(by Stephanie O’Connell)
How hard is it to be your customer?
Customer experience is how customers perceive and feel about your product or service. What kind of impression it leaves on them and the lasting impact they have about your company as a brand.
In a world where software can become a commodity and empowered consumers can replace your solution for another solution, companies need to be reliably delivering a memorable customer experience in order for your organization and your brand to survive.
Thinking about customer experience means not only thinking about your solution’s usability, but also about how the product can drive each stage of the product roadmap and customer journey to ensure that customers recognize ongoing value.
The customer experience is the next competitive battleground- Jerry Gregoire
Increasing Role of Customer Experience
A good customer experience plan will increase customer retention, strengthen customer satisfaction, increase cross- selling and up selling opportunities and drive product roadmaps. Companies should incorporate superior products with equally important superior customer experiences.
Some companies don’t understand why they should worry about customer experience when it comes to product. But ask yourself who are you designing the product for?
Customer experience is important for any business structure, but it should be built into the Product Teams strategy when it comes to planning a product roadmap for an existing solution or when in the initial stages of something new.
Customer Experience: Five Key Elements
When creating a plan to incorporate customer experience into your product strategy there are five key elements that you can review internally straight away in order to see ROI. These examples can translate the customers voice into actionable takeaways for your team in order to improve the customers’ overall experience.
1. Identify your companies’ touchpoints
Customer touchpoints are all the points of contact that your company has with their prospects and customers. Determining your touchpoints is the first step toward creating an engaging customer experience program.
Three categories of touchpoints can be: Before Purchase, During Purchase and After Purchase.
- Before Purchase- social media, word of mouth, advertising, marketing
- During Purchase- Website, Staff Interaction with Pre-sales/ Sales
- After Purchase- Billing, Staff interaction with Operations Department, Help Center, Follow Ups, Renewals
A negative experience during any touchpoint may set back all your efforts to deliver a quality customer experience. To improve customer satisfaction, your team needs to ensure that each outlined touchpoint ends up being a positive experience.
2. When building new products, it is key to remember what the customer wants from you.
By considering how your customers see and value you, you can learn how to develop and maintain your credibility within your industry. Credibility and reliability are everything in software. This is what makes end- users champions of your product.
3. Always prioritize customer experience
A company’s mission should be far larger than what your solution solves in your industry. Your company should create core values that celebrates and measures quality customer experiences.
Customer experience doesn’t fall to just one department. This is organizational wide from the marketing material, sales demo, implementation to after the customer has left.
Ideas you can implement now:
Moving forward the customer voice is always considered during discussions, plans and decisions. Your team should be asking “how will this help our customer?” and “what value does this deliver?”
4. Talk to your customers/ prospects
When speaking with your customers and prospects it’s valuable to use their feedback to plan your product roadmap.
Perception vs Reality. In other words what the product team is envisioning but the reality is what the customer is actually experiencing. It is always better to understand your customers problems before you sink any money or time into a product that may be unwanted. The only way to truly understand their friction points is to ask them.
Most customer experience strategies can include:
- Custom Crafted Surveys
- Open Ended Questions
- Customer Interviews
Ideas you can implement now:
Have your staff follow up to customer requests without being asked. Customers appreciate not having to chase someone for a response or repeatedly ask to be kept up to date on open issues.
Add a communication tool into your product for automating feedback. If a live chat doesn’t fit with your product, you can also utilize the support ticketing system you may have. By creating a category labelled Feature Requests, when a customer has an ask or provides feedback about a certain product, the ticket can be categorized as a feature request so that the product team can review internally every quarter to see if any of those ideas fit in with the company’s roadmap or would be considered an easy win with quick ROI.
Allow your customers to mark their satisfaction level after an implementation and/or support ticket. Some companies are afraid of the repercussions by starting with low results, but it will be tough to improve if you don’t know where your customer satisfaction currently lies.
5. Emphasizing Data Insights
It’s important to celebrate the good moments but even more impactful is facing the hard facts by digging into the areas you need to improve.
Analytics has a large role to play. This doesn’t come from just data collection but from your customer base, by gathering insights from the feedback received.
Ideas you can implement now:
Scroll heatmaps can be used to determine which areas of your product are the most and least used, this can prompt the team to investigate the reasons why.
Segment your data for different customer behaviours. This will allow you to review particular customers who may be performing worse or better then others while using the same product.
Align the organization around the customer. It’s important not to just develop guiding principles but your team needs to use the data that is compiled to follow through on supporting those principles.
If the product you sell does what it’s designed to do, and the service you provide is meeting or even better by exceeding expectations, there is one additional measure you can take to bring your experience to a whole new level.
Be easier & convenient to do business with.Questions to consider to get started:
Does your Pre-sales team promptly schedule demo requests for prospects or current clients?
Is signing a contract or SOW a complicated process?
Are all departments responsive to questions (implementation, customer support, accounting, sales etc)?
Can your customers call your support team directly if there is an urgent issue? or are they required to submit an email and wait in queue.
Do your company’s hours of operations reflect the time zones they do business in?
When creating your customer experience program to align with product strategy, make sure that the customer experience is embedded throughout the entire design and development process.
(Stephanie O’Connell is a Solution Engineer for a software firm, and she is also a Member of the Advisory Board for NAASE.)