4 Ways to Leverage Customer Experience to Drive Digital Strategy

BY AARON GILL, SENIOR DIGITAL STRATEGIST AT DEFINITION 6

Customer and User Experience

Ensuring that a business strategy incorporates the experience of customers can be critical to business success. Satisfied customers are crucial to the success of any business. The experience customers have with a business’s services and products has an enormous impact on the bottom line,  so the experiences and needs of customers should be major considerations in a business’s objectives, as well as primary focuses of the business’s strategy.  

There are several important ways in which the customer’s experience with a business should be evaluated and integrated when developing a digital strategy.  

1.Getting to Know Customers from Their Perspective

Given the importance of customer experience to the business, understanding their perspectives, needs, and experiences is crucial. Many businesses think they understand and know their customers. After all, they have been working with many of those customers since the very beginning, and these countless transactions, interactions, and experiences must mean the business has extensive knowledge and understanding of customers’ needs.  

Well, not exactly. All this history and data about customers does not necessarily translate neatly into insights about what customers really value or experience. Instead, the usual result is a business thinking about customers from the business perspective—and not from the customer’s perspective. This can lead to issues not only in misunderstanding customers but also in making wrong assumptions when developing customer-facing communications, products, and experiences. This disconnect frequently results in wasted resources, missed opportunities, and dissatisfied customers. To put it simply, customers do not necessarily have the same objectives, priorities, or values that the business wants them to have, so it’s imperative that a business works to understand what those objectives, priorities, or values are.  

2. Conducting Research

To counteract the tendency of a business to be “business-centric” in thinking about customers, it helps to take the business perspective out of the equation. This can be accomplished by taking the time and effort to objectively learn about customers. Conducting customer research will enable you to learn about the needs and experiences of customers—and to get their perspectives.  

Ask them questions, survey them, analyze their activities and transactions, and gather as much information as possible. Then synthesize the data into insights that can be tested and validated.  

  • Who are your customers? What are their needs, values, behaviors, and attitudes? What are your customers’ thoughts about your business and, most important, how do they feel about and react to the products and experiences your business is attempting to sell them?
  • How are customers engaging with your competitors or complementary products—are you at an advantage or disadvantage, and if so, where?
  • Are there any other things you can learn about what your customers need or value? There may be additional insights in related areas that can lead to new avenues for innovation. 
  • Evaluate whatever data is available from business transactions as well as information you already have about your customers in your CRM system or other customer databases. 

Develop a research plan that involves discovering the answers to key questions —answers that are needed to make your products and business successful. Questions should also be formulated that will provide answers that can drive future actions. Finally, look at various methodologies and sources that can provide both quantitative and qualitative information; you need both. Email surveys, intercept surveys, feedback monitoring, interviews, usability studies, data analysis, and site analytics are among the many methods that can be utilized.  

3. Turning Research into Insights

After research has been conducted and data has been gathered, analysis and synthesis begin. During these processes, certain customer types, behaviors, and attributes may emerge, and they may begin to form into patterns and groups.  

One common and effective way to help make customer types with specific characteristics and attributes more relatable is to represent them through customer personas. There are many approaches to building personas but, in general, these customer representations are fictional characters that represent various customer profiles. People from the business perspective can better connect with and communicate to different customer types by relating to personas. Utilizing personas in strategy can help inform more specific tactics including product design and development, communications, as well as content and messaging by helping tie tactics to the needs and experiences of different customers. Personas should be created using both qualitative and quantitative information, and they should be data-driven —especially when evaluating the business value of each persona.  

Once you have defined your customer segments and personas, various techniques can be utilized to better understand how they interact with and experience your business. This can help you gain insights as to what strategies and tactics might be worth utilizing. Customer Journey Maps and Lifecycle Relationship Journeys are two methods that can be used to evaluate interactions and experiences.  

Customer Journey Maps illustrate the experiences between the customer and a business during a series of interactions. The focus is on understanding the various touchpoints and the customer’s experience with the business during each; this includes mapping out the actions taken by the customer on a timeline as well as their thoughts and feelings throughout the interaction. Steps taken, internal processes, communications, customer activity, as well as problems and issues can all be attributed to the various touchpoints. 

A Lifecycle Relationship Journey involves evaluating the needs and values of customers as their relationship with a business progresses through customer lifecycle stages, starting from when the customer initially becomes aware of the brand until they (hopefully) become an advocate for that brand. Different channels and tactics can be used by the business in an attempt to address different customer needs and values throughout the relationship.  

4. Bringing It Together

There is nothing more important to any business strategy than making sure the tactics applied are aligned with what customers value and need. A digital strategy should provide value by improving a customer’s experience and helping provide them with the products and/or services they want—when, how, and where they want them.  

  • Truly understanding customers is a result of conducting research from their perspective and synthesizing both qualitative and quantitative information into insights. The insights gained will develop into an understanding of what customers really value.  
  • Understanding customer experiences by utilizing personas and evaluating their journeys as they interact with a business help to align business strategy with the customer experience. In addition, understanding customer journeys and touchpoints can validate tactics to ensure they will be effective and efficient. 
  • Understanding how to prioritize tactics can be achieved by looking at the overall impact on customer experience and by evaluating the relative business value of different segments and personas.