We've all heard the boasts that companies make about their superlative customer experience (CX) goals and missions, promising customer delight and surpassing customer expectations. And while most companies acknowledge the value of a good customer experience, many find it hard to meet customer expectations. 

CX Maturity Models classify companies into four broad categories, from lowest to highest level of maturity:

  • Random CX – Companies in this category have not put much thought into the customer experience. The customer interactions are ad hoc and one-and-done. There is no desire to build longer term relationships with clients. The approach is more like a souvenir vendor in a tourist district
  • Managed CX – These companies manage the customer interaction and service processes well. However, the goal is not the highest degree of customer satisfaction but streamlining the processes to be more cost efficient
  • Optimized CX – At this maturity level, companies acknowledge the importance of the customer experience. Focus is on building long-term relationships, monitoring NPS (net promoter score) and optimizing channels and interactions for a smooth customer journey
  • Differentiated CX – These companies lead the pack with customer-centric business models. Customer experience is not an afterthought, but central to all business operations. Customer experience is considered a key competitive differentiator.

Successful companies understand this point well: It’s not about delivering the best customer experience — it is about delivering the desired customer experience, at the right time. The companies higher on the customer experience maturity curve provide the desired experiences consistently.

How do they achieve that? It can be boiled down to the basics of people, processes and technology. 

They hire the right people and train them well. They are very process-oriented, delivering consistent experiences and have technology frameworks to manage the omnichannel customer experience. 

So what sets these companies apart from others? They know and understand their customers well and manage their experience like a finely tuned orchestra throughout each customer’s journey. The people, processes and technology fade into the background as the customer takes center stage.

Customer Experience Leaders Know Their Customers

Many applications come into play when managing customer interactions and transactions. Companies deploy CRM for general profile information, marketing automation for engagement. There are systems for billing, order-to-cash, shipping and logistics, and others for support and training. 

Since different departments own these applications, the information gets locked in the respective functional silos. Delivering a compelling customer experience requires organizations to get the full picture of the customer by bringing data together from all internal and external systems and creating a single source of reliable customer information. 

Companies that lead in CX maturity start by building a reliable customer data foundation and share customer information across all business functions. Such companies make it possible for all stakeholders to curate the customer data collaboratively.

Knowing the customer also means knowing his or her relationships, households and affiliations, since the buyer, influencer and user of the product can be different. Understanding customer relations and influence is a critical piece in the selling process. Information about who is purchasing the product, and for B2C companies, who the other members of the household are and who will use the product, provide important clues to help design the right customer experience. 

Understand and Map Customer Journeys

Customers want the flexibility to connect with businesses at their convenience, using the channel and device of their choice. They may search for a product on the web, use email to subscribe for discounts, call in to check the pricing and ultimately make the purchase in the store. To provide the right experience, companies must understand their customer's journey — across all channels — and make it as easy as possible for users to consume information in each channel.

To reach this understanding, leading companies formally map the customer journey. Mapping the journey helps pinpoint and rectify the bottlenecks and information gaps in sales and engagement processes. 

But it goes beyond mapping the journey —these companies also keep a record of each journey. They record all interactions, transactions, with device and location data information. Their customers can easily hop from channel to channel, continuing their activities without losing the context. Customers never need to re-enter their information.

Mine the Data to Discover Customer's Preferences

It’s one thing to collect the data and another thing to put it to work. 

Learning Opportunities

Once a reliable data foundation is set with all of the customer information, start learning what the customer wants. Look at their channel preferences, listen to their social sentiment, learn what type of content information they look for, and monitor devices they use for interactions and transactions. 

Understand what day of the week, time of the day they are most engaged. Leading companies use various analytics and machine learning tools to get such insight about the customer. With this information, they personalize interactions with the customers and reach them effectively.

Provide Relevant Information

With the customer data set and customer preferences clear, now’s the time companies put that information into action. 

Customers want relevant information when they need it. By understanding the customer journey and internalizing their preferences, companies can reach that long-sought goal: providing the right information and the right offer to the right customer at the right time. This is what good customer experience comes down to. 

Those companies at the lower maturity levels tend to create one-size-fits-all customer experiences. Either they do not have the complete information to personalize the experience or turn to a one-size approach for cost efficiencies. This betrays a cost-centric mentality rather than customer-centric approach. 

Master Data Management Platforms Help Keep the Data House in Order

Modern data management platforms help manage all of this customer data — blending data from internal, third-party and external sources and providing tools to match, merge, de-duplicate and clean data to create a reliable foundation and single source of truth about customers. 

Leading organizations use this data foundation and implement data-driven applications for accurate segmentation, campaign design or to run predictive analytics. Graph technology can help uncover relationships between customers, their family or affiliates, products, and places. 

Modern data management also provides capabilities for near-real-time analytics and recommends next best actions for customer engagement using predictive analytics and machine learning. Using machine learning, organizations can personalize campaigns and send them to the customer at the right phase of a customer’s journey, at the right time, and using the right channel. Having a good understanding of the customer and providing relevant information when he or she needs it makes all the difference.

Title image by Will van Wingerden

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.