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Customer experience development

Why read this? : We share why and how customer experience development helps you grow your business. Learn the CX process and key tools you can use to improve the way you serve your customers. We also look at how it connects to technology, change management and culture. Read this for ideas on how to get more out of customer experience development. 

Customer experience

How this guide raises your game :-

  1. Understand how customer experience development fits into your marketing plan.
  2. Learn key customer experience development tools, like personas and the journey map.
  3. Understand how to make customer experience part of the way you do things. 

Customer Experience focuses on how to improve the way your brand interacts with customers.

It pulls together processes, tools and software systems around important moments in the customer’s decision-making process.

It covers interactions both online an offline, though it usually prioritises digital marketing. That’s mainly because it’s easier and faster to make changes in your online experience, and you see the results more quickly. 

To embed customer experience development into your business, you need to put the customer at the centre of everything you do.

That usually means following new processes, investing in technology and changing the culture of your business. 

It can be a lot of work and takes commitment to deliver. So, let’s start by looking at why it matter so much. 

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The benefits of customer experience development

The most obvious benefit is that the better your customer experience, the more customers will buy from you. But great customer experiences don’t just happen. They take time, effort and money to build. And there’s more specific benefits of the customer experience development process beyond more sales.  

For example, a recent Forbes / SAS survey on the impact of customer experience showed the top benefit was the ability to more accurately predict customer needs and desires.

That helps you in many areas. You get better at idea generation and marketing innovation, for example. Your marketing plan and marketing mix become stronger. Those all pay off with more accurate forecasts and an improved profit and loss.  

You see the benefits of increased customer relevance in key communications areas like your digital media and websites. Customers like you more because  they know they get great customer service from you.

Customer experience development as a process helps you build and acton relevant plans for your target audience based on listening to their feedback. This relevance makes your brand more desirable, and that drives more sales. 

The customer experience development process

The first step in the customer experience development process is market analysis. You look at your marketing data and look for opportunities and issues. 

It’s a similar start point to the brand development process. but leads with the customer rather than brand point of view. 

The processes often work in parallel, but the customer vs brand viewpoint often leads to a different level of focus. 

Brand development tends to focus on fewer, bigger, long-term projects. Customer experience development usually drives many, quick, short-term improvements to the way you interact with customers. 

Customer Experience Development process

So brand development could lead you to create a new major product innovation for example. But customer experience development would improve your CRM sign-up form, or make your product page easier to use.

So for example, fixing up the sign-up form on a website to make it easier. Or adding an extra payment option to an e-Commerce check-out page.

Though each project might be smaller, the sum of these many smaller projects can still make a “big” impact. It’s about finding the right balance between “big” brand projects and “small” customer experience development projects.

Step 1 - Market analysis

You start your market analysis by looking through your external and internal marketing data. You want to build your understanding of the target audience, and their attitudes, behaviours and needs.

Our digital data guide covers cover some of the key sources you can use. For example, Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword planner , Facebook Audience Insight tool and Amazon’s Bestseller page can help you identify what your target audience currently searches on, likes and buys. 

Next, you start to generate ideas around customer opportunities and issues in the market.

For example, when Covid-19 lockdowns started, Google Trends showed boredom was one of the big search trends.

People stuck at home felt isolated and wanted things to keep them occupied and entertained. 

So, there was an opportunity to create content that was either educational or entertaining as we discussed in this article at the time.

Google Trends - isolation

Internal data sources

You should also look at relevant internal data sources like Google Analytics, plus any qualitative or quantitative research and direct customer feedback you’ve had. 

For example, is there a page on your website which has very high or very low bounce rates? 

If you have an e-Commerce store, could you look at how people behave on the check-out page? Can you identify opportunities to up-sell, or find issues which are blocking conversions? 

If you have a customer service team, what are the most common questions or complaints they receive? And is there anything you can do to improve the way answer those questions and deal with those complaints?

Step 2 - Personas

So, with your marketing data, and your initial thoughts on opportunities and issues, the next step of the customer experience development process is to create personas. 

These are pictures of the customer, sometimes also called pen portraits or customer profiles.

This picture of the customer is also often done at the end of the segmentation, targeting and positioning process. It links the outcomes of that process with the marketing plan and brand activation. 

While you should already have your target audience defined by their behaviour or needs, the intent of the persona is to bring that target audience to life. It helps makes sure they’re the hero of your brand’s story

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

You use it to help your team and your agencies have a visual picture of the customer. You attached it to briefs when creating advertising or innovation for example.

These portraits use images and fact-based descriptions of the customer to bring them to life. They’re a collation of the demographic, occasion and attitude and behaviour type information which you gather during the segmentation, targeting and positioning process. 

Persona name

For example, can you give your target a name? Names carry a lot of meaning. They can be an indicator of age, cultural origin or social status.

Let’s say your target was female and older. Then a “Mabel” or a “Wilma” might make sense. But if they were younger, a “Danni” or a “Billie” would be a better fit.

This name could be extended to include a description of the type of person as well.

Let’s say one of your segments is more adventurous and risk-taking than another. These segments could become “Daring Danni” and “Boring Billie” as an example. 

Persona demographics

Can you show key demographics? Like how old they are, their education level and where they live. (see Step 1 for ideas on where to find this type of information). 

Bear in mind, the persona isn’t about ALL customers. It’s more to bring to life a good example of one person within the segment. So, the more specific the description, the more useful the persona. 

So, don’t use this type of target audience description we saw recently for example :- “male and female over 18 years old who are single, in a couple or have a family”. That’s too broad. That could be Donald Trump. Or Katie Perry. 

Persona motivations and lifestyle

Beyond demographics, the more you can bring to life their motivations and lifestyle, the stronger the persona will be. You look for these in your data, and try to use your empathy and imagination to understand why drives your customers. It’s about putting yourself in your target audience‘s shoes. 

Ask yourself what their goals in life are. Are they work or family-oriented?What does a typical day or week look like? These answers help you judge if what you’re doing will be relevant to that customer. 

Persona category drivers

In relation to your category, what causes them pain? For example, do they need to research products before they buy? Or do they make the choice quickly?

What about the balance between quality and price? What information sources do they use to help them make a decision? 

Are there specific influences or influencers on their decision? If so, what or who are they? And what key activities do they do, online and offline?

Persona examples

To show the value of personas, let’s look at 2 high level persona descriptions for a health insurance company.

Persona 1 : Jim is a 33 year old man. He watches Fox Sports, uses an iPhone and is a construction manager. He has 2 kids and is thinking about the future for his family.

Persona 2 : Sue is a 23 year old woman. She watches Netflix and uses a Samsung Galaxy. She works in hospitality and is studying part-time for a degree. And, she is currently single and thinking about travelling next year.

Can you close your eyes and imagine these people? Let’s imagine you had to create advertising for them. Or a website page. Or a sales promotion.

Can you see that when you create a persona for them, you have a much clearer idea of what they might like? What types of messages will appeal to them? You can work out their different needs and pain points. 

When you create a persona as part of your customer experience development, it helps you identify the specific areas where you can improve what your brand does for customers. 

Step 3 - Journey and moments

Now you have a picture of the customer drawn out in your persona, you need to map out how and where your brand can connect and help them.

It’s not just about who they are, it’s about the different interactions they’ll have over time with your brand.

First, you need to map out the customer journey. These are the steps the customer goes through from not knowing you to being a loyal customer

Then, within that journey you need to drill down and identify the moments that matter. 

Neon sign showing the words The Journey is on

Map out the customer journey

The Customer Journey Map is similar to the brand choice funnel, as we cover in our brand identity guide.

It assumes customers follow a series of interactions towards a purchase. Delight them and they become a loyal customer who advocates your brand.

Each stage of the process has a clear parallel to the Awareness – Consideration – Trial – Loyalty stages of the brand funnel.

But as you can see it’s written much more from the point of view of the customer, not the brand.

Spark MY interest for example. Persuade ME. Delight ME.

Customer Experience Journey Map

Your aim is to fill in examples of needs or pain points at each of those stages. And then, the relevant online and offline touchpoint which customers use at each stage. 

This is usually done with your agency team at a workshop. The journey map is normally printed off in large-scale format (as large as possible). You use Post-its to place and capture the information. You work methodically from the start of the journey to the end.(see our e-Commerce customer journey article for a worked up example).

Journey map examples

Let’s look at a quick example and imagine we’re in the car market.

Spark my interest

“Spark my interest” might be when customers have had their current car for a number of years. But now, they feel the need to replace or upgrade it.

So the need or pain point could be they’re worried about the reliability of their current car. Or that it no longer performs as well as it did when they first got it. It could be too big, too small, too fast or too slow.

The touchpoint that might then trigger these thoughts could be traditional or digital media. Or it could be an email if they’re in your CRM database. But it could also be search keyword terms like “X car reliability” or “best new car”.

Find out more

“Find out more” could then be related to the specific needs they have in a new car. Is it reliability for example? Does the size and speed of the car matter? What about price and fuel efficiency? 

The touchpoint for these types of pain points would be more likely to be search and websites.  But they could be both manufacturer websites (see our high ticket product pages article for example) and car review sites. And they could also involve friends and family recommendations. 

You can see as you start to work through each step, you build an evolving list of needs, pain points and touchpoints. 

The journey map then becomes a visual representation of the customer’s journey through different touchpoints. Where possible, you should use the digital data sources you mentioned in stage 1 to quantify with facts. This quantification will help you when you start to prioritise. 

Identify the moments that matter

The next stage is to then prioritise the biggest opportunities. These are “high” pain points for your target audience where improvements would make a big difference. Making that difference will help you drive more sales. 

So, let’s say you’re in a category with a regular intake of new customers.  Spot cream for teenagers or vitamin supplements for pregnant mums, for example.

New customers in those types of category are unlikely to know the products and what their pros and cons are.

This lack of knowledge would be a “high” pain point for those customers.

Close up image of a man in a suit wiping away a tear and looking sad

Your opportunity could be to create a comparison table of all the available options. And an information guide on how to help customers make their choice.

Of course, you need to make te table fair and unbiased so it’s credible.  But you can still do it in a way which subtly highlights your brand. For example, you put your benefit or competitive advantage first on the list of attributes you cover so it’s the first thing the customer sees. (see our design psychology article on why being first matters). 

Delight me

Another example pain point could be at the “delight me” stage. Which might be where the customer has to buy something regularly. 

Let’s say your product is a service supplying coffee capsules for example. 

A pain point could be forgetting to renew your order and waking up one morning with no coffee capsules.

Very painful, right?

But let’s say you know how regularly people consume your product. And you have their details on your CRM program from the purchase.

Coffee mug with the word begin sitting on a wooden table with blurred chairs in the background

What if you then sent them out a reminder e-mail a week before their last purchase was likely to run out? Wouldn’t that take away the pain point of running out of coffee?

Or even better, what if at the “make it easy to buy stage” you’d offered the option of a regular subscription or repeat offer. So that, if they agree to a monthly order, they get a percentage discount on the price. And the convenience of never running out of coffee. Much less painful, right? And more sales for you.

Step 4 - Experience creation

So, the previous step outlined the pain points for your customer. And the highest potential solutions you could offer to solve those pain points. The next step is to validate the opportunity and allocate resources to go create those experiences.

As we said earlier, CX opportunities are often smaller, but there’s more of them and they’re easier and faster to implement. You solve the pain point and have a clear call to action which helps  customers move to the next stage of the journey. 

It’s usually more practical to have a small team who can decide which projects to implement based on impact and ease of implementation. This is typical of agile development methodology, more of which in a moment.

Resources

At this point, you also need to consider the Resources question from our RESTART digital business model.

People

Ideas to improve customer experience are good, but each of idea needs a person or team to make them happen.

Based on the types of ideas generated, this team could come from different areas in your business or from your marketing agencies.

It’s common to put together a cross-functional team of brand marketing, IT and web development. You find people with creative and analytical skills who can quickly bring ideas to life.

The Seven Steps of the RESTART digital business model - Reach, Engage, Sell, Technology, Analysis, Resource, Transform

You need to decide who leads this team. How will it make decisions? Is it a dedicated team who focus on these tasks? Or an ad-hoc team who fit it around their “day job”.

This team doesn’t have to stay the same. And in fact, it’s common to have relatively fluid teams who come together to work on mini-projects in short 2 week bursts or “sprints”.

Time

Which also then brings us on to the area of time. You need to plan if this customer experience development process becomes a part of your day to day operation. Or if you take more of an on / off approach.

You need to set measurable deliverables and set expectations for the pace of the delivery. How many moments that matter will you expect a team to deliver in a 2 week sprint for example? How many sprints will you run in a quarter? In a year?

Budget

Of course, people and time, therefore then needs money. You’ll be allocating your team or incurring cost from your agency when you run these projects. So, have you set a budget to cover these expenses? And if you have, how will you then measure the return on that investment? How will you know the improvements to the customer experience have the profit and loss impact you want? 

The agile methodology process

The most common way to answer these types of questions is by using agile methodology.

This is commonly used when marketers and IT teams work together on marketing technology projects. It has also started to find its way in to some marketing innovation projects. 

In agile methodology, small dedicated teams work together on a series of specific tasks over a short period, normally 2 weeks. These are referred to as sprints.

Each team has 3 specific roles within the team.

First is the Product Owner, who is ultimately the decision-maker, but also accountable for the delivery.

Woman in exercise gear sitting cross legged on a yoga mat and twisting to one side

Then there’s the Scrum Master, who’s responsible for managing the agile sprint process and the team itself.

And lastly, there are the subject matter experts, the team who have the technical expertise to make the task happen. 

It’s important the team (a) have the power to choose and influence the tasks they will do at the start and (b) are able to dedicate the time specifically to those tasks.

Each 2 week sprint follows a predictable cycle. The team should meet at a stand-up meeting each day of the sprint to review progress and resolve any issues. And there are specific “showcase” and “retrospective” sessions at the end of the process which set the direction for the next sprint. 

Step 5 - Evaluate and optimise

The final step of the customer experience development process then is the tracking and evaluation of the impact.

There are a number of different ways this can be done. You can use qualitative and quantitative research for example. Or a deep analysis of the digital data. You’re looking for insights to  understand which improvements made the most impact. You use this learning to make the next sprint work better.

Customer experience and marketing technology

There are 2 enablers which help make customer experience development more successful.

The first is making sure you have the right marketing technology to deliver against the needs and pain points. Customer experience development relies heavily on digital data for example. So it’s important you have the right systems to capture and manage your data.

It also requires easy access to digital media platforms. Plus,  the ability to update and upgrade your website or e-Commerce platforms easily and quickly. 

You should make sure either you, your team or your agency have solid technical understanding of your marketing technology needs and processes. This will help you deliver an ongoing stream of customer experience improvements.

Customer Experience and Digital Transformation

The process of customer experience often goes hand in hand with that of Digital Transformation. This is where business look to upgrade their skills to be more competitive in an increasingly digital world.

That generally means you need to consider how customer experience fits in to the culture of your business. And how you will drive the change that customer experience and digital transformation require. 

Customer focus becomes part of your culture

By culture, we refer to how things get done in your business. (See for example our articles on culture and breakthrough ideas or culture and e-Commerce). 

If you want customer experience to be part of your culture, there are some key areas to focus on. 

For example, how customer-centric is the leadership team? Do they talk to customers? Or act on customer feedback?

What about other areas of the business? Are they trained on how to deal with customers in a consistent way? Are they rewarded by good customer feedback? 

Is the aggregate data about customers and trends and opportunities part your day to day conversations? 

Are there systems and processes in place that makes sure the needs and pain points are visible and frequently discussed?

A big part of great customer experience development is that it becomes a part of how you do things. It should become part of your culture. And a habit that you and your business do as a matter of routine.

If you only do ‘customer experience’ as a one-off project, you run the risk of not staying relevant to customers. And having your competitors overtake you.

Make customer experience regular and on-going

Collect data from the different touchpoint – search, social media, websites, customer feedback – and evaluate them on a regular basis to see where future pain points can be identified.

You should have an on-going backlog of pain points. This is a list of tasks and improvements that you work on to continue to improve the customer experience.

This focus have a huge impact. It makes sure you regularly meet the needs of your target audience. And this helps you to deliver growth in your brand and business.

Change management

While any business would benefit from the customer experience development process, there’s a reason that it isn’t more widespread. It requires a high degree of change for many businesses to their current processes and set-up. 

For this reason, before you embark on the customer experience development process, take the time to map out a change management plan.

You should do this in partnership with all the relevant people who’ll be impacted or affected by the changes that customer experience development brings. 

For example, you should work with the teams who will be responsible for customer experience development to set the end goal for the change. What will be different when customer experience development is in place? Identify why will it be better for customers, for the business and for them.

You should consider the different skills and attitudes needed to make customer experience development work. Training and development are often needed to embed new skills and processes. 

You also need to consider the people aspect strongly. Both in terms of who will lead the change, but also how people will continue to feel engaged and involved in the process. 

You can read more about change management and digital marketing in our digital marketing tips guide

Three-brains and customer experience

We have worked on many customer experience projects and have good experience across in both the process and the change managements requirements. We know how to connect this expertise back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. And we know how to do this in a way that helps keep you and your team engaged and on track. 

If you need expert support on your customer experience to grow your business  through our coaching and consulting services, feel free to reach out and contact us

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