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For too many, improving customer experience means relying on a static survey instrument or omnipotent database. But designing a successful customer experience (CX) program requires constant iteration and delivery — and should be a seasonal process that frequently tests new initiatives and drives corporate decisions. 

This seasonal process should consist of seven intricately-linked steps. In the first part of this series, we talked about successful CX program design. The second step is project design. To be clear: A CX project is not a CX program, though many CX professionals confuse the two. 

Designing a CX program means creating an overarching, "big picture" plan to improve customer experience over time. Designing CX projects means taking the general, big picture principles and goals of your program and applying them to specific actions. Think of it this way: If you want to lose weight, you can’t just hope the pounds will melt off. You have to create workout and diet plans tailored to your situation.

CX professionals often see CX programs as an end in and of themselves, rather than the sum of many well-designed projects. To design CX projects that serve specific functions in a quick, unobtrusive way and present clear metrics that inspire impactful, customer-facing actions, follow a few, simple rules: 

Address a Single, Distinct Feature With Each Project

Each CX project should address a single, distinct feature or problem of your program. And CX professionals should know how that feature fits into the broader context of the program before they even begin. 

If the project goal is, “We want to make sure our customers are happy,” the focus is already too broad. That sounds like a program goal. Instead, narrow your focus. Do you need to differentiate from competitors? Improve your advertising collateral? Update executives on the progress of customer service initiatives? While a good CX program addresses all of these questions, no program can tackle them all at once. You’ll need to break it down into bite-sized pieces. 

These projects don’t have to be in the field indefinitely, but paying targeted attention to each small project will build quality, referenceable insights that contribute to the program goal. Independent projects encourage continuous improvement and are easier on respondents.

Related Article: Align Your Customer Experience With a Higher Purpose

Plan CX Projects Before You Execute

Plan each CX project before you execute. The customer will notice, and it will reduce confusion when presenting results internally. It’ll also allow your organization to be more nimble and act on a series of individual insights rather than waiting for a summary of program priorities. A series of CX projects done in context within your broader CX program goals requires focus in two areas:

1. Utility: How will you use these results? Each new project, study or touch point should contribute to the overall goal of understanding the customer as outlined in your program design. Within each project, you should turn your complete focus on what you will do with each piece of feedback or data you solicit or aggregate.

2. Timing: Time is money, so CX professionals should consider two important factors when designing projects:

Deployment time: A CX project should be carefully placed in the context of your seasonal program. It should include a series of design iterations and sign-offs, a clear idea of how long the study will be fielded and to whom, and a plan to interpret results when they start flowing in.

Interaction time: The length of the interaction with your customer should be brief. Focus on trimming the instrument to include necessary inquiries only, leaving “nice to have” info on the cutting room floor. 

Related Article: Customer Experience Best Practices: A Framework for Designing Outstanding CX

Get Creative With Methodology 

Different projects will require different methodologies. Get creative with the methodologies you use to collect feedback. Be careful with language. Use direct and clear terms that apply to a wide audience. Ask only for the information you need to solve the problem at-hand, and make judicious decisions about which projects to leverage. Doing so avoids the risk of driving customers away and rendering your program ineffective.

For instance, a brand relationship study may require a regular cadence and a wide sampling frame. A churn study would work best with a quick, “Sorry to see you go!” message and an open ended question when a customer ends a subscription. 

Related Article: Balance Customer Feedback and Innovation to Perfect Your Customer Experience

Take Action on the Feedback You Receive 

Create an action plan before you collect project results. What will you do if 70% of your customers think your instruction guide is unreadable? If you don’t have the budget or the internal commitments to revise the guide, don’t ask the question. 

Only ask for feedback that you will act on. If you act on customer feedback, that is one of the most effective ways to become closer to your customers and build loyalty over time.

Related Article: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

Projects Require Continuous Care 

Be open to iteration on every project instead of rarely revisiting it to improve wording, scales or actionability. While many professionals worry they’ll lose the ability to compare results over time if they change the project details, it’s better to change an ineffective project than live with inadequate results.

Ultimately, remember the most important rule of CX: Respect the time and attention of your customers. Each CX project has a distinct place within the context of your overall CX program. Make this distinction, then divide and conquer!

Editor's Note: This is the second in a seven-part series. Check back soon for the next installment.