CX + Loyalty

Identifying Critical Gaps in Your Customer Experience (CX)

You’ve got challenges. But you knew that already, didn’t you? You’re aware of your customer complaints, churn rates, market share, and what’s negatively impacting your NPS score. You know exactly when a competitor introduces some new “surprise and delight” element in their CX and how it immediately turns into the new basic customer expectation. Your competitor spent a year prepping everything to enable that delight. Surprise! Now you have to up your game as well.

Forrester determined years ago that we are in the “age of the customer” where expectations constantly increase, and businesses must be customer obsessed to succeed. This is supported by a Salesforce report in which 84% of customers said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. A whopping 92% of participants in a Gladly survey indicated they would abandon a company after just 1 to 3 bad experiences. To put it simply, CX should be ranked at the top of your company priority list.

Enable Better Decisions with an Accurate Assessment of Your Brand’s Current CX
Okay, back to your challenges. Perhaps you have a reliable way to collect information from various sources to understand many of your big issues. You get feedback from people who are upset about major failures, but what about all the people whose poor experience is bad enough to make them abandon you but not bad enough to make the effort to complain? I went to a national auto repair shop and observed as I stood in line, that the phone rang incessantly while a solo frontline employee helped the customers in the shop (which I selfishly appreciated). His response when I asked him about the situation was, “oh yeah, it’s like that all day long.” All day long?! How many prospects will give up after one call and go to the competitor across the street instead? How many current customers who just want to know the status of their vehicle repair won’t be returning for the next one? According to research by Esteban Kolsky, only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain while the rest churn. That figure doesn’t even account for points of friction that don’t actively cause unhappiness but still create subconscious negative reactions that hinder conversion.

To embrace customer obsession and lead your category, it is critical to perform a complete customer experience audit. This is ideally done on a large scale, looking at everything along the entire customer lifecycle. But if your realm of influence is not that broad, it can also start on a small scale, focusing on one channel, an acquisition campaign, or the path to purchase for an average transaction. To be effective, it is important to drop your business lens and evaluate every interaction, every touchpoint, and moments between them as a customer would.

The purpose of a CX audit is to identify all the opportunities for improving customer experiences and to enable prioritization of which journeys and friction points to address first.

  • Performing a CX audit through an intentional and methodical process will reveal issues beyond those that customers already vocalize and will also put known issues into perspective with context.
  • It will provide a consolidated, sequential view of every barrier a customer encounters along their path, even the subconscious ones.

You may be wondering why you should care about the “small” issues that don’t generate complaints. First of all, you at least need to know what they are before you can determine if they are truly inconsequential. Plus, your company may have many small issues combining to create a significant overall impact. The big problems you know about might be persisting because they are complex, difficult to manage, or require a long-term overhaul. The experience gaps you have yet to identify might have high value and/or require low effort to fix. Either way, they should at least be on your radar.

3-Step Approach for a Successful CX Audit

  1. Define the scale of the audit:
    • Determine which phases or steps of the customer experience you will investigate (e.g. detailed steps along loyalty program acquisition and onboarding efforts)
    • Establish how granular of a customer view you will look at (generic high-level down to multiple specific segments and/or situations)
    • Define which dimensions of the experience to evaluate — The most basic dimensions to cover are descriptions of customers’ actions, thoughts, and feelings as well as each interaction point with the brand
      • Selecting which of the remaining dozens of options to inspect at each step depends on the specific situation or brand goal, but could include workflow diagrams, images of marketing material, “back of stage” actions/processes impacting CX, relevant analytics or metrics, data capture and flow, decision logic, technology involved, content strategy, etc.
    • Source the tools and human resources available to you through the audit process to examine each dimension (from researching on your own to enlisting colleagues to contracting with a partner)
  2. Create a project plan that considers the following:
    • Which internal stakeholders, teams, and subject matter experts have relevant input, data, and insights needed to document your desired dimensions and how will you get it from them?
    • How will you or a partner execute the evaluation to ensure key dimensions keep the customers’ perspective at the forefront of the observations? (e.g. activities similar to secret shopping, social listening, customer survey and review compilations, digital UX audit, competitive experience research, industry ratings, digital session recordings, digital ethnographies, etc.).
    • What is reasonable timing to set up, kick off, gather information, and document observations?
  3. Implement your audit:
    • Gather all the necessary inputs to log each dimension desired (see above)
    • Focus on documenting one dimension at a time as you methodically walk through each CX step
    • Account for relevant customer actions, mindsets, emotional needs, and functional needs within and between interactions with your brand
    • Using performance data, note critical points of conversion or abandonment to identify where you are losing people and why; evaluate dimensions against general best practices and specifically with behavioral economics principles in mind, as they are especially helpful in uncovering opportunities related to subconscious decision making
    • Scrutinize every experience gap to identify root causes, not just symptoms
    • Diagram the experience and findings. Consider a matrix with columns for each stage or step and rows for each dimension; add a section to compile gaps and opportunities observed across all dimensions

Completing an evaluation of the current state of your brand’s customer experience is a powerful step toward designing an action plan to optimize your CX, surprising your competition, and strengthening your position as a category leader. Repeat the process at regular intervals (and immediately upon CX modifications, any significant changes in metrics/trends or industry disruption) and pivot, as needed, to stay ahead of the competition. And, if you’d like help in determining the opportunities and gaps in your customer relationships, we’d love to talk before your customers decide it’s time to break up.

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By Emily Martínez

Emily Martínez is an experienced marketing strategy and analytics leader who leverages data, consumer insights, informed targeting, and innovative solutions to attract and retain customers.