I recently had a idenity crisis, while looking for my next job. I was searching for jobs in digital marketing, who tended to focus on specific tactics and their skillsets and lead generation activities. On the other hand, my definition fits closer to the Allan Dib's definition of marketing. So, I spent some time reflecting on my interests, skills and experience. Surprisingly, the common thread through all my interests has been the customer experience (CX).
As soon as I realised this, I understood why I have found it difficult to explain to others what I can do. Not because I don't know my own skill set but because many organisations don't have roles dedicated to customer experiences. Instead, there is a constant battle for who owns the customer - who takes lead? Traditionally, it was sales team. Yet, with the data available from digital channels and CRM systems means that Sales and Marketing need to work together.
How is this achieved? By Focusing on the customer journey and their experience.
Let me explain...
CX is Just Your Customer Journey ... Aligned
Aligning your customer journey means becoming cunstomer-centric. Building your processes around customer value. It is also about creating and delivering on a brand promise on the type of experience the customer should expect. The right CX processes and compences in your organisation can improves your bottom line in multiple ways.
One of the more traditional ways is through customer retention. Great customer experiences make using the products easy and seemless. These customers don't become frustrated and more likely to be surprised. These two factors play a strong role in developing customer loyalty and brand advocacy. Think about the last time you recommended a product or service. Why did you do it? I am guessing it has nothing to do with undelivered promises or something that frustrated you.
Another positive side effect of CX is the Cost reductions that can follow. Identifying bottle necks and confusing touchpoints in the customer experience causes frustration and results in extra interactions with the brand. These interactions cost the company more and increase the chances of churn.
Where can you begin to align your customer journey with CX?
An customer-centric organisation means that all areas of the business should have the customer's experience in mind. What is required is a system of two way communication that results in a mutual exchange of value. How does this occur? It requires developing processes that combine an appropriate strategy that is aligned with a great value proposition.
Experiences and product development go hand in hand. So today we will focus on other areas.
Here are some roles and areas I have seen in my experience that improves when considering the customer experience and working with CX tools:
Customer experience includes all areas of the customer journey. Nowadays there is a lot of data in marketing and marketers know more about customer behaviours and interests. It also has an opportunity to start delivering on the brand promises and create great experiences even before they become a customer. They also are important in qualifying leads so that both the company and the lead's time is not wasted further down the funnel.
I have read a lot on digital marketing blogs where their is focus on website data, coming up with ideas and using A/B testing to test them and improve conversations. Tinkering tactics work but I have also seen digital marketers become disconnected from the customer and focus too much on tinkering. Zooming out and looking and asking some questions related to the whole customer experience, the type of persona and where the customer is along their journey. Adjusting marketing content increases value for the customer and is very effective at optimizing your funnel and improving business outcomes.
Digital Marketers Now Create Products Too
Successful content marketing end up being products in their own right. Think of some of the podcasts, blogs or webinars you may have seen lately. Behind many is brand or product. Or even taking it one step further, there is Hubspot Academy. They create value for users even before they become customer. Good digital content marketing even create brand advocacy and creates trust. Personally, I have listened to many episodes of the Fizzle Podcast. Although, I have never been a paying customer, they have been recommended to others would benefit from their service. To deliver great content requires a feedback loop with your target segment group and delivering value for them.
These examples don't even cover all aspects. Segmentation, metric selection and specific tactics for different can all benefit from applying CX principles. Marketing could also benefit from adding more UX professionals to improve the feedback look and turning insights into valuable action.
Sales should be about solving a problem. The use of job titles like "consultant" by B2B companies suggests the migration towards this mentality. To solve problems and sell solutions, sales people need to ask the right questions and identify the customer pains this product alleviates. It will qualify prospects and identify who will benefit from this product. This also means identifying who won't. No product is for everyone. Sometimes finding that quick no is almost as valuable.
Handing over is another element crucial in the overall customer experience. Nothing is more infurating for a customer, than being transferred around a call centre or being promised one thing by one employee only for someone else to deliver something completely different.
I recently heard and loved this CX analogy. It is a little long, but very fitting:
"I often liken this stuff to dating to use another analogy. Imagine you meet someone and you think oh this incredible, I'd like to have a relationship with this person. You go on some dates and you go to some dinners and maybe and movie. And you meet their parents and one thing leads to another and suddenly one person's down on one knee proposing to the other person and saying I'd like to be in a relationship with you. To our surprise and delight, the other person says I would too.
And we're like yes this is fantastic. We host this big kickoff party, I mean wedding. We get everyone together and we celebrate this new relationship and this new bond. Imagine you head to the honeymoon suite and you open the door, and there's another dude standing there. And you say to your beloved, honey this is Bob, he's going to be taking care of you from now on, I need to go find someone else to date."
- Joey Coleman, Experience This, S01 E08
Yet, this is still the the regularly the customers experience. The great thing is that it is slowly changing within companies that have customer success roles. Linking these two roles and creating greater collaboration improves the transition from sales lead to customer, aligns the promises of the sales team with the value delivered and starts a more seamless onboarding experience for b2b customers. Combined these factors strengthen the trust in the relationship and improve customer retention. It also improves employee engagement in customer success positions, who regularly feel undervalued by the organisation.
Customer Support / Customer Success
Some experiences are once in a life time events that people will remember for ever. Customer support plays a much smaller support role than others, that involve continued use, customer loyalty and retention. Here, customer support plays a vital role in the customer experience.
First, customer support can feel more empowered when they are labelled customer success members. The small name change implies a huge shift in mindset about the role of your employees. Just like selling solutions, customer success focuses on the customer value. Your product should be helping the customer succeed at the job they want to do. Understanding the different jobs your various segments want to achieve and how you and your product can help deliver them is crucial. The role of the employee should role should accentuate this belief.
Second, a great tool in the CX toolkit, which should adapted if not already, is the NPS (Net Promoter Score). It has been implemented in countless customer service areas and I have often seen it used as a KPI. The number by self, has been criticized and yet just using the number helps shift beliefs in an organisation towards customer-centricity. However, most of the value comes in the form of customer feedback from the qualitative follow up question that many companies fail to utilise. Receiving feedback and actioning it is a fundamental concept of customer experience management. Yet, this part of customer feedback is often ignored.
Product Value only Comes From Use
Products create value by doing something more than the customer can do without it. Therefore, no matter what they need to learn something new and develop new habits before they can gain value from new products. Therefore the initial experience is crucial. Customer Success and support plays a vital role in supporting the product in achieving value creation. Strategically you need to understand the different where touchpoints that personale and product excel.
Onboarding and early value creation plays a significant role here. Product novelty also plays a role early on. But once the novelty wears off, the customer must already understand the value they are gaining from your product now and in the future. Yet, onboarding in many cases can be quite complex before value begins to appear. Mapping out the onboarding experience and deciding how each one is executed can drastically reduce complexity.
Another area that is can influence the value and on-going use of a product. A product needs to be simple enough that people gain value from it quickly. But the product also needs to constantly deliver value, which means that value provided evolves with the customer as they improve.
How can this be achieved?
One great concept is called "State of Flow" by pychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Without getting technical, the theory argues there needs to be balance between one's current skill level and the challenge it offers. It is also a cornerstone principles in Game Thinking's "Road to Mastery" and Pine and Gilmore's concept, the "Transformation Economy" found in their book "The Experience Economy".
During onboarding phasese the experience needs to provide a small amount of learning and a small amount of value. Each time a customer learns something new, they are able to get more value. These small steps keep the customer in the flow state towards mastery or transformation. This is one aspect where many weightloss programs fail. Instead of helping them transform the way they eat and behave, they focus on numbers. Namely, calories and kilograms.
Next vital concept is designing simplicity as it reduces the amount learning required for each step. Your product should be simple/intuiative and focus the learning where the value creation is the highest. Apple is still a great example of this. At 2 years old, my daughter already understood many of the basic gestures. This means she could already start doing the basics without us needing to teach her.
Yet, there are also opportunities for mastery. If you have ever listened to early episodes of the Cortex Podcast, you can here CGP Gray talk about how he uses Apple products to develop his own productivity system that supports all facets of business.
Does your product do that?
But wait there's more...
As the overall customer experience includes many different touchpoints, customer support and digital marketing plays a vital part in retention, loyalty and adovacy. As such, new articles will be written to follow up this discussion.
The important point is that focusing on the customer experience changes perpective in the organisation around the customer journey and understanding why the customer picks your product or brand over others. Using the CX toolkit helps create focus within the company, align the message throughout the customer lifecycle and continuously improve the offering for the customer.
Even if your organisation does not have roles dedicated to customer experience. Hiring individuals with a CX mindset and collaborating to understand and improve the customer journey will lead to better retention and loyalty, which is good for the bottom line and great for business.