Jennifer Tomlinson

Customer experience (CX) covers the entire customer journey. But while it includes a whole range of elements, modern CX boils down to the challenge of getting into your customers’ heads and understanding how they feel about that journey.

It’s clear that enjoyment of the overall buying experience matters significantly to customers. A study by the Tempkin Group found only 13 percent of customers who had a poor CX would buy from that company again, compared to 86 percent who had a positive experience.

Straight talk from two CX experts

To get more insight on creating excellent CX, I turned to two experts working at the forefront of CX in the technology space: Sasha Frljanic, Chief Experience Officer at Indigo Slate and the creator of a new CX software platform called ruptive, and Ray Meiring, CEO at Qorus Software, a Microsoft partner and the 2017 winner of our Partner of the Year Award for Customer Experience.

Connecting leadership to CX principles

Sasha has unique insight into how business leadership connects with CX principles, particularly how smaller companies can tackle the key pillars of CX. He’s identified five imperatives of CEOs and business leadership that CX supports:

  • Growth
  • Brand/CX
  • Innovation
  • Human capital
  • Digital transformation

Of these, Sasha recommends smaller companies start with the first three. “Assuming a growth strategy and brand/CX are essential to a company’s long-term plan,” he says. “You need to figure out what basics you need to compete, what is uniquely differentiating you, and what is the ‘wow’ that only you can deliver in an expected way for customers.”

To do that, Ray suggests that smaller companies first map out the customer journey in order to see these individual touchpoints against the backdrop of the bigger picture.

“Focusing on customer journeys makes it possible to link experiences to business outcomes. Touchpoints alone offer limited insight into what really leads to customer dissatisfaction, as they’re measured in isolation. On the other hand, customer journeys enable you to measure your customer touchpoints in context.”

— Ray Meiring, CEO of Qorus Software.

Using emergent technologies to improve CX

Emergent technologies such as AI and machine learning have an important part to play in helping businesses be more effective, even when it comes to improving CX. Ray and Sasha agree that partners should use AI and automation to map their content to support CX experiences. Sasha explains that account management and relationship management are still very human-focused: “We see AI today in call centers and bots, but there’s a transition that starts with understanding the customer journey and the customer’s interactions with your company.”

“Someday you can automate this experience. But you have to do the manual end-to-end experience mapping work first before anything can be replaced with AI.”

— Sasha Frljanic, CXO of Indigo Slate.

CX is everyone’s responsibility

When asked about actionable strategies for creating effective CX, Ray says, “Every employee in your business must understand your customer journeys and what a positive experience looks like at the end of that journey.” Complete buy-in is essential—from sales to support and even marketing. If there’s customer friction within any of these roles, you need to own the challenge and fix it fast, invest in customer success, and know how to create meaningful experiences.

Sasha emphasizes the importance of keeping the right talent to effectively grow your business. “The right employee experience helps this brand/CX experience succeed,” he explains. “In some ways, it’s easier to create a positive CX in a smaller company because the leader’s vision can permeate the organization and create a culture that fosters an outside-in, customer-centric company.”

Ray holds that prioritizing CX means creating memorable customer experiences at every opportunity. “This experience is critical in our digital and ever-competitive environment,” he says. “Because when competing against enterprise organizations, CX can be your company differentiator, as it gives you that competitive edge found in value and experience.”

Looking ahead

Great CX is a rarity. But, to excel today, companies must shift from a “customer-aware” mindset to a “customer-led” one. Sasha and Ray make clear that doing so means thinking holistically. While it may require a heavy transformation of your operations, today’s investment in CX is tomorrow’s stronghold in this dynamic marketplace.

Share your tips for building excellent CX with the Microsoft Partner Community here.

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