The CMO's Guide to Customer Experience

What is Customer Experience? 

Forrester Research defines customer experience as to how customers perceive their interactions with a brand's employees, systems, channels and products. In essence, customer experience is the result of every interaction a customer has with your business, from navigating your website, talking to your customer service team and receiving your product or service.

Every stage of the buyer journey, from awareness to purchase, and beyond, contributes to the overall experience your customers receives. The two main areas of customer experience that you need to be aware of are 'customer perception' and 'interactions with your brand'. Customer perception looks at your customer's impressions and awareness about your brand's offering. The quality of your offering, your brand's positioning, website and physical store are just some of the touchpoints that make up your customer experience.

As the number and complexity of touchpoints increases, businesses are seeking technology that will help them improve their customer experience.

Customer Experience or Customer Service - What's The Difference?

A lot of marketers get confused by customer service and customer experience. The lines between them can easily become blurred and it's simply that customer service is part of customer experience.

Customer service occurs when an issue arises - a phone call to the customer support team, a support ticket logged or a complaint made. Customer service is very reactive, it only performs a duty and the customer receives benefits when they go actively looking for help.

Customer experience includes customer service. It is the accumulation of every single interaction a customer has with your organisation. It is a proactive approach to providing a memorable impression that leaves the prospect or customer wanting to take the next step in their buyer journey.

Customer Experience in The Digital Age

Digital technology has transformed consumer habits across the world. Potential customers traditionally could only consume your content if you created a space for them to do so. Today, prospects can access content when they want, how they want. This has caused a shift in customer expectation and it is down to us as marketers to be there with the right kind of information, how and when they need it.

Today, customers rate brands on the digital experience first. It is typically the first place they will come across you, whether that be through search, social or referrals. If a potential wants to find something out, the first place they will head to is their digital device, be that a mobile, tablet or laptop.

In order to win in the game of customer experience in the digital world, you need to understand that your consumers are constantly connected. They can connect to you, each other, and other brands in a matter of seconds.

There are so many aspects to customer experience, but the two most important factors that we believe you need to get on top of are:

1. Personalised Customer Experiences

Prospects and customers want customers to treat them as individuals. In order to do this, you need to know their personal preferences, attitudes and habits. Whilst there is a huge discussion over GDPR and how you use customer data, studies show that the majority of buyers are happy for you to use their data in order to deliver relevant and engaging content.

In order to produce personalised experiences, it is vital that you store all your customer data in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Efficient lead management starts by knowing exactly who your prospects and customers are; what they have purchased to their interactions with your communications. A CRM allows you to store as much information as possible against a particular customer so you can break down contact database into targetable groups.

Most email marketing software today will allow you to link to your CRM software, in order to provide personalised email communications based on the data stored against your customers. Just addressing your customers by the first name when sending mass emails is the first step to providing a personalised experience.

2. Seamless Multi-Channel Experience

Due to the explosion of social media platforms, forums and devices, customers today are no longer tied to a single channel when finding solutions to their problems. Before the digital world, potential customers had to wait until the store opened the next day to seek answers. Today, they log onto their device in the middle of the night and find the information they need, so as a brand, you need to be there at every step.

The first step in ensuring you are accessible 24/7 is to do a customer journey analysis and pinpoint all the touchpoints where a prospect seeks out information related to your business. When you have them all mapped out, you need to create content for each of those touchpoints. For example, if your target audience are seeking out answers to questions through search, perhaps you can create blog posts based on what people are searching for. If they are going to comparison sites in order to find what is the best policy they should take out, as an insurance company, you need to be found at that time in order to be in contention during the next stage.

By being present at every stage of the customer journey, you are meeting that consumer desire of instant gratification and becoming embedded in the consumer's mind through the entire process.

Uniting The Online and Offline World To Create Memorable Customer Experiences

In the era of digital, it is easy to forget about traditional marketing techniques and how they can be used to compliment online marketing activities.

There are so many examples where the online and offline world complement each other to create a better customer experience. For example, when a customer is browsing your offline, physical store,  they will often check online for reviews or cheaper alternatives to your product. By ensuring that you are coming top of search results and that good reviews can be found with ease, then you can move this customer to purchase stage immediately.

Another example is when a consumer is searching for a product on your website but they need it instantly or you may not have it in stock at your warehouse. A lot of companies such as Argos and John Lewis allow you to order the product online and collect after an hour from in-store. This satisfies the consumers need for immediate gratification of finding what they are looking for, without waiting a day or two for delivery.

Successful brands are creating seamless experiences between them and every single way a consumer could interact with them. With the help of digital and traditional marketing techniques, you can build a seamless online-offline experience that drives customer satisfaction and boost sales. 

How To Measure Customer Experience

Measuring customer experience can be tricky if you don't have the correct metrics in place. By outlining and recording against your chosen metrics you can easier validate whether improvements have taken place, set goals and targets for future needs and show proof of return of investment from your activities. By consistently measuring your performance, you can also intervene with remedial action if your strategy isn't going according to plan, instead of continuing to waste resources and investment for months on end.

Here are some of the most popular metrics you can use to measure your customer experience efforts:

1. Customer Satisfaction

This is the starting point for many businesses as they attempt to measure their customer experience. This can come in the form of product review ratings, survey questions or mystery shopper scores for example. Unsatisfied customers cost businesses money every day and many switches to competitors after just one negative experience.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measures on average, how satisfied or unsatisfied your customers are with their experience with your brand. You ask your customers to rate their satisfaction on a linear scale, either 1-3, 1-10 of Poor - Excellent. It is popular because of the immediacy of response and the ease of completion in terms of the customer. The customer typically just has to click one button and their response is sent off to the business.

2. Customer Loyalty / Retention

Marketers are always looking for ways to maximise customer loyalty, but proving customer loyalty can be a difficult thing to measure. The easiest metrics to monitor are purchase frequency, repeat purchases and loyalty programme participation. Churn rate is also an incredibly effective way of measuring loyalty across your entire customer database.

Churn Rate = total number of lost customers (over a set period of time) / total number of active customers (over a set period of time)

A loyal customer is a valuable customer. They are likely to refer you to their friends and colleagues, they are not actively looking for other suppliers and are more open to other products and services that you offer. Finding weak spots and implementing strategies to improve customer loyalty will only boost your customer experience and profitability in the long run. 

3. Customer Advocacy

Customer advocacy is the level at which your customers would be willing to recommend and endorse your products and service to their networks.

You can take a look at how sensitive they are to price changes you make and also take a look at brand mentions on social media platforms. This shows how many people are actively talking about your brand in either a positive or negative light.

You can also measure advocacy with harder numbers using the Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS asks how likely it is that your customer will recommend your brand to a friend or a colleague. A scale of  0 - 10, 0 being not at all likely and 10 being extremely likely.


NPS is broken down into Detractors, Passives and Promoters.

Detractors are those that give a score equal to or below 6. They were not happy by the service or product you provided and the likelihood of them purchasing again is very low and they are more likely to spread negative feedback to their network

Passives are somewhat satisfied with their experience but are more likely to switch to a competitor if they were given an opportunity. They are less likely to spread negative feedback than detractors but are not very likely to spread a positive word either.

Promoters are those who scored a 9 or 10 and they love your company's products and services. They will continue to buy from you in the future, will not be swayed by competitors and actively spread positive feedback on review sites and to their network about their experience.

Net Promoter Score is a really easy way for marketers to gauge customer advocacy as it can be sent in a quick follow up email and it takes just a click to complete.

4. First Response and Average Handling Time

We established earlier that customer service plays a key role in the overall customer experience produced by your brand. The speed at which you handle their customer requests and complaints plays a huge part in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Provide them with great customer service, and they will continue to return as paying customers time and time again.


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