How to Set Up a Customer Experience Framework
Every company needs a strong customer experience (CX) framework to remain competitive in the post-pandemic economy. This begins by thoroughly understanding your customer and creating the systems necessary to meet their needs to deliver on your brand's value proposition. A unified digital platform can act as the backbone for effectively implementing such a strategy and for providing excellent customer experiences consistently across your entire business and its various touchpoints.
The importance of a comprehensive CX strategy
CX refers to the way customers perceive your brand, the impression they will share with their network, and how they will compare you to your competition. Great companies not only deliver quality products and services, but make the customer feel a personal connection with their respective brands, building long-lasting loyalty.
Becoming customer-centric is the foundation for success; however, not all companies are strategically aligned across the entire organization to provide a consistent customer experience. CX is at the intersection of brand, product value, customer interactions, marketing, and communication1. CX framework implementation is a company-wide effort that helps you consistently deliver your brand promise across every step of the customer journey.
A Qualtrics report2 on CX with research findings from Forrester Research and Walker Information shows CX leaders can grow up to six times faster than CX laggards. The same report states that CX has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. McKinsey's research3 has shown that companies which prioritize CX realize three times shareholder returns compared to companies that do not. The better you can align your business objectives with your customers and their needs, the greater the chance of growing your revenue and market share.
Developing a comprehensive CX framework is crucial to implementing a unified vision and effectively driving change across your organization. A modern CX strategy centers around an omnichannel digital platform, allowing for cross-functional collaboration to create a seamless customer experience across various touchpoints.
To set up a successful CX framework, you need to put your customer at the center of the business and define a clear vision for the relationship between your customer and your brand promise. Based on the alignment of your company's mission and customers’ needs, you can set measurable goals for CX transformation and develop a strategy for designing and implementing solutions.
1. Listen to your customers and map out their journeys
The first step in developing your CX framework is to truly listen to your customers. Think from their perspective:
- What are your customers’ needs and wants?
- What is the gap between those needs and wants and their experience with your brand?
- What is the current customer experience really like?
- How closely does the CX you’re currently providing align with your company's purpose and brand value proposition?
You should seek to deeply understand your customers; to achieve this, start by asking questions and gathering data. For instance, where are they experiencing problems, and which parts of your business could you improve to provide solutions? Next, map out all customer journeys and touchpoints they make while interacting with your business. Where are missing links of communication, and/or disconnects in procedures and software systems?
Understanding your brand's audience allows you to create accurate buyer personas to use as you implement your new CX strategy, from digital platform design to marketing efforts. With your customer insights analysis and a thorough understanding of your customers and their needs, gained through feedback, you can build a list of opportunities for improvement.
Strive to create a working relationship with your customers, and knock down barriers when issues arise. According to the 2022 Global Consumer Trends report by Qualtrics4, 80% of the 23,000 customers surveyed in 2021 were dissatisfied with their customer experiences and believe CX needs to be improved. Unreachable support leaves customers feeling unheard and alienated when they have no one to turn to help resolve their issues. Results from 2018 research by NewVoiceMedia5 estimated that the consequences of poor customer service causes $75 billion in annual losses by U.S. businesses following bad customer experiences. The sharing of such negative experiences can snowball into a toxic reputation that prompts consumers to seek alternatives which more obviously put their wants and needs first.
2. Define a clear vision for the transformation
Based on an understanding of your customers and their current experience with your products and/or services, you can set new strategic CX transformation goals to create lasting value. You can identify opportunities for improvement based on customer feedback and discovery, and use quantitative research and statistical analysis to make fact-based decisions about what customers truly value.
Analyze current business processes and restructure goals by reverse-engineering the experience you want to deliver. You should perform root cause analysis of customer issues and define pain points to address. Competitor analysis will provide you with insights into effective strategies for improving customer satisfaction. Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) goals that will guide your CX improvements, and tie them together with a unified vision for the transformation. John Wood of Fusion Alliance offers several examples of actions you can take to achieve such goals, including the facilitation of more meaningful customer interactions and the establishment of actionable business and customer analytics6.
3. Develop an end-to-end CX transformation strategy
Once you have established a customer-centric vision and set goals for the changes you need to make, the final step is to develop an implementation strategy for CX transformation.
A detailed roadmap for your CX improvement program can facilitate your framework’s design and implementation across the company. Your roadmap should connect all goals to customer journeys in detail and include all relevant systems, procedures, and touchpoints involved along the way. To create a unified strategy, be sure to include inter-departmental solutions that bridge CX gaps.
CX consulting firm Capita reports7 that without taking a thorough, end-to-end approach, your transformation may end up lacking the right resources and/or won’t have the right metrics in place to determine its success, inhibiting its maintenance and improvement.
Allocating the proper resources to the program is critical for its successful adoption. Building a dedicated team backed by key stakeholders in leadership to support the efforts will enable collaboration of all parties. Plan an agile transformation approach with a central team to drive the adoption of the new framework. This cross-functional team is composed of technology architects, SCRUM masters, designers, and customer researchers. Make sure these teams are scaled across the business, yet tied back to the central transformation team during the implementation phase.
Design your CX framework
A CX framework, which successfully embodies the customer-centric strategy defined during the goal setting, requires combining available technologies with customer journey touchpoints. The resulting design should be a comprehensive and flexible system to meet all your transformation goals, while delivering exceptional value and a stellar experience. Based on your strategic goal setting, once you have identified CX gaps and areas for improvement, you’ll need to incorporate the elements that will comprise solutions to meet your new objectives.
Elements of your CX framework
Design your CX framework around a responsive, customer-centric end-to-end approach that can react quickly and adapt to your customer's individual needs. This requires building systems for quick effective resolutions of issues and cross-functional integration to allow for all relevant stakeholders to work together. All departments should collaborate when necessary and have all relevant customer data to provide a seamless experience.
According to Nielsen Norman Group research8, effective CX transformation requires change across four main focus areas, leveraging technology to tie the following together:
- Company vision
- Employee's collaboration
- Operational procedures
- Employee experience
When properly executed, the synergy between these areas as a whole is a proven8 business growth driver, both internally and externally.
It’s worth noting that focus on employee experience (EX) is vital to this holistic approach as it is a determining factor in the degree of your CX strategy’s success. IDC research9 indicates that employee engagement translates to better CX. Of those surveyed, 85% agreed that an improved EX results in a better CX and 62% said the impact was large or significant (see graph below). Therefore, when designing your CX framework, ask yourself where you can improve the EX.
Listening to your customer is incredibly important throughout the implementation of the CX framework, not just at the beginning of the process. Enable effective two-way communication channels between your company and its customers to provide better service and resolve issues. Build systems for relationship tracking and create pathways to actively ask for feedback that will allow you to measure and improve the CX. You should understand which CX metrics are relevant and incorporate their measurement and tracking into your framework to allow for continuous improvement. Work on integrating a memorable brand personality throughout the communication process, as customer interactions are essentially your company’s face.
In a HBR article on CX by Peter Merholz10, companies often adopt an inside-out design model, concentrating on process automation for internal users but forgetting to focus on customer relationships. Automated systems that facilitate comprehensive customer relationship management to drive your organization’s internal processes are crucial to your CX framework. Merholz points out that a company’s internal workings are invisible to customers, yet are directly connected to delivering the positive experiences that a strong CX strategy requires10. To align the inner and outer layers, you must start with a prototype and tune the necessary components to support the desired experience.
Build technology tools
A unified digital platform using the latest technology tools is essential when designing a modern CX system. This simplifies processes significantly by providing an integrated CX, interconnecting the entire system within the company through automation to best serve customer needs.
Building tools for efficient communication is important and allows for conversation between your brand and your customers. Give your customers the ability to shape outcomes through interactions with your system, and work with them to co-create their experience. Communication should be timely and effortless for customers. To facilitate this, you can build an integrated tech stack to create a digital omnichannel contact center platform. Include your customers’ preferred communication channels, such as social media, web chat, and texting, making it convenient for them—this means you need to be available for them 24/7. Optimize for mobile and allow them to transition from one device to another such as from chat to phone without making them wait in line again.
Fusion Alliance’s John Wood11 strongly recommends building in metrics to track descriptive, perceptive, and outcome-based metrics.
- Descriptive metrics include when, where, or how customers are interacting with the business.
- Perceptive metrics are KPIs such as customer ratings or Net Promoter Score (NPS).
- Outcome-based metrics measure customer actions such as filling in forms or making online purchases.
AI technologies are vital to the construction of interconnected systems, allowing for complete CX management. You can employ advanced analytics, predictive analytics, machine learning, and big data solutions to assist employees in understanding and helping serve your customers.
Kim Salazar of Nielsen Norman Group12 writes about how these emerging advanced technologies can help integrate commonly disconnected data silos throughout an organization. These databases can tie fragmented data together and use it to better serve customers. Data analytics based on past interactions can segment your user base and enable you to provide a more relevant experience and product personalization. Using this data, AI can facilitate initial customer service interactions and properly route customers to the appropriate employee for assistance with complex issues. These services, such as chatbots and virtual guides, can help create automated responses to common questions, or guide customers through product discovery. AI can auto-send personalized marketing messages and even track responses to these messages, continuing to build and strengthen commercial relationships.
Build internal teams and processes
To design a successful CX framework, prioritize your internal teams and empower them to collaborate effectively. Establish processes to give decision-making rights and autonomy to your innovation teams, says McKinsey13. In addition to the central team guiding the transformation, you need to align employees throughout the company with your CX vision—this will ensure you remain truly customer-focused. Create cross-functional, stage-relevant teams to support the implementation of your CX framework. The AI-based reporting technologies built to collect feedback about its performance should create a feedback loop that plays a key role in your agile approach to transformation. Having a strong CX framework supported by enabled teams is important because it allows the various aspects of your business to work together to build an excellent customer experience.
Implementing the CX Framework
After defining and mapping out a customer-centric strategy, you can begin the gradual implementation of your CX framework. Your framework’s design and implementation require a degree of overlap as iterative solution prototypes that you can improve on according to initial feedback. This helps you rapidly maximize system effectiveness before your solutions are fully scaled across the company.
McKinsey14 reports that successful implementation of a CX framework:
- Increases sales conversion rates by 15-20%,
- Reduces service costs by 20-50%
- Improves customer satisfaction by 10-20%
Start small and test
As soon as you implement your new framework, be sure to test its effectiveness and make necessary changes as soon as possible. Begin by using your strategic roadmap and build a prototype in the form of an MVP, or minimum viable product. The initial MVP can take various forms—for instance, a pilot program of the framework in one region You can also start with one improvement and build up from there. These prototypes allow for rapid development of the most effective version of each solution as you test their capabilities early on and gather feedback from your customers as well as employees working with the system. In addition to providing advantages in terms of speed and design quality, starting small and showing early success through testing can help your CX transformation gain momentum among management.
Scaling your CX framework across the entire organization and releasing it requires completion of the validated design. Follow testing and iterating on the MVP prototypes by communicating the value of the new CX approach to employees as well as customers. You should accompany the public release of your new system with a marketing campaign that educates customers on new enhancements and the value of your improved CX in various formats, including ads, personal messages, digital tutorials, and workshops.
Similarly, you must assimilate internal employees into the framework and teach them the value of your new vision and strategy, and train them how to use the new tools. Tailor each learning path to their respective roles within your company. Your central transformation team should help make this educational effort become a consistent cultural part of your company's endeavors.
A continuous process
The CX journey is not finished when you have implemented the framework and scaled it across your company. As time goes on, insights gained through integrated feedback systems will continue to indicate how your CX strategy and framework are performing, and will help you make modifications so you can meet changing customer needs. Feedback gathered from the customer-facing parts of the business then needs to be proliferated internally to make improvements in other areas such as technology or marketing.
To facilitate a culture of focus on CX and its continuous improvement, your leadership’s engagement and CX teams need to maintain accountability and continue supporting the framework initiatives. You should continue an ongoing process of optimizing and adapting systems over time to provide better customer experiences across the company and build new systems to encompass new products, and accommodate any new markets you may enter.
The way a customer experiences doing business with your company directly affects your bottom line. CX is ultimately a result of internal systems and touchpoints within your company, and drives brand value, revenues, and customer lifetime value. The culture of continued focus on CX and its improvement over the long term will support a healthy business both internally and externally.
U+ can help with your CX transformation
At U+, we have stage-relevant teams of market, product, tech and design people who assist large companies with building and implementing digital innovations with a focus on user experience, on a daily basis. We can help your company design, activate, and optimize a modern CX framework built around a central digital platform to meet your strategic business objectives.
To date, we have brought 90+ successful businesses and products to market, creating over $1 billion in new value for Fortune 1000 companies. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to talk!
Nielsen Norman Group, A Framework for CX Transformation: How to Operationalize CX at Scale ↩
Nielsen Norman Group, A Framework for CX Transformation: How to Operationalize CX at Scale ↩