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With so much technology available and resources constrained by budget considerations, how does a company prioritize its customer experience investments?

There is no single answer, said Jon Baker, managing director for Accenture Interactive Marketing. “It’s all very dependent on where each client is at. Some have already made significant investments, while people at the opposite end haven’t started and have no real idea what martech is.”

Strategy First, Investments Later

Regardless of where a company is along the CX investment continuum, the strategy for the next investment(s) depends on the company’s business strategy, Baker continued. “The technology is underneath [the business strategy]. A lot of companies don’t get that. They figure they will just spend money on it and do what they will do. That is a mistake.”

The next step, according to Baker, is to determine what channels to invest in first. Many brands still have inadequate mobile technology, with responsive design elements that lead to poor CX. The problem is many are still trying to force a desktop experience into mobile. While the screen size might look right on every device, other elements, such as templates, content, templates, etc., often are not optimized for the mobile platform – content needs to be simplified, templates need to eliminate the need to type wherever possible and similar responsive design changes need to be made. With customers continuing to shift to the mobile platform, these investments take on a higher priority.

Additionally, for both mobile and desktop, the company’s website needs logic behind it for a landing page, email, and other technologies that are all part of a company’s customer experience, Baker says. These elements need to interact to enhance the customer experience. If one or more elements is faulty, it moves up the CX investment priority list.

Related Article: How to Convince Your CEO to Invest in Marketing Technology

A Proactive Approach to CX Investments

Sandi Lin, CEO of Skilljar recommends anticipating customer needs and issues when deciding where to invest: “It's even more critical to invest in proactively impacting the customer experience — before there is an issue to measure. CX technologies that focus on customer enablement, onboarding and training are proactive ways to empower the customer and offer the best bang for the CX buck.”

Lin recommends segmenting customers based on existing revenue or company size, potential revenue, industries, geographies or other strategic choices, then generating a list of investments for each segment. For example, the approach to improve CX for SMBs points to a different set of investments than the approach to improve CX for Fortune 500 customers.

“Understand what the goals are for each segment, then identify the investments within each,” Lin added. “Notice I didn't just say to prioritize based on revenue since most companies have a diversity of customers and need to invest across the spectrum. Finally, I recommend looking at scalable approaches, usually with a technology underpinning, as adding headcount linearly is costly and also doesn't build institutional memory."

Related Article: Why Are Companies Investing in Customer Retention?

Focus CX Investments With Data

Baker stressed that any prioritization of CX investments needs to rely on data, a point that Lisa Woodley, vice president, customer experience and digital for NTT DATA Services reiterated.

“One of the biggest challenges in prioritizing investments is to not get distracted by the latest trends and technologies,” Woodley said. “The most important investments in CX aren’t always the sexiest. Many executives tend to want to focus CX investment on the cool, innovative stuff they can show off as proof they’re bringing new ideas and making an impact. While those types of innovations in CX can have value, their value can only be realized if they are focused on addressing specific customer or business needs and are built on a strong foundation of customer understanding.”

Woodley said any data-driven CX investment decisions needed to consider two points: The potential ROI of such an investment and the potential impact if the investment is not made. To include both of these, it’s essential a company understands what customers expect now and in the future. Use the data to determine any friction points in the sales funnel, then determine the root cause: people, process or technology — then fix that.

“Understanding the root causes of customer issues, fixing those root causes, and applying innovation to address customer challenges often leads to reduced call center volume and a lower overall cost in servicing customers,” Woodley adds. “Introducing superior customer self-service also leads to lower cost of conversion and sales. A superior customer experience makes each new customer less expensive to capture and each existing customer less expensive to serve.”