a man rolling out blueprints on a table.
PHOTO: Shutterstock

It didn’t take a world health pandemic for organizations to recognize the value of providing a good customer experience (CX). Nonetheless, organizations have had to make pivots in their CX game.

McKinsey and Company recommended four actions for organizations to respond to customer needs during the pandemic and beyond:

  • Focus on care and concern.
  • Meet your customers where they are.
  • Reimagine the post-COVID-19 world.
  • Build agile capabilities for fluid times.

“People think customer experience is defined and limited to a standard of engagement techniques and processes; however, there’s much more involved,” said David Lopes, senior director of engagement and experience at ServiceSource. “When you think about a CX strategy, understanding the importance and value of what you provide to your customer, why they buy and keep buying from you and what are the key moments of the experience is central."

A customer experience strategy should consider all these touchpoints and aspects to create the most appropriate experience at each moment in time for your customer, Lopes added. Your strategy should tie this together with pragmatism, to create the most appropriate experience at each moment in time for your customer.

What Is Customer Experience Strategy?

Let’s consider some paths to forming a strong customer experience strategy. A good first step is to define what exactly that is. What is a customer experience strategy?

A customer experience strategy is creating a plan to provide a holistic view of interactions a customer will have with brands that are relevant, personalized and meaningful, according to Arpit Jain, VP of delivery at Nerdery. “This is also with the aim,” he said, “to provide a superior experience to customers, and thereby help brands achieve their business goals.”

At the highest level, a customer experience strategy supports organizations in defining, creating and aligning on a shared aspiration of their brand’s values. It considers how those values manifest into meeting and exceeding the needs of customers, clients, partners and employees across interactions, curated to the moment, according to Amanda Goodwin, head of experience design at Ansira. “As a result, developing a customer experience strategy is more than an approach or process to be implemented, but rather is a catalyst to help drive change within an organization, breaking down department and product owner silos to produce an iterative and measurable approach to actioning meaningful experiences,” she said.

Customer experience strategies curate and design for needs across all moments of a journey, striking the right balance of meeting customer needs and driving measurable business results, Goodwin added, with a clear understanding of business requirements and operational demand with necessary processes and technology.

Related Article: Build Your Customer Experience Strategy Around Customer Communication

Leading the Customer Experience Strategy

Now, the easy answer here is “everyone owns customer experience,” and, naturally, there is some truth to that. But there are always roles in organizations that take leadership. Jain suggests that since this is about customers' end-to-end experience throughout their interactions with the brand, this effort requires cross functional collaboration. Key roles include experience strategist, experience designers and product owners with inputs from other relevant roles (technologists, etc.) as appropriate, she said.

Goodwin said her teams are carefully crafted based on the client’s engagement needs, their specific business model and their industry. “This ensures,” she said, “the right mix of experts across an integrated team of analysts, strategists, designers, developers and technologists. The team works together across the entire solution process to support innovation, rapid prototyping, quick-to-market proof of concept, test pilots and quick-win activations.”

The internal team is also closely integrated with the client’s team, their vendors and other partners to further ensure collaboration and integration across all aspects of the engagement and solution design.

Business-Technology Intersection in Customer Experience Strategy

Joel Martin, director of vendor advisory services for Info-Tech Research Group, said business and technology should be involved in a CX strategy effort. “At a more granular level, typically the customer experience lead, head of sales and head of marketing should represent the business and from IT the CIO, applications leadership and web team leadership should be in the room,” Martin said.

What Part Do Business Leaders Play?

Business leaders should articulate customer interactions (inbound and outbound activities of these departments) and what each of their teams see as measurable, success-based outcomes as well as the channels (technologies) their teams need to use, Martin added. “As customers will touch multiple points and multiple channels,” Martin said, “it is critical for these business leaders to agree upon how, why, when and where interactions take place to agree upon how these shape the experience of the totality of the engagements, rather than case by case touch points.”

What Part Do Technology Leaders Play?

Technology facilitates the architecture, process mapping and the selection of tools that can best facilitate a single frame of reference and profile of customers. The technology always seeks to optimize both systems and relevant data from the businesses and the customer engagements to report, track, analyze and facilitate flow of the interactions rather than create friction with either the customer or the company’s agent in gathering insights. This is especially important as virtual assistants, chatbots and IVR solutions grow in popularity.

Related Article: Where Governance Fits in Your Customer Experience Strategy

Mapping the Customer Journey

The who and what of a customer experience strategy is great. But the how is where the work gets done. What are the essential components of deploying a customer experience strategy and why do they matter?

According to Martin, three functions are a good starting point:

Design and Mapping

Set your CX vision and map the journeys of your customers from awareness to adoption to retention, and map the technologies in place to facilitate these, Martin said. Review the tools made available to the customer to engage your organization and identify the friction that customer agents face in gathering the right data/insights at a case level (not interaction level). Look at how other companies succeed or fail at this.

Create Best Case (360) View

Determine your system of record — what system has the core customer data. Map your IT solutions that facilitate a customer engagement and optimize and reduce redundancy or unnecessary duplication. “Using inputs from the business,” Martin said, “invest in tools that curate a best experience. The desired solution can pull in real-time data from multiple systems, data on past engagements and current experiences and promote solutions.

Capture User Feedback

Measure loyalty (net promotion) and build customer advocacy. Pride yourself on feedback and create actions, Martin added.

Organizational Alignment for CX, Design Blueprints

Goodwin sees the core functions for building a CX strategy falling into arenas such as organizational alignment and designing blueprints. Specifically, she broke down those and other important CX strategy components:

  • Organizational alignment and collaboration: This is critical and, if absent, hinders the ability for success and scale of any CX strategy.
  • Research and analysis: Both qualitative and quantitative analysis, including ethnographies, digital panels and predictive modeling, are essential to clearly identify the needs/desires and expectations of customers to inform differentiating “white space” opportunities.
  • Current state assessment/service design blueprints: This allows the team to clearly pinpoint opportunities and gaps in meeting both functional and emotional needs of the customer across the lifecycle, touchpoints, people, process and technology.
  • Process to support convergent and divergent methodologies: Experience impact scoring, engagement and business analysis, and prioritization analysis, connected with free-flowing ideation, inform a future-state customer experience vision and journey.
  • Experience design: Experience design brings the strategy to life through design principles of usability, desirability and utility.
  • Measurement, testing and innovation roadmap: The CX strategy is not a one-time engagement; it is an always-on, ever-evolving practice. Ensuring the right KPIs, tracking and tagging is critical to support an always-on testing and optimization approach and inform continuous innovation cycles.

Omnichannel Marketing’s Effect on Customer Experience

The lines of marketing and customer experience are beginning to meld together. Nearly twice the number of marketers say they lead customer experience initiatives across the organization versus two years ago, according to the latest edition of the Salesforce State of Marketing report. Marketing are seeing CX functions as a routine part of marketing strategy.

Jill Grozalsky, product marketing director at Sitecore, said one of the most essential parts of an effective omnichannel marketing strategy is having strong audience segmentation built out to drive it. “You have to know who your customers are, where they are engaging with your brand, and the subtle nuances that separate them,” Grozalsky said. “The more targeted and granular your segmentation is, the more personalized and engaging you can be in delivering content they actually care about, and on the channels where they are most likely to consume that info.”

Prioritize your channels. Even though you may want to engage with your customers everywhere they are, they may not want the same, according to Grozalsky. “Make sure to pay attention to how your audiences behave across different channels to pull actionable insights on where you can strengthen or scale back efforts to connect,” she said. “Your B2B content may be perfect for LinkedIn and email, but your customers may prefer Facebook only for engaging with family and friends. Make use of the engagement data these platforms provide to optimize your strategy, serve your customers better and achieve stronger ROI.”