When it’s time to improve the customer experience, ask questions before you take action. This guide will help.
Any small effort or all-out initiative to improve the customer experience involves many people — and likely several functions. If your company is highly customer-focused, it might extend to every person at every level.
Because the customer experience involves people, products and places, you want to get a feel for where all of them stand — and are going — before you make changes.
“Knowing the ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your customers, your market and your products is your lifeblood,” says Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise, authors of The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader. “You must know what customers want, why they want it and how they decide to buy. You must also understand what your competitors do, why they do what they do, and how they operate.”
Ask yourself three sets of questions — covering your customers, your market and your product — to guide you to an improved customer experience.
Here’s what Barta and Barwise suggest:
- How can we spend more time with customers? An example of taking steps to spend more time with them: Adidas employees talk with customers thousands of hours each year to generate new product and experience ideas.
- Can we co-create with customers to develop insights and better experiences? At PepsiCo, the Doritos brand has famously invited customers to create advertisements, and then it aired those during the Super Bowl.
- How can we turn data into insights? Take a closer look at the information you gather. Is it really useful or is it just collected because you always have?
- How can or will we regularly assess our competition to understand their customer experience strategies and how they affect market dynamics? This is important because how other companies treat customers affects their expectations of how you will. You don’t have to consider everyone in your industry. But you need to look at the small number whose actions impact your business and customer experience.
- How can we maximize the most important industry gatherings? Seeing and interacting with customers and competitors can help you understand market dynamics. The authors suggest getting to two a year — and not just to sell, but to observe.
- When will we reflect on where we stand against the competition and adjust our plans? An example: NotOnTheHighStreet.com founders take time every January to reflect on successes and competitive lessons, plus set the vision and direction for the customer experience in the new year.
- How can we work more closely with the people who develop or produce our products? As a customer experience professional, you’re the best person to bridge the gap between what customers want and what your developers can create.
- When can we be part of product creation? When customer experience pros understand how products are made and their full capabilities, they can better align customer expectations with company realities.
- How can we get customers involved in product development? Letting customers get involved in development helps them appreciate what goes into their experiences — and often gets developers to see new perspectives and possibilities.