In today’s digital economy, customer experience (CX) isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
“Technology has handed customers unprecedented power to dictate the rules in purchasing goods and services,” a McKinsey report says. “Three-quarters of them, research finds, expect ‘now’ service within five minutes of making contact online. Increasingly, customers expect from all players the same kind of immediacy, personalization and convenience that they receive from leading practitioners such as Google and Amazon.”
And yet while 71 percent of respondents to a Dimension Data survey cited customer experience as their top performance measure, a mere 13 percent self-rated their CX delivery as 9 out of 10 or better.
Companies need to strive to reach the top of that scale. Those that are able to view every single touch point with their brand — before, during and after purchase – through the customer’s eyes will win and retain customers and maybe even get them to pay a premium. Businesses that can’t will wither.
Many organizations look to data analysis to understand customer experience, but data alone isn’t enough. To gain deep awareness of not only what customers are doing but why, businesses need to collect human insight at every stage of design, development and delivery of their products, apps, websites and services.
Instilling this CX-centric ethic across an organization takes tremendous effort and discipline, and the devil is often in the details. Here is a seven-step strategy that every company can use to infuse research about customer likes and needs into its daily operations.
1. Map out a plan. CX research for CX research’s sake is useless – it needs to be tied to business initiatives. For every new customer-facing project the company is embarking on, be stringent in identifying how user insights will inform each one and defining the best methodologies for gathering those insights. Gain agreement with all stakeholders on priorities and timelines.
2. Use the right tools for the right jobs. Decide which type of research technique makes more sense — qualitative (such as in-person interviews, remote usability testing where the facilitator and participants are in different locations, and unmoderated testing) or quantitative (surveys, A/B testing, etc.). Better yet, use a mix of both, to yield the deepest insights.
Companies often put too much emphasis on the quantitative side. Customer behaviors and attitudes sometimes can’t be truly understood from survey results, and A/B testing is prone to producing statistically insignificant results (and the data is only as good as the specific question you ask of it). So it’s best not to think of qualitative and quantitative as an either-or but as complementary.
3. Emphasize multiple touchpoints. Effective CX research shouldn’t be a quick snapshot but a longer-term view. Collect reactions from the same participants as the product’s design iterates. Gather diary feedback as users interact with the design over weeks. That’s the only way to see if impressions have changed over time. Caveat: Asking for a lengthy commitment from research participants increases the risk of drop-off, so be prepared to increase compensation.
4. Focus on omni-channel research. CX research today must take into account all the various internet-connected devices that people use. So be sure to conduct research across different platforms, whether desktop/laptop, smart phone, tablet, what have you.
5. Know you don’t know everything. Before creating surveys (or protocols for other kinds of research), determine what topics users care about most. This could mean simply asking them via an unmoderated interview and incorporating their sentiments as the survey is formulated (for example). Such a move, when practical, encourages engagement with the survey and more meaningful results.
6. Leverage learnings. Make sure that each new round of research builds on the last. In other words, examine trends over time. Build a quantity of data on some topics that are consistently covered in each study, and, each step of the way, be able to refer back to existing insights from previous studies.
7. Avoid CX shelfware. Remember that CX research should never exist in a vacuum – it should become part of the lifeblood of product design, development and delivery. So create a database to house all the individual learnings from the research endeavors, and make them accessible to all product managers, marketers and anyone else with a stake in the project.
By adopting these seven habits, businesses can make sure they’re putting the customer at the center of everything. Let CX be your guide!