The definition of CXM (Customer Experience Management) is actually all of these things and more. It’s the sum total of all experiences you have with a company from the very first moment you learn about them: through all of your interactions, product / service purchases, product use, customer service, support calls, etc. It includes every stage in the customer journey whether online, offline, on the phone or in a store.
What’s your customer experience strategy?
Even if you don’t have a formal company policy and a dedicated, cross-functional team responsible for implementation, your company delivers customer experiences, intentional or not, every day. Every interaction is consciously or unconsciously determined to be exceptional, awful or just plain average by your customers. The collection of their individual experiences determines how your brand is perceived in the market.
Remember, you can position your company by how you differentiate it from competitors, but it’s your customers who will ultimately establish your brand and determine your success. (We’ll talk more about positioning vs. branding in a future blog post.) This is true for every business, even yours – whether you like it or not.
So you may be saying, “There’s no way we can control absolutely every interaction our customers have with us. Each customer is an individual with unique opinions, insights and feelings and there’s no guarantee that they’ll perceive every experience in the way it was intended by us, so why bother?”
But that question is looking at customer experience management from the wrong way. The real question should be, “How can we inspire our employees, whether they have direct customer contact or not, to think like our customers, exceed their expectations and achieve our financial goals?”
How can I build a great customer experience environment?
Here are 11 ways you can build a great customer experience environment, whatever the size of your organization.
- Get your employees on board early. Employees are much more agreeable to change when they’re asked to participate from the beginning. Getting them on board early ensures that they feel part of the process and are being heard. It also helps ensure that every component of your business is being taken into consideration from the beginning rather than trying to add components half way through.
- Don’t hide company details. All employees want to feel they have a stake in the outcome of your company and want to help make it a success. Make sure they know what your company and individual team goals are. They should understand the financials and know what role they play in achieving and exceeding those goals.
Be open about the health of the company, what its goals are and how you all can work together to get there.
- Give customers the same great experience every time. Your customers like to know where they stand, what they’re going to get and what to expect from your company. That’s consistency.
Establishing a set of requirements on which each department operates, similar to a playbook, will enable employees to provide great service every time. For example, creating a customer checklist or script will ensure that nothing is forgotten or overlooked. No matter who your customer is speaking with, their experience will be consistent over time.
- Front line employees need more in-depth training. It may seem obvious but customer-facing employees like customer service reps and technical support specialists should receive more in-depth, customer-focused training.
Role playing possible customer/employee interactions to see how the staff handles challenging customers or difficult situations will make employees more comfortable. They will be better able to understand the needs of your customers and stay calm and professional when real-life situations present themselves.
- Move from B2B and B2C to H2H. The terms B2B and B2C that we’ve used for so long to talk about our businesses and customers are going away. We’re replacing them with H2H – human to human. Every customer is a unique individual and wants to be treated that way. It’s not difficult to make connections with customers. It doesn’t require a lot of bells and whistles. Just the willingness to do it.
Things that may seem small on the surface can have a huge impact on customer loyalty, increased revenue and customer advocacy. Here are just a few:
- Maintain a history of customer purchases and preferences. What and how much have they purchased? Over what period of time? Do they prefer that you refer to them by their nickname? Do they consistently purchase products in a specific color?
- Attach all customer comments, surveys, referrals and testimonials to their records for quick and easy reference in the future.
- Are there any personal connections between the customer and your company? Maybe employees they know outside of the office? A spouse who also works for the company? What are some of the reasons they may be loyal to you over a competitor?
- Include in their file any personal information including the name of their spouse, children, favorite vacation spot, birthdays and any other information that can be brought up in future interactions.
- Get a true 360-degree view. Data on customer experiences isn’t just collected by conducting a survey or calculating your company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Social media has enabled you to go to your customer communities. Listen to what’s being said, engage in conversations and build relationships with customers who can become valuable brand advocates. Using social media hubs where your customers congregate, you can uncover trends and sentiments that you may not have otherwise discovered.
7. Respond to the good, the bad and the ugly. Quickly respond to comments, suggestions, recommendations and issues. No matter what the source.
Social media has enabled both happy and disgruntled customers to shout their feelings to a worldwide audience. How you respond to them in this public forum will send a loud message to everyone about how you treat your customers. People understand that issues will occasionally arise and will excuse the problem if they see that you are trying to be helpful and resolve the situation quickly.
- Understand the voice of your customer. It’s important to understand where your customer is coming from. What are their needs, challenges, goals, etc.? Employees often view their company’s products and operations through a narrow lens focused internally rather than externally. Help them step into the shoes of your customers. Empower them to make on-the-spot decisions that solve problems immediately rather than pushing the customer onto someone else or waiting days or weeks for a resolution.
- Take a company-wide team approach. Customer Experience Management should be a company-wide initiative lead by the executive team and managed by a cross-functional group from different departments and areas of expertise. The group may include representatives from legal, accounting, marketing, product development, sales, operations and HR with participation from senior and junior level individuals.
- Customer Experience Management starts with the buyer’s journey. The most effective way to build your CXM plan is to begin with your buyer’s journey. Understand the path they take from awareness, through all of their pre-sales engagements with you, to purchase and post-sales interactions. This will enable you to establish a consistency across all touch points with smooth transitions between departments and uniform quality of service.
- Modify operational metrics to support customer-centered processes. Successfully executing your customer experience management plan will require a change in departmental metrics. Standard business metrics are focused on the successful operations of each individual department. A CXM strategy requires that some of these metrics be changed or that additional metrics be added to exceed customer expectations and drive top and bottom-line growth.
What does a great customer experience look like in action? Make sure you check out my next post, where we reveal the top U.S. companies with the best customer experience per the Forrester Research Customer Experience Index!