How to Create a Customer Experience Framework

CHICAGO — Forrester analyst Harley Manning loves New York City; but when he lived in Manhattan in the mid-80s, he didn't like the crime and the lack of respect some people showed for the city. It was the little crimes, the "quality of life" crimes that really got under his skin. "The thing that really got to me? The squeegee men," Manning said. , referring to the people who would populate the exit ramps, darting toward cars to wash their windshields. It's not a huge crime, but enough of that creates a cumulative effect, and can make you jaded about a place. 

Those early days in New York are a powerful metaphor for customer experience, Manning said. "It's all the "quality of life" crimes that add up," he said. The situation in New York improved with Major Rudy Giuliani’s hard-knock approach to crime. He took action and companies can too, Manning said, with the right framework supporting the customer experience. 

Manning suggested laying the following path toward developing customer experiences:

1. Obsess about customer needs.

"This is how you find out about what customers really care about," the speaker said. The best way to find out what customers care about is to find out what customers look like. Manning recommended doing ethnographic research to learn who the customers are. From there, companies can develop customers about their ideal customers. 

2. Reinforce brands with every interaction.

When your customers are interacting with you is when they form the real impression of your brand, Manning said, adding: "You can't annoy people into liking your brand." 

Here's Manning's real-world approach to fulfilling brand promises:

  • Write your own customer goal;
  • Try to accomplish the goal;
  • Find problems along the way; and
  • Fix the problems.  

3. Design with channels in mind.

Create a map of the multichannel customer journey. How? Take any customer scenario and you lay it out on the grid. Most design projects are single channel design projects, Manning said. "When we look at the most channel transition problems from the web to the phone, the first is an unclear path to the right call center agent," Manning said. 

When you help customers through the multichannel process, you inherently help employees, too. Solving these problems creates allies, Manning said. 

The analyst offered two real-world examples of companies who are doing these things well:

WSJ.com: Last year there was a project launch to redesign the The Wall Street Journal Web site. The goal was to increase readership and create compelling experiences for both free users and subscribers. Realizing that not all readers come to the site with the same intent, WSJ segmented its users into three groups:

  1. nonsubscribers,
  2. WSJ.com-only subscribers, and
  3. print and wsj.com subscribers.

According to Manning, they did ethnographic research -- which included 90-minute interview sessions with target users. They asked users about online and offline experiences to get the multichannel concept. 

They invited users to do a sticky note mock-up then they invited them back to help with a crude design of the site interface. By doing so, Manning says, they were able to iterate fast while obsessing about customer needs. 

The Wall Street Journal then mocked up personas to represent different types of readers. The led them to ask questions such as "What does the paid subscriber want to see that differentiates them from those that access free content?" and "What would cause a user to read the printed paper and then visit the Web site in the same day?"

Robin Hood: The non-profit, charity organization based in New York used its data on its customers to reshape its engagement process. "Traditionally it was focused on one-to-one communications with top-tier donors," Manning said, "They had very little exposure with those outside donor base." Recently Robin Hood had the opportunity to team up for a holiday promotion with online grocer Fresh Direct.

From Robin Hood's home site, users interested in donating were directed to Fresh Direct and then to a donation page, where they were asked if they wanted to view the Facebook fan page. Robin Hood did ethnographic research to see how donors behaved and what they most cared about. Because the research indicated that high numbers of donors participate in social media, the company changed the donation's focus to its Facebook page, tapping into what mattered most to its customers and build up the fan base. Users can even Twitter poverty stats out to followers via the fan page. 

Real-world tools can help achieve the elusive customer experience, Manning said. He recommended using tools that enable mapping of customer activity, surveys, and data imports. Follow this framework and your customers will thank you, Manning said. 

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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