Customer experience. It’s the new buzzword on the tip of everyone’s tongue—and not without good reason. The Customers 2020 Report claims that by the year 2020, experience will expand its lead over price and product as the key brand differentiator. However, “creating a better customer experience” is a lofty goal that can be difficult to define.
Common Customer Experience Challenges
Most B2B companies or businesses that sell complex products to consumers would probably identify customer experience as a priority when asked, but then struggle to take practical action on improvements. This is likely due to the fact that the various ways people use products complicate a business’s ability to create a customer experience that fits its entire customer base.
For businesses with multiple products or target audiences, customer experience is notoriously vast, nuanced, and difficult to scale.
Throughout their entire relationship with your company, customers’ expectations are high. Prior to making the sale, customers’ research is likely extensive and the decision to purchase might be made by several different people or in groups.
Once the product is purchased, product usage is nuanced, the learning period is extensive, and expectations remain high.
Because of all these variables, your company can’t just do one thing well and expect to “fix” customer experience. You have too many different types of customers who are all in different phases of the customer lifecycle and have different needs. Their expectations can’t be met with a single approach.
The 12 Critical Points of Customer Experience
To make improving customer experience more approachable, we’ve broken it down into the 12 critical phases. Think of these as the 12 places you want to get it right to have a complete and effective customer experience strategy. You can then build your strategy around each phase using your sales team, social community platform, call center staff, and marketing communications.
Before the Initial Purchase
These six phases all lead up to the purchasing decision and are critical for making the sale.
In this phase, a prospective customer is aware that they have a problem, but haven’t yet begun to seek out solutions.
Here, the prospect begins their research to find potential solutions to their problem. This is an opportunity for your company to provide quality information and content that helps inform their decision.
#3) Short List
While conducting their research, the customer will likely create a short list of solutions that could solve their problem. The information they find on your solution will dictate whether or not your company gets to this phase. Both improving the experience with their initial point of contact and social proof of the positive experience that existing customers are having are important in this phase.
During this phase, the customer whittles their list down to the final selection. The customer experience your company offers can help you stand apart from the competition. The experience that existing customers have plays a big role in this process—think customer reference program.
It might seem like the important part of the customer experience is almost concluded as the purchasing process is initiated, but this is where experience can influence future purchases. The customer has selected your solution once, but their experience continues to play a significant role.
This phase takes place in the moments after purchase, before use. The pre-conception phase is defined by the customer’s expectations moving forward. In many cases, their expectations are built from what your sales and marketing departments have led them to believe about what they’re getting in your product.
After the Initial Purchase
At this point, the customer has purchased your product, but has not become a repeat customer or someone who advocates for your company or product based on their experience.
#7) Implementation/Set Up
Now that your customers have your product, it is your job to help them get to the point that they are starting to use it. Often this means providing a positive onboarding experience and communicating where they are in the implementation process. As they begin using your product, they’ll likely run into many of the questions listed below.
#8) How Do I Get Started?
Once your new customer is ready to begin using your solution after its set up and configured, this is likely the first question your new customers will have as they begin to use your product. By over-communicating a tangible set of steps to take next, you can help improve their early experience. Tip: Don’t forget to focus on some quick wins.
#9) The First Roadblock
At some point, your customer will probably run into a roadblock or complication in how they want to use your product. How this is handled on your end can make or break their experience.
#10) How Do Other Customers Do It?
Even if your customers are perfectly happy with how your product is working for them, they’re probably curious about how other customers are using it. Forums and discussion boards in your online customer community are highly effective for sharing information and success stories between customers.
#11) How Far Off Am I From Achieving The Results That Were Sold To Me?
There are two factors at play here.
- Customers bought your solution to get a specific result.
- We live in an instant gratification society.
Your customers are going to want to know how much time and work needs to go into using your product before they’ll see the results they want. Providing a platform to learn from other customers’ experiences and clearly setting expectations can help improve this aspect of their overall experience.
#12) I’m Seeing Results. What Else Can I Do With This Solution?
If your customers get to this phase of their experience, they are satisfied with their purchase and are now looking to your company for additional results or further solutions.
This might mean educating customers on additional features, upsell opportunities, or implementing partner add-ons. It is important to be prepared for this step, so you can capitalize on this window in the customer’s lifecycle.
Customer Experience Takeaway
Customer experience is an important, but complicated, discipline. Make it more manageable by mapping your tools and processes to each of the stages listed above.
While this guide helps you make sure that customers in specific phases of your relationship don’t fall through the cracks, it also provides a guide to ensure that you are addressing your customer experience in a holistic way. By helping customers engage your community, communicating more valuable information, and proactively providing support along the way, you can convert more customers before the initial purchase and turn first-time customers into repeat buyers.