Improving customer experience (CX) is still a work in progress at most organisations.  

Despite years of discussion, most brands still do not have a CX programme in place.

In a recent Econsultancy survey, Customer Experience Maturity in Australia and New Zealand, only around one in three (33%) regional marketers felt that they had a CX strategy and technical capability.

This contrasts sharply with our 2016 Digital Trends report which indicates that ‘optimizing the customer experience’ is the single most exciting opportunity for the largest number of marketers surveyed.

So what can brands do to get their CX programme going? What are some of the trends, challenges, and best practices to be aware of?

To find out, Econsultancy held a roundtable event in Sydney, Australia.

Dozens of client-side marketers came to discuss the trends, best practices, and issues they are facing with CX programmes.

The roundtables were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM Marketing Cloud. Participants brought their own experiences, questions, and challenges to the table for open discussion.

Below are recommendations from brand marketers about starting and maintaining a great CX programme.

1. Know the difference between ‘CX elements’ and ‘providing great CX’

Participants noted that people often get confused with two aspects of improving customer experience (CX).

From one angle, there are three main elements of a CX project:

  • Personas
  • User journey maps
  • Customer activity data 

And everyone agreed that working on each of these is essential when redesigning the customer experience.

But these factors only offer one perspective on improving CX, namely your company’s view of the customer. Another perspective, however, is required for great CX, the customer view of your service.

According to one participant, “experiences are critical, emotional and memorable events”. Great CX, therefore, is about the whole experience, not just carefully-targeted ads, content, and order forms.

So, in addition to optimizing the website, marketers should aim to deliver things which may not be so easy-to-measure but that address customer emotions.  

Things like surprise, delight, and easy-to-use technology. 

Expertise at the table included UX design, marketing and marketing operations, and so participants were keen to note that providing great customer experiences should not be limited to online channels, either.

2. Fight hard for customer-focused content

Participants said funding CX initiatives are always a challenge. One main difficulty many faced was building a business case for improving content marketing.

One participant noted that early-adopter companies, such as Red Bull, have made big bets on customer-focused content which has moved their business forward.

Attendees, however, lamented that getting funding for high-quality, customer-centric content was very difficult.

Instead, participants said that the business was much more likely to fund sales-oriented content as it was easier to produce and had a quicker ROI.

Attendees argued that marketers should fight for customer-focused content because: 

  • It is more likely to address the customers’ needs.
  • It provides information across the customer journey, not just point of sale.
  • It offers an easy way for customers to share content online.

Even the B2B participants agreed with the last point, leading the table to conclude that social media impacts all companies now, B2C and B2B.

3. Use the right CX metrics, but be aware that CX analytics and tools are both lacking

The discussion turned to measurement frameworks and KPIs for CX initiatives.  

Defying expectations, very few companies use metrics such as fans, Likes, and average time on the website to ‘prove’ the efficacy of their brand’s CX.

Instead, the most important metrics these days are concerned with how the customer felt and what they did after using the product over service.  

That is 

  • Were they happy about their experience?
  • Would they come back to the company again?
  • Would they recommend the brand to their friends and family (also known as Net Promoter Score, NPS)?

As these metrics are new, most participants felt that CX analytics are not as developed as they are for other marketing functions.

Additionally, the CX data is not yet sufficient for building marketing segments, say between satisfied and chronically dissatisfied customers.

Participants were also challenged with implementing new technology.

Marketing automation, data management platforms (DMPs), social listening and multichannel marketing tools were all mentioned as falling short of helping marketers achieve a single customer view.

Marketing automation, though, was valued by one organisation as a way to scale the delivery of ‘the right message, to the right person, at the right time.’ 

4. Note that online and offline CX each require a different approach

Participants reported that A/B and multi-variate testing (MVT) were both commonly used to improve online experiences.  

Using tests helps marketers optimise their brands’ CX based on a better understanding of the conversion path.

For offline CX, design matters much more than testing. Visual clarity and simplicity can often provide the necessary ‘surprise and delight’ for great CX when in-store, according to attendees.

Additionally, some participants had in-house teams work with focus groups to better understand customer needs.

A third approach was for the marketing team to identify one or two top-priority user types, form scenarios about them and then map the customer journey for both their online and offline experience.

This way, they improved the experience of the most influential customers first.

Overall, though, participants still spend most of their CX development efforts in the expected ways: 

  • Developing customer personas.
  • Trying to map out the experience of single customers.
  • Striving to deliver an overall improved customer experience. 

There is still a long way to go, but those who get started now will surely have an advantage over the two-thirds of companies who have yet to devise a CX strategy.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and especially our moderator for the Customer Experience Management table, Beaudon McLaren, APJ Ecommerce Manager at Symantec.

We’d also like to thank our sponsor for the event, IBM Marketing Cloud, and we hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!