In the age of online everything, a great customer experience is simply expected. It is supposed to be simple, easy, and enjoyable to contact a company and converse with it. No customer likes to be held back by poor service. 

We believe delivering a great customer experience should be built into the fabric of a customer service function; a north star for guiding every and any interaction between a company and its customer.

If you are here reading this, chances are you recognize the importance of customer experience and are looking for a perspective, maybe even a tip or two, on how customer service teams can lead the way in delivering great customer experiences.

To this end, this guide has got you covered.

What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience is a customer’s perception of interaction with your company. This perception can be framed by anything, from the tone of your website and the process of transactions to the quality of conversations with a customer service rep and a self-service bot. Typically, the perceived value of any interaction depends on the level and range of outcomes a customer obtains out of an interaction, the ease with which they do so, and the relative joy and satisfaction derived thereof. 

Why does customer experience (CX) matter?

Customer experience has always been important to a business. But it matters more now than it did before.

CX impacts revenue earnings - directly and indirectly

There is a growing consensus for the idea that economic value lives at the intersection of customer expectation and customer experience. The logic behind this is that when customers can connect with your organization with minimum effort and derive maximum value and satisfaction per interaction, their willingness to spend with your organization is positively impacted. This is to say that the benefits that come from improved customer experience directly translate into business wins like new revenue, additional revenue, reduced service cost, and improved ROI. 

Did you know: An Adobe-Forrestor study in 2018 found out that experience-driven businesses tend to report 1.9x to 2.3x YoY growth in customer retention, repeat purchase, average order value, and customer lifetime value. 

CX reliably accelerates business resiliency 

Markets reward businesses that are customer-centric. In a downturn, we know that by adapting to the most current needs of the customers, building a solid service governance framework, and keeping a firm focus on enriching lives, businesses can successfully ride out both short-term fluctuations and long-term bear market conditions and emerge strong. 

Did you know: A 2020 Gartner study confirmed that customer service organizations that focus on ‘value enhancement’ - coaching customers in the use of a product, anticipating needs proactively or validating purchase decisions - can increase the probability of a customer staying with the company by up to 82%.

CX is the new competitive advantage 

The way a customer feels about your company and its services directly affects their reasons to transact with you and recommend you. Great customer experience has proven to lead the way in landing customers who will extoll the virtues of a brand and stay loyal. At the same time, just one bad experience can cause a customer to cut all ties with a company and move to another. It is clear that focusing on improving customer experience is critical to retaining a competitive stance and reap the many economic benefits that come from improved customer retention and loyalty.

Did you know: In a 2017 Microsoft study, 96% of respondents said that customer service plays an important role in their choice of and loyalty to a brand. With a number this high, the ‘war of experiences’ is almost inevitable in the foreseeable future. 

What is great’ customer experience? 

Great customer experience is one of those things that either you have or you don’t. You know it when you see it. A firm definition is also tricky for the reason that every customer experience is unique and what may be great for one may be average for another. 

However, the building blocks that make great experiences happen are by and large understood and accepted. In the top 5 are:

  • Low customer effort
  • Personalized attention
  • Contextual understanding of a situation
  • Proactive and clear conversations
  • Fast resolution

To underscore variables most important for your team, start by giving consideration to the nature of your company’s business. If you are a direct-to-consumer organization, chances are your customers respond favourably to fast, high-touch, personalized service experiences whereas for B2B organizations there is almost a natural skew towards fuss-free and seamless solutioning and grievance redressals. 

How do you develop a CX strategy?

To distil a CX strategy, we recommend starting at customer journeys - the best indicator of what a customer needs and desires. Use this 3 pronged approach for evaluating your customer’s journey: 

 

Experience service through the eyes of the customer

Navigate the same service channels as them to get a good sense of what they are trying to do and why they do what they do. Pay heed to the language they use, the length of interaction, and frequency of interactions to see where opportunities and challenges may exist. 

 

Appraise touchpoints that impact perception

Lean into your observations to outline a customer’s service journey with special attention to valuable interactions, problem areas, and delightful moments. Also, try and pin down any gaps that may exist between your ‘ideal’ way of service and their ‘actual’ experience.

 

Clarify your thesis for ‘great’ customer experience based on observations. 

Armed with an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work your way back to design and re-engineer your service engine to propel a journey that delivers maximum value and delight. The cogs may be technical or soft skill related. Be sure to rejig your engine on all fronts. 

Keys to improving customer experience

Leaders in service functions can reliably cultivate ‘great’ customer experiences in day-to-day interactions by narrowing attention to two key areas:

I. Apply a sharp focus on customer expectations
Build customer-centricity into your team
Encourage a culture of digital collaboration
Align agents with business & brand

Look beyond profit policies to develop a customer-centric culture.  In a customer-centric service organization, agents feel they have the ability to and duty towards positively impacting the lives of customers; beyond just servicing transactional goals. Support this objective with rich training modules and AI-enabled tools that help agents understand the context and act with confidence.

As a cutting-edge technology, AI can augment an agent’s ability to understand and solve customer issues while also capturing lessons for things that can be improved on the agent-side. By serving both as a nervous system for the function as well as an enabler of good actions in the form of a virtual agent, AI can help advance a team’s goals around excellence and high-quality customer engagements.

While customer service agents are de facto arbiters of customer problems and perspectives, it is essential to equip them with an outside-in perspective. This means updating them in the knowledge of the business goals of the company and the brands’ qualities to ensure they are mindful of and contribute to the larger purpose every day and in a way that is consistently ‘on-brand’.

II. Work on bettering agent experience
Build customer-centricity into your team
Encourage a culture of digital collaboration
Align agents with business & brand

Look beyond profit policies to develop a customer-centric culture.  In a customer-centric service organization, agents feel they have the ability to and duty towards positively impacting the lives of customers; beyond just servicing transactional goals. Support this objective with rich training modules and AI-enabled tools that help agents understand the context and act with confidence.

As a cutting-edge technology, AI can augment an agent’s ability to understand and solve customer issues while also capturing lessons for things that can be improved on the agent-side. By serving both as a nervous system for the function as well as an enabler of good actions in the form of a virtual agent, AI can help advance a team’s goals around excellence and high-quality customer engagements.

While customer service agents are de facto arbiters of customer problems and perspectives, it is essential to equip them with an outside-in perspective. This means updating them in the knowledge of the business goals of the company and the brands’ qualities to ensure they are mindful of and contribute to the larger purpose every day and in a way that is consistently ‘on-brand’.

Customer Experience Management: A Primer

Customer experience management has to do with the designing and management of a system for engaging with customers in a way that their expectation is satisfactorily met and affirms the wisdom of their choice.

Until recently, customer-facing functions - marketing, sales, customer service - worked under their own customer experience management mandates. Today, with lines between customer service, sales, and marketing blurring, no customer-facing function can afford to work in silos. The new CX mandate demands a tightly unified ecosystem for managing customer expectations as they move through functions. This way, you always know the context in which your customer’s problems and solutions live.

As a team, to go from customer experience laggards to power adopters, it is critical to work with a platform that offers a 360-view of a customer’s journey, mapped along with relevant transactional data to help paint a clear picture of a customer context and service their needs best.

How to measure customer experience

Anything that has to do with emotions, sentiments, and opinions is inherently hard to measure. However, ratings and feedback can help paint a clear picture. And by focusing on key touchpoints you can narrow down the scope of the feedback to get a distilled idea about the impact of the particular touchpoint on a customer’s journey and their perception of experience. 

Measuring customer experience starts by determining the touchpoints in a customer journey that you are looking to improve. In the context of service, this can be a customer knowledge base, ticketing system, chat module and so on. To collect feedback at these touchpoints, a survey is the most preferred method. Surveys can be deployed to aid and abet three key customer experience metrics:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): A measure of the likelihood a customer will recommend your brand, product or service to someone.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): A measure of a customer’s satisfaction with the quality of service delivered at a touchpoint.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): A measure of the amount of effort required to achieve a goal at a touchpoint

Most of these surveys can be deployed using a holistic customer service platform like Freshdesk.

In addition to surveys, you can rely on structured and unstructured interviews with key customers or an assorted sample group to capture feedback related to a touchpoint experience. Interviews are most useful when there has been a major change to some or various aspects of a touchpoint and involved discussions are needed to reveal motivations and moralities behind the interactions thereof.

Future of customer experience

Up until recently, in conversation related to revenue growth and brand building, customer experience has often been treated as a secondary concern. Now, with increasing understanding of the impact of CX on a customer’s relationship with an organization, there’s little doubt that the locus of business strategy in 2021 and beyond will be customer experience. 

If you are only just starting out with CX, we recommend organizing as a strategic CX team to work through some of the recommendations we have made in this guide. As next steps, we also recommend evaluating your customer service tech stack to check its ability to support your CX goals and the best practices we have outlined here.

Some high-level takeaways:

Personalize it 

Your customers are looking for service experiences that cater to their unique needs and circumstances. They expect tailor-made solutions and enjoy personalized attention. 

Be proactive 

Take charge and make the effort to identify your customer's next actions as well as latent needs. Develop processes for identifying issues and tackling them before customers have a chance to notice.

Predict what’s next

CX is never one-and-done. It's a constant pursuit, the success of which depends on your ability to tap into your customer's most current expectations and enhancing your team's ability to manage those expectations well.

Learn more about customer experience