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10 key steps to building a customer experience (CX) strategy

Businesses that seek to deliver an outstanding customer experience face challenges today due to elevated customer demands and expectations.

To be successful, you must rethink and reorganize your experience strategy to accommodate these demands and shorten the gap between business goals and customer needs. Here are 10 steps that will help you get ahead in today’s experience economy and build a customer experience strategy.

Step 1: Discover

Before you start to develop a customer experience strategy, the CX lead should uncover how the brand is currently experienced by customers. Is there a clear vision for the future? 

Interview the following roles for input and perspective as you proceed with the discovery process. This input can be useful in defining customer experience strategy and aligning business operatives to a unified objective. Roles will depend largely on the business and its ecosystem. Typical key influencers in customer experience adoption include:

  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) — the CX visionary
  • VP of Sales
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO) — the technology
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) — the bottom line
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Step 2: Research your current customer  

The first step in a customer experience initiative is to perform a situational analysis using qualitative and quantitative research. This includes in-depth customer and employee/stakeholder interviews, surveys, web analytics data, and user studies.

Gathering this information will help you gain insights that will inform your strategy development to answer the question, “Where do we stand right now?

The purpose of this research is to identify where business value, customer value, and opportunity align. Analyzing data to understand your company’s business, customers and the marketplace in which you compete connects insights to strategy. This step in customer analysis is crucial.

Step 3: Analyze business missions, values, and processes

Obtain a 360-degree view of your organizational mission, values, and processes. The goal of doing this is to restructure operations to align with a successful CX strategy.

Business objectives

To understand your company’s strategic priorities, ask the right questions about current business objectives. For example:

  • Is the current objective to win new customers or broaden the revenue stream from existing customers?
  • Is the business entering new markets or bringing new products/service offerings into the current one?

Brand promise

A successful CX strategy delivers on the promises a brand makes. You may find it helpful to review recent brand image studies or new branding initiatives. This is often helpful as you define where improvements can be made and what aspects of the brand resonate with customers.

Business ecosystem

Document people, processes, and systems to determine which aspects of the business best support customer journeys and where upgrades or improvements are needed.

A great way to accomplish this task is to create a diagram called an ecosystem map. This will illuminate the connections and technologies needed to support a CX strategy. It will also highlight what core assets your organization already has, around which you can build your CX strategy.

Step 4: Align business processes with CX opportunity

Gaining a 360 view of the business enables operatives to: restructure goals to create lasting value through a CX strategy, identify barriers in reaching objectives, and define how a CX strategy will accomplish objectives. Knowing the mission, values, and processes will help answer the core questions surrounding a CX strategy:

  • How well do internal processes support customer journeys?
  • Where do gaps exist between customer expectations and current experience?
  • What assets can be used to enhance the customer experience?
  • What new technology, people, or processes are required to accomplish new objectives through CX strategy?

The answers to these questions will paint a clear picture of: current business contribution versus potential, what is needed to govern customer experience, and the resources available to deliver meaningful customer experiences.

Step 5: Map your customer journeys

Collecting and analyzing customer data will provide critical insights into your company’s existing and target customer base in terms of needs, wants, greatest pain points, and moments of truth. Once the customer data is analyzed, operatives can now paint vivid pictures, or “personas” of who your customers are.

Each persona is used to map out that type of customer’s key journeys and the customer experience currently being delivered, summarized in a customer journey map. The customer journey map can then be used to conduct a gap analysis to understand where the business falls short to inform the new CX strategy.

A diagram can be used to identify all the brand touchpoints a customer interacts with to summarize your findings, as well as the relationships among other people, processes, and technologies working behind the scenes. Together, this creates the customer experience.

This complete picture identifies hidden relationships, root causes for customer experience failures, and provides the 360-degree view of the customer required to deliver meaningful experiences.

Step 6: Analyze your competitors, market, and industry

Now that there is a clear understanding of business and your customers, it’s important to know your competitors and what experiences they offer.

Use both internal and external resources to research competitive and market threats and to gain an overview of the current competitive landscape and market environment.

Your research should include an assessment of comparative customer growth, churn, financial performance, consumer attitudes, technology trends, and specific targeted CRM capabilities.

This research will help provide a fact-based foundation that identifies specific gaps between current position and competitors. These gaps can serve as key considerations to guide the development of the CX strategy and materialize the business case for change that can be presented to executives.

Step 7: Define goals and SMART objectives 

The next step is to analyze all the insights gained about the current state to create a series of compelling strategic goals and objectives that will serve as the foundation of the CX strategy. 

The strategic goals and objectives are developed to specifically address the various competitive threats, issues, and opportunities identified throughout the strategy project.

Strategic goals and objectives represent major platforms or themes, such as:

  • Developing a deeper understanding of customer satisfaction
  • Facilitating more meaningful customer interactions
  • Enabling the end-to-end customer experience
  • Enhancing campaign and marketing effectiveness
  • Establishing actionable business and customer analytics
  • Improving speed to market and agility
  • Establishing a foundation for operational effectiveness

Step 8: Develop your CX strategy 

Now that your vision has been established for the customer experience, goals have been created and SMART objectives are in place. It’s finally time to develop your strategy to answer the next important question, “How do we get there?” 

Creating a roadmap will serve as a strategic document and canvas that outlines the strategies and tactics across customer experience channels that will drive customer engagement and deliver results — closing the gap between the current experience and the future-state vision.

The roadmap should tie in defined business goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring success.

To kick off roadmap development, begin by defining major customer experience strategic initiatives, such as:

  • Explore pain points and barriers to CX (identified in step 4)
  • Define customer commitments
  • Utilize the customer engagement strategy to create an overall CX strategy

Brand messaging and voice strategy

Distill what matters about your business into a voice and message that creates a memorable, empathetic experience designed to establish credibility and authority with your customers.

Engagement strategy

Engagement strategy is a continuation of experience strategy. Customer experience is the perception or impression of those interactions. Customer engagement is the interaction/behavior by the brand or customer and the means by which their relationship is created.

With an engagement strategy, identifying key customer segments and mapping the plan and approach connects your customers with your business and brand. An effective customer engagement strategy will foster brand growth and loyalty. Read more: 11 behaviors for successful digital customer engagement.

Step 9: Measure your CX strategy  

To understand if a CX strategy is a success, as well as where and how to make improvements, you must develop a strategy to measure success. The measurement strategy should use metrics to track data sources.

Business value will be traceable using CX metrics and KPIs. These KPIs typically fall into three categories: descriptive, perceptive, and outcome-based metrics. 

  • Descriptive metrics answer questions like when, where, and how your business is interacting with customers.
  • Perceptive metrics try to capture the customer’s perception of the interaction they had with your business. Reviews, ratings, or Net Promoter Score metrics (also called NPS, which measures customer loyalty in terms of how likely a customer is to recommend you to others) fall into this category.
  • Outcomes are metrics that capture the actions taken by customers before or after interacting with your business. Examples include calls to action on your website, such as online sales, promotions, or form fills. 

Some great places to look when defining these metrics are the customer journey map, ecosystem map, and 360-degree view of the customer diagram. They will help you hone in on the experiences that matter most to your customers and business.

Step 10: Optimize your CX strategy 

Customer experience strategy isn’t set and done. It’s an ongoing process. With a measurement strategy in place, executives should revisit the CX strategy and regularly look for ways to manage and optimize efforts.

CX strategy can be affected by many factors, including macroeconomic trends, new marketplace regulations, shifts in consumer behavior, new competition, and new technology. It is important to continue monitoring these factors as you focus on implementation.

Now that you know how to develop a successful CX strategy, you can join the leaders who are transforming their businesses now to adapt to the experience economy and gain a competitive edge. Need help? Let us know.

About the author

John Wood

John Wood is Fusion’s Digital Marketing and Analytics Solution Director and has extensive experience creating successful digital solutions for internal and external clients across a diverse landscape, including B2B and B2C markets. With a background in business analytics, he specializes in translating client goals and objectives into actionable, outcome-based, digital marketing programs.

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