Customer experience management (CXM) has become a new and pressing topic of discussion for CMOs across the globe – regardless of industry.

CXM is all about ensuring that a business offers a great service to the customer across its different touchpoints.

It may therefore sound obvious to state CXM must be audience or user-led, but surprisingly many businesses still believe they’ve got a handle on it by relying on their own viewpoints and opinions only.

The clue is in the name: any customer experience discovery research, strategy or ongoing management must involve customers.

Stock image of wooden blocks depicting customers, with one magnified by a magnifying glass

10 steps to CXM success

I have curated a list of ten ways in which you can use your customers to more effectively extract the crucial information needed to build a CXM strategy.

These are in a natural chronological order, and I would suggest that you follow this to ensure you’ve built up a robust picture of who your audiences are, what their needs are, and what their experience is with your brand in your sector.

1. Get the views of stakeholders

Whilst the focus here is on the audience, there is still a valuable exercise in extracting information from people within your business. The crucial element here is to ensure you select a group of people who have a solid knowledge about customers, ideally gained from direct contact.

Typically a stakeholder workshop is run and would include a mixture of people from across the business.

A common method of extracting knowledge around audiences would be empathy mapping – a handy tool that encourages people to empathise with customers and capture what they feel their goals, needs, actions, influences, feelings and pain points are.

Additional exercises can also include plotting out typical user journeys, in order to determine what stakeholders think the common touchpoints and actions are.

2. Speak to customers

This is arguably the most important step, as you want to understand first-hand what the experiences are like for your customers (good and bad).

This would be typically done using one-to-one audience interviews, over the telephone, Skype or possibly face-to-face. This qualitative research allows you to not only capture what people are saying, but also how people say it. Emotions are important in understanding the experience someone has with your brand.

Another method at this stage would be to run focus groups, which do allow the opportunity to capture the views of several people at once.  However, I personally think they can run the risk of introducing several biases – for example, the ‘cheerleader effect’, where people in groups will want to be seen as being more attractive when in a group, therefore potentially affecting what they say.

3. Map out the customer’s experiences

Once you’ve interviewed your customers (or potential customers), then you’re going to be hopefully left with lots of useful information. One great way to capture and present back all of this is to plot it into a customer experience journey map.

These visual tools allow you to plot several elements – such as goals, needs, actions, experience and touchpoints – against the ten stages of the CX journey.

Each individual experience journey is mapped on its own, which provides lots of rich context around what customers think and feel.

4. Document typical user journeys

As well as understanding the experience that a customer has, it’s useful to observe customers’ behaviours on a ‘typical user journey’, for example the path to purchase through your website.

As mentioned above, it’s a good starting point to get stakeholders to map out the typical journey, then engage with customers to get them to create their own versions of what journeys they use. This can be done in a workshop situation.

It’s often interesting to see what functionality they use, and what they ignore. Sometimes you can find that customers ‘hack’ themselves a solution if they can’t find what they are looking for.

Optimizing the customer journey: How marketers are overcoming obstacles

5. Uncover those moments of truth

During the process of interviewing people and creating customer journey maps, you are likely to have uncovered several ‘moments of truth’. These are defined as being the ‘pain’ or ‘gain’ points for people – the points on their journey where things are either good or bad.

It’s important to not only look at the ‘pains’ and then work out how to fix them, but also see what people think is good, then work out how to make more of these.

Often the moments of truth are added to the customer experience journey map as the final row of information.

6. Dive into other data

Speaking to customers is obviously key in getting the low-down on what they need, feel and experience, but there is other data that can be looked at to give even more insights.

One opportunity is to dive into your CRM data and pull it apart to break down exactly what it shows your customers are doing. This use of ‘big data’ can really open up your eyes to a range of interesting patterns and trends across your various segment.

And of course, there is the data to be gained by using web analytics tools such as Google Analytics. By grouping your users together you can start to see how different customers engage and perform across your website.

As well as this type of quantitative data, you can also uncover more qualitative stuff in the form of customer feedback – have a look at things like reviews, social media comments, customer emails or event telephone recordings from your contact centres.

Report: The role of CRM in data-driven marketing

7. Focus in one specific areas with more user testing

It’s often the case that when carrying out a CX discovery piece, you will find some consistent areas of the customer journey that are flagged up as needing attention. If this is the case then you can employ specific user testing in order to understand more and therefore be better informed in terms of potential solutions.

One example would be if customers have reported they have a bad experience when transacting on your website. In this case, you can run several user tests where you give people a specific task to complete, for example asking them to try and make a purchase of an item.

Any results gleaned form this sort of testing will not only provide you with the ability to build hypothesis for further conversion optimisation, but also additional insights into how customers use your website.

8. Use customers to help devise solutions

As well as learning from customers what they like and don’t like, you can also use them to help devise solutions. This means your activity is truly customer focused, as they are telling you what things would appeal and work for them.

There are several ways of doing this, including running customer brainstorming workshops, or even creating a private Facebook Group to ask your ‘super users’ for their ideas.

9. Measure the impact of implemented activity

Another way of involving customers is by using them as a ‘yardstick’ for measurement, to help with the reporting of your implemented activity and solutions.

Absolutely look at your own quantitative data, but there’s also lots of valuable feedback to be gained from how your customers react, whether it’s a new product, service or campaign.

Ensure there is a continual feedback loop built into your marketing processes and you will be able to spot points at which you may need to refresh or pause activity, plus potential new opportunities.

10.  Revisit your CXM strategy on a regular basis

Your CXM activity can be truly end-to-end by making sure you take a step back to look at your CXM strategy on a regular basis.

Tie this in with the measurement element above and you will ensure that you are not just relying on your own gut feel of how things are working (or not).

Where to start?

Hopefully you are already using some or all these tactics on a regular basis as part of your CXM, but if not, the best way to get started is at the beginning of the list. You have access to stakeholders, so capture their views and then start to engage with customers to validate or add to these.

As you move through the list, you will start to build up a comprehensive picture of your customers and begin spotting the real opportunities – whether these are small incremental improvements to a way you do something, or a much larger fundamental change.

Embrace the phrase “the customer is always right” and make sure you are taking note of what they have to say (and acting upon it).

customer experience management best practice guide (subscriber only)