How To Build a CX Program And Transform Your Business

Customer Experience (CX) is a catchy business term that has been used for decades, and until recently, measuring and managing it was not possible. Now, with the evolution of technology, a company can build and operationalize a true CX program.

For years, companies championed NPS surveys, CSAT scores, web feedback, and other sources of data as the drivers of “Customer Experience” – however, these singular sources of data don’t give a true, comprehensive view of how customers feel, think, and act. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t capitalizing on the benefits of a CX program. Less than 10% of companies have a CX executive and of those companies, only 14% believe Customer Experience, as a program, is the aggregation and analysis of all customer interactions with the objective of uncovering and disseminating insights across the company in order to improve the experience. In a time where the customer experience separates the winners from the losers, CX must be more of a priority for ALL businesses.

This not only includes the analysis of typical channels in which customers directly interact with your company (calls, chats, emails, feedback, surveys, etc.) but all the channels in which customers may not be interacting directly with you – social, reviews, blogs, comment boards, media, etc.

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In order to understand the purpose of a CX team and how it operates, you first need to understand how most businesses organize, manage, and carry out their customer experiences today.

Essentially, a company’s customer experience is owned and managed by a handful of teams. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • digital,
  • brand,
  • strategy,
  • UX,
  • retail,
  • design,
  • pricing,
  • membership,
  • logistics,
  • marketing,
  • and customer service.

All of these teams have a hand in customer experience.

In order to affirm that they are working towards a common goal, they must

  1. communicate in a timely manner,
  2. meet and discuss upcoming initiatives and projects,
  3. and discuss results along with future objectives.

In a perfect world, every team has the time and passion to accomplish these tasks to ensure the customer experience is in sync with their work. In reality, teams end up scrambling for information and understanding of how each business function is impacting the customer experience – sometimes after the CX program has already launched.

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This process is extremely inefficient and can lead to serious problems across the customer experience. These problems can lead to irreparable financial losses. If business functions are not on the same page when launching an experience, it creates a broken one for customers. Siloed teams create siloed experiences.

There are plenty of companies that operate in a semi-siloed manner and feel it is successful. What these companies don’t understand is that customer experience issues often occur between the ownership of these silos, in what some refer to as the “customer experience abyss,” where no business function claims ownership. Customers react to these broken experiences by communicating their frustration through different communication channels (chats, surveys, reviews, calls, tweets, posts etc.).

For example, if a company launches a new subscription service and customers are confused about the pricing model, is it the job of customer service to explain it to customers?  What about those customers that don’t contact the business at all? Does marketing need to modify their campaigns? Maybe digital needs to edit the nomenclature online… It could be all of these things. The key is determining which will solve the poor customer experience.

The objective of a CX program is to focus deeply on what customers are saying and shift business teams to become advocates for what they say. Once advocacy is achieved, the customer experience can be improved at scale with speed and precision. A premium customer experience is the key to company growth and customer retention. How important is the customer experience?

You may be saying to yourself, “We already have teams examining our customer data, no
need to establish a new team to look at it.” While this may be true, the teams are likely taking a siloed approach to analyzing customer data by only investigating the portion of the data they own.

For example, the social team looks at social data, the digital team analyzes web feedback and analytics, the marketing team reviews surveys and performs studies, etc. Seldom do these teams come together and combine their data to get a holistic view of the customer. Furthermore, when it comes to prioritizing CX improvements, they do so based on an incomplete view of the customer.

Consolidating all customer data gives a unified view of your customers while lessening the workload and increasing the rate at which insights are generated. The experience customers have with marketing, digital, and customer service, all lead to different interactions. Breaking these interactions into different, separate components is the reason companies struggle with understanding the true customer experience and miss the big picture on how to improve it.

The CX team, once established, will be responsible for creating a unified view of the customer which will provide the company with an unbiased understanding of how customers feel about their experiences as well as their expectations of the industry. These insights will provide awareness, knowledge, and curiosity that will empower business functions to improve the end-to-end customer experience.

CX programs are disruptive. A successful CX program will uncover insights that align with current business objectives and some insights that don’t at all. So, what do you do when you run into that stone wall? How do you move forward when a business function refuses to adopt the voice of the customer? Call in back-up from an executive who understands the value of the voice of the customer and why it needs to be top-of mind for every function.

When creating a disruptive program like CX, an executive owner is needed to overcome business hurdles along the way. Ideally, this executive owner will support the program and promote it to the broader business functions. In order to scale and become more widely adopted, it is also helpful to have executive support when the program begins.

The best candidates for initial ownership are typically marketing, analytics or operations executives. Along with understanding the value a CX program can offer, they should also understand the business’ current data landscape and help provide access to these data sets. Once the CX team has access to all the available customer data, it will be able to aggregate all necessary interactions.

Executive sponsors will help dramatically in regard to CX program adoption and eventual scaling. Executive sponsors

  • can provide the funding to secure the initial success,
  • promote the program to ensure other business functions work closer to the program,
  • and remove roadblocks that may otherwise take weeks to get over.

Although an executive sponsor is not necessary, it can make your life exponentially easier while you build, launch, and execute your CX program. Your customers don’t always tell you what you want to hear, and that can be difficult for some business functions to handle. When this is the case, some business functions will try to discredit insights altogether if they don’t align with their goals.

Data grows exponentially every year, faster than any company can manage. In 2016, 90% of the world’s data had been created in the previous two years. 80% of that data was unstructured language. The hype of “Big Data” has passed and the focus is now on “Big Insights” – how to manage all the data and make it useful. A company should not be allocating resources to collecting more data through expensive surveys or market research – instead, they should be focused on doing a better job of listening and reacting to what customers are already saying, by unifying the voice of the customer with data that is already readily available.

It’s critical to identify all the available customer interactions and determine value and richness. Be sure to think about all forms of direct and indirect interactions customers have. This includes:

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These channels are just a handful of the most popular avenues customers use to engage with brands. Your company may have more, less, or none of these. Regardless, the focus should be on aggregating as many as possible to create a holistic view of the customer. This does not mean only aggregating your phone calls and chats; this includes every channel where your customers talk with, at, or about your company. You can’t be selective when it comes to analyzing your customers by channel. All customers are important, and they may have different ways of communicating with you.

Imagine if someone only listened to their significant other in the two rooms where they spend the most time, say the family room and kitchen. They would probably have a good understanding of the overall conversations (similar to a company only reviewing calls, chats, and social). However, ignoring them in the dining room, bedroom, kids’ rooms, and backyard, would inevitably lead to serious communication problems.

It’s true that phone, chat, and social data is extremely rich, accessible, and popular, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore other customers. Every channel is important. Each is used by a different customer, in a different manner, and serves a different purpose, some providing more context than others.

You may find your most important customers aren’t always the loudest and may be interacting with you through an obscure channel you never thought about. You need every customer channel to fully understand their experience.

Click here to access Topbox’s detailed study

Marketing’s Role in Employee & Customer Experience Journeys

Is your Marketing department aligned with customer experience and employee experience? The necessity and logic of doing this was highlighted in a recent presentation by Hootsuite’s Vice President of Customer, Kirsty Traill. She pointed out that Marketing Communications is unfortunately the typical focus of customer journey maps and customer-centric marketing.

Her observations are in accordance with the first half of this six-part series which also pointed out that MarCom-focus for customer-centric marketing is extremely short-sighted in what’s needed by your company. It short-changes marketing’s impact.

Hootsuite takes a holistic view of “brand experience” by applying customer-centric research and thinking to each phase of the end-to-end customer experience and employee experience journey maps — for use by all groups within Marketing and beyond. Brand integrity relies upon both employees’ and customers’ perceptions. It also relies on the company’s fulfillment of their needs. Marketing plays a significant role in understanding, communicating and assuring these needs.

“We recognize the importance of employee engagement in driving the customer experience,” said Kirsty. “Marketing touches every part of the employee journey and is a key part of driving a truly customer-centric culture, starting with recruiting and whether the public’s image of our employer brand is likely to attract high-caliber talent.”

The journey team at Hootsuite includes Marketing, Sales and Customer Success representatives. This allows them to look through different lenses. Their work has developed an overarching messaging hierarchy informed by customer journey mapping, and grounded in customer needs. “It’s an overall guide of how customers talk about the category,” explained Kirsty. “It describes how customers and employees think about each phase of their journeys, and how they talk about their needs. It provides vocabulary for consistent messaging to each of four core customer personas and to employees.”

Marketing decisions are guided by a table of customer insights available for each journey stage, showing which voice-of-customer insights inform each stage and who owns it. Julie Garrah, Customer Experience Manager on Kirsty’s team at Hootsuite, explained: “We emphasize closing-the-loop in communicating what action we’re taking. This drives improvement in scores. We send customers a closing-the-loop email on a six-month cadence, sharing what we’re doing.”

The image below describes the interpretation. Green phrasing is the suggestion to foster outside-in thinking.

Research for Marketing Across the Customer Experience Journey

Hootsuite has defined four core personas and developed a customer journey map for each persona. (identify natural customer segments by looking for patterns across qualitative data) Hootsuite builds a deep understanding of each segment’s journey stages by answering these questions:

  • Need Something: How does a customer become aware of the need for what your category represents, how would they describe the need in their own words, what is it that triggers the activation of that customer need?
  • What are My Choices: Which other companies are in your customers’ consideration set, where are they finding information to make a decision in the category, what is their evaluation criteria?
  • Decide & Buy: What information are they looking for to make their decision, what is it that locks them in to your product versus your competition’s, do they talk to anyone, what does your purchase process look like, how long does it take, how easy was it for customers relative to their expectations?
  • Receive Order: What do they need to get started, where do they find information during this stage?
  • Install / Use: How do customers use your product/service, how do they define the value, how do you deliver upon that value, how do you reinforce that they’ve made the right decision?
  • Questions / Moments of Truth (1) : Which touch-points triggered repeat purchase, upgrade or expansion; where did you fail to deliver on their expectations; what caused customers to cancel, suspend, return, leave, what were the triggers; what information do they need and in what format?
  • Integrations (2): Which touch-points turn fans into loyal fans and advocates, what is the customers’ context for usage of your product, what are their interactions with your people, what is their connection with your brand?
  1. Questions / Moments of Truth: Researching the “moments of truth” stage can be a difficult process to go through, but Kirsty explained: “This information is rich and can be used in very productive ways for improving customer experience as well as your marketing mix and marketing touch-points.”
  2. Integrations: Integrations might be the most significant part of the journey as it answers “what is the customer trying to get done . . . with or by whom, under what circumstances, in combination with what processes or hardware/software?” This context can be a game-changer for up-leveling your marketing, product development, and operations.

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Research & Actions for Marketing Across the Employee Experience Journey

Hootsuite applies customer experience insights to all stages of the employee experience journey:

  • Need a Job Opportunity / What are My Choices: Does your Careers web page paint the image of a customer-centric company, how employees are portraying you on LinkedIn and GlassDoor, is your employer brand aligned with your corporate brand and customer-focus?
  • Decide & Sign / Start Job: Educate every new employee on buyer personas and user personas in every team and department, show videos from customers explaining what they use and like, provide pocket guide with customer needs and value proposition, explain company standards to new hires so they understand how important customer-focus is and how their specific role affects customer experience.
  • Daily Work: Empower everyone in the company to address customer issues since it’s impossible for your Customer Success team to manage every touch-point customers have with your company, role-based training, create a central repository of customer information and unified customer profile across the journey, design your tech stack to integrate the fewest systems necessary to house customer data for a comprehensive story of individual customers.
  • Higher Purpose: Make “customer love” visible through stories shared with employees, display your Customer Support vision, encourage employees to participate in shadowing, ride-alongs, and capturing customer quotes.
  • Championing: Encourage brand spirit through corporate apparel and swag, empower employees to “share love” through social media, arrange for people from development to shadow Customer Support and Sales Enablement to sit in on sales calls, invite Product Marketing and Vertical Marketing teams to attend customer events to see how customers are interacting and engaging with content.

Hootsuite studies a flow of qualitative data from marketing touch-points about what customers want and need. By gaining a deeper understanding of how customers are thinking and feeling about information at each stage in their journey, the company has also gained appreciation for how the touch-points interact with one another.

These insights re-orient employees’ outlooks. They break down traditional silo mentality. The goal is to become a more customer-centric organization by driving behavior in doing what’s best for the customer as the way to drive business growth.

Click here to access CustomerThink-10-Big-Ideas-Customer-Experience-Success Paper