In the age of online everything, a great customer experience is simply expected. A digital experience is supposed to be simple, easy, and enjoyable. Not only does this reduce customer churn but it also promotes brand loyalty, leading to advocacy for the products or services you provide. 

We believe delivering a great customer experience should be built into the fabric of a customer service function; a north star for guiding each and every interaction between a company and its customer. If you are reading this, chances are that you acknowledge 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.

This guide has got you covered. Let's start by learning the basics of customer experience and why it matters.

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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 messaging on your website, the ease of transacting, to the quality of conversations with a customer support agent or a self-service bot

Typically, the perceived value of any interaction along the customer journey depends on the resolution provided for the query raised, the extent to which a customers' expectations were fulfilled, the follow-up thereafter, the ease with which a CX rep attended to the customer, and the customer satisfaction generated as a result of this interaction.

Why does customer experience (CX) matter?

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

Customer experience impacts revenue earnings - directly and indirectly

There is a growing consensus that economic value lives at the intersection of customers' expectations and customer experience. When customers connect with your organization, they want to put in minimum effort and derive maximum value and satisfaction per interaction. By ensuring a good customer experience every time a customer reaches out to you or avails a service from your company, their willingness to spend is positively impacted. 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: According to Forrester’s US 2021 Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) rankings, 21% of brands saw a significant score increase compared to 2020. Brands responded to evolving customers' needs with digitally transformed customer journeys across e-commerce portals and mobile apps and integrated customer touchpoints with secure gateways that ensured the safety of customer data. As a result, brand loyalty scores shot up with new customers on board and loyal customers growing the business.

Customer experience reliably accelerates business resiliency

Markets reward businesses that are customer-centric. By adapting to your customers’ needs, you can design customer journey maps that focus on customer relationship management with a 360-degree view of customer data across touchpoints. Businesses can successfully ride out both short-term fluctuations and long-term market conditions and emerge stronger with a solid CX strategy.

Did you know: According to the recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS) survey that involved 1100 executives as respondents, only 15% reported having access to a 360-degree view of customer data as well as the organizational structure to make use of those insights. In addition to this, only 17% reported having an organization that can provide real-time market insights and promotes customer engagement. This helps us understand how we need to optimize our operational models that can support a robust CX strategy.

Customer experience 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 your services in the long run. Superior customer experience has proven to lead the way in landing customers who will 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 your 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: A 2020 Gartner study confirmed that customer service organizations that focus on ‘value enhancement’ - coaching customers to use a product to derive maximum value, proactively anticipating customers' needs during the customer lifecycle, or validating purchase decisions - can increase the probability of customer retention by up to 82%.

Tips for delivering a great customer experience 

A great customer experience is one of those things that either you have or you don’t. You know it when you experience it. Customer experience doesn't come with a firm definition because each experience is unique and customized. What may be perceived as a great customer experience by one may encounter an average CSAT score by another customer. Confused? We're here to help.

The building blocks that make an overall customer experience great are:

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

Start by considering the nature of your business. If you run a direct-to-consumer (D2C) ecommerce business, your customers are likely to respond favorably to fast, high-touch, personalized service experiences. However, if you are a business-to-business (B2B) organization there is a natural skew towards fuss-free and seamless customer journeys and grievance redressals.

Developing a Customer Experience strategy

To kick off a customer experience strategy, we recommend starting at customer journeys - the best indicator of what a customer needs and desires. A customer-centric strategy/ a robust customer experience framework should be developed under and driven by the Chief Experience Officer (or similar) of an organization: the custodian of personalized services who is accountable for crafting superior employee experience. We recommend using this 3 pronged approach for evaluating your customer journey:

Experience customer support just like your customer

Browse through the content and navigate the same service channels as your customers would. This approach will give you a good sense of how your touchpoints activate different sections of your services, what are your customers looking for, and how easy is it to access those resources. The bottom line of this exercise is for you to get acquainted with the customer journey map, to understand why they do what they do. Pay attention to the key search terms they use, the duration of their interaction, and the frequency of communicating with your support team. See where opportunities lie so you may overcome any existing challenges.

Appraise touchpoints that impact perception

Customer data is the gateway to deeper insights into the customer experience. Your observations can outline a customer experience journey with special attention to valuable interactions, critical areas, and delightful moments. Try to pin down any existing gaps between the existing customer journey and the ideal customer experience. Start with clarity.

Clarify your thesis for great customer experience  

Once you are armed with an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work for your customers, make your way back to design and re-engineer your CEM (Customer Experience Management) engine to propel a journey that delivers maximum value and customer delight. CRM is your key to unlocking CEM. You find what they need, focus on building and nurturing a relationship with your customer and you open your business to a lifetime of customer loyalty.

What is Customer Experience Management (CEM)?

Customer experience management (CEM) refers to 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.

Tips to improve customer experience

Your team can follow the lead of the Chief Experience Officer to cultivate ‘great’ customer experiences for day-to-day interactions by narrowing their attention to two key areas: Customer satisfaction and 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 an organization with a value proposition that prioritizes customer experience and employee experience, support agents feel that they have the ability and duty to positively impact the lives of customers; beyond just servicing transactional goals. The CEM approach should support this objective with rich training modules and AI-enabled tools that help agents understand the context and act with confidence.

With cutting-edge technology like AI and automation, you can augment an agent’s ability to understand and solve customer issues while also capturing insights for areas that can be worked on to improve customer satisfaction. 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 automation can help enable optimization for operating models for high-quality customer engagements.

While customer service agents are de facto arbiters of customer queries, it is essential to equip them with an outside-in perspective. This means updating them with business goals and brand values to ensure that their contributions are consistent with the brand objectives. This not only improves your relationship with your customers but your employees who are striving to work in line with the set customer experience strategy.

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 clearer picture. By narrowing down the scope of customer feedback, you can map the impact of each touchpoint in a customer journey to their corresponding CSAT score.  

Start 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 customer feedback, surveys are the preferred method. Surveys can be deployed to aid and abet three key customer experience metrics:

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A measure of the likelihood of a customer to recommend your brand, product, or service to someone.  For example, if you liked the service provided by the vendor at your conference, we're sure you would consider availing of their services again but would you recommend the services to another colleague?

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

A measure of a customer’s satisfaction with the quality of service delivered at a touchpoint. Remember, the feedback scores you submitted once your query had been resolved? The respective brand was just assessing your happiness quotient with the services provided.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

A measure of the amount of effort required to achieve a goal at a touchpoint. This takes into account the ease with which a customer is able to access a specific resource or service from a brand.

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 the most useful form of capturing customer data when there has been a major change to some or various aspects of a touchpoint and relevant discussions are needed to reveal motivations and moralities behind the interactions.

What is the future of customer experience?

Up until recently, customer experience has often been treated as a secondary concern, as far as revenue growth and brand building are concerned. With a deeper understanding of the impact that CX has on a customer's relationships with a brand, the focus of business strategy in 2022 and beyond will be customer experience. 

If you are just starting out with customer experience, we recommend you optimize your operating models to have a 360-degree view of customer data and work on a robust customer experience strategy with the help of recommendations made in this guide. The next steps would be to evaluate your customer support tech stack to check for its ability to support your customer experience goals and the best practices outlined in the guide above.

Here's what you need to keep in mind to ace customer experience management.

Keep it Personalized

Your customers are looking forward to interactions that cater to their unique needs and circumstances. They expect tailor-made solutions and enjoy personalized attention. If you can offer customized solutions for each query, depending on the context presented by the customer, your NPS will be taken care of.

Be proactive 

Take charge and make the effort to identify what your customers would be up to. Anticipate their latent needs to present them with solutions they don't even know they might need. Develop intuitive processes to identify customer issues and tackle them before customers have a chance to notice.

Predict what’s next

Customer experience is never one-and-done. It's a constant pursuit, the success of which depends on your ability to tap into your customer's expectations and equip your team to understand customers' perceptions so they can manage those expectations well.

Learn more about customer experience