There is an often-repeated mantra in business that it is easier to grow your business by doing more business with existing customers than by acquiring new ones. The goals of customer experience improvements are to actualize that mantra. Based upon a recent conference I attended, one might have come away with a very different point of view – that the goals of Customer Experience (CX) are to increase customer acquisition and conversion.
At this conference, speaker after speaker discussed ensuring a good or strong CX from the very first touch point the prospective customer had with their firm. The very first touchpoint. There was a lot of conversation around first impressions. Ease of doing business. Ensuring a quality experience through lengthy and extended sales cycles. Plenty of thoughts around how the entire ecosystem has to be considered to ensure these prospective new clients were getting everything they needed in order to ‘convert’ and become actual customers. And herein lies the rub. While all of the above is true, customer experience is about a lot more than just customer acquisition.
The majority of firms at this conference have been in business for a long time. That means that the very first touchpoint for most of their current customers or clients was likely some time ago. At least before “CX” became a thing. Or the thing that it is today. Talk about improving the experience for these, ACTUAL customers, was extremely limited. In fact, one of the few firms that discussed CX improvements for existing customers was a large firm not known for their stellar customer experience. But at least they got it, and recognized that CX improvements had to go beyond just the buyer’s journey.
One panelist, when asked what successes around CX they could cite for their existing customers, answered, “None. But we’ve made great strides in new customer conversion goals.” The panelist then corrected that statement and added, “In a meeting a few weeks ago, when a senior person was laying out a new policy, someone in the room asked how our customers would feel about the proposed policy. That is the biggest internal success I have had regarding improving the customer experience for our existing customers.” Baby steps, I get it.
There was almost no discussion regarding how customer experience improvements were communicated to customers. A large portion of the initiatives discussed came from within their organizations, rather than from direct customer feedback. Many of the alleged CX improvements came across as little more than thinly veiled cost cutting initiatives masquerading as CX process improvements. I have been on the receiving end of some of those “improvements” – and have changed vendors a few times as a result!
There were many discussions around how the entire enterprise had to buy in to improving CX in order for these initiatives to be effective. Issues related to the silo-nature of many large organizations prevented that needed buy-in. As a result, there were some discussions of valid CX improvements that withered on the vine. Improvements that got implemented half way, then abandoned. Improvements that looked good on paper but became brutal to show real ROI and were subsequently jettisoned. The notion of improving the customer experience attained near global agreement. The actuality of implementing CX improvements, not so much. So how can the promise of CX be realized for actual existing customers? Here are some basics to help get you started.
Start by listening to your actual customers: Sometimes the view from inside an organization just doesn’t match the reality of your customer’s experience with your firm. If you don’t sanity check your internal ideas with external realities, it seems unlikely that your CX efforts will produce the desired results. I have been a pretty loyal customer to many firms over the years. It is the rare one who ever proactively asked me how they can improve. I go out of my way to patronize those firms because they come across to me as genuinely trying to improve to better meet my needs.
Mine your call center data: While great insights can be gained by mining your search data, analytics, social streams and by conducting primary research, there is low hanging fruit in your call center data. Most customers reach out to the call center when they have an issue or problem that they cannot resolve on their own despite likely having exhausted all self-service channels. This has to be one of the lowest hanging fruits in the CX game. Your customers are literally revealing where, what and often how to improve.
Map both the Acquisition and Service sides of your Customers' journey: Over-focusing your CX efforts primarily on the acquisition journey exposes your newly converted customers to a potentially less than stellar service experience. Negative services experiences are far more likely to cause your customer to churn than occasionally delighting them. Take the time to fully map your customer service journey. If done correctly, you will not only bridge those organizational silos, but you will get happier customers as well.
While you are mapping the Customer Service Journey, show your existing customers some love as they likely spend more time there than in the acquisition journey. Remember that they pay your bills but they don't always get the attention, better deals, better treatment and better service that new prospects do. Take the time to consider what you have done lately to show that you care about them. Your actual customers will appreciate it!