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

To embed customer experience development into your business, you have 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 matters so much. 

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The benefits of customer experience development

At the highest level, obviously the better your customer experience, the more customers will buy from you. But there are also many other more specific benefits to the customer experience development process you should consider.  

For example, a recent Forbes / SAS survey on its impact showed the top benefit was the ability to more accurately predict customer needs and desires. This helps you get better at idea generation and marketing innovation. Plus,  your marketing plan and marketing mix become stronger. This pays off with more accurate forecasts and a better 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 when they get great customer service from you.

The customer experience development process helps you build and action 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 to uncover opportunities and issues. 

It’s a similar starting point to the brand development process but from the customer rather than the brand’s point of view. The processes often work in parallel but focus on different types of outcomes.

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

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

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 has examples of the key sources you can use e.g. Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword Planner, Facebook Audience Insight and Amazon’s Bestseller 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 e.g. Google Analytics, your qualitative or quantitative research and any direct customer feedback you’ve had. 

For example, do you have a website page with very high or very low bounce rates? If you have an e-Commerce store, how do people behave on the check-out page? Can you spot 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? Is there any way to improve the way you 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 persona’s role is to bring that audience to life. It helps make 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 for advertising or innovation, for example.

These portraits use images and fact-based descriptions of the customer to bring them to life. They collate the demographic, occasion and attitude and behaviour type information you gather using segmentation research.

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” would make sense. But if they were younger, a “Danni” or a “Billie” would be a better fit.

This name can also include a description of the type of person. 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? e.g. 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, that the persona isn’t about ALL customers. It’s more to bring to life a good example of one person within the segment. The more specific the description, the more useful the persona. 

For example, don’t use this type of target audience description we saw recently :- “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 what 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

With 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 decide? 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

As an example, 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’s currently single and thinking about travelling next year.

Can you close your eyes and imagine these people? Let’s imagine you had to design 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 per 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

You aim to fill in examples of needs or pain points at each of those stages. And then, the relevant online and offline touchpoints 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 several years. But now, they feel the need to replace or upgrade it.

The need or pain point could be they’re worried about their current car’s reliability. 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 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 from Step 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 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 categories are unlikely to know the products and their pros and cons. This lack of knowledge would be a “high” pain point for them.

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 should make the 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. 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 that can decide which projects to implement based on impact and ease of implementation. This is typical of agile style working, more of which in a moment.

Resources

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

People

Ideas to improve customer experience are clearly good. But each idea needs a team to make it happen.

Based on the types of ideas generated, this team could come from different areas of your business or from your marketing agencies. It’s common to put together a project team of brand marketing, IT and digital experts. Together they have the analytical, creative and technical skills to quickly bring ideas to life.

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

You have to decide who leads this team. How it’ll make decisions. Is it a dedicated team that focuses on these tasks? Or an ad-hoc team who fit it around their “day job”. This team doesn’t have to stay the same. In fact, it’s common to have fluid teams who come together to work on mini-projects in short 2-week bursts or “sprints”.

Time

This brings us to the area of time. You should decide if this customer experience development process is to become part of your day-to-day operations. Or if you take more of an on / off approach.

You should set measurable deliverables and 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 also mean money. You’ll be allocating your team or incurring costs from your agency on these projects. You have to set a budget to cover the expenses. And of course, then measuring the return on that investment. You’ll need to track if 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 collaborate on marketing technology projects. It has also started to find its way into 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 vital the team (a) has the power to choose and influence the tasks they’ll do at the start and (b) can 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 is the tracking and evaluating of the impact.

There are several 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 you must 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 a 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 digital transformation. This is where businesses look to upgrade their skills to be more competitive in an increasingly digital world. That generally means you review how customer experience fits into your business’s culture. And how you’ll drive the change which 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. (For example, see our articles on culture and breakthrough ideas, and 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 consistently? Are they rewarded by good customer feedback? 

Is the aggregate data about customer trends and opportunities part of your day-to-day conversations? 

Are there systems and processes to make sure the needs and pain points are visible, and frequently discussed?

A big part of great customer experience development is it becomes part of how you do things. It should become part of your culture. And a habit 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 ongoing

Collect data from the different touchpoints – search, social media, websites, customer feedback – and evaluate them regularly to see where future pain points might come from. 

You should have an ongoing backlog of pain points. This is a list of tasks and improvements you work on to continue to improve the customer experience. This focus has a huge impact. It makes sure you regularly meet the needs of your target audience. And this helps you to drive growth in your brand and business.

Change management

While any business would benefit from the customer experience development process, there’s a reason it isn’t more widespread. It requires lots 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 work with all the people who’ll be impacted or affected by the changes which customer experience development brings. For example, work with them to agree on the goal for the change. What’ll be different when customer experience development is in place? Identify why it’ll be better for customers, for the business and for them.

Look at 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 should also consider the people aspect strongly. Both who will lead the change, and to engage and involve people in the process. You can read more about change management and digital marketing in our digital marketing tips guide

Conclusion - Customer Experience Development

You hear a lot of noise about Customer Experience development, but it’s still a relatively new way of thinking and working.

This guide shared 5 key steps to work through to help you plan and execute improvements to your customer experience. We also covered the role of marketing technology and culture as key ways to support the way you do customer experience development. Getting these steps and tools right puts you in a much stronger position to win and keep more customers. 

Three-Brains and customer experience development

We’ve worked on many customer experience projects and have good experience across the process and change management requirements. We know how to connect this expertise to growing your brand. And we know how to do this in a way which helps keep you and your team engaged and on track. Get in touch to learn how our coaching and consulting services can help you raise your customer experience development game.

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