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Once upon a time, the recipe for brand success was simple: the best performance—or the cheapest price—won. But as countless new brands and product lines entered the marketplace over the last half century, greater selection has raised customer expectations across the board. According to Joseph Prine’s book, The Experience Economy, first the Industrial Economy, predicated on goods, gave way to the Service Economy as products became commoditized and offered little room for competitive differentiation on their own.

Now, the latest economic evolution centers on creating exceptional customer experiences. According to a Gartner study from earlier this year, 87% of businesses now compete mostly or completely in the customer experience space. While this shift marks a valuable opportunity for brands to establish themselves in a saturated, undifferentiated market, it also can doom those businesses that can’t move fast enough. Every customer’s last best experience is constantly evolving—and it can come from anywhere—potentially leaving your brand in the dust.

The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.
Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President Global Markets | IBM

So, the question becomes: How do you set up your organization with the self-awareness, strategic foresight, and agile execution necessary to build a truly transformative customer experience?

Fortunately, strong customer experiences don’t have to rely on “aha” moments or gut instinct. By carefully following six key steps—and partnering with the right customer experience experts—businesses can map out intuitive transformations that benefit their customers, employees, and bottom line.

Let’s take a deeper look at these six steps:

1. Map Your Current State

To begin your CX transformation, you need to develop a deep understanding of your customers—their basic needs and unique expectations. Research is at the core of any customer experience strategy.

Start with researching exercises like journey mapping and strategic workshops to create a visual representation of the path your customers take when they engage with your brand. You can also use experience data collection to build a more nuanced understanding for the “why” behind your customer journey maps. Qualitative research methods—such as customer interviews, focus groups and even ride-a-longs—can help collect insights directly from the customer. Meanwhile quantitative research methods—including surveys, website analytics and CRM data—can provide broader stroke insights that inform a deeper understanding of customer preferences and receive feedback on your current CX. Remember this step is about establishing a foundation on which you can build phased improvement. It will drive the action steps that come next.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • What paths do customers take when they interact with your brand before, during, and after purchase?
  • What are the pivotal moments that matter during the customer journey?
  • What customer experience strategies and channels do we currently have in place? How are they performing?

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2. Define Your North Star

Let’s start by understanding what a North Star is. When it comes to creating an exceptional customer experience, your North Star is the focal point or the central CX concept that should be supported by every strategic decision you make. It should embody your brand promise and provide a shining example of what exceptional customer experiences should look like in your organization. Internally, the North Star should serve as the core goal and motivational vision you aim to deliver—from the contact center, to your website, to the in-store experience. Externally, your North Star comes to life as your brand promise and drives brand recognition among customers.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • How will your customer experience set you apart from the competition?
  • What experience(s) must your employees execute in order to deliver on your North Star?

3. Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Using the insights you gained in step one, identify where critical pain points exist in your current customer journey. Address these pain points by leaning on your North Star to guide the end-state experience. Some common sources of customer and experience friction include: gaps in your internal data or limits to the insights you can gain from it, high frequency points of journey abandonment, and ill-equipped tools or outdated customer channels. If you’re having trouble delineating between positive and poor customer experiences, step three can be a powerful opportunity to lean on customer experience experts—if you haven’t already. With a broad understanding of what is possible and what is pipe dream, leading CX consultants can help your team identify quick win opportunities that will deliver substantial CX improvements.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • Where are you seeing the most abandonment during your customer journey?
  • Where are existing tools letting your customer service agents down?
  • What capabilities do your competitors have that make their CX easier to navigate?

4. Develop a Transformation Strategy

Now that your current capabilities and future goals have been collected, it’s time to act. In this step, you’ll want to define the logistics, timeline, objectives, and metrics that will help your organization achieve CX success. Modern customer expectations call for true omnichannel customer experiences. That means enabling customers to move seamlessly between channels and digital properties as they continue along their unique customer journey. The trick to defining a successful transformation strategy is creating plans for both design and orchestration. One without the other can lead to even the most cutting-edge tool failing to work together, or worse, the deployment of the wrong tools and technologies all together. Lastly, don’t forget about the departments and teams that will need to buy-in on your strategy to bring it to life. Creating a Future State Customer Journey Map can often help inspire your organization and demonstrate the role each person has to play in bringing the new CX vision to life.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • What new technologies and processes need to be introduced to achieve your North Star experiential vision?
  • What stakeholder buy-in will you need to execute your transformation strategy?
  • How will you gauge progress—and more importantly, transformation success?

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5. Orchestrate the Improved Experiences

As you begin to implement the desired changes, continue to consult your roadmap and the North Star that guides it. This orchestration step is all about understanding how people, processes, and technologies work together and how they can best serve your customers. Not sure where to begin? From analytics, to WFM, and every step in between, Avtex can help provide the foundational elements and orchestration support your organization needs to create solutions that work together—not in isolation—creating a comprehensive, unified approach to CX interactions.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • What capabilities, technologies, and channels are needed to deliver seamless customer experiences? How do we ensure they all work together in service of our experience North Star?
  • Where are we hitting transformation roadblocks? What additional expertise and capabilities do we need to overcome these challenges?
  • Who will be in charge as the “point” person between our transformation strategy and our technology partners?

6. Measure Your Success

Measuring success is not static. This final step is really more like the beginning of your long-term CX strategy. Yes, tracking metrics will help to prove ROI to key stakeholders throughout your organization, but it will also likely reveal additional aspects of your CX transformation strategy that require adjustments. There are a number of ways to begin measuring your CX program. For example, starting with the right feedback mechanisms can give you first-hand insights from customers that will help drive continual improvement of the experience. Consider adding Voice of Customer (VoC), surveys, interviews, and polls to your arsenal of feedback tools. Further down the measurement food chain, it’s also important to measure deeper metrics like customer retention, brand loyalty, revenue growth—and from a workflow perspective, productivity, efficiency, and customer response times. Strategies that are delivering memorable, personalized customer experiences should help drive growth in all these categories and create the last best experiences your customers crave.

3 questions to ask during this step:

  • What metrics will you use to benchmark and improve the customer experience?
  • How can data be used to iterate and adjust your customer experience over time?
  • How will you report on successes and ongoing challenges?

When used as a continuous improvement cycle, this six-step roadmap can help maintain CX competitive differentiation over time—strengthening your brand reputation and bolstering customer loyalty. If you’re ready to elevate your brand in the customer experience economy, Avtex is here to help.

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