Why is a holistic customer experience strategy so important?
Customer experience (CX) determines how customers perceive your company, your products and your services. This perception can occur consciously or unconsciously, and depends on the general appearance of your company, your sales and marketing processes, customers’ contact with service staff and on every activity occurring in between. A customer’s perception can change in a positive or negative direction with each interaction, and it persistently influences buying behavior.
Many companies have already recognized that a customer-centered corporate orientation is a central factor of success and that a holistic CX strategy is therefore necessary. Of course, a holistic CX strategy applied at all points of customer contact poses a great challenge for most companies. Consequently, many companies have difficulty in practically implementing the strategy, which goes beyond standard marketing and takes a comprehensive approach.
The change from a seller’s to a buyer’s market and the associated increase in customer expectations and requirements make customer experience an important differentiating characteristic for your company. Customer experience can then be crucial in whether a customer decides in favor of or against your product. The goal should be to arrange your products and services so as to meet customers’ desires or even exceed what they want. Indeed, only satisfied customers will become loyal customers.
Factors in a holistic customer experience strategy
Adopting the “outside-in” perspective requires a process- and system-oriented approach as well as the identification of human factors influencing an optimal customer experience. Both aspects must be considered – individually and in their interplay with one another.
In what follows, I’ll present a few features of a holistic CX strategy.
Re-think your processes!
Re-thinking processes is essential to any customer-focused company orientation. Progressing digitalization has made customers used to having processes handled fast and smoothly. Quick information, prompt feedback and high-quality services are crucial to achieving a positive customer experience. But processes directly affecting customers are not the only ones relevant. Consider also those processes not perceived by customers.
Carefully examine your business processes: how well are your departments cooperating with one another? Where is there a need for optimization? Implement standards and/or best practices in critical areas. Process standards can create transparency and synergies between the departments, which in turn will have a positive effect on efficiency and generate tremendous added value – for the customer and for your company.
Make use of your (customer) data!
In the past, customer experiences and data were ascertained only through conventional surveys and ratings. Nowadays, we can apply algorithms for systematically using customer data over the entire customer life cycle. To this end, we can search through and record various data sources, such as notes from call center agents, customer ratings, comments in social media and other sources. A networked and smart IT constellation and corresponding CRM software enable analysis and assessment of these data volumes in real time. In this way, we can obtain a 360° view of customers. Data silos within the company can be dissolved through central integration and the recorded data used to create an excellent customer experience. Personalized offers, information, proposed solutions and recommendations can be provided to customers at the right time through the right channels, and make a targeted customer approach possible.
Don’t forget your employees!
An often forgotten, but also important, pillar in a holistic CX strategy is your work force. Motivated and well-trained employees with the appropriate resources, tools, skills and support make up an essential success factor. Many processes can be automated and digitized. Nevertheless, human influence is important at many points in the customer life cycle.
A study by the Gallup organization showed that dedicated employees make a positive impact on customers. Dedicated employees are more productive, motivated, customer-oriented and loyal. Many other factors must be considered, however, which contribute to the employee’s overall satisfaction and redound to the customer’s benefit. They include, for example, developmental possibilities, desires, compensation, work environment and corporate culture.
Create a company-wide, customer-focused mindset!
Define a customer-focused corporate culture and establish customer focusing as a managerial task: Place your customer at the center of attention, and reflect this commitment in your internal and external company activities. Include your executive staff and management and conduct internal marketing: Make sure that your employees know the values your company represents and the role these employees play in bringing about an optimal customer experience. Here it is enormously important that employees know and accept their role and adopt the corresponding mindset. If employees feel that they’re only putting on a show for customers, this measure will not seem authentic and will not be successful. Instead, employees should understand commitment as an inner stance of the brand and the company. You can anchor this mindset through communicative and qualification measures, for example. Internal activities in the company too should pursue and reflect the focus on customers. Authenticity is crucial!
Explain customer experience as a general principle of the company, and communicate this mission to your customers as well. In this way, you’ll spread enthusiasm among regular as well as prospective customers.
“We ensure that our internal brand values are the same as our external ones. It seems to me that there must be a mirror between the two. You can’t pretend to be one style of brand to your consumers if you’re a different style of brand to your people.“ – Peter Simpson of First Direct, quoted by Shaun Smith & Joe Wheeler
Get to know your customers’ needs!
Of course, you can optimize the customer experience only if you know the customer’s needs and the customer’s points of contact with your company. The “Customer Journey” is a visual end-2-end representation of such points of contact experienced by the customer with your company, its services and its products. The Journey takes into account different customer target groups and their expectations, emotions, thoughts and positive and negative experiences, as well as unpleasantness from the customer’s perspective. The initial representation should be validated with customers and continually adapted. The Customer Journey yields many possibilities of improvement for your holistic CX strategy from the customer’s perspective. For example, you can avoid a generalized flood of information by presenting to the target groups only information truly relevant and of interest to them – ideally, even before they have expressed the need for such information.
Commit customers for the long term through enthusiasm!
Once customers feel confident about your brand, you can become a brand ambassador and act as a multiplier in customer acquisition. After all, people purchase and recommend products and services from conviction. Social media like Facebook and Instagram are becoming increasingly more relevant.
Generate a consistent brand experience through all channels!
One challenging task, and an opportunity, is to generate a uniform customer experience along all channels of communication. Customers can enter into contact with your company through many different channels, such as social media, trade fairs, search engines, customer service and employees. A study by Adobe showed that two-thirds of companies have no central point of contact responsible for an overall customer experience. Merely 14% of those surveyed employ a Customer Experience Manager. To ensure a successful and uniform customer experience, the Customer Experience Manager should support and direct the analysis, conception, implementation and even evaluation of various customer experience measures.
In sum, a holistic CX strategy is absolutely necessary for continually perfecting the customer experience in the best possible way. Not only an appropriate technology makes the difference, but your employees do as well. They are tremendously important in accomplishing this comprehensive approach.