In my 10 years as a user experience consultant on everything from ecommerce sites to mobile apps to enterprise applications, if I had to choose the single key measure of success, it would be leaders who understand their customers.
If you understand your customer and provide for their needs and wants, they will engage with you, buy your products, and be loyal to your brand.
When the business leaders understand and empathizes with their customers, they understand and invest in their customer experience. They involve a user experience (UX) designer or strategist from the beginning of all technology projects, including:
- attending the project kickoff
- leading (or co-leading) discovery sessions to understand business objectives, pain points, and user insights
- developing a persona-based customer experience strategy
These steps might be 3 days or 3 months based on time and budget, but any UX thinking is better than none. With a customer experience strategy, the team approaches the experience and interface design with a full picture and a strategy.
Alternatively, when the business (or a key stakeholder) doesn't understand their customers, the discussions tend to sound like "we have a great product, I'd buy it so other people will." When it comes to technology projects, this leads to decisions based on opinions and preferences, rather that customer insights and feedback.
If a user interface designer is brought in, its for a fixed number of hours to develop wireframes based on notes or past conversations. This role becomes an order-taker, designing based on guesses, rather than thinking strategically about what experience the user may respond to. Or the experience won’t be considered at all and a business analyst or graphic designer will go through several expensive rounds of revisions of their deliverables that could have been simplified from looking at the big picture first. Worst of all, a site or system delivery is met with frustrated users and a negative return on investment.
Why care about customer experience?
We are in the age of the customer. Customers are empowered not only by all of the data that the web has enabled, but by the access to that data made easy with well-designed interfaces.
Customers spend more time researching purchases than before, especially for B2B purchases, and may often know more about certain product details and competitors than the sales rep by the time they are ready to speak to one.
The intro of this article from Marketing Magazine summarizes it well:
“Not only has technology lowered the barriers of entry into many industries, it has also given customers the power to find, research and buy almost any product, from any vendor, in any part of the world, at any time. To compete successfully in this new consumer-driven era, companies must find new ways to differentiate. A company’s knowledge of and relationship with customers is what will enable it to survive in the age of the customer.”
The article also points to the bottom line: customer experience has a direct impact profit. In analyzing stock performance of companies, the difference in the average return for customer experience leaders versus customer experience laggards was 81% (78% versus -3%).
Defining a customer experience strategy
A customer experience strategy defines how a company will interact with its customers. A well-ingrained strategy should guide everything from marketing and messaging, to product and service development, to customer support.
From a recent Forrester report titled The State Of Customer Experience Maturity in Australia, researchers found that many companies say that customer experience is a priority, but their strategy is not aligned with the overall company strategy. The report further states, “without a strategy that everyone in the organization understands and can get behind, decisions about CX activities and resource allocation will be uncoordinated at best and in conflict with each other at worst.”
To be successful, a customer experience strategy is developed in line with the business and brand strategies. As a simple example, if you’re a retail company with a strategy to grow your business through ecommerce, prioritize the budget to allow for designing exceptional online experiences over brick-and-mortar store renovations.
What does the customer experience strategy look like?
At Tquila ANZ, my team creates a Customer Experience Strategy Kit, which may include:
- Overview of business objectives (gathered from the business)
- Digital and mobile tactics for delivering business objectives
- Measurable KPIs for each tactic
- Customer and user personas - profile, wants and needs, pain points, experience considerations and recommendations
- Journey maps for key journeys by persona
- Salesforce or other technology opportunities and priority based on tactics, personas and priorities identified
Check out part two of this post, “How to develop a customer experience strategy”, where I break down each of the components above and give some examples and templates.
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