Nine out of ten executives worldwide consider customer experience to be critically important to business success. Companies that provide exceptional customer experience realize positive impacts on revenue and profits, protection of market share, and reduced customer churn. However, research shows there’s a wide gap between the customer experience companies think they provide and how those experiences are actually perceived by customers. In other words, while many companies think they provide effective customer experience, in reality, they do not.
To narrow the gap, companies should avoid these three pitfalls:
Pitfall 1: Capturing only part of the customer experience. Failing to capture all of the relevant aspects of customer experience means executives’ assessment of their customer base will be lopsided. For example, one large auto insurance company invested in a new mobile app to make it easier to connect customers in an emergency with an agent. What the company failed to identify was that drivers didn’t want to download an app in anticipation of getting in an accident, so the product went largely unused.
How to avoid it: The best way for companies to capture the entire customer experience is by understanding the complete customer journey through the customer journey mapping process. Journey maps are based on the customer lifecycle and map out all the ways a customer could interface with the company. For each phase of the customer lifecycle, research can offer a deeper understanding of customer goals and needs, specific questions they are trying to address, and the actions they plan to take to get answers. The research used to measure these touchpoints will help flesh out the current state of customer experience and identify areas for improvement. For example, if the auto insurance company understood the motivations of their customers prior to getting in an accident, they might have decided to take another approach.
Pitfall 2: Thinking that what worked for another company will work for them. Many companies attempt to replicate the path to success for another company. While learning from the success of others is important, each customer-brand relationship is unique, and what constitutes a successful customer experience will be at least slightly different for each company. For example, a large banking chain wanted to impress customers by building “the bank of the future.” Inspired by the clean look and technical innovation of Apple, they began building banks that looked like an Apple store. What the bank failed to realize is that its customers were looking for something different from their banking than their electronics shopping experience.
How to avoid it: With so much riding on effective customer experiences, companies can’t afford to base initiatives on the latest trend or on gut feelings. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to back up customer experience strategies with market research. Many companies already have at least some of the data needed to begin assessing their customer experience. The key is to understand how to leverage the data they already have, and know when to strategically make use of advanced research offerings that might not be readily available
Pitfall 3: Not leveraging all of the research tools at their disposal. The science around understanding and maximizing the customer experience has evolved, and executives today now have a host of tools to manage and measure customer experience. However, these tools only work if companies actually use them. Too often, companies fall into the trap of only measuring the parts of the customer experience with the tools they have readily available, or evaluate different aspects of the customer experience in silos. Considering elements like website functionality, customer complaints and product improvements separately, for example, provides ample opportunity for missing important areas for improvement. For instance, let’s say a cable television provider only looks at service call satisfaction surveys to measure customer experience and doesn’t match them with use data of number of repeated service calls. The provider might miss the fact that, while customers were happy with the quality of the service call, the product itself is faulty, leading to ongoing service issues and an overall negative customer experience.
How to avoid it: The most successful companies understand there is no silver bullet to customer experience. They look beyond the information they have readily available and use outside resources to dig into the underlying issues that most impact customer experience through multiple different measurement approaches. These include surveys to understand customer actions and opinions, data analysis to uncover key actions customers took, and qualitative measurements to find out the reasons why they took them. Only by looking at the customer experience through the lens of all three can companies begin to see a complete picture of their customer experience and design actionable plans on how to improve it.