Six Steps to Customer Experience Improvement (Part 1)

There’s no doubt: The race to differentiate on customer experience is on. In every industry, companies are trying to “get customer-centric” to stand out from the competition in a world where the relationship between customers and the companies is rapidly shifting in favor of the “smart customers” we’re all becoming.

6-Steps-Part-1-2In short, improving customer experience has quickly become a strategic imperative for nine out of 10 executives. And while the road to differentiation nirvana is much more complex than can be communicated in a few blog posts, if you’re just starting to undertake this journey, then a simplified road map can be helpful.

In that spirit, I will outline our approach to customer experience improvement in this and my next blog post. We developed this approach during the past 10 years while helping many firms–from fast-growth market leaders (and challengers) to the Fortune 100–transform the ways they interact with and serve their customers, employees, partners, and others. So while these steps are by no means comprehensive, we trust they will be informative.

Step One: What Are You Trying To Accomplish?

It seems a simple question, but it often isn’t. That’s why a clear understanding of your business objectives is the key first step, followed immediately by understanding who may be affected–not just in a broad sense, but in a segmented, prioritized sense. Which customers are most important, and why? Who, exactly, are they? And what do you want them to get or do differently as a result of this effort?

  • Objectives:
    • Define issues and business objectives
    • Assess target markets and affected audiences
  • Pitfalls to avoid:
    • Assumption there’s a “shared” view of key customers
    • Lack of customer data
    • Lack of business data
  • Activities can include:
    • Customer segment identification and analysis
    • Issues analysis, including:
      -   Scope and severity of problems
      -   Feasibility of potential solutions

Step Two: Understand Current Perceptions

No matter where or how you start, embracing—and profiting from—customer experience improvement starts by accepting that customer experience isn’t defined by you. It’s defined by your customers. If you’re not prepared to listen and act, then don’t bother.  You need to understand their current experiences, what an “ideal” experience is, customer wants and needs at different stages of the life cycle and for different interactions, the touchpoints they encounter–and how well they do (or don’t) work, and why. This is the heart of the “outside in” customer perspective that supports all successful customer experience initiatives.

  • Objectives:
    • Collect views of customers and their experiences
    • Identify gaps and opportunities
  • Pitfalls to avoid :
    • Failure to include cross-functional stakeholders, at all levels
    • Failure to include customers
    • Failure to include enough of the “right” customers
  • Activities can include:
    • Internal workshops
    • Employee, Customer and Market Research
    • Journey Mapping (current state)

Step Three: Develop A Customer Experience Strategy

Your customer experience strategy guides your company in defining, designing, and delivering experiences that consistently meet or exceed customer expectations. It articulates what you need to do and how you need to do it in order to deliver those experiences. It also helps you understand what resources are required to make this happen, and guides the prioritization and allocation of the activities you’ll need to undertake.

  • Objectives:
    • Define a customer experience strategy that describes desired experience, and flows from business and brand strategy
    • Begin socializing customer experience internally
  • Pitfalls to avoid :
    • Not tying experience strategy to brand
    • Not gaining executive buy-in
  • Activities can Include:
    • Gap identification
    • Strategy definition
    • Business case creation
    • VoC program design

These first three steps–identifying your key business objectives, understanding the “outside-in” perspective of your customers, and developing your customer experience strategy are critical to setting the foundation of your ability to differentiate on experience.

In "Six Steps To Customer Experience Improvement (Part 2)," I will outline the remaining three steps, which will turn your plans into actions: service and experience design, implementation, and ongoing experience monitoring and measurement.

In total, these six steps should help you and other stakeholders rethink the nature of customer experience in your organization, and offer a framework to help improve–and potentially differentiate on–the ways you listen to, interact with, and serve your customers.

Customer Experience Strategy, Get it Right to Drive Success

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