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PHOTO: Climate KIC

Customer experience (CX) comprises the entire customer journey, from lead acquisition and purchase to ongoing engagement. Customers expect you to fulfill their needs on whatever device, whenever they need it, seamlessly and without their intervention. 

Businesses are placing increasing importance on customer experience — it’s not enough to deliver a quality product and good customer service to compete. Forrester found when organizations invest in CX, they see 5.1 times the revenue growth than those that don’t. A sustained focus on CX is transforming everything about how we work: business systems, customer relationships, technology and more. Realigning your company around CX can be a challenge, especially if everything seems to be going just fine. Yet without taking a holistic approach and centering your company culture, processes and technology on the customer, any CX initiative is unlikely to make a lasting impact. 

Here are three ways you can help drive your CX initiative forward. 

Conduct a CX Audit

You need to understand how your customers interact with and see your brand. After all, stellar high-touch customer service doesn’t matter if your payment process is so terrible the customers never make it there! With a CX audit, you need to review and evaluate all the touchpoints your customer has with your company, from research to selection to post-sale interactions like renewal, service and support. 

One consistently undervalued aspect of the CX audit is customer interviews. While we all hope we’ll hear raves about how great our products are and how easy we are to work with, don’t be concerned if you hear complaints. Management experts say complaints are one of the greatest gifts to a change leader, because with complaints you can address underlying issues. The bigger concern is when people don’t speak up, because then you’re never given the opportunity to fix the problem.

You can also interview your own support team to hear their experience with customers, or observe them on support calls with customers. Don’t forget to talk with both phone and chat agents to get their feedback on the most frequent questions and concerns they hear. Your goal should be to find out the top questions customers are asking, as well as the top concerns that are being raised. Listen for recurring patterns: are customers consistently complaining about a particular product feature? Are they having concerns about the renewal process? Do they express frustration that they’re reaching out through social channels, but that information isn’t transparent to their account manager or the support team? 

Conducting a CX audit can provide insight into where you can improve your current experience, as well as helping identify areas to promote customer-centric initiatives. 

Related Article: Getting Started With a Customer Experience Audit

Put a Premium on Culture

It’s easy to think about investing in new software to improve your customers’ interactions with your company, but the No. 1 challenge you have to overcome to improve (or build) a CX program is your culture. The way your employees interact with your customers is one of the most crucial drivers of your customer experience. When customers need assistance, do employees go the extra mile? Do customers feel like their concerns are heard, and that they’re an important part of driving your organization or product into the future? Or do they feel like their only value to your organization is to the bottom line? If your employees aren’t connecting with your customers, interactions will feel cold or rote. 

Employees who feel cared for care for your customers. And that starts with having a defined culture. Think about brands that provide memorable customer experiences, like Disney, Starbucks and Southwest. These brands have defined cultures that they communicate clearly to their employees. It’s more than a mission statement — it’s a lifestyle. So if you haven’t defined your culture, do so. Then begin hiring for culture. Is your culture based in innovation? Look for entrepreneurial risk-takers. If it’s about love, look for candidates who demonstrate those values.  

And don’t forget to support your culture with your internal brand. You send messages all day to your employees, who in turn echo those to your customers. Words matter, so don’t forget how your vocabulary can drive your culture — and in turn, your customer experience. 

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

Provide Employees with the Tools for Success

Culture alone isn’t enough. You need to equip your employees with the tools they need to make better decisions about — and for — your customers. Research by Commvault and Quadrant Strategies found that companies utilizing data-driven insights to make strategic decisions have seen their productivity boosted by 33%. Yet when an organization’s culture is fast-moving and digital-dependent, employees often use their own preferred tools and solutions without collaborating or sharing information. These silos can lead to inconsistent perspectives on customers and their needs. 

Consider where CX and digital transformation (DX) initiatives can overlap, particularly when it comes to implementing analytics, driving optimization and transforming your processes. To provide the best customer experience, you don’t want to just do the same things faster or better. You want to help your employees connect customer touchpoints across systems to improve overall customer experience. 

Investing in CX is vital. Higher CX drives a willingness to pay a premium for your product or service. In fact, Forrester found customers are 4.5 times more likely to pay a premium if their experience is excellent. As a CX leader, you want to align your goals with the overall business strategy, but before you can do that, you need to understand what your customers want, need and experience. 

For a successful initiative, CX leaders must embody and forward the key values of a digital culture — customer-centricity, a collaborative mindset, and a tolerance for risk. But don’t forget that a crucial part of CX transformation is looking at your customer-facing processes and asking not just “why are we doing things this way?” but “should we be doing things this way?”