Marketers need to audit the customer experience currently delivered by their business, understand what refinements are necessary, execute and measure the impact.
This sounds daunting when we look at the wide range of touchpoints that constitute an individual consumer’s experience. As established in the white paper Experience Is Everything and succinctly defined by Forrester, CX is “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” The customer experience is made up of the sum of all brand interactions.
Mapping the customer journey
Where to start auditing your current customer experience?
You’ll need a customer journey mapping tool to identify the touchpoints a customer encounters on the path to purchase/conversion.
This includes all marketing activity – from outdoor and mail to online advertising and emails – alongside in-store and online interactions, third party touchpoints (car dealerships, for instance), call centre contact and much more. The actual experience of using the product or service is also crucial.
You’ll then need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine their journey. Show empathy and try to imagine how each interaction makes them feel.
The first steps to creating a customer journey map
Auditing the customer experience and building a full customer journey map can be a complex task. Brands have dozens or even hundreds of consumer touchpoints within the path to purchase. But it’s important to have a starting point for your map which our editable customer journey map can help you with.
It will help to create a fuller picture of what your current customer journey looks like, by outlining areas you may wish to review further. Then you can identify the right mix of marketing channels and relevant content to generate positive interactions with current and new customers.
We suggest dividing the customer journey into several stages. These cover the path to conversion of Awareness, Consideration, Order/Book/Buy and Welcome and the retention stages of Renewal/Repeat Use, Upsell, Cross-Sell and Advocacy.
Our map encourages marketers to assign each of these customer experiences a rating of 1-5. Then apply the below suggested questions to each of these stages to prompt you to think of improvements.
- What should the customer experience be?
- What does the business need to change to achieve that experience?
- What’s the role for communications?
- What channels would you use to deliver this change?
With the stages rated, you can focus on those with a low score and consider how they can be improved to optimise CX. Of course, this isn’t a one-off exercise but one to repeat regularly.
Mind the gap between customer expectations and delivery
Marketers need to be mindful of the gap between customer expectation and reality in Customer Experience delivery. If there’s a widening gap it can mean a slide into negative sentiment.
Marketers often think they are providing an excellent experience when research shows this is not the case. Two thirds of customers quizzed in a recent study said they could not remember when a brand exceeded expectations. But the same study reports 87% of marketers saying they are delivering an engaging CX.
There’s a definite disconnect.
Measuring the customer experience with Net Promoter Score (NPS)
To prove return on investment, marketers need to provide data that shows shifts in customer satisfaction and relate these to sales.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is used by many brands as a simple way of generating an easy-to-understand metric.
Customers are asked: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend?” and are then rated depending on the score as detractors, passives and promoters.
A brand gets its NPS score by subtracting the percentage of detractors (customers who gave a rating of 6 or less) from the percentage of promoters (customers who rated 9 or 10). The passives are not counted in the result. The aim is to transform detractors into brand promoters with the rationale that advocates are more likely to repeat purchase and forgive any brand slip-ups.
Criticisms of using Net Promoter Score to measure customer experience
There are 2 main concerns.
- Some critics, including Professor Byron Sharp say NPS lacks nuance to measure a complex set of variables, including emotional associations, and it has no relationship with future business growth.
- NPS leads marketers to focus too much on the already engaged customer.
It’s commonly advised to combine NPS with other metrics with a direct relevance to the sector in which you operate. Then develop a feedback mechanism that digs into why customers have negative or positive perceptions of the brand.
3 other metrics important in measuring CX
Gartner suggests other important metrics to consider alongside Customer Satisfaction and Advocacy.
- Loyalty: This includes customer retention and churn. Churn is the percentage of customers that stop using your product or service over a specified time and the aim is to reduce churn.
- Product and service quality and operations: At the most granular level, the product or service must meet user requirements.
- Employee Engagement: Employees need to buy into the goals and get excited about delivering a great experience.
The importance of quantitative research in measuring customer experience
You’ll get a fuller picture of customer attitudes to your brand by combining qualitative with quantitative research. Surveys and other tools will show where customers are having negative experiences.
Quantitative research will quickly help to identify problems and new business opportunities.
As Cindy Blackstock of Sivo Insights puts it: “Quantitative helps identify what to fix, and qualitative helps identify how to fix it.”
A quantitative research programme can provide metrics to help marketers target the right customers at a time when they're more receptive to brand communications.
Mail's role in customer experience and how to measure it
Direct Mail can be powerful in changing attitudes towards brands, influencing sales and enhancing CX (see our guide Experience is Everything). The solid, tactile, printed nature of mail gives it a level of credibility, attention and trust that other channels can’t always match. Mail campaign effectiveness is as measurable as any other media, here are some ways mail performance is measured.
1. By benchmarks and response targets using the Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMAIL)
JICMAIL was set up by an independent body to provide the same metrics for mail that are available for other channels. It’s a survey-based database and examines the activities and commercial actions taken by a rolling panel of consumers receiving mail.
It measures reach and frequency for individual pieces of mail and provides breakdown by different types of mail and specific sectors i.e. door drops in the retail sector. This allows you to benchmark mail responses and budget.
JICMAIL is now combined with TGI and IPA touchpoint data , which means the contribution of mail to multimedia campaigns can also be measured as well as understanding audiences profiles better.
2. Via direct measurement, attribution and historic data
Mail has always been measurable. Brands can use a vanity website URL or a unique promotion code/telephone number to attribute the sale or marketing response to direct mail. A website analytics program (like Google Analytics) can be also be used to review and inform current performance whilst historical data can be used as a benchmark.
However, it is important to have a nuanced attribution model to capture the full range of responses across your channels – JICMAIL demonstrates that 30% of mail drives some form of “commercial” action and these can range from making a purchase, phoning the sender or going online to find out more.
The importance of a customer feedback loop for brands looking to improve customer experience
Brands should be on the lookout for opportunities to enhance their customer experience by inviting feedback from customers. Customers should be encouraged to let you know about their experience and satisfaction with your brand’s product or service at various times throughout the customer journey.
Call centres, chat bots, online reviews, website surveys, social media monitoring and customer questionnaires are all tools for monitoring feedback.
The feedback loop needs to be allied to an agile mindset within the business. Data that accumulates and isn't checked for insight is wasted resource, while a deterioration in brand perception needs to be tackled quickly.
A company needs to be able to refine or re-imagine its products, services and marketing strategy at speed in the light of feedback.
Let customers know that changes to the experience are due to their feedback. This shows them you're listening.
The challenges in measuring customer experience
Collecting and acting on relevant metrics for improving CX can be a challenge.
Useful data can be held in a variety of places within a business, from HR to IT. Metrics can be ‘owned’ by different departments as well. For instance, Marketing usually oversees loyalty-based metrics but customer problem-solving might be measured by the customer services department. Finding and collating past and current data will need collaboration.
Some specialists argue that with so many touchpoints, a customer will only remember a few moments of each interaction and usually only those that deliver peak pleasure or peak pain.
Lastly, always remember that a customer journey isn't linear
Remember that any touchpoint could be a customer’s all-important first contact with the brand, so the mission for everyone is to constantly review and improve the overall experience.
To start auditing your Customer Experience, download your free editable customer journey map, the map is available in our 'Experience is Everything' guide.
Royal Mail MarketReach, Experience is Everything
Acquia, Closing the CX Gap: Customer Experience Trends Report
Sivo Insights, Customer Experience (CX) in Context
JICMAIL, JICMAIL + IPA TouchPoints
Wownow, 8 Key Elements You Need to Know About Branded Customer Experience Management