Everything You Need to Know About Customer Experience Research

Sarah Chambers

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Think back to the last time you received amazing customer service. Remember how it made you feel and how you perceived that business before and after your experience. Compare that experience to the last negative encounter you had with a business, and the difference could not be more obvious.

two members of a CX team analyzing customer experience research findings

With recent CX trends such as omni-channel marketing and support, along with the continued growth of e-commerce, it's necessary for companies to understand the customer experience (CX) from multiple angles to reduce pain points and improve customer satisfaction.

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CX is not something that your company can just ignore, as nearly half of all customers report that CX is more important to them in 2021 than it was just a year ago. Given this surge in demand for a quality experience, how can your company pivot to meet your customers' rising expectations?

The answer lies in conducting extensive customer experience research. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about CX research, or use the links below to jump ahead:

What is customer experience research?

Customer experience is the summation of every interaction that a customer has with your company throughout their journey. From a cold call to a service inquiry or a coupon in the mail, each interaction between your company and a customer helps to create individual impressions, perceptions, and behaviors that together make up the customer experience.

Meanwhile, customer experience research represents the actionable steps that your company can take to understand CX. This includes collecting customer data — both pre-and post-sale — and then analyzing that data for trends that can lead to process, product, or service improvements.

Best practices in customer experience research programs include focusing on three core components:

  1. Strategy
  2. Development
  3. Tracking

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Your company's CS research journey starts with a customer experience strategy that lays out your vision of your company's goals and maps out the customer journey as it stands and how you hope it to be.

Once you have a strategy in place, you can then put your ideas into action and develop tools and practices for measuring, organizing, and deciphering the data you'll need to validate any changes you make.

Finally, the research process ends with the tracking and implementation of findings that your company can use as a foundation for continuous improvements to CX design.

Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Experience

To truly understand CX research, we must first take a moment to differentiate customer experience from customer satisfaction. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different and should not be conflated with one another.

Customer satisfaction is a measurement used to gauge how happy a customer is with your company's products, services, or brand overall.

It pays to have happy customers, with 89% of consumers admitting that they are more likely to make an additional purchase after a positive customer service experience.

While customer satisfaction aims to measure how a customer feels about your company — whether good, bad, or neutral — customer experience attempts to measure every interaction that your customers have throughout their entire relationship with your company.

Customer experience research can help you tease out key CX data points and measure your company's success against them. A few of those data points are highlighted in the image below.

Customer Experience Research

All of these metrics and more combine to make up the customer experience. With carefully planned and executed customer experience research, your company can glean insights from these interactions that you can then use to enhance your CX design and raise client satisfaction.

Why is customer experience research important?

There's nothing worse than losing a customer to a competitor due to a poor experience. Unfortunately, this reality is all too common, with 58% of American consumers reporting that they will switch companies because of a negative customer service experience.

Regardless of the industry, CX is highly correlated with brand loyalty, with the customers reporting the most positive experiences also scoring highest on surveys measuring brand loyalty.

On average, there is a 38% difference in likelihood to recommend a company between customers that rated a company's CX as "good" versus customers that rated that company's CX as "poor."

The ROI of conducting customer experience research is well worth the expense, especially when you stop to consider the alternatives.

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After all, it's well known that lead generation is one of the most daunting tasks faced by any company. Yet, at the same time, it costs between 5 and 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

It's no wonder that 48% of customer service professionals state that creating a positive customer experience is a top priority for their team.

Customer Experience Research Tips

There are as many methods to conduct customer experience research as there are ways that customers interact with businesses.

Some companies will choose to use deductive reasoning and use commonly held assumptions and perceptions from the market and their customers to map out the customer experience and make changes from there.

On the other hand, other companies will opt to use inductive reasoning and take small sample sets of observable data and use that information to create their CX map and inform their decision-making.

Whatever route your company chooses, it's important to drill down and identify the essential aspects of what you're hoping to gain from this research.

The questions highlighted in the image below are a great place to start.

Customer Experience Research Tips

These questions and more need to be addressed before your company attempts to analyze a shred of evidence. If you skip the planning and strategizing phase of the CX research process, then you're doomed to fail before you begin, because your company won't know what customer experience research questions it's trying to answer.

Once you've settled on your questions, it's time to start organizing the tools and resources you'll need to actually conduct your research.

Customer Experience Research Tools and Resources

Depending on your goals, you may choose to collect qualitative data that provides in-depth CX insights. However, this type of data is not easy to quantify. For example, long-form customer interviews provide a wealth of information about how customers see your CX but the results are difficult to reduce to actionable insights.

Alternatively, your company may decide to focus on measuring and tracking CX key performance indicators and highlight the collection of quantitative data. Surveys are one of the most commonly used mediums to collect quantitative data, as they allow companies to easily sort and organize responses into groups that can be used for statistical analysis and comparison.

Whatever customer experience research method your company chooses, it's essential that leadership is all on the same page to embrace CX research as a key aspect of your business. With as many as 93% of CX initiatives destined to fail, you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to make sure the time you're investing into CX research is well-spent and not just more money down the drain.

Customer Experience Research Methods

Traditionally speaking, most customer experience research was carried out by large marketing research firms that conducted the interviews, focus groups, and surveys that companies used to make changes to their CX design.

Today, the research landscape also includes data collection firms that help companies collate and store their data for easy retrieval and analysis.

That said, many companies also choose to conduct their own research in-house using a variety of research methods for collecting, organizing, and interpreting data.

Customer Experience Research Methods

As shown in the image above, some of the most common methods of collecting CX research data include:

  1. Interviews
  2. Surveys
  3. Feedback Software

Let's discuss each in more detail.

1. Interviews

Interviews provide a wealth of qualitative data, while surveys are highly customizable, allowing your company to tailor its surveys to collect any type of quantitative data. However, these methods are often more time-consuming and labor-intensive than other methods, so are usually conducted by larger organizations with more resources and time.

2. Surveys

Two of the most popular surveys are also among the easiest methods of conducting CX research: NPS and CSAT.

Net promoter score (NPS) is a benchmark used to determine how likely a customer is to recommend your business to someone. NPS surveys are useful, as they measure how a customer feels overall about your brand, which allows your company to gather lots of big-picture information.

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Then there's customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which measures customer satisfaction with a particular interaction, product, or service. CSAT surveys allow your company to get quantifiable data concerning every little detail of your business that can then be used to design specific solutions.

3. Feedback Software

In addition, many companies now turn to feedback software to help them collect, organize, and track CX data from multiple sources. These applications make it easy for companies to conduct CX research by bringing sophisticated analysis software and technology support all within one system.

Each type of CX method provides valuable information to the table that your company can use to improve the customer experience. Still, you'll need to make sure that you're following CX research best practices to ensure that you get the most out of your efforts.

Start Conducting Your Own Customer Experience Research

Customers are no longer willing to settle for a bad shopping experience to get the best price or a superior product.

The new normal requires successful companies to be sensitive to their customers' needs and smooth pain points when and where they emerge. To do this, companies need to invest in CX research that paints a portrait of the customer journey, identifies areas of improvement, and urges leadership to implement actionable changes.

If your company is serious about prioritizing the customer experience, then you need to do the requisite research. That way, you can turn your assumptions into meaningful solutions that let your customers know you care about them.

And we all know there's nothing better than a satisfied customer.

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