A measurable and data-driven customer experience management (CEM or CXM) strategy ensures you provide value at every buyer journey touchpoint. As a result, you’ll keep leads and customers in your pipeline instead of pushing them to your competitors.
In this article, you’ll learn what customer experience (CX) is and why it matters. We’ll also cover how to build great offline and digital experiences that foster customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience, or CX, is a person’s overall opinion and perception of a brand, derived from the many smaller interactions they have with it throughout the buying process.
For example, if a buyer enjoys a product and consistently receives helpful support from the seller, their customer experience is generally positive.
Alternatively, if a company charges the customer twice for a purchase, the shopper doesn’t receive an order confirmation email, and can’t access support, their customer experience will likely be negative.
Interactions that contribute to the overall customer experience (you can also refer to these individually as customer experiences) include:
- Sales conversations
- Website visits
- Order processes
- Delivery services
- Product intuitiveness
- Aftersales correspondence
Together, these touchpoints form the customer journey, a process involving five stages:
At each buyer journey stage, customers will have different motivations, objections and emotions. By accounting for these specific needs, successful businesses create positive customer experiences.
Take Google’s after-sales service, for example. Stressed customers who accidentally damage their devices will be eager to find solutions. Google minimizes their disruption by making it easy to book repairs.
The streamlined, self-service repair process means customers still get a positive experience of Google even when something goes wrong.
Why you should optimize customer experience
Positive experiences promote customer loyalty and brand advocacy, ultimately making your business more profitable.
Bad customer experiences have the opposite effect, pushing customers away and into your competitors’ sales pipelines. Genesys found that 29% of customers had switched brands at least once in the last year due to negative customer interactions.
You’ll reap plenty of benefits by consistently providing value at every touchpoint. Let’s look at the most significant outcomes for a business routinely delivering great experiences.
Great CX is a powerful differentiator
Regularly offering excellent service and convenience throughout the buyer journey will give you a powerful competitive advantage.
Researchers keep proving that these two critical aspects of CX influence buyers’ decisions. A 2023 survey of 1,000 US consumers found that almost half (48%) believe service is more important than price. 88% consider convenience an essential factor.
Service and convenience should be part of the customer experience from your earliest interactions with your audience. That’s what will keep leads moving through the pipeline.
For example, make it easy for website visitors to get the information they need when researching your products; add spec sheets to each product page or post expert-led demonstration videos on YouTube.
Employ product experts to answer questions through live chat, email and social media. This will give prospective customers a taste of what it’s like to be your customer, even before they’ve spent any money.
Impressing leads and customers promotes loyalty
When you continue to deliver positive, memorable experiences after a lead converts, that person is more likely to become a loyal customer.
In a Verint survey, 78% of respondents gave above-average scores when asked how likely they are to buy from a company again after receiving an amazing customer experience online.
Using positive customer experiences to encourage repeat purchases will increase your customer retention rate (CRR) and reduce marketing costs. That’s because it’s typically more cost-effective to retain customers than find new ones – it takes fewer sales and marketing resources as returning buyers are already aware of and interested in your brand.
What constitutes an amazing experience? 69% of the people Verint questioned ranked responsiveness as the first- or second-most important factor, with just over half (55%) giving above-average ratings for effortless customer service.
Delivering consistent value inspires brand advocacy
A customer who consistently has positive experiences with a brand is more likely to recommend it to others than someone who has negative or mediocre experiences.
That’s important, as word of mouth is a powerful, cost-effective way to generate leads and build trust. In the 2021 Nielsen Trust in Advertising Study, 88% of respondents said they trust recommendations from people they know more than any other channel.
Advocacy has many forms and it pays to encourage them all. For example, running a referral scheme, where you reward existing customers for introducing new ones, is a practical and measurable tactic.
You should also politely ask your happiest customers to:
- Write about your product on peer-to-peer review platforms (e.g. G2)
- Provide testimonials
- Complete customer feedback forms
- Participate in case studies
- Act as a client reference
Aim to build a library of social proof from happy customers in a range of industries. That should help you capture the attention and trust of a larger audience, increasing your sales opportunities.
6 ways to create loyalty-boosting customer experiences
An effective customer experience strategy comprises various actions designed to optimize value at all customer journey stages.
While every customer journey differs, prioritizing the following actions can cover most bases.
1. Personalize your sales and marketing interactions
Make every lead and customer feel important by personalizing your interactions with them. Doing this across the entire customer journey, rather than only after an initial sale, will help you build trust and strengthen your relationships.
According to Gartner’s Customer Service and Support Survey, 71% of business-to-consumer (B2C) and 86% of business-to-business (B2B) customers expect companies to be well-informed about their personal information during an interaction.
Customer-centric content marketing is a great place to start. The most direct channel is email. For example, the below Stitch Fix email promises “personalized outfit recs [recommendations]” and uses the call-to-action “shop your looks.”
Stitch Fix’s subtle personalization helps leads and existing customers feel seen and valued.
You can use email marketing software to segment contacts into meaningful groups. That will allow you to send relevant content to different sections of your audience.
Ensuring the right marketing content reaches the right people will also help you maintain a healthy email deliverability rate (the percentage of messages landing in recipients’ inboxes).
That’s because recipients are less likely to report relevant, valuable content as spam, meaning email service providers (ESPs) will have no reason to divert your future messages to their users’ junk folders.
2. Provide a thoughtful after-sales service
To scale your business you must keep converting customers into repeat buyers. That means consistently meeting buyers’ post-conversion needs.
One way to do that is through quality customer service. In another study, Gartner found that customers who received a high-quality customer service interaction were 82% more likely to repurchase or renew when offered the chance to switch to a competitor.
The same customers were also 97% more likely to share their positive experiences, proving that after-sales is worth your time.
You can also show new customers you care by…
- Demonstrating appreciation. Use emails, phone calls and handwritten notes (where appropriate) to say “thank you” when buyers choose you over your competitors.
- Providing pre-installation services. Anything that helps your customer install, configure or assemble their new product will help them squeeze more value from their purchase. Demo videos, technical specifications and product manuals are all helpful.
- Offering user-friendly warranties, replacements and returns. Ideally, customers won’t experience issues with your product but having solutions ready can reassure them they’ll be looked after if something goes wrong.
For your most loyal customers, go above and beyond by offering free bonuses and upgrades. Their continued business should cover any extra costs.
3. Keep all customer touchpoints consistent
Buyers will only get to know and trust your brand if their interactions are consistent.
Consider which of your company’s values and characteristics matter most to your target audience and reflect those in all customer touchpoints. This will help to create a consistent, omnichannel customer experience.
For example, Passenger’s sustainability credentials (a selling point for its target audience) are prominent in its marketing. The company’s homepage has a “sustainability” section, uses terms like “organic” and contains plenty of environmentally-themed imagery.
The company’s YouTube channel also contains lots of content and terminology related to the “natural world”.
Prospective customers who visit Passenger’s website and YouTube channel get an accurate picture of what the company’s about. They can then gauge whether that brand image fits their values and confidently make a purchase decision.
Other interactions to keep tonally or visually consistent are:
- Sales conversations
- Chatbot messaging
- Social media exchanges
- Customer support team correspondence
- Email marketing content
Mapping the customer journey can help you spot opportunities to make your brand story more consistent as it’ll show you the most valuable touchpoints. Use a customer journey map template to get started.
4. Revamp your onboarding process
Onboarding is a major opportunity to cement new customers’, trust so treat this part of the customer journey as a first impression of your product.
A smooth onboarding initiative contributes to a good customer experience in two ways:
It shows you care. Customers want to see you care about more than just converting them. Product demos, video tutorials and a willingness to answer questions show you believe in your product.
It makes your product more valuable. Customers will get a better return on investment (ROI) when they understand how to use your product from day one. It should also cut support queries, saving your customer service team time.
The onboarding process should be a personalized experience tailored to each customer’s needs. However, if you sell software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, you can use the following list of onboarding stages as a template:
- Welcome email
- Registration process
- Product configuration
- Feature callouts
- Interactive walkthrough
- Knowledge base
- Routine follow-ups
Every time you go through these stages, note down common questions and friction points. You can build these into your process to provide a smoother, more valuable onboarding experience.
For example, if you find mobile users typically make more support inquiries during the registration and product configuration stages, you might build a dedicated induction process for this audience, using mobile-first images and video demonstrations.
5. Make yourself available
Be on hand to answer customers’ questions, offer advice and provide personalized recommendations. This will help you maintain buyers’ trust and help them get better results from their purchases, making them more likely to buy from you again.
Verint found the effort it takes to find a resolution impacts customers’ brand loyalty the most. Allowing customers to contact you through multiple channels will make the support process painless and more convenient.
For example, customers may prefer to overcome non-urgent issues using a live chat or chatbot service, while a contact center might be more suitable for more pressing problems.
Business insurance firm Superscript offers high-level support through an intuitive chatbot with a live chat feature built in.
The company also provides email, telephone and mailing details for more specific or formal inquiries.
The second most damaging factor in Verint’s study was long hold times. So if you are using telephone calls to deliver support, ensure you have enough resources (i.e., staff) available.
You can reduce your support workload by offering helpful information in:
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Online knowledge hubs
- Video tutorials
- Community forums
Keep track of the topics customers inquire about most frequently so you can pre-empt their pain points. If people can get answers without contacting you, you’ll have more time to spend with customers who need your help with more complex inquiries.
6. Own your mistakes
Mistakes that negatively impact customers are normal. It could be an email sent in error, a typo that causes an order delay or a simple misunderstanding that leaves a customer without valuable information.
Minimize the impact on customer experience by owning up and apologizing. Apologies can improve customers’ perception of your brand by demonstrating your authenticity and showing that you’re willing to put things right.
After making a significant mistake, it’s crucial you:
- Own up. Avoid getting defensive. Accept that the mistake was yours.
- Explain what happened. Detail how the mistake came about so your audience sees that you’re being transparent.
- Clarify how you’ll rectify the error. Explain how you’ll compensate the affected customer and how you’ll avoid repeating the mistake.
In the apology email below, e-commerce brand Framebridge explains what went wrong, apologizes for its mistake in a light-hearted way and invites recipients’ feedback.
A Trust Signals study found that 48.17% of buyers are willing to give brands the benefit of the doubt after receiving an apology and explanation, compared with 4.17% who aren’t (35% said “sometimes” and 2.33% answered “not sure”).
The biggest influence on people willing to see past companies’ mistakes is “trust based on personal experience”. So you can win favor with buyers by consistently being transparent and helpful.
How to measure CX: experience tracking tips
What is a CX strategy without effective measurement? To improve how leads and customers perceive your brand, find out how they feel about it now. Only then will you know where to focus your efforts.
Here are four simple ways to collect valuable data to create better customer experiences.
1. Use customer satisfaction surveys
The results of customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys offer insight into your customers’ experiences with your brand.
Aim to collect customer data after key moments in the buyer journey, such as transactions, registration, onboarding and support queries.
For example, when assessing CX at the transaction stage, you might ask the following questions in your customer survey:
- “How easy did you find paying for your product?”
- “Were our payment options adequate?”
- “Is there anything that would have made your purchase experience more enjoyable?”
If you were measuring satisfaction around a support query, you could ask:
- “Did we solve your problem?”
- “Did our support staff communicate clearly, using language you understood?”
- “Are there any communication channels you’d like to have available for support?”
Responses to these questions will help you understand where you’re going right and wrong at each customer touchpoint.
You can gain more insights about customer happiness (i.e., a measurement of CX) using net promoter scores (NPS). This is where you ask a question like: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product/company to a friend or colleague?”
2. Track website analytics data
Your website is a key part of the customer experience so you should measure how it performs.
Website analytics data, which you’ll find in a tool like Google Analytics, will tell you:
- How long people stay on your website
- How many pages people visit
- How long people stay on individual pages
- Which pages are the most popular
- Which links visitors click on most often
- How people find your website
That information will help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your digital CX.
For example, say your top-performing page is a “how to” guide about one of your products. You’ll know that type of content contributes positively to the buyer journey. If you see that visitors often leave your site just before checking out, your purchase process may not be user-friendly enough.
3. Monitor the reasons behind customer churn
Speak frankly with customers who end their relationships with your business. Ask why they’ve decided not to buy again or renew their contracts and find out what they appreciated and didn’t appreciate about your products and services.
Collect responses using a standardized survey you issue whenever a contract ends or by asking informally when the customer gives notice.
Whichever method you choose, you’ll gain valuable insights that will help you eliminate friction from future relationships and hopefully increase recurring revenue in the long run.
4. Map your sales pipeline to find and eliminate friction
Mapping your sales pipeline in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool will help you identify friction points in your sales process (i.e., poor customer experiences).
For example, if you generate plenty of high-value leads but most go cold after the first meeting, you might find:
- You’re sending the wrong sales representatives to meetings
- Your reps don’t have the sales materials they need
- Your team needs more product training
If you’re not ready to invest in a CRM, you can use a spreadsheet tool to create your sales pipeline template.
Paying close attention to the customer experience is the best way to generate high-value leads, build solid relationships and entice repeat business.
Keep in mind that your customers’ needs and expectations evolve over time. What impresses now may not work forever so revisit your CX strategy regularly to account for changes to your buyer personas, buying patterns and competitors’ offerings.