Last reviewed 24 April 2020

Businesses that have great CX (Customer Experience) have more loyal clients and gain more market share. Dave Howell asks what CX means today and, how all businesses can create experiences that connect with each customer.

Consumers no longer just want to buy goods and services. Businesses that develop experiences for their customers are magnets for high levels of loyalty, brand advocacy and long-term value. Whether your business in the B2B or B2C space, CX must be a core component of not only your marketing messages but a driver behind every touchpoint.

Research from NTT reveals 81% of organisations agree CX offers a competitive edge, with 58% stating CX is their primary differentiator. However, nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents don’t have enterprise-wide CX analytical systems, with less than a third (32%) stating they can perform analysis that covers data relationships across CX touchpoints.

According to research from Pega: “Nearly every organisation feels pressure to provide a better customer experience. Most have learned to talk a good game publicly – constantly espousing their commitment to the customer, and to the value of personal relationships. However, most haven't yet aligned that talk with tangible, real-world investment, including building CX subject matter awareness, expertise, leadership, and adoption across their organisations.”

It’s critical to understand how CX is formed, maintained and communicated across your company. Says Rob Hall, marketing manager at Foolproof — an experience design company specialising in end-to-end digital product and service design for global brands: “Understanding your customers above and beyond all makes for the greatest CX initiatives,” he advises.

“But mindfulness of how CX plays into bigger organisational structures is key. Conceiving how the levers like finance and operations in business live cohesively with CX is crucial. Thus, will keep your projects running, help with finance and allow you to change hearts and minds by breathing customer focus into those parts of your business.”

And the touchpoints all businesses are now using have evolved to become mobile spaces. Engaging CX on all mobile devices is crucial to get right, as consumers expect great experiences in the palm of their hands.

CX design

Croner-I Business Essentials spoke with Steph Heasman, director of Customer Success at Feefo – a customer insight platform, and began by asking what are the critical components of world-class CX?

“Great CX is about how customers feel about a brand, the relationship they have with it, and the kinds of positive emotions that it triggers. To reach that point of maturity, organisations must have insights into customer demand and behaviour, so they can interact throughout the customer journey, using all available communication platforms in a consistent and empathetic way.

“Take the example of Iceland, a supermarket chain that has been ahead of customer sentiment because of its commitment to listening intelligently to its customers. Iceland uses an artificial intelligence-powered tool to analyse key terms and sentiment indicators from thousands of pieces of customer feedback returned in response to customised requests.

“The system now covers all products purchased from Iceland by its online customers, and the company now has more than 40 campaigns in operation, which is outstanding. Some campaigns are short-lived and relate to specific product launches or busy times of the year, such as Christmas. It's very flexible and highly effective, allowing Iceland to adapt processes, change products and collate feedback from trial periods and lapsed customers.

“It has resulted in trials of bagless or paper bag-based delivery within specific areas. Products that garner one-star reviews are subjected to a panel, which then investigates and decides whether they should be dropped. Since expanding studies using this tool, the amount of feedback has increased substantially. Iceland now has more than 165,000 service reviews and 44,250 product reviews.

“A company of any size must listen and learn from its customers and then react fast, so it is ready to give customers what they want almost before they know it. To do this, businesses must use verified feedback, using a customer insights platform that works on an invitation-only basis, guaranteeing veracity.

What do businesses find the most challenging when trying to improve their CX?

“The biggest challenge is consistency and measurement. Without specialist help, achieving genuine consistency is not easy in a world of proliferating social media platforms and engagement channels. Facebook’s dominance of social media has been challenged by Tik Tok, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. All have launched social commerce platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace.

“Alongside this, we have the rise of the digital assistant, the growth of visual search and the development of messaging apps as sales platforms. WhatsApp now has a business application giving access to its 1.6 billion users – but how do you maintain consistency when it's just one among many channels? Emails are still hugely important, with the number of users predicted by Statista to hit 4.48 billion in 2024.

“Achieving consistency across such a diverse landscape is tough unless you have the right level of insight into customers. As a starting point, companies need to appoint someone at a senior level who is responsible for driving service as a priority and ensuring the same level of service is delivered at every touchpoint, every time.

“When it comes to measuring success, you can use tools such as CSAT (customer satisfaction) surveys to determine your NPS (Net Promotor Score) or to survey your customer base. A great example of how this drives big results, can be at a company such as Synergy, the car and van leasing experts.

“The time-consuming manual methods for gathering customer feedback did not deliver. They achieved their measurement goals by integrating a customer feedback and insights platform, automating the collection and saving the team 8.5 working days a year. It means they focus on other aspects of the business such as optimising website performance, their growth strategy and further refining their customer experience.”

Can the real-world value of CX be accurately measured?

“Ultimately, companies that create a really good customer experience are building both brand and customer loyalty, which can be measured through outcomes such as increased ROI. At Feefo, we know that online conversion rates go up by 13% when you use AI to filter review content and present it as topics or snippets in search results and review-based advertising.

“The customers get to the topics they want without effort, while the business has a constant stream of insights about what customers like or don’t like. A London IT support company, Totality Services found that after integrating a customer insights platform, its revenues increased by 25% over the financial year, with the conversion rate from website visitors climbing to its target of 50%. Those are real results.

“Creating repeat customers or brand advocates is critical to an organisation's success. To measure it, you need customer data. Subscription model services can do this very well, and easily, take Netflix as a model. They can reach out to past customers who have unsubscribed with incentivised offers to get them to re-join. Data is king for many businesses, the more you understand your customer's behaviour, the more capable you are of personalising the experience to that individual.”

What are the CX trends businesses should be paying attention to?

“AI is enabling deeper customer insights at scale, that in turn allow a business to take smarter action that delivers genuine bottom-line results. This must be an area of focus moving forward.

“Trust is still vital because it acts as a form of guarantee, as a consumer, I want to know that the purchasing decision I'm making is well-informed. That trust factor is a vital revenue generator for SMBs; often, they are the types of firms that are known for providing more local and, great CX.

“The sales director at Totality attributed the company's CX success to showcasing the consistently excellent service that they deliver, which enables them to stand out above the competition through high review ratings from a platform that everyone trusts because it is invitation-only. Only real customers are invited to post feedback.”

What does the future of CX look like?

“Looking into the future, the main thing to consider is that customers' expectations change rapidly. It's hard to predict exactly what customers will want in the future, b ut certain trends are currently shaping the way businesses are adapting to meet the demand: Take next-day delivery, for example, companies are increasingly offering this, but at the same time, we also see an increase in the eco-customer, very concerned about sustainability. Squaring that circle requires insight and a clever operational strategy.”

No average customer

Creating an immersive customer experience is the key to long-term relationship building. And as Foolproof’s Rob Hall concluded, CX is also now an interactive exercise.

“Challenger brands are entirely focused on serving their customers. Take Monzo for example; they don't make any changes to their product without first consulting their customers. They understand that identifying the varying needs and pain points for their customers is integral to the success of designing out new elements of their app.

“In the next year, there may be an uptake in the number of experiences featuring voice and haptic technologies connected to our aversion to touch-based experiences, or other workarounds that become commonplace to reduce touch or improve cleanliness. It will be interesting to see how the customer-centred principles we abide by in the design space converge with these interfaces to create all-new dynamic offerings.”

Often focused on the B2C space, CX is now universal no matter which sector your company trades within. There is little doubt that enhancing CX across your business will improve customer service and increase profit. Indeed, according to Gartner, in two years, 81% of marketers state they expect to be competing mostly or entirely based on CX.