How to Build a Customer Experience Strategy
There are many moving parts in play when trying to explain, let alone execute, an exceptional customer experience. Therefore it truly takes a village and a good game plan to get things done effectively. Staying on top of your customer experience strategy is vital as the customer behavior and digital channels of engagement continue to change how business is done.
But it’s easy to be overwhelmed even before you get started. Where do you start? How do you prioritize the endless list of online and offline opportunities within your customer journey? Take a breath— we’re here to help break things down for you.
What is a customer experience strategy?
Let’s begin with what “customer experience” means. The term refers to the sum of a customer’s perception of your business. It’s the result of every interaction they have and the experience varies based on the extent of the exchange, who it’s with, and their general expectations before and after said interaction. Customer experience is increasingly recognized as a powerful means of differentiating your business from its competitors. Unlike variables such as price or product range, customer experience creates opportunities for strong, resilient relationships with customers over time.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can ensure each customer experience is consistently high in quality.
A “customer experience strategy” is the actionable plan to deliver a positive, meaningful experience across every interaction between the customer and your brand.
What is the business impact of a customer experience strategy?
Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” His statement strikes the core impact of having a customer experience strategy: mitigating churn. 74% of consumers are likely to buy based on experiences alone and it’s hard to earn back trust once lost.1
Secondly, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers.2 Why? That’s because better, more consistent experiences forge deeper loyalties. Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer the company to people they know and work with.3
How do you develop a customer experience strategy?
The first step to developing a customer experience strategy is identifying and charting out all the customer-facing components that impact your customer experience, including:
- Customer information: Who are your customers? What do they need? Where are they located?
- Company culture: What is your company vision? How do you hire front-line employees? What internal processes interact with the customer experience?
- In-store experience: Do you interact with customers in person? What do you want your stores to look and feel like?
- Communication channels: How do your customers contact you? What forms can communication take?
- Technology: What platforms do you use to manage your customer interactions? What software do you already have for managing the customer experience, such as help desks or CRMs?
The second step is to analyze market data and build a step-by-step action plan that encapsulates all these organizational variables. However, when developing your customer experience strategy, make sure that you’re including all departments, not just those in customer-facing roles. By incorporating feedback and insight across the company such as marketing and product, you’ll better understand how to align the organization around the intended goal: improving the customer experience and the overall relationship.
5 ways to build a customer experience strategy that is future proof
#1 Invest in an omnichannel experience
Adobe research determined that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies enjoy a 10% Y-O-Y growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates.4
Offering customers the option to contact you how they want provides a much better customer experience. But simply offering multiple channels isn’t enough. You also need to be able to provide consistent support across channels using historical context. Customers want to have the same experience across each channel, and they don’t want to have to repeat themselves when switching between two channels.
An omnichannel help desk can make this goal easier. Find customer information easily with a 360-view of all their engagement and respond to different channels from a single page without switching tabs.
#2 Make self-service your first line of defense
According to a Freshworks study, 76% of consumers globally prefer to ﬁrst try to solve issues on their own before contacting support. So, empowering them to help themselves with the right information should be a priority in your digital customer experience strategy.
- Launch an intuitive knowledge base with FAQs and help guides
- Set up community forums that enable customers to help themselves
- Deploy AI chatbots that offer instant resolutions
#3 Offer speedy customer service
Nearly 50% of consumers expect a response to social media questions or complaints within an hour, with 18% expecting an immediate response.5 To meet or exceed these expectations, it’s critical to implement technology that helps agents deliver quality support, quickly.
For example, deploying agent-facing AI helps offer faster resolutions with contextual assistance that makes agents better at their jobs. When you’re using a modern help desk, there are many different ways you can reply faster, without needing to hire more agents:
- Automate ticket assignment with rule-based routing
- Create canned responses and combine tickets for similar queries
- Customize ticket views for agents based on the issue type and their urgency
#4 Create personalized customer experiences
A good customer experience strategy has a big positive impact on your sales. 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience.6 Being able to personalize every interaction makes each customer feel cared for. To do so:
- Use a helpdesk that offers agents complete context of prior support interactions, so they can deliver personalized care, rather than asking customers for information they’ve already provided.
- Gather information from prior customer interactions for targeted messages and upselling opportunities.
- Use third-party integrations to leverage your customers’ behavioral data for marketing and product-related messages.
#5 Take your customers’ voice seriously with feedback surveys
Only one out of every 26 customers is likely to bring up their complaints directly to you.7 The other 25 customers will simply take their business elsewhere without a word. Be proactive with surveys, web forms, or Net Promoter Score (NPS) programs, read through their comments, suggestions, and opinions to see what they expect from you.
By actively seeking feedback, you’ll be able to respond to what customers want much faster. Rather than waiting to see why customers churn, ask them for their feedback early and often, and then take the time to analyze their responses. Future-proof your customer experience by keeping a finger on the pulse of your customers’ desires, even as they are constantly evolving.
5 examples of brands with an excellent customer experience strategy
When deciding which path to take, the endless branches can easily cause you to stand still for fear of getting lost. This is when you look for breadcrumbs. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to look to those who have successfully tread similar terrains before you.
In this case, you will need to look for examples of how peers combine data from online and offline initiatives while also creating an emotional connection between the brand and customers. Here are five models we were able to round up of brands that set some very sturdy foundations for creating a compelling customer experience strategy going forward.
After experiencing petering growth in the early 2000s, Microsoft partnered with B2B customers, sharing best practices and building new products. As a result, Microsoft not only got the boost it needed, but it democratized access to the type of technology that empowered businesses and their teams to get the job done right.
Microsoft also began to invest more in its social media presence. Currently, they have a strong presence on Twitter with multiple accounts dedicated to various themes, including careers, development, events, security, and, of course, customer service. By utilizing social media in this way, Microsoft’s customers can interact and engage with nearly every aspect of the brand.
The takeaway: Ask questions through social media platforms using polls, surveys, chats, and forums. Seek constant feedback to get a 360-degree view of your customer’s journey as it evolves— not just after the initial interaction— so that you can learn the where, when, and the why touchpoints are to renovate current or initiate new processes.
Each of these approaches to gathering feedback encourages engagement, which, in turn, leads to innovation and keeps the customer coming back for more. Finally, remember to respond to comments on social media promptly. The quicker you respond the more your customers will feel that your business values them, their time, and their feedback.
Airbnb is, arguably, the epitome of personalized customer experiences because they have a firm grip of the two different types of customers in their industry — those looking to rent out their place and those looking for a place to stay. As a result, Airbnb has exponentially simplified the search experience for both audiences by providing them both on the same platform.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to let your customers lead. Understand that your customers do not exist within a binary and that there might be other essential use cases for you to offer service. Keep your eyes ever-peeled for potential opportunities to do so.
The already ingenious grandfather of the delivered-right-to-your-door mattress company struck innovation again in 2016 when they created a free chatbot for insomniacs with the initiative to “make 3 A.M. a little less lonely.” By texting “Insomnobot3000,” customers can talk to the chatbot about whatever is on their mind, offering them a real conversation. But wait, there’s more.
The Insomnobot3000 option isn’t just for helping insomniacs get to sleep. Through the chatbot, Casper can collect data and send promotional offers and discounts. Now, that may sound a bit sinister, but remember Casper’s goal is to make their customers look forward to bedtime, be it by chatting or by sending reminders that they can make going to sleep on a comfortable mattress more affordable. After the first year of the chatbot’s launch, Casper pulled in $100 million in sales.8
The takeaway: Make it easy for customers to connect with you on their channel of choice and humanize the customer experience as you do so. The sleep market is a perfect example of a broad category and of one that’s getting more competitive as time goes. Therefore, it’s pertinent to get creative in reaching new audiences you can tap into and how you can elevate their experience.
As shopping has turned more and more to the online space in recent years, Adidas adapted. The company began pouring resources into creating a customized customer experience by personalizing its digital messaging and content based on data insights, user engagement, and feedback. Through this lens, they discovered a desire from their customers for more sustainable goods. This led Adidas to begin producing shoes from ocean waste, selling 1 million pairs in just one year.9 The brand also recently announced that by the end of 2021, 60% of all its products will be made with sustainable materials.
The takeaway: By investing in a customer feedback-first strategy, you can change your company’s growth trajectory and even establish yourself as a frontrunner in the field.
A good customer experience should not only encompass the satisfaction of its customers but of the employees involved as well. As we know, happy employees make happier customers.
Southwest Airlines has a long history of being ranked as one of the best places to work because they’ve taken the time and effort to build a work culture that recognizes their employee’s needs as well. By creating a team-based environment with solid core values, Southwest reminds employees why they should take pride in their work and enjoy what they do. This approach creates more opportunities for employees to go above and beyond to delight their customers.
The takeaway: Give your employees the pride and satisfaction to work with your brand, which can ultimately lead to happier customers. Indeed, companies that provide emotional connections tend to outperform their competitors by 85%.10
Go forth and strategize
As you can see, there is no exact right way to go about creating a customer experience strategy, but there are definite patterns to help your brand become more successful.
First, listen to your customers and seek constant feedback, not just after the initial interaction.
Second, get creative in approaching new and existing audiences by utilizing their preferred social media channels.
Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), cultivate a healthy sense of company pride by taking a people-first approach, so your employees like what they do, and exceed expectations in delighting your customers to forge stronger customer loyalty and lifetime value. Taking these touchstones into account, you will surely create a successful customer experience strategy that could even surpass your expectations.