Customer Experience Strategy: A Complete Playbook

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Carly Williams
Carly Williams

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Building a customer experience strategy is about more than just meeting user expectations. Instead, it focuses on creating memorable interactions at every touchpoint. This helps users find value in your product or service — and ultimately, helps them become loyal customers.

customer experience strategy: image shows a customer service representative sitting at their desk with a phone in hand and computer open reading feedback from customers.

It's not easy creating a customer experience strategy, however, and you can quickly grow overwhelmed with so many moving parts. In my experience, breaking it down into necessary elements can help developing your strategy feel more digestible. Download Now: Free Customer Journey Map TemplatesI'm here to help you learn what building out your CX strategy entails, plus customer experience strategy best practices, and how to create it.

What is a customer experience strategy?

So, what is customer experience management strategy? I'm glad you asked, because it's crucial to delighting your customers. Your customer experience strategy refers to an actionable plan to deliver a positive, meaningful experience across all touchpoints between your customers and your brand.

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    A successful customer experience strategy should take into account several important factors, such as:

    • Competitive insight

    • Consumer research

    • Marketplace data

    • Mission & vision

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      When defining your customer experience strategy, include all departments, not just those in customer-facing roles. By incorporating feedback and insight across the company, you'll find it easier to align the organization around the intended goal: Improving the customer experience and relationship.

      I think one of the biggest mistakes that an organization can make is to believe that customer experience strategy is only relevant for customer-centric roles. This couldn't be further from the truth. By striving to delight customers across the board, you'll ultimately help develop customer loyalty.

      what is customer experience management strategyImage Source

      You can design your customer experience strategy practically by making a matrix of the state of your current customer journey. Use the template below to get started, and follow along with the rest of this post to complete it.

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        Elements of a Customer Experience Strategy

        Before I delve into my top tips on how to create a customer experience strategy, I want to share key elements that contribute to a well-rounded CX strategy.

        1. Review your current customer service strategy.

        Start by reviewing your company's current approach to customer support. The goal is to determine what's working well for your business and where you can improve.

        If you're unsure where to start, try checking your company's help desk or call center data for key success metrics such as Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction score, and churn rate. If you're scoring below expectations, dig deeper into the problem and figure out where exactly things are turning sour for your customers.

        2. Create a customer journey map.

        Another crucial element of your customer experience strategy is a customer journey map. A customer journey map outlines all of the interactions between a customer and your business, including any pain points they encounter along the way. This resource not only helps you identify friction within your customer experience but also indicates how to replace it with delight.

        3. Train your customer service staff.

        Once you know where you need to improve, the next step is sharing that information with your team and training your staff on new protocols.
        It's never fun letting your team know they're falling short of expectations, especially when other groups in your department are hitting their numbers.

        However, transparency reduces pushback against new policies and will encourage reps to improve their performance in the future.

        Employee training has many benefits, including high engagement, great customer service, and more. You can even incentivize employee training.

        customer experience strategy: Benefits of customer service training

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        4. Determine your customers' expectations.

        Some customer expectations are predictable. For instance, your customers will always expect your team to be reliable and have a positive attitude. In addition to this, however, most customers will have various needs. In order to meet these needs, it's essential that your team is flexible.

        In some cases, it may be imperative to provide a speedy response. At other times, quality and clarity of support means more. It all depends on how the customer feels when they reach out to your business and how well your team can identify and adapt to their needs.

        5. Solve for the customer.

        An effective customer experience strategy focuses on solving problems for the customer, whether those problems are anticipated or unexpected.

        Customer success teams play a critical role in creating a frictionless customer experience. Not only do they plan for problems down the road, but they also check in with customers routinely to ensure everything is going well post-purchase. This proactive customer service reduces churn and strengthens your team's relationship with your customer base.

        6. Provide self-service solutions.

        Rather than requiring people to call your business whenever they need help, customers should be free to answer questions and solve problems independently with a self-serve support setup.

        Self-service tools like knowledge bases and chatbots make it easier for customers to find solutions and reduce case volume for your reps. That saves your team some time to focus on the more complex issues requiring more troubleshooting expertise.

        7. Routinely collect feedback.

        If you want to truly understand what your customers want from your business, you have to ask and — more importantly — listen to them. Your customers are more likely to leave you a review if you ask at the right time, but you must take this feedback into genuine consideration and apply it to your strategy.

        You should also be routinely collecting feedback from your customers. Their needs change constantly, making it important to keep up-to-date information. Use an automated tool to collect feedback at critical touchpoints in your customer experience.

        customer experience strategy: customer experience strategy best practices

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        8. Track your team's performance.

        If you get complacent with your customer experience strategy, competitors in your industry will catch up and lure away your customers when you aren't paying attention. Or, a new trend might pop up in your industry, and you'll miss out on the chance to capitalize on it because you didn't gather any recent customer feedback.

        The most successful businesses are the ones that routinely check their team's performance and are always looking for new ways to add value. These businesses hold their staff to extremely high benchmarks and train them to maximize customer delight.

        To help you define a comprehensive, cohesive customer experience strategy, I'll help you explore some of the best practices to keep in mind for your business.

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          1. Reach your target audience.

          Business communication plays a major role in shaping your customers' experience. If you're not meeting customers where they are, you're missing out on an opportunity to engage them when they're most interested or in need of help.
          Succeeding in this area of customer experience means your business must first determine which channels your customers are most active on so you can adapt your approach and serve them there.

          From there, it's important to familiarize yourself with the channel — social, email, live chat, or something similar. Ask yourself: How are our customers communicating on this channel already? And how can we use this information to make our outreach feel more organic?

          Reachability can serve as a helpful competitive advantage if you execute it properly. It's important that your business has a handle on your customers' preferred channels and is providing reliable, consistent service through them.

          2. Offer convenient customer service.

          As customers become more empowered to discover solutions and information on their own via the internet and social media, the demand for increased service convenience grows. For businesses to remain in good standing with customers, they must prioritize start-to-finish online support.

          Think about it: If a customer has a question on the weekend, why should they have to wait until Monday to reach out? Do you have a 24/7 live chat feature enabled to meet their Saturday needs? If you don't, you're making a mistake.

          Something as simple as having a polished, up-to-date knowledge base makes all the difference in allowing customers to help themselves without needing to reach out to your team.

          customer experience strategy: image shows the seven benefits of offering self-service for your business

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          3. Be consistent in your customer service activities.

          Customers are interested in building trust with the companies they do business with. Building trust requires consistency in your processes, policies, and actions from every team that influences the customer experience.

          To help cultivate this culture of trust with your customers, double-check that policies are up-to-date, reasonable, and carried out consistently across every scenario and buyer persona. ( If you need help developing your buyer persona, you can use HubSpot's free tool to do so.) You don't want to have a situation where something like a return or exchange causes friction with your customers, making it difficult for them to make a purchase in the future.

          4. Refine products and services based on customer feedback.

          No matter how much work goes into perfecting the back end of your customer experience, it's important to remember that customers ultimately bought a product or service from your company. As a result, they expect it to be valuable and high-quality.

          Refine your products and services based on customer feedback provided by an NPS survey, focus groups, or one-on-one customer calls. Solving the root of the issue with a product or service you sell can create a better customer experience overall. It doesn't matter how outstanding your customer experience strategy is if your product isn't functional.

          customer experience strategy: image shows how you can collect customer feedback using numbers

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          5. Provide convenience when purchasing products.

          Nordstrom, a luxury department store known for its impeccable service, has customer experience tools aimed at improving purchasing convenience.
          Nordstrom allows their shoppers to order clothing with either curbside or in-store pickup.

          It also notifies customers via optional texts, email, or store app notifications when their order is ready for pickup. Shoppers don't have to wait and guess when their order is prepared. Instead, they provide a quick-and-easy — and ultimately, painless — customer experience.

          customer experience strategy: image shows nordstrom's pick up your way feature. Image Source

          This system solves convenience by allowing customers to try on clothes when and where it's convenient for them. It also gets people in the store, exposing them to thousands of other products they might be interested in purchasing.

          But this is just one example of how your brand can leverage and invest in purchasing convenience as part of a customer experience strategy. Something as simple as having accurate pricing and packaging information on your website can effectively eliminate purchasing friction.

          At the end of the day, you don't want to make it difficult for people to give you their money.

          6. Create in-person & digital personalization.

          Another thing that Nordstrom is using its new customer experience tool for? Data.

          By learning about location and style preferences through the Nordstrom Reserve Online & Try On In-Store program, the retailer can incorporate personalization in a scalable way. And customers love personalization.

          To provide the best possible customer experience, businesses should collect information throughout the customer relationship that can be used to provide relevant suggestions or more informed support in the future.

          In the eyes of the customer, personalization (when done right) can serve as a sign of respect for their loyalty and business. It also signals that your business is interested in strengthening the relationship by continuously working to provide better service, suggestions, support, etc.

          While there are many avenues for collecting and leveraging customer data, something as simple as a shared inbox for your customer success or service department is a great first step. By creating a transparent, universal space where folks can turn up past customer conversations or requests, you're laying the foundation for more contextual communication and outreach.

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            7. Focus on simplicity & ease of use.

            Ever landed on a website that was a disaster to navigate on mobile? I have, and if you're anything like me, you didn't stick around for very long.

            Back in 2015, mobile internet use passed desktop use for the very first time. Since then, mobile usage continues to grow, making mobile optimization a high priority for businesses looking to provide a simple and seamless experience for customers and potential buyers.

            In an effort to amp up your business's ease of use, you'll want to focus on simplifying website navigation for all browser types. After all, you can't expect customers to wait until they get to a desktop to uncover the information they need, right?

            A great example to reference here is Amazon. Amazon embodies simplicity and ease of use in its checkout process by enabling Amazon Prime members to buy an item with just one click:

            customer experience strategy: image shows amazon's one-click checkout. Even more importantly, it also offers a quick and easy way to uncover product info and answers to common purchasing questions within the same screen:

            customer experience strategy: Amazon offers a quick and easy way to uncover product info and answers to common purchasing questionsIf you need examples of outstanding mobile websites, I've got you covered. And if you need help figuring out how to optimize your website for mobile users, I've got you covered there, too.

            8. Review the flexibility of your communication channels.

            When thinking about your approach to channel flexibility, keep the term "omni-channel" in mind.

            If you're unfamiliar with the term, omni-channel is defined as an approach that provides customers with an integrated, seamless experience — even when moving from desktop to mobile or social media channel to live support.

            In an omni-channel world, the customer experience should be the same across platforms and channels — and it should contain proper context when applicable.

            "For true omnichannel success, there must be a 360-degree view of customer interactions across all channels (digital and traditional) to monitor channel preference, usage, and customer journeys from the customer perspective," the folks at TeleTech, a customer experience management solution, explain

            If you're looking to streamline channel flexibility as a key part of your customer experience strategy, get your team together to talk about what you want the customer experience to look, feel, and sound like across all channels. From there, you'll have the common ground you need to begin employing a more fluid, contextual experience.

            9. Use automation and AI.

            No business wants its service to feel robotic. But the truth is, as your business grows its customer base, it will be more difficult to provide the same personalized service that you did when you were only managing a handful of customers. That's not to say keeping your standards up is impossible, just that you'll just need a little help. Luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) can help.

            This is where artificial intelligence and automation tools come into play. If used correctly, these features add tremendous value to the customer experience and create incredible convenience for your customer support team.

            For instance, a chatbot can field customer inquiries on your website when your agents are away. So, even if it's outside your normal working hours, customers can still get answers from your bot, and these inquiries won't pile up for reps to deal with the following morning.

            Even if the bot just redirects customers to your knowledge base, it still points them toward a potential solution and allows your company to be accessible 24/7.

            (Psst: HubSpot offers an AI-powered tool called ChatSpot which is currently in Beta. You can learn more about it here.)

            customer experience strategy: use automation, like AI bots, to add value to the customer experience1 0. Be proactive.

            Proactive customer service doesn't just have to be the responsibility of your customer success team. Instead, everyone at your business can play a role in the customer's experience after they purchase a product.

            For customer service teams, reps can alert the customer success manager (CSM) if someone has reached out multiple times with complaints. Rather than expecting the CSM to spot this individual on their own, frontline reps can easily look at the customer's ticket history and recognize whether or not they've had continued issues with your brand.

            11. Engage in social listening.

            What better way to learn about the customer experience than from their own social media?

            Social listening is the monitoring of your brand's social platform presence for direct mentions of your business. It can be used to observe trending topics in your industry, your competitor's behavior, and hear if your customer's needs are being fulfilled.

            Using websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, you'll see what customers have to say about your company. If you're attentive enough, you can discover the pain points in the customer journey and other insights that can positively impact the customer experience. You can also choose from several tools to track direct brand mentions for your business.

            customer experience strategy: image shows how implementing social listening can prove invaluable for your business. Image source

            12. Implement routine team training.

            Employee training shouldn't be a one-and-done part of their onboarding. Instead, it should happen routinely to make sure your staff is equipped to exceed expectations.

            We know it's important to offer knowledge training about your product, but what about preparing them for the face-to-face customer experience? Routine team training can look like conducting role-play scenarios or simulations to see how each employee treats potential customers in different situations. Some role-play scenarios include:

            • Observing how they greet a customer

            • Solving a unique problem for a customer

            • Informing or guiding the customer through different options

            Role-play training workshops give employees a chance to critique each other on what they've done well in their communication, attitude, and presentation of your product/service.

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            • Buyer's Journey Template
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            • Day-in-the-Life Template
            • And more!
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              You're all set!

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              How to Create a Customer Experience Strategy

              Ready to build your customer experience strategy from the ground up? I'll help you break down the five essential steps to create a frictionless customer experience.

              1. Create empathy maps for each customer persona.

              Every product design process starts with the question, "Who are we designing for?" Turns out, it's a great starting point for your CX strategy as well.

              To chalk out an airtight CX plan, start by understanding your users. Every persona will have different needs and use cases. An in-depth assessment of these personas will reveal their desires, fears, and expectations. This is where an empathy map can do wonders.

              customer experience strategy: image shows an empathy map Image Source

              An empathy map captures a user's varied sentiments to accurately map their needs. Use this technique to understand what users say, do, think, and feel about your product.

              Conduct user interviews, listening sessions, and surveys to get a pulse of different personas. Translate your research inputs into the empathy map canvas.

              The insights derived from empathy mapping can help in identifying and prioritizing user needs. Create cross-functional workflows for the design, product, and customer success teams to collaborate on using these insights to improve the CX.

              2. Review your customer journey map and identify user needs.

              Once you've mapped the ideal customer journey, analyze it properly to identify opportunities for enhancing your CX strategy.

              Look for points of friction or areas where customer expectations aren't fulfilled. You can also check if there's scope for reducing unnecessary touchpoints to simplify your customer experience. Evaluating the time spent in different stages of the journey is crucial for streamlining the CX plan.

              Most importantly, find the crucial moments of truth in the customer journey — when users form a perception about your brand. These are the make-or-break moments in your CX. Optimize them to eliminate potential issues.

              Lastly, assess all the transitions within your product when users change settings or switch devices. Make these transitions seamless to create a positive impression.

              customer experience strategy: image shows a venn diagram demonstrating everything that contributes to customer experience strategy success Image Source

              3. Collect early feedback to make your CX airtight.

              Creating and fine-tuning your customer experience strategy is an ongoing process. But one way to set solid foundations for your CX strategy is by implementing user feedback early in the process.

              Embrace an iterative approach to building your customer experience and involve beta users to test your progress. Encourage and incentivize transparent feedback to make sure you're moving forward in the right direction of creating a delightful CX.

              Here are a few ways to collect feedback early on:

              • Set up automated email behavior-based triggers for beta users to share feedback after every crucial touchpoint.

              • Create focus groups to get qualitative, in-depth feedback on the most critical elements of your CX flow.

              • Use heatmapping tools to monitor in-app user behavior and find blockers, aha moments, and other insights.

              • Add micro surveys within the product to collect quantitative or subjective feedback about different aspects.

              The bottom line is that it's always better to modify your customer experience design as long as it takes your team to create the perfect one instead of deploying a problematic CX flow that frustrates users.

              4. Design workflows to quickly iterate the experience.

              Given that your CX flow will change constantly, it's important to set up systems for implementing these changes quickly .

              Instead, create smooth workflows to maximize collaboration between all involved stakeholders and speed up the process. Leverage automation and AI tools to streamline the change management part of your customer experience strategy. This will also empower your team to ship enhancements at scale.

              Another critical step here is creating a culture of CX excellence. Train your employees to stay on top of customer expectations, present ideas for improvement, and drive innovation in product development. Enable your employees to support your customers.

              5. Track the effectiveness of your CX efforts.

              Building a CX strategy isn't a one-and-done process. You have to constantly measure the ROI of your customer experience and shift gears when necessary.

              Customer success managers can collaborate with marketing and product teams to analyze user behavior, both within and outside the product. Not sure how you can find relevant insights about your customers? HubSpot's Customer Journey Analytics platform is just the solution you need.

              customer experience strategy: image shows hubspot's customer journey analytics platform

              With this tool, you'll get granular visibility into the entire customer journey with real-time data on which campaigns or touchpoints are driving revenue. This data can also help you make smarter decisions — whether it's for timing different aspects of your CX or for identifying the most crucial touchpoints.

              How to Measure Your Customer Experience Strategy

              Building an excellent CX flow isn't a game of guesswork or intuition. You have to strategically measure the impact of your customer experience strategy and make enhancements based on data-backed evidence.

              That's why you have to track how users are interacting with your product and analyze the effectiveness of your customer experience. Here are a few essential metrics to achieve this:

              • Customer satisfaction score: Track this as it helps gauge users' satisfaction with your product and the quality of support

              • Customer effort score: To assess how difficult or easy it is for new users to navigate your product

              • Customer lifetime value: To calculate the value you can gain from a customer on average

              • Retention rate: To measure how many customers will continue using your product

              • Support tickets: To assess the issues users commonly struggle with

              Tracking these core CX metrics gives you a pulse of your customers and flags any gaps you need to address in your experience.

              Free Customer Journey Template

              Outline your company's customer journey and experience with these 7 free templates.

              • Buyer's Journey Template
              • Future State Template
              • Day-in-the-Life Template
              • And more!
              Learn more

                Download Free

                All fields are required.

                You're all set!

                Click this link to access this resource at any time.

                Quick Tips for Optimizing Your Customer Experience Strategy

                You've done the legwork to create a great customer experience. But as user needs evolve, you'll have to invest more effort in optimizing this CX flow. Constantly evolving your strategy ensures your CX is aligned with expectations.

                To optimize your CX, establish feedback loops to regularly collect inputs from users. Whether it's minor bugs or major inefficiencies in your product, give users a space to share their candid feedback whenever they want.

                On top of this, you can also connect with power users to understand how your product is helping them achieve their goals. Use this conversation to identify pain points within the platform and map the scope for improvement.

                Finally, remember to pay close attention to user sessions to find real-time insights on where users get stuck or feel confused.

                These few tactics will give you much to work with to optimize your customer experience. Work with the design, engineering, and CS team to eliminate all roadblocks and create a frictionless flow.

                Customer Experience Strategy is a Long-term Play

                Rome wasn't built in a day — and you shouldn't expect your customer experience strategy to be either.

                My advice? Work on defining and streamlining your customer experience design, but do so under the notion that things will need to evolve as your business and customer base grows.

                As you learn what it means to communicate with customers on their terms and collect data along the way, you'll find it's easier to make informed decisions about your overall customer experience strategy.

                Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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