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What is a customer experience (CX) program?

13 min read
Find out what you need to build a world-class customer experience program and start improving customer loyalty and value in your organisation.

A customer experience program is a systematic approach to improving the way your business interacts with, and provides value to, its customers. It involves listening to what your customers are saying about you, and acting on the insights you gain. Designing an effective customer experience program is the first step to creating world-class customer experiences.

Why set up a customer experience program?

The rationale behind investing in customer experience (CX) goes something like this:

When your customers have a great experience, they’ll be more loyal and less inclined to switch brands. They’ll freely recommend your products and services to others and they’ll spend more, providing more value to your business. In fact, satisfied customers are 5 times more likely to buy from you again.

It’s not surprising, then, that many organizations across a whole range of industries are waking up to the importance of customer experience and the impact customer experience management can have.

So what is customer experience management, and how do you make sure high-quality customer experiences are the norm for your company?

As we’ve outlined, the customer experience isn’t something you can wholly control, since the customer plays a part in defining their own experience. CX management then is all about optimizing the parts you can control, largely through understanding your customers and their values, needs and behaviours.

The answer for many is to set up and maintain a customer experience program – a dedicated function within your company or organisation. Its purpose is to measure, understand and improve the customer experience, and to work across every part of your business operations to make sure standards are high.

Attributes of a great customer experience program

Creating the perfect customer experience program takes a lot of effort from a lot of stakeholders across an organisation. Here are 5 ingredients for a good all-around program to think through:

1. Across-the-board company engagement

Either directly or indirectly, everyone in your organisation has an effect on the customer experience, not just the front-line customer-facing teams or marketing department.

If leaders value customers, those reporting to them will too. All key decision-makers, from the CEO, through tiers of management to the shop floor need to understand the organisation’s vision of customer experience, and feel empowered to deliver on it.

So to get started, you need a vision, buy-in and an employee engagement program that enables all your staff to deliver on it.

2. Customer journey mapping

Understanding customer journeys is a key part of getting your program right. In mapping a customer journey, you’re taking a walk in a customer’s shoes as they go through the process of completing a task or making a purchase with your business.

Customer journeys, like customer experiences, are unique to the individuals undertaking them and aren’t something you can engineer. However, by collecting feedback and observations from customers you can establish detailed maps of the most common – or most important – journeys related to your business.

With your customer journey maps as a guide, you can optimize your processes, policies and company culture to support easy, positive journeys for your customers and raise the overall level of experience quality.

3. Digital customer experience know-how

Digital interactions such as ecommerce and online services require special attention within your program. Digital CX covers everything from the quality and usability of your website to the integration between your customer contact center and social media platforms. It will involve customer experiences on mobile devices, laptops, desktops, tablets and any other connected devices.

While this part of your operation may be focused on digital, remember that a customer’s experience will probably not be. Customers are likely to be switching between online and offline environments throughout the customer journey, and at times doing both at once (such as shopping in store while consulting an app or website).

Integrating digital CX within your wider program means building a team and a process that will not only account for digital environments but will be set up to deal with their wider context within a multi-platform, multi-modal customer journey.

4. The right kind of data

At the heart of any customer experience program is data. That covers everything from customer feedback to your core operational metrics like revenue, profit and sales.

Most organizations have plenty of operational data. Things like revenue, website analytics and shopper behaviour all tell you what’s happened in the past.

But where a customer experience comes into its own is by layering in experience data – the data that tells you the human stories behind those rising and falling numbers, and helps explain the “why” of the trends and patterns you see.

So putting customer feedback alongside your operational data is at the foundation of any program – it gives context to your customers’ actions and allows you to start making connections and understand the levers to pull to impact your operational metrics.

Customer feedback needs to be collected and monitored systematically, from all your key touchpoints, i.e. your website, call centres, stores, mobile app, even social media and online review sites. But beyond just collecting the data, you’ll need to make sense of it too with analytical tools like text analysis, key driver analysis and easy-to-use statistical tests.

This allows you to start making connections and finding gaps in the customer experience so you know where to focus your improvements. This is where CX software comes into the picture.

5. Tech to turn data into actions

What is CX software’s value for your organisation?

A good-quality CXM (customer experience management) platform will support your team in gathering experience data, organizing and categorizing it in a usable way, and helping you communicate across departmental silos where present.

That technology also needs to go one step further, giving you the tools to analyze and report on your findings and ultimately, turn your data into improvements. By opting for a platform with advanced analytical tools, you can unlock more value from your CX program and use it to discover the behavioural key drivers underpinning your findings, assign weighting and priorities to your improvement to-do-list, and even make predictions on future developments that will help you plan ahead.

6 ways to kick-start your CX program

Implementing a great CX program takes careful planning and intentional design. Check out our top tips, recommendations and insights from Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute Bruce Temkin, all of which should get your CX program off to a superior start…

1. Understand that better CX leads to more loyal customers

Customer experience (CX) programs aren’t just a ‘nice-to-have,’ they deliver actual results and have an impact on your bottom line. But how you communicate internally about your CX program is crucial – it’s important that you make its value clear to the rest of your organisation. CX is not about just keeping customers happy – it’s about delivering clear and measurable ROI.

Our data shows that better CX leads to more loyal customers. Customers who have a good experience with a company are far more likely to recommend the company, and far more likely to forgive that company if something goes wrong. Plus, they’re also far more likely to try new offerings from that company.

In other words: the delivery of good customer experiences feeds into the results that make your entire company successful.

2. Focus on effort and emotion, not just success

The experience customers have your organisation is typically viewed through 3 lenses:

  • Success: to what degree did the customer achieve their goals?
  • Effort: how easy or hard was it for them to achieve their goals?
  • Emotion: how did interacting with your company make them feel?

Companies focus a lot on success, i.e. trying to enable customers to do something. But actually, effort and emotion are even more critical in the lasting memory of your customers.

And when you focus on effort and emotion – as well as success – it really helps you to dive deeper into customer satisfaction. What makes one customer happy in one environment might not make another customer happy in the same environment. So focusing on effort and emotion requires us to add more detailed segmentation, leading to an even more powerful CX program.

3. Implement CX across your organisation

CX isn’t about a few heroes jumping through hoops to deliver a great experience to your customers. It’s about how you establish the competencies and skills needed across the entire company, so that you can consistently deliver the experiences that live up to your customers’ expectations and deliver the business results you’re looking for. It should be a company-wide mandate.

4. Establish a core relationship metric that tracks a key attitude

Relationship metrics look at attitudes of customers over time. This is different to a transactional metric, which is where we’re asking how a customer felt about specific interaction – like a contact-centre call or a purchase on the website. Instead, a relationship metric allows you to really step back and understand how your customer’s feeling about the company overall, over a longer period – and that’s why it tracks attitude. This then helps us to deliver the appropriate experience at the appropriate time.

5. Start small, with a mind towards building scale

Instead of trying to do a lot of things that deliver a small bit of value across your organization, attempt fewer, but do them with the idea that if they work, you’ll know how to propel them across the organisation.

6. Understand that better EX = better CX

And finally, better employee experience (EX) goes hand-in-hand with better customer experience (CX). A Qualtrics study of more than 1,200 global executives found that every executive who said they had better CX, also said that they had better EX.

The message here is clear: better EX is highly correlated to better CX. This in turn leads to better customer loyalty, and ultimately delivers better business results.

Choosing a software platform for your customer experience program

Your customer experience program will be easier to manage and scale with the help of a customer experience management (CXM) platform. A good platform will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, and is an important investment to make. Here are some features to look out for when making your choice:

Role-based dashboards

Within a large business, communicating experience data can quickly become complex if you’re using conventional channels like email or IM. Instead, look for CX program software that can be set up to cascade information automatically and instantly to the right people so they can take action fast.

Platform-agnostic cloud software

A responsive, cloud-based platform that is accessible on a range of devices means there are no additional barriers to sharing data with the right people, at the right time.

Closed-loop follow up

Choose a system where front-line staff can quickly act on customer feedback to help solve issues faster, before they become critical problems.

Integration with third-party services

Especially valuable for digital CX, easy integration allows you to receive feedback from customers on external platforms such as social media and review sites, and even respond to them in those environments, all from within your CXM software.

Support for feedback in a range of formats

Make it easier for customers to share their experiences by providing a range of options like web intercept, chatbot, IM and SMS, as well as email and web-based surveys.

Responsive, expert support

Choose a provider that offers expert advice and support as standard, wherever you are in the world. Whether you’re ramping up your first CX program or developing a custom solution to enhance your existing one, choose a team that’s trusted by thousands worldwide.

Start building your customer experience program today with Qualtrics