a sign that reads, forget the mistake, remember the lesson
PHOTO: Shutterstock

A positive customer experience (CX) is vital to the success of every business, but many times when a business attempts to build a holistic CX — that is, one that affects customers on an emotional, cognitive, and social level, a 360-degree experience that covers the entire customer journey — they make costly mistakes that negatively affect the experience they designed.

Garin Hobbs is director of deal strategy at Iterable. He said, “CX matters. In fact, it’s basically going to surpass price and product as the main brand differentiator. A good CX builds brand affinity. A great CX enables a long-term, deep relationship between brand and consumer. An incredible CX establishes brand loyalty and evangelism.” Here he shares the 5 mistakes that you should avoid when creating a holistic CX practice.

Mistake #1: Failure to Recognize That EX Directly Translates to CX

As this CMSWire article from 2019 points out, employee experience (EX) is the new CX. Employees that are happy and engaged tend to translate to happy and loyal customers, and there is a direct correlation between employee experience and customer experience. Since 2017, Gallup has been saying that engaged employees are more productive and mentally present in their tasks, and are more focused and aware of the needs of customers, which equates to a 21% greater profitability than those businesses with less engaged employees, as well as a 10% increase in customer ratings.

Kerry Bodine, CX thought leader, CEO of Bodine & Co., told CMSWire that “employee experience is central to a successful CX strategy. Unengaged employees simply aren’t going to care about whether customers have a good or bad experience. That's not to say that employee engagement is enough to create a great CX — employees still need the proper tools, knowledge and direction. But that engagement is a critical foundation.”

Aside from the improvement in employee engagement, when EX leads to actionable insights, the results tend to increase the personal satisfaction level of employees. Satisfied employees are more content and committed at work, and they are more likely to share this contentment to customers through their actions, which translates to improved customer satisfaction levels. The level of the happiness of employees is directly equatable to that of their customers. As a business leader, you should already have an EX program, and if not, it should be a top priority if you care about the customer journey, not to mention ROI.

Mistake #2: Thinking That All Customers Are 'People Like Us'

Goutham Gandhi, founder of Futuristic Labs spoke with CMSWire about the common pitfalls that businesses run into when it comes to a CX strategy. Gandhi believes the worst mistake a business can make is to think that all of its customers are People Like Us (PLU) — that is, the demographic that we as an individual belong to. He said “for example, as a tech-savvy AI engineer, you could understand the working of a product by simply looking at its components and its demo video. However, the non-PLUs would need a live or in-person demonstration to understand a high-end tech product.”

Gandhi is correct, and not just on a technical level. As this article entitled How Cultural Differences Impact Customer Experience reminds us, every customer is different, coming from various countries, ethnic groups, speaking different languages, and having different expectations when it comes to security and privacy concerns, and even their perceptions of color. It’s vital to remember that the way your customers see your product, service or solution, as well as the methodologies that they use to interact with your business, may not be the same way you see it as a leader of the business.

Additionally, leaders need to recognize that diversity often comes up even among the same or similar customers. Hobbs referred to these differences when he said that “All customers are not created equal, meaning that your CX measurement efforts should focus on your most valuable customers (the ones that have the greatest impact on revenue). And customer journey analytics help you determine that. Determine what data is most critical to understanding the context of customer interactions: what drives each individual to buy/interact? Why this purchase? Why now? Ask yourself: How does it fit into their customer data profile (example: I purchase only men’s clothes for 13 months, but then I purchase a women’s dress).”

Even those customers who have already interacted with a business change from day-to-day and month-to-month, and a business cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to recognizing and understanding those changes. Hobbs said, “Understand that catering and adjusting is mission-critical to brand differentiation. The customer you understood in January isn’t the same one you have now. And don’t save testing for the holiday spike or the big promotional push. Test everything continually. This is not a quick or easy process, but a living commitment, as success is a moving target, and the expectations of experience continually shift and evolve.” Craft your CX strategy based on diversity, understand and expect your customers to see things from their own perspective, and your customer’s journeys will reflect your understanding that “I can look where you are looking, but I can’t see what you see.”

Related Article: How Cultural Differences Impact Customer Experience

Mistake #3: Failing to Use VoC to Improve the Customer Journey

Ruchika Sharma, customer marketing manager for the mobile marketing platform Clever Tap, shared how she thinks businesses should approach the customer journey. “Understanding the customer journey cannot be limited to figuring out their acquisition source, the actions they perform on your app or website or how and when they transact. It needs to be extended to developing an in-depth understanding of their persona — their business, their vision, their mission, their challenges, their ever changing needs and preferences, their aspirations, their pain points and the core reason that brought them to discovering your business,” Sharma said.

Many businesses implement a Voice of Customer (VoC) program, but fail to use it to take measures to utilize the data to solve the problems that customers have along their journey, and that’s what it is all about — actionable insights. Sharma said that the most important aspect of VoC is “identifying your customer’s pain points with reference to your services and then helping them to overcome those pain points in order to build an army of brand advocates. I believe the most important aspect starts after analyzing all the VoC metrics to identify those unhappy customers and coming up with a plan of action to cater to their challenges. You have to put VoC insights into action, and then identify and respond to the VoC to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Turning negative feedback into positive is the real challenge.”

Knowing how your customers interact with your business, through each step of their journey, is the key to understanding them, and determining how you might be able to improve their experience. Sharma insisted that when it comes to a CX strategy, having a VoC program “is a mandate for any business. It really helps you spot early warnings and potential brand crises, evaluate new concepts, ideas, and solutions, customize your products, services, add-ons, and features to meet the needs and wants of your customers and increase customer retention.”

As Hobbs pointed out, “Different stages of the customer journey require different experience drivers, and each must be attuned to both the purpose and context of the interaction. It’s easy to break this down when you consider two distinct stages: discovery and loyalty.” He explained it like this: “At the first stage in the customer journey (discovery) companies should be less concerned about sales and more on understanding the needs/motivations of the customer in order to creatively leverage your brand identity and create a memorable first impression that can be carried through the entire funnel.” Hobbs said the next stage is about customer loyalty, and said, “Even after all the work done to drive people down the funnel (past conversion), you re-focus to brand loyalty. Repeat purchases drive ongoing revenue, and customers are more likely to purchase new products from familiar brands. Here, you need to deliver more than utility — you need to create a meaningful connection.”

Often, businesses go through the trouble of mapping out the customer journey, only to end up using it ineffectively, or worse, not at all. Bodine reflected that “I see so many organizations invest large amounts of both time and money in creating journey maps — but then they don't do anything with the maps! They just hang them on the wall, or worse, put them in a drawer. These organizations are missing a huge opportunity to frame the rest of their CX efforts around the one thing that matters most: helping customers achieve their goals.”

Gandhi emphasized that listening to what customers say, which is what VoC metrics are all about, is vital. He suggested that “You might think you know everything about your customer and their experience, but you will definitely want to listen to your customers early and often. Right from the ideation stage, to prototyping, to building the product, selling it and using it, listen to your customers. There is a lot of value in listening and incorporating the feedback in your product.”

Mistake #4: Taking a Channel Specific Approach

The customer journey involves many channels of interaction. When you are creating your customer experience strategy, you need to think in terms of a 360-degree experience that covers the entire CX, from start to finish to post transaction. Along with the process of connecting with a business online, creating an order, submitting the order, and then receiving the order, there may be touchpoints along the way that include email, telephone, live messaging chats, and even social media.

Your CX strategy needs to be omnichannel, and the customer journey needs to be consistent. Hobbs reiterated this type of commitment to CX when he said that “CX is a single, holistic continuum across every interaction and touchpoint between brand and customer. Ensure the experience is consistent from one touchpoint to the next, both offline and online. Consistency = Reliability = Commitment.”

Gandhi also refers to this consistency and commitment to each stage of the customer journey, and said, “While designing a holistic experience, it is crucial to deliver value to the customer at every step. Don't just promote the product mindlessly in the awareness stage — refer your customer to articles that help them understand the need for the product. Make it easy for them to understand the product. Provide demos, in-person trials, simple descriptions indicating how to use the product, etc. Continue these value additions throughout the value chain.”

Jeremy Harrison, founder and head of content strategy for HustleLife, spoke with CMSWire about an omnichannel CX strategy. Like Gandhi, Harrison believes that “A 360-degree view should include multiple channels that should be centered on the customer. You have to change your marketing style to suit this idea. Omnichannel marketing is the perfect style for this, but still, people keep forgetting to shift to this. Your 360-degree view would be more spot-on with an omnichannel marketing strategy. This will easily integrate all your marketing channels and come up with appropriate responses based on which channel the customer is using. With this, user experience is enhanced, giving the customer continuation whichever channel s/he chooses.“

Mistake #5: Not Using a Customer Data Platform

The ultimate goal of using a customer data platform (CDP) is to create an enhanced, more personalized customer journey, although many would associate a CDP with marketing. CMSWire spoke to Naras Eechambadi, founder and CEO of Quaero, an enterprise CDP company, and asked him how a CDP affects CX. Naras said, “They are inextricably intertwined. A CDP should ideally enable the execution and acceleration of a business’ CX strategy by optimizing the customer journey across channels and interactions. The choice of CDP should be driven by the customer strategy of the organization, not the other way around.”

Another defining aspect of a CDP is its ability to create a singular view of each customer, including their interactions across multiple channels. Naras said, “One of the key uses of a CDP is to create a single view of the customer, that includes all known information about each customer — their demographics, their purchase behavior, payments patterns, interactions within and across channels, cross purchase across brands over time, loyalty, price sensitivity, etc.”

This enables a business to delve into the various segmentations that ultimately affect the customer experience. Naras reflected that this comprehensive view “can then be used to create and test multiple segmentations with different combinations of attributes based on the business objectives of acquisition, retention, personalization, cross-sell or upsell as well as enhancing CX across various mediums where brands engage with their prospects and customers.”

Final Thoughts

Remember that EX equates to CX, not all customers are like you, VoC data can make the task easier, CX is an omnichannel endeavor, and that a CDP will help to provide the individualization and personalization customers expect from online experiences today.

Creating a 360-degree, holistic CX strategy is a challenge for any business, but by avoiding these common mistakes, leaders can help to ensure that the entire customer journey is a positive one that leaves the customer satisfied and makes them want to continue to interact with the business.