Seven steps to future-proof a customer experience strategy

19 July 2021 Consultancy.asia 6 min. read
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As customers migrate to digital communication channels, reinventing the strategies to meet ever-increasing customer expectations has become the new normal for companies. GB Kumar, Asia Pacific Regional Vice President of Sales at UserTesting, outlines seven steps how leaders can future-proof their customer experience approach.

In today’s digital economy, customer experience (CX) isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

“Technology has handed customers unprecedented power to dictate the rules in purchasing goods and services,” a McKinsey & Company report says. “Three-quarters of them, research finds, expect ‘now’ service within five minutes of making contact online. Increasingly, customers expect from all players the same kind of immediacy, personalization and convenience that they receive from leading practitioners such as Google and Amazon.” 

GB Kumar, Asia Pacific Regional Vice President of Sales, UserTesting

In the ‘2021 CX Industry Report’ by UserTesting, it was found that despite the efforts to improve CX, many companies are still in the early stages of establishing their CX practices. Sixty percent of respondents admitted that their organization doesn’t have a formal CX strategy in place or only reacts to issues as they happen.

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021, the majority of companies say their organization prioritizes CX more than they did a year ago. This is because most (a large majority) would take their business elsewhere following bad experiences.

Many organizations look to data analysis to understand if they are meeting customer experience expectations, but data alone isn’t enough to give you the full context. To gain a deep understanding of not only what customers are doing but why, businesses need to capture diverse customer perspectives, and collect human insight from them throughout the lifecycle. Needs, preferences, and use cases change, and being able to hear this first-hand from your customers, early and often, will allow you to be more agile and adapt your product, service, or experience to meet their rising expectations.

Lens on Singapore

The Singapore Customer Experience Index 2020 by Forrester Research found that brands that want to differentiate themselves and strengthen their appeal to customers should focus on emotion; how experiences make customers feel influences a brand's customer loyalty than ease or effectiveness in every industry.

According to industry news, ecommerce platforms in Singapore experienced a two-digit growth (23%) in total web visits (desktop and mobile web) throughout the first half of 2020, signifying strong consumer confidence in ecommerce retail and further growth in the digital economy.

As demand for online commerce grows, and more and more Singaporean consumers turn to mobile apps and digital devices to transact, more pressure is put on companies to meet the rising expectations as CX takes center stage. Instilling this CX-centric ethic across an organization takes tremendous effort and discipline, and the devil is often in the details.

Here are seven steps companies can take to future-proof their CX strategy in a post pandemic era: 

1. Map out a plan
CX research for CX research’s sake is useless – it needs to be tied to business initiatives. For every new customer-facing project the company is embarking on, be stringent in identifying how user insights will inform each one and defining the best methodologies for gathering those insights. Gain agreement with all stakeholders on priorities and timelines.

2. Use the right tools for the right jobs
Decide which type of research technique makes more sense -- qualitative (such as in-person interviews, remote usability testing where the facilitator and participants are in different locations, and unmoderated testing) or quantitative (surveys, A/B testing, etc.). Better yet, use a mix of both, to yield the deepest insights.

Companies often put too much emphasis on the quantitative side. Customer behaviors and attitudes sometimes can’t be truly understood from survey results, and A/B testing is prone to producing statistically insignificant results (and the data is only as good as the specific question you ask of it). So it’s best not to think of qualitative and quantitative as an either-or but as complementary.

3. Emphasize multiple touchpoints
Effective CX research shouldn’t be a quick snapshot but a longer-term view. Collect reactions from the same participants as the product’s design iterates. Gather diary feedback as users interact with the design over weeks. That’s the only way to see if impressions have changed over time. Caveat: Asking for a lengthy commitment from research participants increases the risk of drop-off, so be prepared to increase compensation.

4. Focus on omni-channel research
CX research today must take into account all the various internet-connected devices that people use. So be sure to conduct research across different platforms, whether desktop/laptop, smart phone, tablet, what have you.

5. Know you don’t know everything
Before creating surveys (or protocols for other kinds of research), determine what topics users care about most. This could mean simply asking them via an unmoderated interview and incorporating their sentiments as the survey is formulated (for example). Such a move, when practical, encourages engagement with the survey and more meaningful results.

6. Leverage learnings
Make sure that each new round of research builds on the last. In other words, examine trends over time. Build a quantity of data on some topics that are consistently covered in each study, and, each step of the way, be able to refer back to existing insights from previous studies.

7. Avoid CX shelfware
Remember that CX research should never exist in a vacuum – it should become part of the lifeblood of product design, development and delivery. So create a database to house all the individual learnings from the research endeavors, and make them accessible to all product managers, marketers and anyone else with a stake in the project.

By adopting these seven habits, businesses can make sure they’re putting the customer at the center of everything.