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How to Apply Insights to the Customer Experience
Between marketing, fulfillment, and support, there are dozens of interactions that make up, and affect, the customer experience. Here's how to get a handle on them. The first in a two-part series.
Posted Sep 8, 2016
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Use the phrase “customer experience” and any number of interactions may come to mind. A friendly employee at checkout. A personalized thank-you for making a purchase. A long wait to speak to a call center agent. A slick new mobile app that makes real-time shopping a breeze. While each of these events result in a single impression, the true customer experience is a composite of every interaction one has with a brand.

Although many approaches to measuring customer experience are used today, the science of how to leverage insights to drive that experience is less developed. This is likely due to the fact that the volume and complexity of the components that comprise the customer experience make the task of tackling insight a fairly daunting one. To further complicate things, the type of insight required and the way it is applied differs widely by touch point. So how do we simplify this process and get better traction on applying insight to the customer experience?

To start, we need to create a more manageable framework to categorize the dozens of customer experience interactions. Generally, these interactions fall into one of three categories: marketing, fulfillment, and support. Marketing includes any form of communication with the customer, whether through mass vehicles such as TV advertising and radio, or through direct vehicles such as email or mobile messaging. Fulfillment refers to elements of the experience that arise from the delivery of the product to the customer, such as store ambience, quality of packing, or speed of delivery. Support refers to direct interactions with a customer to provide assistance, including website help pages or call center service.

When you frame it this way, there are a few standard forms of analysis and research for each category that will get you on your way.

Marketing

Using insights to fuel personalization and inform marketing spending creates a relevant, timely, engaging, and profitable relationship with your customers.

  • Customer segmentation. Segments help you set a common understanding of your portfolio of customers and help you see if customers are increasing or decreasing in engagement over time.
  • Campaign analysis. One way to help set your future communication strategy is to start by looking at what is working today and what is not. Cross-campaign analysis can identify trends or characteristics that you should repeat, and help you avoid making the same mistakes again and again.
  • Preference modeling. If you want to know what to say to your customers, take the time to model their preferences across the board, from the channels they use to communicate, to the products they prefer, to your customers’ propensities related to price points and discounting. The resulting messages will be more relevant, and more successful.

Fulfillment

Insights can tell you which components of your product and service delivery matter the most and where the gaps lie, so you can make sure that every aspect of your operation works to increase customer loyalty.

  • Journey mapping. It’s hard to know how to improve the customer experience if you don’t know exactly what’s contributing to it. Start by mapping out each touch point and using direct customer input—either qualitative or quantitative—to make sure you haven’t missed anything.  
  • Experience drivers and pain points analysis. Once you have established what the customer journey is, you can capture customer feedback to tell you which components are more important than others so you can narrow your focus. And, by starting with the high-impact touch points that diminish customers’ overall experience, you can begin to eliminate pain points across the journey.

Support

When customers need some extra help or issue resolution, you want to be equipped to give them what they need quickly and seamlessly. Insights should influence your customer treatment strategies, call center processes, and long-term strategic plans to increase customer engagement.

  • NPS/satisfaction. At a minimum, maintaining an ongoing view of how happy customers are with your brand and your products is critical. Changes in these metrics can be a leading indicator of future changes in customer behavior, and they should be monitored closely.
  • Voice of the customer. Beyond straightforward satisfaction tracking, a formal program comprised of more than one type of feedback is ideal for understanding customer perceptions. Regular customer research should be conducted to look at how attitudes and expectations are changing so that you’re not caught off guard when behaviors start to change, too.
  • Customer contact reporting. At the call center and beyond, it is important to know who is reaching out and why so that you can design additional tools, communications, or product attributes to address these needs earlier.

Managing the customer experience through insights doesn’t have to be as complicated as the customer experience itself. By starting to capture insights in any of these areas, you’ll begin to build a solid foundation upon which to increase engagement over time.


Brooke Niemiec is chief marketing officer at Elicit, where she leads a team of researchers and marketing strategists to evolve Elicit's actionable intelligence platform. Before joining Elicit, Brooke was the head of CRM and loyalty for JCPenney and previously managed customer insight at Disney and marketing strategy at Boeing. Elicit's Fortune 500 clients include Southwest Airlines, Fossil, GameStop, Sephora, BevMo!, HomeAway, Best Buy, and Pier 1 Imports.

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