Across industries and geographies, it’s now accepted that Customer Experience (CX)—defined as the totality of interactions, digital and otherwise, that a customer has with a business—is critical to long-term success. Sub-standard CX, conversely, is known to drive up costs and reduce sales, and can even result in legal liability.
Yet we continually find clients struggling with CX. Among the challenges they face are a failure to align CX priorities across the whole scope of their business; an inability to find and resolve CX issues quickly; and limited visibility of the most relevant CX metrics. This is where Customer Experience Assurance comes in, to combat these challenges, and help businesses achieve better ROI on their CX investments.
Why CX matters
The old adage that “the customer is always right” has been a guiding principle of successful businesses for generations, and we now have the data to quantify just how important it is to make the subjective experience of customers a top priority. In one recent analysis, Forrester Research found that for every one-point increase in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, some large companies reported increased revenues to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. At the same time, unsurprisingly, the same companies also enjoyed better customer retention, more new customers, higher potential cross-sell and upsell, and cost savings from a reduced need for expensive support calls.
Given these benefits, it's no surprise that a 2022 Everest Group survey also found 61% of companies want to strengthen their brand reputation through enhanced CX, and customers themselves are ready to help with—for instance—82% percent saying they’d be willing to share some personal data in return for more personalized service, according to a 2022 PWC survey.
At the same time, modern customers have become less forgiving of poor CX, with 86% saying they would leave a brand after as few as two poor experiences, according to a 2022 Emplifi survey.
There really is no downside to putting CX first, and the benefits compound. Customers notice the little things—helpful service-channel chatbots, enhanced accessibility for users with impaired vision or other challenges—and happy customers are that much more likely to provide the feedback and the data that lets a business continually improve its products, services and overall CX.
Obstacles to better CX
Delivering superior customer experience requires that 1) all stakeholders are aligned on CX goals, 2) that they have the data they need to reach those goals as well as 3) effective tools to quickly find and resolve problems. Too many companies fail in at least one of these areas.
In terms of goal-alignment, a Forrester survey of global CX leaders found 46% of respondents reporting a conflict or misalignment of goals between different business functions. Because they interact with customers at different points in their journey, for instance, the heads of sales and customer support might have a very different understanding of customer needs and of how to measure customer satisfaction. In some dysfunctional cases, different business functions may even compete with one another, with sales—for instance—withholding product-ownership data from customer support for fear that the latter might use it to make improvements that could dazzle the C-suite at sales’ expense.
These misalignments can be costly. In one case, the marketing team at a casual dining chain launched a campaign offering customers free food if they took action on a mobile app during a sporting event. But because the marketers hadn’t coordinated with their counterparts in IT, the company’s cloud infrastructure was unable to handle the traffic and customers couldn’t access the chain’s website. As a result, a well-meaning attempt at good CX ended up generating negative customer sentiment and unfavorable press coverage, the opposite of what was intended.
In many cases, it all comes down to speed. Unless a business can listen, assess and incorporate changes to customer-facing services quickly enough to meet its promises to customers, the mere provision of those services isn’t enough. The primary issue here is usually a lack of the proper test processes, technology and tools to quickly find and remediate problems.
The third major barrier is a lack of a comprehensive view of data from inside and outside the enterprise, presented in a way that allows decision maker to take speedy corrective action.
Assuring CX quality
CX leaders can help overcome the first barrier—a lack of alignment on goals—by devoting sufficient budget to the execution of CX vision and strategy, keeping the impact on customer experience top-of-mind when considering all other business and technology investments, and, perhaps most importantly, by naming a dedicated CX improvement team.
Executive support for such teams helps ensure that efforts to improve CX are adequately funded, and coordinated enterprise-wide. In research sponsored by Cognizant, Forrester found that dedicated CX teams are playing a bigger role in identifying, prioritizing and coordinating CX improvement efforts.
When CX improvement projects are being implemented, continuous quality assurance is absolutely vital to assure that these newly aligned CX goals are being met. The nature of these tests will vary per use-case, but functionality, speed and reliability are usually the core metrics, as—of course—is customer satisfaction. The earlier, and more often, customer feedback can be harvested through crowd-, usability- or A/B testing, the better. Customer ‘journey maps’ can also be an invaluable tool for understanding CX from a user’s perspective, and flagging areas of potential improvement.
To achieve all this requires more than standardized QA tools and technology, it needs a uniform quality-assurance methodology that’s fit for purpose, and in many cases for bespoke apps and data platforms. The goal here is to let every stakeholder access relevant CX metrics in a single view, actionable format that provides a continuously updated view of all relevant data, internal and external. The categories of relevant data will vary from business to business, but common metrics include conversion rates and transaction sizes, as well as Web-analytics data such as click-through rate and time-on-site. Such platforms can also aggregate real-time information on IT development and operations, such as response time, uptime and the time required to fix errors or introduce new features. One way to present this data is through dashboards that include easy-to-understand scores and highlight areas requiring action. (See below.)