In today’s business environment, competing based on offering the best product – or selling a product for the best price – is no longer adequate to maintain a competitive advantage over the long-term. It is for this reason that business leaders are increasingly seeing customer experience as the key battleground.
As a result, sales organisations are increasing investment in customer service training and coaching, in an effort to improve customer service skills. However, delivering a great customer experience goes beyond traditional customer service and encompasses every stage a customer passes through on their way to a purchase.
In this article, we take a closer look at four best practices to ensure you deliver a great customer experience.
1. Executive Ownership of the Customer Experience
In order to deliver the very best customer experience, it is imperative that you gain executive buy-in and, beyond that, executive ownership of the customer experience. Indeed, according to the findings published in the CSO Insights 2018 Customer Experience Study, there is a link between this approach and CX success.
The study itself divided organisations into two groups: ‘leader’ organisations, who had experienced an increase in customer satisfaction over recent years, and ‘laggard’ organisations, whose customer satisfaction levels had either remained the same or declined in the years prior to their participation in the study.
Among the ‘leader’ group, 73 percent stated that their senior leaders viewed customer loyalty as the core to business success and 56 percent said their leaders budget the money and resources needed to improve the customer experience. Among ‘laggard’ companies, these figures were 56 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
It is only when executive ownership exists that a truly cross-functional approach can be adopted. The CSO Insights study also found that among organisations with a CX owner at executive level, who budgeted money and other resources, and with a cross-functional team in place, 85 percent improved customer satisfaction in the past year.
2. Align Customer Experience With Your Brand Promise
Another of the most important best practices is to create a brand promise – essentially, the experience that you promise to deliver your customers each time they interact with your business – and model your CX strategy to ensure that you live up to this promise consistently.
In total, 65 percent of businesses classed as ‘leader organisations’ have a clearly defined and well communicated idea of what the ideal customer experience looks like. By comparison, just 38 percent of ‘laggard’ organisations say the same. Establishing a brand promise and aligning CX to this can help to provide greater clarity.
In addition, the aforementioned CSO Insights 2018 Customer Experience Study found that 63 percent of leader organisations deliver a consistent experience, which lives up to their brand promise.
As an additional incentive to achieve this, the CSO Insights 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study found that organisations who had a brand promise in place and felt they consistently lived up to it saw higher win rates, quota attainment and revenue results than organisations who did not feel this was the case for them.
3. Implement a Voice of Customer (VoC) Programme
The next customer experience best practice that was highlighted in the study was the need to implement a robust ‘Voice of Customer’ programme, which involves consistently gathering feedback and opinions from customers, so that you have the information necessary to understand the experience you are currently providing.
Even among ‘leader’ organisations, only just over half (52 percent) have a Voice of Customer programme in place, which they say effectively gathers information and allows them to understand their experience. With that said, this is double the number of ‘laggard’ organisations who report the same, but it shows room for improvement.
CSO Insights also found that 52 percent of ‘leader’ organisations say that they use VoC data to continuously improve their business practices. However, among ‘laggard’ organisations, that number is only 23 percent.
When organisations become effective at collecting VoC data consistently and using it to inform their business practices, they can take steps to improve customer service skills through activities like customer service coaching, using insight from the people that really matter – the customers – to inform their strategy.
4. Plot the Customer Journey and Create a Journey Map
Finally, one of the most effective ways to improve the level of customer experience your organisation is providing is by taking the time to plot out all of the key touchpoints a customer can go through on their journey towards making a purchase and remaining a loyal customer. Then, create a comprehensive journey map.
Within the process of journey mapping, you should not only gain a clear idea of what is happening at each stage of the customer experience, you should also gain genuine insight into how your customers feel about the ‘defining moments’. This will allow you to understand what customers’ impressions are and when they are formed.
Once it has been created, the journey map can be used to help to align different departments, so that collaboration is enhanced, and to tailor your customer service coaching efforts, so that customer service reps, marketing reps and sales reps are receiving the most relevant information and advice for improving the CX.
At present, however, even ‘leader’ organisations are not especially great when it comes to journey mapping. Nevertheless, it was the area of CSO Insights’ 2018 Customer Experience Study which saw the biggest disparity between ‘leader’ and ‘laggard’ organisations – a 28 percent difference in adoption.
Customer experience is the most important battleground in the modern sales environment, and research from CSO Insights provides us with a look at the best practices that are most likely to result in success in this area. First and foremost, organisations need customer experience to be owned at the executive level.
In addition to this top-level ownership, it is important to establish a brand promise and align the customer experience to it. It is also vital to establish a VoC programme and use it to inform training and coaching efforts. Lastly, the customer journey should be mapped out, and each stage should be analysed and understood.