Customer experience development

Customer experience development is both a process and a way for you to improve your digital marketing. If you are a brand that provides any kind of service to consumers, this guide covers the key tools and processes to improve the customer experience. Read our guide to find out how to make customer experience part of your business culture. 

Customer experience

How this guide raises your game

  1. Understand the role of customer experience development in your digital 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. 

What is Customer Experience?

Customer Experience is a way of doing business that brings together marketing and technology into a single unified skill.

It is a combination of processes, tools and software systems that drive a relentless focus on improvement in consumer interactions. Though not limited to online, it has a heavy digital marketing focus.  

As a way to run your business, customer experience is a deliberate focus on the way that customers interact with your brand.

Most businesses would claim that they ‘focus on the customer’. But in reality, often other things get in the way. Or it’s done on a mainly ad-hoc basis.

Customer experience development makes it more likely you’ll keep your focus on the customer. 

Customer Experience

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The key principle behind customer experience development goes back to the definition of marketing itself. 

If you understand consumer needs and create an experience with your brand that meets those needs, then you win consumers. They choose your brand more often and more regularly because of the level of service that you deliver because of customer experience development. 

The benefits of the Customer Experience approach

At the highest level, it seems obvious that the better you can make the customer experience, the more customers will buy from you. But it’s worth drilling down a little to identity more specific benefits of the customer experience development process. 

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

If you can improve the prediction accuracy, then you can adapt your marketing plan and generate new ideas for marketing innovation accordingly. 

In your communications and in key digital marketing activations like digital media and websites, you can increase relevancy. And you can increase the quality of the service based on anticipating consumer needs. 

The same report also identifies benefits like ‘greater feedback for product / service innovation’ and ‘greater ability to target and optimise for specific customers’ as part of the impact of customer experience development. 

Clearly, this closeness to the customer and ability to improve their experience based on feedback will create stronger connections with your brand. And that means more sales. 

However, it’s not just about your business, but also about what consumers themselves expect. Expectations of what good service and good experience means continue to go up and up. And because digital and online effectively opens up more choice than ever, businesses need to raise their customer experience game to stay competitive. 

So, how do you go about doing that?

The customer experience development process

As you can see from our Customer Experience Development process, the first step is to analyse the market and the data sources you have available.

In this regard, it starts in the same place as the brand development process. But, it then looks for opportunity based much more on the consumer than on the brand. 

The processes are not mutually exclusive. But, they have a different emphasis in terms of the scale, quantity and frequency of the activity the process generates. 

Customer Experience Development process

The brand development process tends to generate larger projects. These are fewer in number and more long-term in development. So for example, major communication campaigns and innovation projects tend to sit better in the brand development process.

The customer experience process on the other hand creates smaller projects. These are larger in overall number but also much quicker to implement.

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 could easily still add up to a “big” impact. Smart businesses are able to strike the right balance between these “big” brand projects and “small” CX projects.

Step 1 – Market analysis

In this stage, you should identify what relevant external and internal data sources you have. Your aim is to build your understanding of the target consumer, their behaviours and their potential needs.

In our guide to digital data and insight, we cover some of the key sources you should consider. For example, Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword planner , Facebook Audience Insight tool and Amazon’s Bestseller page could all be used to identity what your target audience currently searches on, likes and buys. 

Your next aim then is to start to build ideas around potential opportunities and issues in the market for consumers.

For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic started to lead to lockdowns, Google Trends indicated that boredom was one of the big search trends.

People were worries about isolation and became limited in their entertainment choices.

 

Google Trends - isolation

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

Internal data sources

You can also look at your relevant internal data sources like Google Analytics and any qualitative or quantitative research and direct customer feedback you have had. 

For example, is there a page or section in your website that gets particularly high or 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 issues that impact conversions? 

If you have a customer service team, what are the most common questions or complaints that they receive? And do you currently have anything in place to make it easier to answer those questions or complaints?

Step 2 – Personas

So, with an idea of the data sources you have and some initial thoughts on opportunities and issues, the next step of the Customer Experience Development Process is to create personas.

These are sometimes also called pen portraits or customer profiles.

This step is often tagged on to the end of the segmentation, targeting and positioning process. It is a way to link the outcomes of that process with the marketing plan and brand activation. 

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

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.

You use it to help your team and your agencies have a visual picture of the target audience. It can help with the creation of advertising and innovation for example.

These portraits use images and fact-based descriptions of the type of individual to bring them to life. They cover a collation of the demographic, occasion and attitude and behaviour type information from 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 seem more appropriate.

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 two segments could become “Daring Danni” and “Boring Billie” as an example. 

Persona demographics

Can you show some key demographics? Like how old they are, what level of education they have and where they live.

You could potentially source some of this information from external sources like Google and Facebook, as we mentioned in Step 1.

Bear in mind, the persona is not intended to cover ALL consumers, more to bring to life a good example of one person within a segment. So, the more you are able to narrow down the choices, the more useful the persona will be. 

We recently saw a description of a target audience that went like this : “male and female over 18 years old who are single, in a couple or have a family”. This is an example of what NOT to do.

That description is too broad and could equally fit Donald Trump or Katie Perry. 

Persona motivations and lifestyle

Beyond demographic variables, the more you can bring to life their motivations and lifestyle, the stronger the persona will be. To answer these types of questions usually requires a combination of the data you have, and a large amount of empathy and imagination. You need to put yourself in the shoes of your target consumer. 

Answer questions like what are their goals in life, are they work or family-oriented and what does a typical day or week look like. These answers will help you to judge whether your innovation, communication and digital media will be relevant to that target consumer. 

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

Persona examples

To help bring the usefulness of personas to life, let’s look at two very high level descriptions for personas 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 two 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 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 identify that they will have different pain points and different needs. 

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

Step 3 – Journey and moments

Now that you have a picture of the target consumer in mind, you need to map out how and where your brand can connect and help them.

There are two stages to this part of the process.

The first part is to map out the customer journey.

And the second is to then identify the moments that matter. 

Journey

Map out the customer journey

The Customer Journey Map is similar to the brand choice funnel. It assumes customers follow a series of interactions towards a purchase and then beyond into when they become a loyal consumer.

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 consumer, 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 that consumers use at each stage. 

From a practical point of view, this is usually done as a marketing and agency team at a workshop with a skilled facilitator.

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. 

Journey map examples

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

Spark my interest

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

So the need or pain point could be that they are 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 advertising. Or it could be an email or direct mail if they are part of your CRM database. But it could also be search 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 question 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 much more likely to be search and websites. But they could be both manufacturer websites 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 will end up with a list of different needs, pain points and touchpoint at each stage. 

The journey map then becomes a visual representation of the customers 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 to prioritise where the biggest potential opportunities are. These are “high” pain points for your target audience where improvements would make a big difference. But also “high potential” sales opportunities that your brand could capitalise on. 

So, let’s say you are in a category that has a regular intake of new consumers.  Spot cream for teenagers or vitamin supplements for pregnant mums, for example.

man wiping away a tear to show customer experience pain point

When you are a new consumer to those types of category, it’s unlikely you know the products available and what their different pros and cons are. This lack of knowledge would be a “high” pain point for the consumer.

Your opportunity in that case could be to work on a comparison table of all the available options. And an information guide on how to help consumers make the choice.

Of course, in this case, you need to make that table “fair” and “unbiased” so that it has credibility with the target audience. But also, does it in a way that subtly helps your brand. For example, makes sure that your brand is always the first one on the list that’s reviewed or assessed.

Delight me

Another example pain point could be at the “delight me” stage. Which might be where the consumer is looking to renew a purchase. 

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

A pain point for the consumer could be that they forget to renew their order and wake up one morning with no coffee capsules.

Very painful, right?

Research goals - coffee mug

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

What if you then sent them out a reminder e-mail a week or two 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 consumer. And the highest potential solutions you could offer to solve those paint points. The next step then is to validate the opportunity and allocate the relevant resources to go create those experiences.

As we stated at the start of this guide, the types of opportunities identified are often smaller, but more in number and faster to implement.

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 think about the Resources question we shared as part of our RESTART  Digital Business Model. These split into four key areas. 

People 

It’s all very well generating a list of ideas to improve customer experience, but each of those ideas need a person or team to activate them.

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

Digital business model shown RESTART - reach, engage, sell, technology, analysis, resource and transformation

It’s common to put together a cross-functional team of brand marketing, IT and web development, creative and possibly analytical skills who can take specific ideas and create and build them quickly.

You need to consider who will lead 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 does not 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 two 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 two 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 impact that you want? 

The agile methodology process

The most common way that these types of questions get answered is by the use of 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 two weeks. These are referred to as sprints.

Each team has three specific roles within the team.

Woman doing yoga to demonstrate flexibility

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

Then there is the Scrum Master, who is 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 is important that 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 two 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 that help 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 approaches or a deep analysis of the digital data and insights you have available, for example. 

The intent is to understand which improvements made an impact so that further improvements in those areas can be made. And where some areas did not have the impact, then take these as a learning to make the next sprint better. 

Customer experience development process link to marketing technology

There are two important enablers to put in place to make customer experience development successful in your business. 

The first of these is to make sure that you have the right marketing technology in place to deliver against the needs and pain points.

Customer experience development relies heavily on digital data for example. So it’s important to make sure you have the right systems in place to manage that.

It also requires easy access to digital media platforms and 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. And if customer experience is part of your culture, then there are a number of areas you should look at to embed this. 

For example, how customer-centric is the leadership or management team? Do they spend time talking to customers? Or acting 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? 

Customer experience

Is the aggregate data about customers and trends and opportunities part of the day to day conversations that go on? 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, websites, customer contacts – 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 that you and your team can work through to keep improving the customer experience. This is a list of tasks and improvements that you work on to continue to improve the customer experience.

This focus can be hugely impactful. 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 is not more widespread. And that is that it requires a high degree of change for many businesses in their current processes and set-up. 

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

You should do this in partnership with all the relevant people who will 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 want to know more about how we can support your customer experience to grow your business  through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.

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