The 4 pillars of the essential CX, and why marketers should internalise them
A particularly memorable Dilbert cartoon had Dilbert discuss the ills of their software UI with his increasingly restive manager. The pointy-haired boss finally decides to go to his ‘special place’ to destress. The manual, the support database and everything else the company threw at users were worthless.
Customer Experience (CX) is no joke – it can mean the difference between a blockbuster product and an also-ran, even between becoming the next unicorn versus sinking into oblivion. In an era where content-led marketing has authenticity in its DNA, customer experience is arguably the most important part of superior customer success, and ultimately, product success.
What then, is this mythical beast? And what makes for great CX? Let’s break it down in this piece. Yes, there are definitions and there are pillars – it’s that kind of blog. But you’ll leave much the wiser, hopefully, quite unlike Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss who, in another panel, remarked that, “Our highest priority is satisfying our customers...except when it is hard...or unprofitable...or when we’re busy”!!
Customer Experience or CX is an umbrella term for the sum total of all the interactions - across various touch points - that a customer has with your product. Remember that old adage about the goal of content-led marketing – to convert a stranger to a promoter of the product? There’s a journey being defined there – the customer journey. Providing a memorable, and satisfying, experience through this journey falls under the ambit of the CX team.
As the customer journey spans marketing/pre-sales, sales, and customer service/customer success (post-sales), CX becomes an integral business activity that must be designed, monitored, and measured.
Here are the four pillars of CX that product managers, marketers and business leaders must understand well, and execute on:
- Empathy: We begin with this overused, perhaps even abused, word in the world of business. Empathy for the customer is wrapped up in understanding their needs and wants, aspirations and pain points, and a typical day in their life. This deep knowledge helps us build a customer journey map.
The product team can develop a sound understanding of the customer’s ‘as is’ state (without the solution) and ‘to be’ state (with the proposed solution) and build out the features of the product that are pain relievers or gain creators for the customer: a sure shot way to ensuring customer satisfaction with the product.
The marketing team, in turn, can design a content-led campaign and deploy across multiple channels - speaking the customer’s lingo and being present in the worlds they inhabit.
Empathy especially helps marketers gain a crucial competitive advantage over older brands that may have lost the connect.
- Consistency: With technology ensuring most products in a competitive arena have similar feature sets, what sets the market leader apart is superior user experience (UX) with the product. UX is governed by many heuristics, prime among them being consistency. When interacting with the product, keep in mind that the customer probably has already had previous experiences with similar products, the operating system, the form factor and the domain. They are used to certain paradigms – certain ways that technology or processes work. A consistent UI that leverages the customers’ knowledge of current paradigms and delivers new or more efficient features will win the marketplace hands down. For example, users who use the keyboard predominantly will expect to tab through the text fields on a form. Ensure these kinds of simple behaviours are consistently adhered to. In fact, this principle of consistency starts from the brand definition stage. It harkens back to the reasons why branding experts emphasise a brand archetype – down to the fonts, colours, phrases, messages and visuals that comprise the eponymous ‘brand voice’.
- Consistency: begins there, and continues into marketing – campaign collateral, language and style in the thought leadership, the positioning of the brand in the marketplace and so on. Sales and marketing teams need training on the ways they will represent the brand with customers, and on the language they use when they talk up the brand. Digital marketers must pay special attention to copy that goes out even on ephemeral social media channels. All it takes is a few slip ups – inconsistencies – to ruin years of careful brand positioning. As seasoned marketers will aver, the name of the game is in building a comprehensive brand manifesto and slavishly adhering to it in the campaigns – toeing the party line, so to speak. Consistency underscores brand authenticity post-sales. We must deliver what was promised. No brand can stand the onslaught of derisive reviews and put downs online if the CX does not deliver on the brand promise after the ink dries on sales receipts. That is the reason why customer success gets so much attention at the CxO level today. Armies of people work with tools and technology to ensure that CX post-sales is flawless - manning contact centres, populating YouTube with how-to videos and product walkthroughs, seeking customer opinion, scouring online review boards and always, tweaking the CX. The list, while seemingly endless, is governed by that word again and again - consistency.
- Closure: The closure I’m talking of here is to do more with psychology, not the Gestalt principle. The principle of closure is simple: humans need to get a sense of completion when an event occurs. Make sure you follow this when designing your CX. This translates to simple actions with profound implications such as:
- Sending a customer an auto-acknowledgement response if they register a complaint, laying out an escalation path for them (with humans at the other end) if their complaint is not resolved within 24 hours
- Providing an ‘OK’ or ‘Save’ button when they fill out a form or complete an action on the screen
- Ensuring buttons on the screens have ‘hover’, ‘disabled’, ‘active’ and ‘loading’ states besides the default ones
- Designing your digital properties – starting with the website – to provide easy-to-locate contact information for sales, marketing and customer service. While humans at the other end are not always optimal, there’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than to feel like their voice is going unheard. If you’ve been left hanging on an IVR hold for hours, you’ve been there.
- Personalisation: A seasoned cold caller recently tweeted that asking the person at the other end how they are invariably leads to better conversions. Personalization in your interactions with customers – starting with personalised names in drip campaigns – is a tried and trusted method to breach the ‘wall of blankness’ and elicit a response from a stranger you’re trying to recruit in your customer journey. Today, marketers have an array of technology to support their quest for personalization – from cookies to single-pixel retargeting and more. A thorough understanding of the customer’s digital persona and their behaviours online can elicit enough data to provide them the exact experience they expect from the brand. To summarise, developing an intimate knowledge of your customers, and building a highly personalised customer experience can be key to product success. It is an art, calling for oodles of psychological expertise, coupled with the data and tools that technology provides marketers with today.
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