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Customer Experience

4 Steps to Take Before Partnering with a Customer Experience Solution

Ashley Sefferman  //  August 8, 2019  //  7 min read

Customer Experience Solution
Juggling your company’s immediate needs with long-term goals is always tricky, but when it comes to purchasing a customer experience solution to make your team’s lives easier, managers tasked with the decision to build or buy often struggle in what seems to be a comparison of apples to oranges.

Customer experience solutions don’t just solve one problem; they introduce new business processes to fundamentally change the way you operate and completely revolutionize pieces of your business. While adopting a customer experience solution might be the right decision to help you reach your goals, it shouldn’t be a decision made lightly. Solutions require effort, money, and people, which means they subsequently require more time and overall investment in order to be successful.

But have no fear! If you are considering adopting a customer experience solution, take these four steps below before signing on the dotted line.

1. Assess your existing customer communication plan

No matter how formal, you most likely have an existing plan for customer communication in place. Whether you’ve adopted a comprehensive approach to communication or are just getting started, it’s imperative to know where you’ve been before you can figure out where you need to go. In order to assess your current strategy in order to determine where partnering with a customer experience solution will be valuable, start by understanding the myriad ways in which you currently ask for and receive customer feedback

Questions to ask yourself about your current customer communication plan include:

  • How do you trigger action? Take a look at the channels customers engage with your brand through. From there, document the actions taken across the various channels that trigger feedback from customers. The more you can understand how you ask for feedback upfront, the more informed your future strategy will be.
  • How do you reveal emotion? Or better phrased, once you’ve collected feedback, how do you make sense of it? Enhancing customer experience for the future means you must not only understand happiness and satisfaction at each touchpoint, but also measure how sentiment has changed over time—across the variety of interactions.
  • How do you tap into the silent majority? Because many brands struggle to gather customer feedback in proactive, non-intrusive ways, feedback typically comes from the smallest, most vocal group of customers which we call the “vocal minority.” That means the “silent majority” is made up of roughly 99% of your customers who don’t fall into the vocal minority. These customers span across a broad spectrum of sentiment, but they tend to fall somewhere in the middle of loving your brand and being at risk for churn.
  • How do you track shifts in sentiment? Over the course of the customer lifecycle, analyzing emotion allows you to see a series of pointers to times and places where your actions or other events caused them to switch from fan to critic, from promoter to detractor, or from love to disappointment. How do you currently analyze this switcher data to understand who loves you and who is at risk for churn?

2. Learn which of your teams manage customer sentiment and how they act on it

Customer experience and sentiment is rarely a one-team effort. Brands large and small typically have multiple teams tasked with keeping a pulse on customer happiness and decreasing churn, including (but not limited to) Marketing, Product, Customer Success or Support, and others. Before you decide to partner with a customer experience solution, you must understand the current stakeholders in order to make the best decision for your company as a whole.

Ask yourself the following questions to understand which of your teammates manage and act on customer sentiment:

  • Who is responsible for measuring customer sentiment? As mentioned, many different teams are on the hook for delivering positive customer sentiment metrics, although they likely all approach it differently. Do what you can to understand how each department head approaches customer sentiment to learn how involved they’d need/want to be with a customer experience solution.
  • How do you report on sentiment changes over time? Brands that measure customer sentiment on a yearly, quarterly, or even monthly basis experience a disconnect between their actions and the consequences of how their actions make their customers feel. Daily measurement of customer sentiment provides a precise look at the cause and effect of changes you’re making. What is your brand’s current approach?
  • How does what you learn change your strategy? Your team needs data points in order to make customer-centric decisions. Guessing what the customer wants and acting on it is not customer-centric behavior. Instead, guessing does a disservice to both your team and your customers by wasting everyone’s time prioritizing the wrong tasks and increasing the potential for a disjointed customer experience. To avoid future hiccups, it’s best to understand how you incorporate feedback today and where you can improve.
  • How are you thanking your customers? Customers who leave feedback drive your business forward, and every piece of feedback whether it is praise or criticism should be valued, and then validated. It’s important to let customers know they have been heard and that the suggestion (especially the time it took to give it) was appreciated. Learn how you currently thank your customers for giving their time to share their thoughts, and pinpoints areas you can improve.

3. Think about your short and long-term customer experience goals

Because our most worthwhile connections in life and in business are built on love, assessing customer experience typically means measuring a brand’s customer love. Most companies only analyze individual touchpoints, like applying online for a bank loan, or buying products on a website, or the physical experience of shopping in a retail store. Customer experience is then quantified in-the-moment, with most using metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) to determine if customers are satisfied enough to recommend the brand to others. Some companies use mapping tools to plan out future interactions to reduce frustration and improve overall satisfaction. But typically, customer experience is more of a forward-looking concept designed to streamline business.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering your short and long-term customer experience goals:

  • How do you currently assess customer sentiment? Enhancing customer experience for the future means you must not only understand happiness and satisfaction at each touchpoint, but also measure how sentiment has changed over time. Whether you currently measure sentiment at the individual level, through segments, as one group, across a variety of channels, or through one channel, you must know your starting point to understand where you need to go.
  • What level of granularity in customer feedback will be most helpful for your progress? Your answer will come from looking at your customers’ journey experience, or what customers have undergone with your brand or product in the past. Oftentimes, unless you’re able to look at sentiment at an individual level—which requires extreme granularity in how sentiment across channels is captured and reported upon—your ability to take corrective action (i.e. to win them back and rekindle the love) is thwarted.
  • Do you hear from enough customers? Most brands believe they regularly hear from a fair number of their customers. In reality, the average business hears from less than 1 percent of its total customer base and acts on feedback that doesn’t accurately represent the majority of its customers. Do you know the true percent of customers you base business decisions around?
  • How can you better leverage sentiment to make changes within your product? Using customer sentiment to prioritize your product roadmap might seem like an obvious strategy, but very few companies actually do it well. Your customers expect you to ask them for feedback, and what they share creates a massive opportunity to essentially have an insurance policy on your product roadmap, and to ultimately improve customer experience.

4. Be honest about your existing pain points

Collecting and acting on sentiment is a work in progress, and nobody gets it right 100% of the time. A major piece of the puzzle is honestly assessing how you’ve performed up to this point in order to pinpoint areas of pain. It’s better to know your gaps ahead of time than to be told what they are from a sales person trying to make a match.

A few common points of pain around customer experience can include:

  • A HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) skewing the decisions you make. If the highest paid or most senior voice is always the loudest, you aren’t thinking critically or competitively.
  • Tying sentiment back to a single source. If you measure sentiment across various touchpoints but can’t easily look at it as one single source of truth (e.g. at the individual level encompassing all channels rather than as multiple data points across many channels), the results are often muddled and it can be difficult to act on.
  • Asking for feedback in the wrong channels or at the wrong times. Asking for feedback isn’t enough; you must ask for it at the right place and time within an experience, or your customers won’t respond. Worse yet, the interruption might leave them feeling frustrated with their experience as a whole, which can create negative sentiment around an otherwise positive experience.
  • Being reactive rather than proactive. If you’re not proactively asking for feedback, you’re leaving an opportunity on the table to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers, improve customer happiness, and boost your bottom line. There is endless untapped potential in prioritizing customer feedback from your “silent majority,” but you must be strategic in your approach to collect it.

It may not be a fun exercise, but an honest look in the mirror can tell you more about the future customer sentiment steps you need to take than all the tools in the world. And only you have the ability to do the analysis.

Now you’re ready

If a simple customer experience tool is a screwdriver, a customer experience solution is a team of carpenters using the screwdriver and other tools to build a home. And now that you’ve assessed your foundation, the building process can begin!

Once you’ve asked yourself the questions above, you’ll be in a much better place to determine whether or not you’re ready to partner with a customer experience solution. We promise it will make the process easier for you and for your solution provider (ahem, Apptentive is happy to help!).

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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