Once a primary differentiator, reliable customer service has now become a mandatory commodity. With rising consumer expectations and automated technologies, experience has replaced this long-heralded advantage.
Brands positioned with a customer-first, always-on experience optimization approach and those who build for personalization are poised to be market leaders. Becoming an experience-focus brand has been painted as more difficult than it is. The answers and truth are right in front of us. Your consumers have those answers, you just need to ask – and pay attention.
In working with more than 30 brands on their experience strategies, I’ve found four critical steps to helping brands successfully migrate to become customer experience leaders in their market. The simple formula is to identify, measure, build and test.
Identify audiences and journeys
Identify your audience
Let’s start with an exercise. Suppose money is no object, and you get to pick out a new vehicle. Take a moment to picture what you’d like to buy. Now that you have that vehicle in mind, let’s assume that this is the vehicle everyone else wants. It seems ridiculous that the vehicle you want is assumed to be the vehicle everyone else would want. But, how often do you create experiences using that same assumption? As you design an experience, you need to have an audience in mind, but oftentimes, experiences are developed in a vacuum without consumer feedback. In our current environment audience strategy and experiences should never be developed without some type of consumer insight.
Here are a few questions to help you get started in assessing your audience(s).
- Who is my current audience?
- What data sources do I have available to me (research, analytics, databases, etc.)?
- What do they prefer? What are their motivations?
- Who is/not responding?
- Do my loyal customers look different than everyone else? What type of data and insights am I missing?
Identify audience journeys
I often think of the journey as the foundation. The good news about building out an audience journey is that there are a lot of good approaches. I do not believe there is one single source of truth to creating an audience journey. The important thing is that you create one. If your budget, resources, and time only allow for a whiteboard brainstorm session, then do it. If you have behavioral data at your fingertips and can look at connected event stream data by specific channels and by individual, then do it. If you have the ability to conduct primary research, please do it.
After building a journey, the first mistake I see is that too many brands try to tackle fixing all of the possible interactions they’ve discovered. Prioritization becomes key; if you are able to gather consumer-driven insights to measure and help you prioritize experiences, then that should be your next step.
How do they behave? How do they buy? What are the most common paths to purchase? What are all of the possible interactions?
Beginning to think from the consumer’s perspective is the right first step, but it is far more effective to actually measure experiences from their direct interactions. Always-on customer-listening engines have been around for decades. Today’s new wave of measurement is more effective but needs to be further elevated. The Customer Effort Score (CES) has come to the forefront of this movement but is lacking in three critical components: measuring multiple interactions, measuring importance, and measuring revenue. But the four-dimensional approach has the power to begin moving the needle.
The measurement of ease to work with a brand across interactions, prioritized within the journey, allows brands to identify the most critical points within the consumer experience. This enables brands to find quick wins to remove as much friction as possible. In the example provided in the image above, one would initially think that “compare plans” and “cancel subscription” should be the areas of focus, but a closer look at importance guides you to prioritize “compare plans” to have the greatest impact.
What are their significant phases of interaction in their journey? Which interactions are the most important? What interactions are in desperate need of help? What is the revenue associated with each interaction?
With a foundational and an architectural assessment, you’ll be poised to build best-in class experiences based on consumer insights. Along the way, an audit of data and technology will become critical to supporting the automation of personalized, people-based experiences. The alignment of key stakeholders across the organization will be another critical component to driving change, which is why a data-driven approach to prioritization from the consumer’s perspective is needed for the potential political battles you’ll be up against.
Another supporting point for your internal journey will be the results from prioritized quick wins. A four-dimensional prioritization of experiences allows the brand to hit the ground running, making immediate improvements to prove out the work, while also laying out critical interactions that may take more significant efforts to improve for long-term planning.
Who are the key stakeholders (detractors/supporters)? What quick wins are we going to tackle? What is our long-term experience roadmap? What technologies/data do I need?
Another shift in the market over the years has continued in the same vein of always-on, quick-win optimization. Take, for example, website redesigns, as depicted in the image above. Traditional methods would call for significant redesigns every couple of years, requiring weighty amounts of time and money, with gaps and subpar experiences in between. There is a better way. If you are truly interested in meeting consumer expectations you’ll not only be measuring and tracking those experiences on an ongoing basis, but you’ll be consistently making updates to improve them.
What approach are we using today? What tools do I need to conduct testing? What should we test first? Who (internal and/or consumers) should I gather feedback from?
I believe Dentsu Aegis Network Americas CEO Nick Brien sums it up best when he says, “There’s been a fundamental shift in the balance of power. When I started in marketing, I lived in a brand-led world – you changed consumer behavior. But now we live in a consumer-led world. It’s about changing your brand behavior, it is about personalization, it is about relevance, it is about engagement.”