What is customer experience?
There are many definitions out there but in simple terms, customer experience is how a customer perceives and feels about your business. This is influenced by every single thing that customer sees, reads and receives from your business from a social media post, your visual identity, your tone of voice, your product and services and your people. This is not as simple as it might sound and there are companies out there who focus entirely on helping businesses improve their customer experience.
To put this into context, we could deliver everything to our clients that they ask for at the highest quality, exceeding expectations but forget to be human and without doubt the experience will be negatively impacted. The same would of course be true if you are lovely to work with but the quality of your work is poor.
If we consider one of the common measurements of client experience, net promoter score (NPS), the question itself tells you everything you need to know. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us? This captures the entire journey and experience – the quality of your work, your project management and how easy you are to work with plus all the intangibles like respect, clarity of communication and so on. But it’s not a one size fits all approach so knowing your target customers and their expectations is the starting point. What we might do at ramarketing will not be the same for a CDMO or a technology company.
I have no doubt you can get into a significant amount of depth to try and understand your customers experience dependent on a customer’s journey from start to finish. But I’m definitely one for simplicity. So start with the process from first contact to final invoice. Who and what does a customer engage with through that journey and where, in your opinion, are the risk areas. Ask your customers too. The more complex your business the more complex the journey or journeys may be in which case more in depth insight gathering will be very important. Just acknowledging that there is an experience linked to the people and processes in your business is a good starting point though.
I’ve already mentioned NPS as a measure – it’s pretty simple to use and of course more questions can be added but getting a baseline measure and then consistently checking the NPS (might be linked to milestones in the journey or just broadly once of twice a year) will give you valuable insight. Most importantly client experience has to be high profile at leadership team/board level as it is a company wide focus. Often it gets left with the operations or delivery team forgetting that it is not the only function to impact experience.
Prior to joining ramarketing, I ran a software company working in the clinical research/trial space. Our offer was software as a service (SaaS) and we started some work using a customer success approach to create a better framework for managing client growth and retention. Although we were working with a price per user model, the experience of our users was always front and centre, both from a software and a support perspective. Trying to sell in a new software product when the status quo is ‘working’ comes with a whole set of new challenges that customer success can help to resolve.
This is one way to drive improvements in CX and has some more tactics pre-defined to provide structure for a SaaS business to measure performance and upsell. But there’s plenty here that applies to any kind of business.
Most of the following seems like common sense and is done by most companies some of the time. But there are a few key points to highlight that are well worth considering when reviewing customer experience.
As teams we are usually quite clear on the clients required outcomes – for us it’s usually to raise profile and/or generate leads. We then measure this and report on it. But what if I asked what the desired outcome is – for example I want to be known as one of the top 3 CDMOs in Europe; I want to retain more clients after the first project and so on. Ultimately we could generate loads of interest in trade media and/or marketing qualified leads but the client could still feel that we have not met their expectations. Understanding your client has to go beyond what they say they want.
2. Success potential
To be successful with any client there has to be a good ‘fit’. Seems obvious right and most sales people know they have to qualify a lead in or out before triggering a heavy investment of time. But this isn’t just about meeting their needs with your products or services, it’s a little more nuanced. Who knew software companies would care about cultural fit? This is a measure of the ability of your customer to succeed when working with you. Get this wrong and you have a disgruntled client and potentially some reputational damage.
Technical fit: not relevant to all types of businesses but in a software setting this is about the technology they need to use or acquire to be successful
Functional fit: the basic qualifying question – do our services or products meet their requirements
Resource fit: does the customer have the budget and/or time to be successful
Competence fit: what level of expertise do they need internally to be successful?
Experience fit: can we meet their expectations in terms of the experience we have to provide for them to be successful.
Cultural fit: what it says on the tin – do our values align?
In essence you need a yes in all 6 areas to have the best chance of success.
3. What does success look like to the client (defining success milestones).
How often do we ask a customer to tell us what success looks like to them as we engage on a project? Quite often we take the proposal and translate it into requirements for the client and the account team without checking how they would define success at 3 months, 6 months and so on. When we hit the criteria (the milestone), we have an opportunity to check in, confirm we’ve met expectations or not and potentially offer other services. In reverse we can also identify success gaps – reasons why a customer might not succeed. A good example for a SaaS product is resistance to change within the broader team. Seeing this and managing it is key to success and ultimately enhanced client experience.
In summary, this isn’t rocket science on paper but this is hard to deliver end to end consistently. It needs focus and attention plus constant review. Ultimately, this could be your way to stay ahead of the competition.
<Definition of NPS: number of customers scoring you as a 9 or 10 (promoter) less the number of customers scoring you between 0 and 6 (detractor) as a percentage of the total number of customers in the survey. Those scoring 7 or 8 are potentially passively engaged and are not included in the score>