If there was any doubt that consumer behavior can change rapidly, 2020 erased it for the foreseeable future. Last year’s events also erased the idea that customers would tolerate poor experiences during times of massive change. Now it’s clearer than ever that consumers are setting the terms of how, where, and when they engage with brands — and that the experiences they have will determine whether they return.
Brands that had end-to-end customer experience (CX) strategies in place can meet customers’ new expectations even when conditions change. Brands with fragmented customer experiences struggle to keep up even when there’s not much change happening. The ability to meet customers’ expectations under any conditions is a competitive differentiator that builds and maintains customer trust. Forrester research supports this idea: the firm found that nearly twice as many (27 percent) brands improved their CX in 2020 as in 2019, and it expects another 25 percent to do so in 2021.
If your brand doesn’t have an end-to-end CX strategy in place, it’s time to start building one. While comprehensive CX helps organizations cope with dramatic changes, it can also help when things are calm by increasing transaction rates, customer and employee loyalty and satisfaction, and other key metrics.
Follow this six-step checklist to get started on an end-to-end CX program:
1. Build a customer-first culture.
Map (or remap) your customer journey so you understand how your customers are currently making decisions. Then map your key performance indicators to your customer experience touchpoints and feedback, producing data you can use to continuously improve CX. A customer-first culture also requires strengthening communication between your CMO, CEO and CTO to optimize CX. As these leaders collaborate more closely on service quality, customer loyalty, and value to customers, their performance can be evaluated with the same metrics.
2. Integrate business units and customer data for optimal CX.
Do your customers have a consistent experience as they interact with different departments within your organization? Integrating marketing, commerce, services and support, and IT can make customer hand-offs seamless by giving everyone access to a single customer profile. That provides everyone in your organization the information they need to deliver or enable a consistent customer experience, regardless of role.
Getting customer data from silos (like your organization’s experience platform, CRM, and helpdesk tools) and into a unified profile also helps with CX analysis and strategy across all touchpoints. When all interaction data is in one place, your brand can better understand customers’ intent, profile and history, so you can map out and create the journeys they want. Ensure that your customer data platform is not only unified, but adaptable. We saw clearly in 2020 how critical it is for businesses to have the power to adopt new business models and new CX strategies quickly.
3. Embrace AI, ML and third-party intelligence for CX.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can automate brands’ CX performance monitoring and analysis. These tools yield valuable insights for employees to provide a better CX, see what works and what doesn’t in near real time, enabling them to make rapid, evidence-based adjustments to optimize the customer journey as well as to identify high-value customers whose potential customer lifetime value merits more CX or employee resources.
You’ll also need to bring in data from other sources to support your CX program. Pointillist found that companies with high-performing CX programs are more than nine times as likely to integrate data from multiple sources vs. companies with poorer-performing CX. Brands can subscribe to cloud-based business intelligence services for broader insight into customers and their behavior. With this information and their own in-house data, you can create compelling offers and discounts in the moment so you don’t miss upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
4. Invest in personalization and design with an eye to long-term engagement.
A unified design system creates consistency across content templates, technology assets, marketing, analytics, and personalized customer data. That consistency creates an engaging, seamless end-to-end customer journey. It can also improve the level of personalization across touchpoints, tailoring them to each customers’ past purchases and service interactions as well as their current state of mind. For example, a customer whose touchpoint behavior indicates curiosity on a given day may be open to new product suggestions, while a customer who is stressed and busy may not.
The customer journey never ends because customers expect to engage with brands long after the sale through services, support, and cross-sell and upsell campaigns. To meet their expectations, encourage them to buy from your brand again, and become a strong voice in your customer community, you need to draw on data from past engagements to create authentic one-to-one communication with these customers.
5. Adopt a future-focused mindset.
Brands that set a vision for at least two years to three years out will be in the best position to thrive when the next disruption happens and will be able to pivot as needed. That’s because if the timeline for transformation and evolution accelerates, as it did in 2020 with consumer behavior and digital commerce, they already have a plan they can adapt to keep pace with the rate of change.
6. Keep investing in your experience architecture.
Every customer touchpoint relies on a complex chain of events orchestrated by people, technology and automated processes powered by increasingly sophisticated IT infrastructure. This experience architecture requires tight integration to support effective touchpoints and keep the whole organization focused on the customer first. That requires continuous improvements of, investments in, and evaluations of your company’s experience architecture.
A List That Supports Ongoing CX Improvements
As you work through this list, remember that a single customer profile is the heart of the end-to-end CX, and data keeps it beating. With these elements of an end-to-end CX platform in place, your brand can create personal, relevant experiences that inform, entertain and engage your customers across their entire journey, driving higher CLVs and more revenue for your organization.
Jonathan Brassington serves as the head of Capgemini’s Digital Customer Experience(DCX) practice in North America, where he helps clients craft successful digital customer experience strategies, put them into practice, and continually optimize them for long-term success.
Jonathan Brassington serves as the head of Capgemini’s Digital Customer Experience(DCX) practice in North America where he helps clients craft successful digital customer experience strategies, put them into practice, and continually optimize them for long-term success. Prior to Capgemini, Jonathan was the CEO and Co-Founder of LiquidHub, a customer engagement transformation company that was acquired by Capgemini in March 2018. Jonathan is a Wharton Fellow, and a member of the Board of Overseers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.