to accelerate our business success.” There is a willingness across many organizations to delve deeper into systems that will enable them to keep up with customers’ ever-increasing CX expectations.
One North leaders Kathryn Kollett and Matt Murphy share perspectives on how companies that prioritize the customer and develop an effective and ever-evolving CX strategy will see continued success and unlock growth across their customer value chain.
This Time, It’s Personal
In any business, customer experience is what drives the customer value chain. It’s directly responsible for initial sales, repeat sales, customer loyalty and social brand advocacy—all of which essentially determine the success of a business.
Think about brands you deliberately avoid—that sentiment is rooted in your experience as a customer. You may grudgingly accept becoming a customer if you have a dire need or limited options, but they’re not winning your loyalty and you certainly won’t recommend that brand to others. That’s what makes a compelling CX strategy so critical.
Kathryn KollettDirector, One North
The work of shaping your CX strategy must be grounded in human-centered design.
Several factors prevent success or slow down a brand’s ability to implement an effective customer experience strategy. The most common problem is that they lack a customer-centric mindset. Brands may claim to be to be customer-obsessed, but organizations tend to focus internally on their products, services and financial goals. Customers don’t care about a brand’s financial goals, and they aren’t motivated to purchase by your list of service offerings. Your customers have specific problems they need to solve and needs they’re trying to fulfill. Rather than looking inward, brands should fixate on how their customers experience their brand. Then, they should focus on how to invest in people, processes and technology to innovate and deliver a better customer experience based on those CX insights.
A second problem is the lack of agreement with regard to a CX strategy. Brands invest a lot of time and resources in defining strategies to leapfrog the competition. They talk in sweeping platitudes about their desire to delight customers through digital innovation. But that’s a rather nebulous claim and almost impossible to execute, not to mention the risk involved in making such broad, sweeping changes. Companies would be much better served by focusing on incremental innovation. Your customers’ experience is purely a function of the expectations they had coming into their next interaction with your brand. Consider your customers’ expectations today and deliver an experience that exceeds them. Focus on making each customer interaction just a little better each time.
Matt Murphy Director, One North
CX strategy drives the customer value chain, which essentially determines the success of the business.
Siloed business operations—and in some cases, the organization’s structure and hierarchy—is another headwind that can slow down progress. Securing buy-in from across the organization is critical when you’re establishing a CX strategy, and that starts at the very top with the C-suite. Senior leadership must set the tone for building a culture focused on the customer. Every function of the business must have a clear understanding of their impact on the customer experience journey. For example, your invoicing department may create amazing customer experiences, but if your CX strategy didn’t link back to the purchasing department, you’ve negated all the positive headway made toward delighting your customers.
Elevating the customer experience has been proven to be an integral part of an organization’s strategy. At the end of the day, customers don’t care if you claim you have omnichannel or multichannel capabilities or that you are meeting your financial goals for the year. They care about the connection that is made, the way it’s made and the quality of the service being provided. They want an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations. Organizations that prioritize the customer and develop an effective and ever-evolving CX strategy will see continued success and unlock growth across their customer value chain.
Lululemon Athletica is a multinational athletic apparel retailer with 600 stores in 17 countries. The vision statement on their website states that they create transformative products and experiences that build meaningful connections, unlocking greater possibility and well-being for all. This customer-centric vision has served them well, particularly when judged by their latest financial statements—the company reported net revenue increased 29% to $1.9 billion year-over-year. The success of the Lululemon brand has been largely driven by a human-led design approach. To support this approach, the company collects customer feedback and then adapts products and services to better serve the needs of their customers. The ability to collect actionable customer input has helped drive innovation throughout the organization.
Research insights and feedback collected from customers are shared throughout the organization, allowing cross-functional teams access to data to inform decision-making. For example, UX and brand strategy teams use insights to learn from customers and inform their planning roadmaps. In 2020, before the company kicked off new footwear-positioning research, they leveraged customer feedback to validate and establish hypotheses surrounding the customer journey, consideration set and key drivers of footwear purchases. The customer insights contributed to a robust understanding of their target audience, enabling the company to drive innovation for and with their customers.
All information shared herein was accessed from public sources as indicated.
TEKsystems Digital Strategy and Experience Design Portfolio
- 700+ clients, including 50% of the Fortune 100
Delivering innovative solutions in creative and design, user experience, marketing technology, and strategy and operations.
- 2,200+ digital placements across nearly every industry vertical
Through our Talent Services, we help clients augment, extend, accelerate or transform their digital business strategies.
- Home to 3 of only 315 Sitecore MVPs worldwide
Recognized as exceptional professionals in the Sitecore community.
- In good company
Transformational technologies demand equally transformative partnerships. Full-stack capabilities coupled with depth and diversity of experience in leading platforms that help organizations grow, innovate and thrive.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of TEKsystems, Inc. or its related entities.