Customer experience is the key differentiator in today's marketplace — and businesses know it.
Yet too often they focus more on the early points of the customer journey — from initial contact until sales closure — and then disappear shortly after the sale is finalized.
Recent studies show increasing complexity in delivering positive customer experiences. The once simple, linear customer experience has been replaced by one that uses multiple devices, multiple channels, is “always-on” and highly influenced by both positive and negative social media commentary.
Businesses whose scope includes post-sales services will have an advantage over firms who emphasize front-end customer acquisition activities.
A holistic customer experience framework helps ensure a consistent experience across the full customer lifecycle, regardless of touchpoint. While every industry and organization is unique, the approach to creating or improving your customer experience capability can follow a common framework.
This framework fits any organization that’s ready to focus its efforts on improving their customer’s experiences.
1. Identify Experience Expectations and Targets
Your customers have expectations for the support your business provides. Understanding these expectations is the most critical part of creating a differentiated customer experience process.
The process can be simple or complex — it depends on the industry and the complexity that factors like multi-tiered sales, distribution and service models introduce. Sometimes it can be as simple as contacting the customer directly, via meeting or phone call to get their input. The rich information gained from direct person-to-person interaction is not to be missed.
Don't rely on results from survey-based data gathering or other methods to uncover customer expectations — ask and listen to your customers' answers.
2. Analyze and Segment Expectations
After gathering customer expectations, review the input with a keen eye for themes and common expectations.
When segmenting customer inputs, look for patterns and clusters of expectations, keeping in mind the characteristics of the customers with different expectations. Not all customers are treated equally — customers with the greatest total lifetime value merit different experiences than lower-value customers.
Analyzing and segmenting based on customer’s input is critical to any customer-centric organization. It eliminates the risk of designing solutions that provide no value to your customers by using their feedback.
3. Competitor Analysis and Opportunity Review
Evaluate competitor capabilities, offerings and customer feedback to determine where you can differentiate in the post-sales experience. This stage has the added benefit of aligning the front-end experience and the post-sales experience.
Alignment provides an experience that is consistent throughout the customer lifecycle. Brands that offer an initial “high-touch” experience during the early stages of the customer journey, then switch to a “low-touch or self-service” post-sale experience often cause customer frustration.
4. Post-Sales Service Solution Design
Organize a cross-functional team to design the future solution. Consider the customer requests as well as competitor capabilities and opportunities to create a unique experience.
The team is often comprised of members from the design and development, finance, operations, contact center, IT and sales functions. Each plays a part in the customer lifecycle and can contribute to the future design. Outputs from the session include future-state process design, clear responsibility (RACI model) and the IT stack needed to enable the process design.
5. Trial Walkthrough
The final step is to design a walk-through.
The walk-through is often a two-step activity: first, walk through the design with internal experts (people other than the design team), gather their feedback and input, and compare to the customer inputs. If needed, redesign the process based on the feedback, then engage customers to walk through the design and provide their input. Finally, with the feedback and walk through complete you are ready to build the IT systems, train the team and implement the new solution.
A Framework Pays Off in the Long Run
Using a framework provides significant payoff. It leaves your business with an intentional process design, rather than your developing an ad-hoc process in response to a customer requirement or new competitor capability.
These efforts can provide immense value and move many value-levers concurrently.
Improving the customer experience often increases revenue because it reduces customer churn — happy customers simply don’t leave for competitor solutions. Additionally, it can often result in a reduction of costs as processes are intentionally designed rather than ad-hoc solutions that develop to “plug holes” in response to customer feedback (often in the form of a complaint).
What’s your experience? Is your company making an intentional focus on improving customer experience, and if not, what impediments stand in the way? Is it management attention and focus, IT capabilities, staffing shortages, or some other factor?
To remain relevant in the global marketplace, customer experience is king. What would change if your firm was known as the industry-leader in providing amazing post-sales service?