Putting the customer at the heart of the business is the central tenet of marketing. In order to do this, a company must ensure that the voice of the customer is integral to the company strategy, and that the customer is considered, not just by customer-facing staff and departments, but at boardroom level. The evidence for this is strong:
• Two-thirds of customers say a positive customer experience caused them to spend more;
• Eight out of ten customers would pay up to 25% more for a superior customer service;
• Three-quarters of those who switch suppliers/brands relate this to a poor customer experience/service;
• More than half of those who recommend a company make this based on the customer experience rather than factors such as price or product;
• Almost all of those who have had a bad customer experience tell others about it.
Differentiation has long been felt to be the key to growth but as products and positions have become more commoditised, companies have struggled to find their point of difference. Now, companies increasingly recognise that Customer Experience Management can help them to achieve differentiation.
What Is Customer Experience Management?
Bernd Schmitt, renowned marketing thinker, defined Customer Experience Management as:
“the process of strategically managing a customer’s entire experience with a product or company.”
He essentially advocates a shift from the traditional marketing concept towards an approach which takes account of the ‘experience’ of being a customer, from cradle to grave.
A typical approach for a Customer Experience Strategy, one which is suitable for B2B customers whose journey – with repeat scheduled purchases, contracts, mutual dependence and complex relationships – is generally less straightforward than that of B2C customers, involves the following stages, starting with the assessment and segmentation of needs:
1. Needs Assessment and Segmentation
The starting point is to understand customer needs, and what drives and challenges them. Coupled with this is the segmentation of customers into groupings, enabling us to serve the customer more specifically. This can be based on ‘firmographics’ (i.e. geography, company size), behaviours (i.e. what or when they buy) or on needs (i.e. what they want, what their drivers are). The latter is the most discriminating and requires a deeper understanding of customers to achieve.
2. Customer Journey Mapping
This involves the construction of a detailed map of the customer journey for each of the individual customer segments. The journey details the customer touchpoints with the supplier from the first awareness through to usage and, if appropriate, termination of usage.
3. Identify the Desired Experience
The journey map is then used to design the ideal customer experience; comparing the actual experience with the internally-perceived experience. It enables the organisation to review its processes and streamline these to make the experience more effective, efficient and enjoyable; one which customers will want to repeat and tell others about.
4. Design the Brand Experience
This stage addresses the feelings we want to evoke in customers in their experiences with the brand. To design the brand experience, it is important to have a clear vision of the brand identity and values. These are often translated into ‘promises’ which will underpin what the customer can expect from the relationship with the brand and are usually generated around positive emotions which draw the customer into a closer relationship with the brand. This stage also looks at the people who deliver the experience, their attitudes, and how much they reflect what the brand represents when working with customers.
5. Structure the Touchpoints
Here the various touchpoints are structured to ensure the processes are in place to deliver the experience for the customer – one which generates the desired emotions associated with the brand to deliver longer-term loyalty. This stage is often quite process driven, looking at ownership across the business for the various touchpoints, and ensuring that the experience is seamless.
6. Measure and Develop
There are several approaches to measuring the customer experience, not least the measurement of the ROI in financial terms. Common customer survey measures utilized are:
• The periodic customer satisfaction survey – the ‘deep dive’ considered overview
• The event-based satisfaction survey – centred around a specific interaction, delivered very shortly after the interaction
• The tracking survey – a regular, random survey of customers, tracking perceptions and performance on key measures
This data is used both strategically and operationally to make improvements.
Customer Experience Management raises the profile of the customer in the long-term security of the business, recognising customers as an asset and thus worthy of boardroom consideration. The approach incorporates and brings together customer research in the form of needs assessment, customer segmentation, customer journey mapping, brand identity and perceptions, and satisfaction and loyalty measurements.
How are you managing the experience of your customers?
What types of surveys does your business use to track and measure customer experience?