CX - what is it, and how does it affect you?
What is CX?
CX stands for 'Customer Experience' and is a relatively new acronym to explain a rather old truth. Great experiences get people talking, and - if the talk is positive - then that can build the bottom line for a company or brand.
CX is all about analysing the 'customer journey' and coming up with recommendations for improving it. The customer journey encompasses all of the experiences that a customer goes through when interacting with a company and/or a brand, including product, people, service, channels, and architecture. This is more than looking at just one or two 'touchpoints' (a single point of contact or interaction between a business and it's customers), it is a complete end-to-end journey from discovery, to research, to purchasing, to customer support – cumulative experiences across multiple touchpoints (both digital and physical). When analysing CX you are always looking at the journey from the customer's point of view, not the company or brand itself.
If you are an account manager working with a retail client it is highly probable that you will jump on board the CX train at some stage, though CX consideration is not limited to just retail. Even if you are not directly involved, it pays to have a top-level understanding of what CX is, so that you can at least intelligently contribute to a CX conversation when required.
The customer journey
According to McKinsey Quarterly (July 2009) the customer journey has four distinct phases:
- Consider. This phase contains the largest number of brands in a customer's consideration set. These brands are assembled from a customer's exposure to ads or store displays, word-of-mouth recommendations, or other input.
- Evaluate. The initial consideration set can expand during this phase as a customer seeks to gain input from peers, reviews, retailers, brand information, and competitors.
- Buy. Even if a customer has been researching a product online, they may not make their decision to buy until they are actually in a store. This means that the in-store experience covering product placement, packaging, pricing, availability, and sales interaction is incredibly important.
- Enjoy, advocate, bond. The customer journey does not stop once a purchase has been made. Many customers will continue to research a product after they have made their purchase. They may also take to social media platforms, blogs and brand websites to advocate for a product or service (or slate it, if they have been disappointed by the brand).
An agency's role in creating a superior customer experience and customer journey can include:
- Knowing your client's customer well (including their personas, demographics, psychographics, likes, dislikes, shopping habits).
- Creating a customer 'voice' that can influence and help the approach of both your agency and client.
- Researching and mapping the customer journeys, goals and mind-sets of your client's customers.
- Uncovering a customer's needs, pain points, and value drivers.
- Understanding the impact of channels, products, sales, and service interactions on the customer journey.
- Redesigning and improving existing products, interactions, or specific channels using human-centred design and testing.
- Delivering experiences which best represent your client's business.
- Creating compelling customer interactions.
- Choosing communication channels that best enable relevant and engaging interactions.
- Advising a client on how to transform their business and remove any internal roadblocks to CX success.
- Ensuring that all work produced (product design, packaging, collateral, POS, store interior, wayfinding) has been strategically thought-out as well as being of a high design standard.
- Prototyping, testing and validating concepts, ideas, and in-store experiences with customers to refine the understanding of customers' needs and solutions.
- Being innovative in your recommendations.
- Helping your client to adapt to changes in technologies, channels, environments, and customers.
Strategising the customer journey
As an account manager, working out the customer journey (which includes defining the most influential touchpoints) will help you to focus on two things: if and when to allocate spending on media (e.g. across TV, radio, online, etc); and if and when to drive advocacy (encouraging customers to give strong reviews and endorsements, rave on social media, or take part in online discussions). If you have a strategist on your team it is likely this job will fall to him or her. If not, the task will likely fall to you, or you'll plan in conjunction with your client.
In some categories, and with some products/services, the single most powerful motivator to buy is someone else's recommendations, yet it can be tempting to spend a client's budget on advertising and media rather than on driving advocacy. The best banner ads or search rankings in the world may not lead to a purchase in some cases.
Another consideration is paid media vs owned media vs earned media. Paid media covers the media channels that can be purchased (programmatic ads, billboards, TVCs, etc) and which will help to draw attention to a client's brand and products/services; owned media covers the channels that a brand controls (websites, social media, etc) which can be used to create more meaningful brand/customer interactions; and earned media covers customer-created channels (communities of brand enthusiasts, social media posts and comments, PR, etc), where a brand discovers what their customers really think. In order to drive a higher level of brand interaction and advocacy, an increasing portion of budget may need to be allocated to owned and earned media, instead of the more traditional paid media route.
The modern customer is intelligent and proactive. Therefore, when it comes to satisfying smart customers, planning a smarter customer journey, and delivering a smarter customer experience are the most intelligent things you can do.
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