"One of the biggest challenges companies face when trying to improve Customer Experience is not getting the basics right. There is no point in designing an all-singing, all-dancing, mega-experience when your basic journeys are broken. Sometimes it's not about delivering the 'best' but delivering 'good' consistently," says James Dodkins, the CS Ambassador at Pegasystems, who participated in the CX 102 study.
Since different industries have different sets of customers, their experiences and expectations will vary from one person to another. So we can't design a single customer experience rule book that will work on all brands. But there are basic customer experience lessons that all brands need to learn, irrespective of their niche, to keep their customers' experience on track and deliver an experience that exceeds expectations.
In a study conducted by Clootrack with more than 100+ industry leaders, we learned a set of basic customer experience lessons, challenges, and solutions/actions brands need to understand to improve their current customer experience practices, resolve the challenges they face and avoid specific challenges in the future.
According to 102 CX experts, there are 5 essential lessons all brands should learn to deliver an experience that meets and exceeds their customer's expectations.
1. 12.4% of Respondents Said Diagnose the Challenges with Insights
In Clootrack's study, 12.4% of respondents stated that many companies don't use leading indicators and utilize real-time insights to track customer experience.
Greg Kihlstrom, Principal Consultant at GK5A in the survey said, "When organizations are only looking at lagging indicators like Net Promoter Score (NPS), they often don't see some of the leading indicators that might create a disjointed experience at the beginning, middle, or even end of the experience. This is where real-time insights and signals can really come into play, and companies that tap into these metrics are able to diagnose and improve challenges."
Customers frequently produce abundant data when they take every single step and action in their customer journey. All this data can be compiled and analyzed to get valuable insights into customers’ experience with your brand and help in effective data-driven decision-making.
It's pretty impossible to figure out customers' actual experience in each touchpoint solely with survey questions like NPS or CSAT. Here, what matters more is real-time customer insights gathered from customer feedback, customer service calls, reviews, conversations, social media interactions, live chat, CRM, etc. With insights, leaders can understand what happened in the past, and what happens currently with the customer experience and predict the future of their customer experience. Also, they can figure out what is going wrong and what is going in the right direction.
In addition, the insights can be placed as a rich base source for product or service innovation, market research, market outreach, improving brand awareness and customer engagement, raising sales conversions, competitor analysis, reducing customer churn, and improving ROI.
For example, one of Canada's unique and innovative food brands, Evive, conquered the US market with customer insights. These unique frozen cubes of fruits, vegetables, and superfoods are highly accepted in the Canadian market, but they further needed to expand their brand to the US. Since they are unique and hardly have any rivals in the same niche, they used the blue ocean marketing strategy and showcased their 'uniqueness.'
But acceptance of their products in the US market needs to place them in the right place for the right people. For that, Evive used insights from customers in the US and understood which flavors can appeal to the US audience. They made it!
The success story of Evive reveals it's not only about the insights and data we can gather; instead, it's all about gathering the relevant ones and utilizing them to achieve business goals.
2. 11.50% of respondents Say Working in Rigid Silos is a Threat
Katie Lucas, VP, Customer Experience & Consumer Insights at Cronin, said, “In my experience, siloed operations are a challenge. Departments that are not interconnected and not all centered on the customer will disrupt the customer experience.”
As customer experience has become the competitive differentiator in these years, many brands have started working towards the single goal of enhancing customer experience in all touchpoints. But, all departments and teams should collaborate to offer a consistent experience in all touch points to achieve the ultimate business target.
But, rigid silos stay as obstacles to cross-functional collaboration. If teams and departments focus only on their specific tasks and goals and do not allow the data to flow across them to another, they risk their brand’s customer experience.
Katie also shared that a product team might be highly customer-oriented and focused on delivering an excellent experience. But suppose the IT team or the operations team are oriented inward and making budget and scope choices based solely on the impact on the company rather than the customer. In that case, that will never provide an excellent customer experience.
11.50% of respondents in the Clootrack CX study claimed that these silos are huge barriers to delivering a holistic customer experience. If an organization is small, there is no room for forming silos since everyone will work together for goals.
When a company grows further, it will automatically form multiple departments and teams, and each team will focus on achieving its team’s goal. Departmental territoriality and competition between teams will collapse the smooth communication flow.
Silos lead to a disjointed customer experience and seem dysfunctional from customers’ perception. If people get broken experience, they will lose trust in the brand and feel it is incompetent. Gradually, people will leave the brand and find an alternative.
Often, breaking down or avoiding the formation of silos is easier said than done. Developing a customer-centric work culture, ensuring cross-departmental communications, and encouraging cross-functional teamwork will help remove silos inside the organizations.
3. Learn to Listen Suggested 23% of CX professionals
The customer experience expert Dan Gingiss said, "Most brands are not spending enough time listening to and talking with their customers. This is always surprising to me because without customers, we don't have a business! They are literally the most valuable asset of any company, yet too often the focus is on acquiring more of them rather than keeping the ones we already have. Collect feedback frequently across channels, via surveys, ratings and reviews, customer service calls, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations. Analyze the responses and look for actionable insights. Listen for what you are doing well and do more of it! Then listen for what parts of the experience are missing the mark and try to fix the underlying issue."
Hearing from customers about what they experienced in the past, what they feel right now, and what they expect in the future is a more valuable method of understanding your customers' concerns and needs.
23% of customer experience professionals who participated in the study, and stated that listening to customers is one of the best remedies to cure many customer experience challenges!
Listening should not be taken for granted; do not assume it is a simple job. It requires a strategic approach, such as you should not listening to customers with your preconception and not expecting or asking what you want to hear from them. It would help if you asked questions to understand what they are going through and what they expect from you. Once you fix and solve the concerns they shared, get back to them and acknowledge that you have resolved an issue they raised before. It will improve the customer's trust and loyalty.
When listening to a large group of customers, one-to-one listening can be difficult, and you can't make changes and solutions for small groups of customers. In that case, the entire listening process can be implemented with a consolidate VoC (Voice of Customers) program.
With VoC, all customer information can be stored and analyzed to understand the overall customer issues and pinpoint the root cause of the negative experiences. Fixing them will help in resolving a large number of customer complaints and meet the expectations of multiple groups of audiences at a time.
Also, listening to your customers and new audiences, their issues, and what they are missing will help satisfy more customer segments.
For example, HomePro, a Thailand-based furniture company, recently introduced a new furniture series, '7:1 Furniture Collection', for visually impaired people. This makes their customers who have vision problems to do their daily activities and overall life more accessible and convenient.
They listened to a large group of people and researched the role of colors in furniture to understand how they literally 'see' the furniture they use and how much inconvenience they face. This helped them curate this new furniture series with bright and vibrant colors with bold outlines. This got acceptance from their target customers, and more new customers were captivated by the brand.
4. 12% of CX Experts Foster a Customer-First Culture
In the survey, Jared E. Fink, the Group Director, Experience at Siegel+Gale, said, "The internal organization needs to orchestrate around the customer- strategically, creatively, technologically, and operationally. Bringing different teams, processes, tools, and information to deliver a memorable brand experience is a constant, evolving goal. The customer's needs and desires should be the unifier to help guide CX decisions, but making that real is quite complicated."
Likewise, 12% of the survey respondents said many brands are reluctant to build their business in a customer-first culture.
Because many brands focus on their products and services and increase the ROI. Even though ROI and improved sales are the ultimate goals of any business, focusing the business activities around their revenue and not giving attention to what customers want will lead the firm to end up in loss.
Companies that focus inward and design all their communications around what their products do will not work long-term. Instead, companies need to alter their communications around what customers want and what they experience.
Ian Golding, the CEO and Founder of Customer Experience Consultancy Ltd, said, "All organizations need to give their employees the time and ability to genuinely 'put themselves in the customers' shoes' so that they are able to think beyond the task."
When an organization initiates to see things from the customer side and redesign its activities around customers, it will naturally produce a result that exceeds customer expectations. Leaders should train their employees, especially front-liners, to walk in customers’ shoes like typical customers. So, they can easily relate with customers when they reach out for any solutions.
Ikea's Place app is an example of how a brand can give importance to customers' purchase experience and prioritize their product satisfaction more than their sales targets. As we know, Ikea is well known for its in-store experience. But this Ikea's Place app allows customers to use their camera to understand how an Ikea product will fit into their home or a specific place with true-to-scale 3D models.
Customers can use the camera to see how their rooms will be furnished with Ikea products. Here, they leave the decisions and choices to customers to buy their products if and only if they are delighted.
5. Focus on 'Your' People
"The main challenge in delivering any lasting customer impact is ensuring that the very people who deliver those experiences, even in a digital-first world, your employees are fully aware of the designed brand and customer experiences you are trying to deliver. If your teams understand the organization's 'why'; how each of them, regardless of role, aligns to the experience delivered to customers you are already ahead of many of your competitors. CX is not something that is owned by only the CX or Marketing teams. It is something that everyone in the business needs to own and embrace" said Jane Treadwell-Hoye, the Founder & Chief Experience Officer at Necto.
Some brands are still blind to seeing positive employee experience's role in customer satisfaction. Only a motivated, encouraged, trained, and well-paid employee can give their full potential to work towards customer experience goals, especially with front-liners who directly interact with customers.
For example, we have seen many reviews that the customer support staff is unable to solve customer issues, rude behavior, not responding, not picking up the customer service call on time, tickets are not opened, etc. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of motivation from the leaders and board members. The basic psychology works here! If an employee is treated well, satisfied and happy, it will reflect in their treatment of customers.
As Jane mentioned, CX is not owned by a specific group of people; instead, it is accountable to every employee in a firm who directly and indirectly interacts with customers. To develop a positive attitude in employees to work towards the core business goal by keeping customers at the center, the organization needs to ensure their employees are well treated and satisfied with all aspects. Also, they should feel the company values their opinions and is recognized their hard work. All these are tied up in delivering a holistic experience to the customers.
Arby's is one of the famous American fast food restaurants regarding employee experience, engagement, and satisfaction. Paul Brown, the former CEO of Arby's, often lets their teamwork in restaurants to let employees understand what end users experience and how the employees work and treat customers. This helped employees improve their skills and perception of customer experience.
Arby's Brand Champ program, an initiative to teach employees to engage efficiently with customers, is an excellent example of how much they give importance to employee experience.
Summarizing the Lessons
There is no one set of lessons that all brands need to learn and try to fit into their customer experience practices. But the above-mentioned basic lessons are vital in any customer experience environment, irrespective of their industry.
The main points to keep in mind are to put all your activities around customers, capture their insights and listen to them directly to know what they expect in the future and current experience. At the same time, focus on the internal organization by removing internal silos, building a customer-first culture, and ensuring employee satisfaction.
Check out the full 102 CX expert report by Clootrack to learn more customer experience lessons, challenges, and solutions.