If customer experience professionals have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the unpredictability of the world and the long-lasting effects these types of events have on the customer experience. For example, now, customers are heavily scrutinizing store cleanliness and whether management enforces mask-wearing. Their reactions — good or bad — are posted online for the world to see, likely impacting brand reputation and customer loyalty. Other events have changed life as we know it as well. Take 9/11, which sent airports and airlines scrambling to set up a host of new rules pertaining to how travelers are screened and what they may bring onto the plane. While these rules were designed amid safety concerns, many travelers found them to be inconvenient. And, they exist today, 20 years later. It’s doubtful we’ll ever go back to travel the way it was pre-September 11, 2001.
Because there’s always a new event waiting to alter our world, it’s more important than ever to follow the ABE concept; that is, “always be evaluating” the customer experience. Making the ABE process a part of the fabric of how a company is run means that they’re always in tune with what’s important to their customers and can weather pandemic-induced economic downturns (and other unfortunate events) better than their competitors.
So, the question becomes, what does it take to ensure your company is following the ABE approach? Is it enough to tack on “CX manager” to an existing employee’s title to check a box? Or should your company invest millions in technology and people, only to become mired in analysis paralysis? And then, how often should the customer journey be refreshed?
The answer to these questions is, it depends on what works best for your company. The companies that are most successful at ABE and thus, CX, fall into a consistent rhythm of collecting feedback, analyzing it, and then taking action on what their customers say to enhance the meaningful touchpoints along the customer journey. That way, they can see what’s working and what’s not working over time and adjust as needed.
Here, we outline four concrete steps that can help get your company started making ABE a part of its DNA:
Have a baseline of the existing experience. Develop a baseline model of different existing touchpoints along your own customers’ journey. These are touchpoints that won’t ever change. Take the Starbucks customer journey, for example. The first may be the anticipation phase, before the customer actually gets to the Starbucks location. The next is the entrance phase, when a customer walks into the building. Following that is the engagement phase, in which the customer orders, pays for and sits down to enjoy their drink. The final phase is the exit phase, where the customer leaves the building and reflects on their experience.
Define what a “good experience” is. The second step companies can take to ABE is outlining what the ideal customer experience is from their point of view. How does your existing experience match up, and what can be improved to provide a better experience?
Collect data — and do it often. When companies regularly collect structured and unstructured customer feedback, it paints a more complete picture of the actual customer experience. What do your reviews say about your customer service, your product, your facilities? Do these reviews reflect how you see your company?
Drive change based on feedback. This is where a company can really make a difference because when a customer feels acknowledged, they’re not only more likely to be repeat customers, they’re also more likely to spread the good word, attracting new customers.
Notice that the four steps outlined here transform your customer journey map from what the company thinks is the ideal customer experience to what the customer feels is the journey they want to take.
When a company is continuously evaluating the customer journey, it not only can take better control of its reputation, but also pivot more easily to ensure a smooth customer experience in the face of surprise events. By adopting ABE as part of the fabric of a company, brands will continue to delight their customers no matter what awaits us around the corner.