The vast majority of decision makers admit obstacles hinder their efforts to deliver good customer experience.

These obstacles or barriers include everything from outdated systems to inadequate customer experience (CX) capabilities.

So how can small companies overcome barriers, advance their CX initiatives and reap benefits such as improved sales cycles, increased customer satisfaction and a three-to-one return on their investment?

Focus small and gain momentum. Improve on the process over time to gain the necessary experience to deliver more relevant experiences. And remember that creating relevant customer experiences is a four-step process.

4 Steps to Relevant CX

Step 1: Understand your customer

Use research and analytics to gain insight about your existing customers, potential customers, former customers and non-customers. Then use that data to build a buyer persona.

HubSpot defines a buyer persona as "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers."

The buyer persona should include demographic information, as well as background information on employment, family composition, goals, challenges and other information relevant for your customers.

Try to make the persona as detailed as possible — and keep in mind that personas are not static. You can always add more or adjust information as you learn about your customers.

Start small and develop a single persona. Have a colleague play the role of a customer and interview her to gain confidence and refine the questions you will ask. Tailor the questions to your business. You want to get a sense of the person and use questions such as these:

  • Describe a typical day
  • How can your daily activities be improved?
  • Describe what you would consider a big win for you or your team
  • What are the goals for you and your team?
  • How are the goals measured?
  • What is the biggest challenge you have?
  • What are other challenges that you face?
  • What have you done to remove the challenges you face?
  • How do you learn more about products/services that can help you achieve your goals?
  • What objections exist to possible solutions?
  • How are decisions made?

A good customer experience is driven from the personas you create. Use these personas to ensure that the delivered experience matches customer expectations at every stage of the sales lifecycle.

As you craft experiences, you will learn more about your customers and enhance your personas through the interactions they have with various channels of your company. Remember, the persona is an ideal customer for the company. The persona will only be effective if you can solve the challenges and meet his or her goals.

Here is a sample persona to provide an idea of information that a company may find valuable. The goal is to understand how the person spends time and where you can best reach him or her.

sample persona

Step 2: Remove Barriers

There are many things companies can do to remove the barriers that block their CX efforts. The most common barrier is a lack of up-to-date sales, marketing and service technologies. But a company can enhance CX with whatever resources it has and take advantage of multiple free or low-cost options including:

  • Google Docs or any word processor for creating personas
  • Google Slides, Keynote or PowerPoint for documenting the customer journey
  • Google Analytics to understand website traffic and flows
  • Canva for creating graphics

You don't need sophisticated platforms to create better customer experience. In fact, because they require expertise to use correctly, they can sometimes derail efforts to start a CX initiative.

barriers to good cx

Step 3: Evaluate the Customer Journey

Pick a single goal. For example, you want a customer to fill out a form requesting a demo.

Keep the goal simple. What does your customer journey look like today to achieve that goal? Go through your website as your persona. Document the most likely process of how a user would currently achieve that goal.

  • Where does the customer start their journey? Is it search, a recommendation or social media?
  • What information is the customer looking for that is relevant to the goal? Do they go to a blog post, landing page or a simple product page?
  • What other information might they seek? Typically, customers go to about pages to learn more about the company.
  • Where do they leave your website?
  • How do they re-enter the website? Did an email get them back or something else?
  • When they get to the form, do they submit or not? If not, why? Is the form a generic contact or more specific to what the customer is researching?

The image below depicts a sample journey that a customer may take.

A customer may start with a search on Google to get to a landing page. After the landing page, the customer views the company's about page and then exits the site. The customer returns to the site through a blog post that the company shared on Facebook. The journey continues on, until the customer completes the goal.

evaluate your customer journey

Documenting a customer's existing experience can help the company understand the message that is being delivered.

Write down the main message that is delivered through this journey. Does that message match the goal? Create a list for each interaction and document if and how it supports the goal. The list will help you determine what areas to target for improvement.

Step 4: Craft a Single Experience

Now that the existing customer experience has been documented through a single journey, craft a better experience. The areas that have been identified as needing improvement should be focused on first. Keep in mind, this experience represents achieving a single goal. Optimize for that goal.

Think about your persona and determine how the journey can be made better. Some things to consider:

  • If the visitor leaves and comes back to your site, is the experience the same? Can you deliver more relevant content on the entry page?
  • What should you know about the visitor to make the second session more informative and valuable? What did you learn about the customer on previous visits? What kind of information are they looking for?
  • Can you target content for what stage they are in the sales lifecycle?
  • Does your landing page demonstrate how you can help the persona achieve their goals and reduce their challenges?

The answer to these questions drives changes to the existing experience. This may require creating a new landing page, a new form and updating blog posts with more relevant content.

Craft the experience to demonstrate how the company can help the customer achieve their goals. Provide information that the persona would find valuable. Understand that it is a journey and less people may go to the more targeted landing page, but conversions will increase.

Incremental Improvement

The first experience you craft will not be perfect. But it is a start to a better experience for your customers. Each additional experience becomes easier to create, provides data to make the journey better, and adds insights into your customers.

Momentum is a powerful force. Something that may seem unattainable gets a little closer with each and every victory.

The same is true with your customer experience strategy.

Focusing on a comprehensive CX plan — with everything automated, fueled by big data and machine learning, and completely personalization —is a distraction.

You cannot get from the start to the end in a single leap. Instead focus on the many goals between where you are and where you are going.

Small, incremental improvements will help you set the stage to become a customer experience leader.

Title image by Francisco Galarza