GLOBAL: Delivering a good customer experience (CX) – the tangible reality of the brand and proposition made to the customer – is essential in the modern digital economy and requires an ongoing commitment from businesses if they are to drive up brand reputation and commercial performance, an industry figure maintains.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to develop an effective customer experience strategy, John Sills, a director of The Foundation, argues that many businesses are focused on the functional experience at the expense of the emotional one and that CX teams frequently end up merely fixing things when they go wrong.

Customer experience is rather more than a one-off journey mapping exercise, monthly executive meeting or complaints-monitoring report.

“The most successful organisations spend time, money, and effort deliberately designing great customer experiences,” he says. And they are “benchmarking themselves against best-in-class across other sectors, not just focused on being better than the next nearly-identical service in their own industry”.

He sets out seven steps that will enable an organisation to systematically deliver an experience that is valuable for the customer and the business.

This begins with developing a deep understanding of the customer’s life – how they feel based on real-life experiences and behaviours, “not a sanitised and aggregated collection of thoughts based on a hypothetical situation or a specific product a company produces”.

Experiences need to be understood at three levels, Sills advises, starting from the customer’s life, and working down to the organisation’s specific processes.

The best CX work does more than merely fix pain points, a process that will only get a company to a level of “not being rubbish”. Instead it seeks out opportunities to exceed expectations and to differentiate.

It should also be designed with the customer in mind, with a loose structure that gives them room to control and shape the experience in their own way. The mantra should be: “If the customer makes a mistake, it’s the company’s fault for allowing a mistake to be made.”

Clarity of communications will reduce customer uncertainty while empathy is crucial, as is doing what you say you’re going to do, Sills emphasises. In this context, employees have to be given the freedom to do what they think is right in a particular situation.

He also stresses that customer loyalty is a myth – “staying useful is what matters” – and calls for businesses to avoid ruining a good customer experience with incessant feedback requests and instead “put in the effort to work out for themselves what went well and what didn’t”.

Sourced from WARC