Some customer experience efforts only drive short-term results, without helping build long-term customer loyalty, which as we all know is critical for customer retention, sales and revenue.
We spoke with marketing experts to get their advice on how to create customer experience (CX) strategies that drive customer loyalty. Here's what they had to say.
A Comprehensive Approach and Cross-Organizational Support Drives CX
The key to connecting CX to loyalty is to execute a comprehensive strategy for investing in your customers as a crucial asset. This approach links together customer acquisition, customer engagement, retention, customer value and brand advocacy, according to Jeb Dasteel, founder of Dasteel Consulting.
"The comprehensive approach to CX requires orchestration of the entire executive team," Dasteel said. "CX leaders cannot do this alone. What the leader can do is outline strategic CX objectives, their impact on loyalty, and how that creates measurable value for customers and results for you."
Dasteel recommends companies make the following CX investments for long-term customer success and to promote loyalty:
- An account management program to guide interactions and deliverables for your most important customers.
- Codified approaches to customer adoption and value.
- A customer marketing program to translate value and loyalty into new customer acquisition.
“The most powerful loyalty weapon you have is a portfolio of CX engagements, sponsored by your executives, and aimed directly at your customers’ business outcomes,” Dasteel said.
Also essential in driving loyalty via CX is to have participation across the organization, said Ali Cudby, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Purdue University and managing director of Alignmint Growth Strategies. For most, a loyalty program is not enough, though Starbucks is a notable exception.
“Too often, companies relegate the customer experience to a single department, like customer support or customer success,” Cudby said. “That’s a fatal flaw. CX is bigger than any one department. A customer’s experience includes the promises made by sales and marketing: The product doing the job it was promised. A path to success as a customer. And even technology that makes it easy for customers to engage.”
Companies need someone to be in charge of the customer relationship, and that person needs the authority to influence action cross-functionally, Cudby added. When CX is buried in a single department it’s almost impossible to deliver a truly great, consistent experience.
“Customers need consistency across all of their points of interaction with a company,” Cudby said. “Consistency builds trust and trust is the foundation for authentic, long-term customer loyalty.”
Related Article: Customer Loyalty: Understated and Overestimated
Know Your Target Audience
Building customer loyalty through CX starts with clearly defining the target customers you’re optimizing experiences for, said Rebecca Szew, GBK Collective executive vice president, research and insights. “Too often, we see companies that are heavily focused on customer acquisition and near-term sales, without a clear segmentation and brand strategy in place to inform what products, services and experiences they need to develop to maximize customer value over the long-term.”
Many CX specialists and marketers define loyalty as repeat purchasers, when in fact, those customers may only be transient loyalists who will quickly switch to a competitor based on price, a new product launch, or other factors, Szew added. “Ultimately driving meaningful differentiation through experience comes down to how well a brand knows what their target customers value.”
Szew recommended that companies have holistic programs to measure the impact of their CX efforts across areas — from product development and marketing to sales and customer service. They also need to be open to new ideas to maximize the impact of their CX efforts.
Related Article: Not All Customers Are Created Equal
Build Communities to Foster a Larger Sense of Purpose
“Companies that successfully foster a sense of social engagement or community beyond the transactional use of the product tend to have more loyal followers,” said Dhaval Moogimane, West Monroe director, high-tech and software. “Take the example of Peloton. While the bike or the treadmill itself is a good product, the digital engagement around the product has created a very loyal fan base due to the interactions with the trainers, the social interactions with friends, the synchronization with music, etc."
B2B companies can follow the same strategy by investing and innovating in their community platforms to foster engagement across customers, gamify experiences, create champions and ultimately advocates, Moogimane added.
Related Article: Online Communities and the Campfire Principle
Keep Your Customer Journey Maps Up to Date
Validating the customer journey map is essential in delivering CX that drives loyalty, said Stacy Sherman, founder of Doing CX Right. “Define how people (your target personas) can learn about your brand, buy, get, use, pay their bills and obtain help when needed. If you already have a journey map from prior years, re-create it because human needs and expectations have changed a lot. Bring employees from different departments to co-create the journey map as everyone owns the customer experience, not just one person or team. They will also feel more connected and empowered to deliver customer excellence when part of the process.”
Sherman also stressed that once designed, the customer journey map with real customers to determine if any changes are needed. “For example, if you offer an 800 number for customers to get help with their product or service, but the majority prefer to not call and use online chat instead, then there’s a gap that must be addressed. Ask your customers what they want. They’ll tell you.”