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Forrester’s The US Customer Experience Index, 2020 (paywall) found that 27% of brands improved their customer experiences in the last year, marking a significant jump following years of minimal gains. Forrester credited the increase to a combination of customer experience (CX) professionals prioritizing high-impact projects, securing executive buy-in, evangelizing CX projects across the organization and designing experiences that emotionally resonate with customers.

We asked practitioners to share their most effective CX tactics.

Start by Acing CX Fundamentals

"The brands that win with consumers get the fundamentals right," said Holden Bale, vice president at Huge. "What's so shocking is how many businesses still can't deliver consistent service standards — whether it's call-back times for insurance providers, web or social chat services for hospitality companies, or visibility on inventory or free returns for retailers — which are foundational pillars necessary to unlock differentiated consumer experiences."

Beyond fundamentals, companies need a coherent brand message and rich, value-added services, according to Bale, who cited Southwest Airlines' great service and customer touch as an example. "Once you get beyond the table-stakes (things like having reliable inventory, consistent experiences across devices and touchpoints), it's about emotion and the creation of value for consumers. Either a brand that resonates with you, like the advocacy we see for the Patagonias of a world who have a clear and compelling social message backed by high quality products, or a capability that enhances your experience with a company."

Nike is another brand that adds services to the fundamentals, according to Bal. Nike gives customers the ability to have a customized shoe that expresses their style with  Nike ID and offers value added services (Nike+, Nike Run Club, Nike Training Club), giving the company a “leaps-and-bounds advantage” over the competition.

For example, when COVID-19 hit in China, Nike doubled-down on content through Nike Run Club and Training Club. The result was an 80% increase in  digital engagement from the beginning of the third quarter to the end and a big lift in digital sales that offset the temporary closure of thousands of its stores.

Related Article: How Do You Maintain Customer Experience on a Shrinking Budget?

Improved Website Lowers Customer Acquisition Costs

"Over the past few months at Tajima-Direct.com, we have been working extensively on our customer experience mostly through our website UX and UI," said Jacob Rosenberg, the company’s co-founder. "Given that most of our traffic comes from digital advertising through social media or Google search and that our service is relatively new for most people (sunglass lens replacement), we knew that we needed to make our website design as seamless, simple and straightforward as possible for our users to push all the way through the funnel to making a purchase."

To do so the company conducted user testing through Trymyui.com, which asks certain prospects to follow directions to move through the website (i.e. “find the replacement lenses you would want for your sunglasses and add to cart”) and then allows the company to watch the screen as they interact with the site.

"The best part, not only do they record the screen, but they record themselves talking as they navigate saying everything they are thinking and reading as they go through allowing us to pinpoint any confusing sections or double down on what impressed people," Rosenberg explained. When the recording ends, companies ask the subjects specific questions, which helps identify the best and worst parts of the experience, any red flags or roadblocks and more. With the findings, the company lowered its customer acquisition costs by 70%.

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

Videos to Aid Customer Onboarding

"We found many of our clients had a lot of difficulty wrapping their heads around some of the numbers and statistics we were using related to their services," said Alexander Kehoe, co-founder and creative director of Caveni, a website developer. "We now make customized explanatory videos for our customers when they begin working with us. This has by far had the most impact on our customer's experience and the rate at which they remain with our company has skyrocketed as a result."

Customer churn rate has been reduced from around 30% to less than 14%, Kehoe added, explaining that these videos create new connections with customers and the personalized touch makes sure they directly see the work being done on their behalf. “We're very happy with the result and look forward to applying the same concepts elsewhere in our sales and customer relations cycles.”

Related Article: Doubling Down on Customer Retention? Don't Forget Your Onboarding Process

Other CX Strategy Wins

Bale offered up three further examples of recent CX wins that really stand out:

  • Ulta Beauty developing virtual beauty advisors, augmented reality try-on experiences, and richer in-store salon service offerings.
  • Nordstrom's ongoing rollout of its omnichannel Local concept, which provides valuable services (pick-ups, returns — including to Amazon, personal styling, gift-wrapping) to consumers in densely packed urban corridors, and reinforces the digital:physical value exchange of initiatives like buy online pick-up in store.
  • Target's relaunch of its loyalty program, now named Circle, which not only gives real benefit (early access to sales), but reinforces a sense of community (users can direct Target's local giving initiatives and donations to charities of the consumers' choice).

Related Article: When Online and In-Person Meet: The Challenges of Takeout and Curbside Pickup