CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE? WHAT’S THAT?
You may have heard it explained as another form of UX…
… the remit of customer service…
…or yet another hard-to-define KPI.
Whatever your level of knowledge is about CX, there is no doubt that your company is currently creating it and your users are experiencing it whenever they encounter your brand.
Customer experience, defined as ‘how users perceive of their interactions with your brand’ (Forrester, 2017), is becoming an ever more pressing focus for businesses in the Internet age. As business models have switched from linear, one-time purchases to subscription-led, cloud-based services and competition has increased due to the low-startup costs of the web, brands have an urgent imperative to differentiate positively in this area. From my perspective, CX provides a modern and comprehensive solution to encourage positive, repeated interactions between your user and your brand, linking to long-term ROI as well as short-term optimization gains.
So how to begin thinking like a CX specialist? And what steps can you take to start implementing CX awareness and practice within your company?
STEP 1 : ADJUST YOUR MINDSET TO ALIGN WITH THE USER’S PERSPECTIVE
It may be relatively new as a concept, but Customer Experience is not a new need for users, who have been navigating brands’ multi-channel customer journeys for some time. For all the relative maturity of the online market, the CX for some big brands can be very underwhelming, and it links to a lack of awareness from business decision makers about what it is that the customer actually wants.
Whilst in the past, traditional brands have been able to use their market dominance to avoid addressing the user’s desires head on, the increasingly competitive market within many industries has led to a huge incentive for businesses to connect and answer those desires.
There are a number of ways to start thinking like the customer, including the strategic (such as mapping the value proposition framework between user and brand, as developed by Alexander Osterwalder) and the tactical (increasing the lines of communication between you and your users). Once this is done you must make sure that this information climbs to the very top of the decision-making process in your company.
Introducing feedback loops, creating value proposition from the customer’s point of view and working these into your business models have provided a successful evolution in CX for a number of competitive and high-profile industries – take for example, the modern aviation market.
Things have come a long way from British Airways dominating the UK industry and providing a traditional, fifties-style airline experience thirty years ago. The modern market has evolved to become crowded, saturated and pan-European, with airlines competing across many factors and using customer experience to try and differentiate themselves. As a result, we have seen the rise of omnipresent customer service and mood rating feedback software in every airport for users to confirm their details or voice their concerns about the service received. We have also witnessed a huge shift in airline business models, where the convenience of apps and websites replaces the airport as the main platform for users to progress through the stages of their user journeys (when was the last time you checked in at an airport desk?)
If you can create that two-way feedback loop and work the results into your business plan, your company can start to make a digital strategy that is truly reflective of your user’s needs rather than just what businesspeople imagine they want.
STEP 2 : SORT OUT YOUR TRACKING AND MEASURING ACROSS THE ENTIRE USER JOURNEY
Peter Drucker once said that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. As with the rest of marketing, in CX this adage is equally true.
The challenge of good measurement starts with implementing a system that works for each channel. You can assess relative strengths and weaknesses by installing best-practice systems such as Google Analytics or Firebase on your various touchpoints. This will allow ROI to be judged on a by-channel basis, and is vital for answering questions around paid media planning and spend. But how to go one step further, and consider multiple touchpoints in the mix?
There are a number of solutions that take multi-channel marketing into account. One is customer journey mapping, which combines multiple types of qualitative research and product flows to produce examples of a user’s journey across your touchpoints. More recently at Salmon we have been going one step further, combining the qualitative info and product flows with key KPI data available within each channel, to create a 360 degree view of our client’s users, where they go and what they want.
On a more quantitative level, attribution modelling has come into its own as a response to the need to track CX across multiple channels. This practice allows a marketing team to track where in their user journey a key action (for example a sale) was made and establish trends around weaker and stronger areas of performance. Whilst previously the industry has focused on last click attribution (a model in which 100% of the credit for the KPI has rested on one channel), we are now moving into more sophisticated ways of mapping customer mindsets. Time decay attribution, for example, attributes those channels closest to the KPI action with the highest percentage of credit. Position-based attribution gives 20% credit each to the first and last channels used by the visitor during the user journey.
Whilst there is no doubt that each business has unique requirements in tracking their user journeys, we would always recommend using varied recording methods to gain a rich and collaborative picture of your user base. This allows greater knowledge but also the ability to compare and corroborate information through linked yet distinctive methods. Overall this will allow you to start making serious inroads to seeing the areas of strength and weakness within your user journey and allowing some big picture visualization about your brand to take place.
STEP 3 : START TO PLAN INTELLIGENT MARKETING CAMPAIGNS ACROSS MULTIPLE TOUCHPOINTS
Once you have sorted out your marketing perspective and your data and tracking, you can truly begin to plan enlightened, end-to-end marketing campaigns and optimizations designed to improve your customer’s experience and your company’s ROI. This for me is where the really exciting part of CX comes in, the part that demonstrates the value and creates those happy users as well as big headline results for your business or client.
A recent example of a campaign that I undertook that really made a difference to CX involved optimizing the paid search user experience, all the way from Google Search Result to Thank You page. We decided to start at the beginning, identifying visitor’s needs through mapping a user-centric value proposition. Crucially, the strategy for this exercise was centered around an analysis of the actual keyword search terms users typed in on Google. Taking their own input as our source material, we used these keywords to determine the level of knowledge about our product, the desires and concerns those users had, and the ways that they understood what we had to offer.
Moving from this value proposition mapping, we did some research showing the common frustrations within the paid online user journey. It showed that visitors didn’t have enough information to choose between the available products on the homepage and product pages, and that the content on these pages didn’t reflect the promises made in the Google ads.
We decided to change the user journey through creating custom-made landing pages, including the answers to top product questions, clear comparative info, and superior UX for the user journey. This gave users the options to purchase or to find out more information.
As a result of this, we experienced a huge uplift in customer satisfaction, with our experience score moving up three points. We also saw a 24% uplift in sales, through listening to the customer and anticipating their needs and questions.
Whether you are exploring this new way of marketing within your organization for the first time, or simply looking for ways to tweak your existing offering, hopefully some of the above will provide thinking points from which to continue your exploration of CX.
Just like the user, the needs of each brand are important requirements to bear in mind when you begin to implement your CX strategy, as factors like budget, resource and hierarchy will affect how it can be best used.
What is for sure is that, whether consciously or not, your brand is creating CX in its interactions with its users – the choice you have is whether to empower yourselves in controlling those interactions, or continue to overlook them and potentially miss out on valuable uplifts to ROI or repeat custom.
Salmon is ideally placed to help you work out your CX and business strategy – using methods like the above and many more, we can shed light on your users and how to connect with them best.
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