In a continuing effort to share what I know and learn more from all of you, I’m highlighting the steps I use when mapping the customer experience. In Step 1 I covered how identifying the parts of exploration were vital. Now, let’s talk about what you do once you’ve determined what you’re examining.
Now it’s time to don your trenchcoat and become a Master Detective. Customer experience is hardly straight-forward. There’s what the CEO thinks is happening, what the process documents say is happening, what the loudest customers complain about, and the truth – somewhere in the midst of all that.
The customer experience always starts with awareness and then sales phase. So let’s use the sales process as an example for how to investigate. How do customers become aware of the brand and/or product? Once the sales process is identified as part of the investigation – here are some steps I use to investigate the process.
1. Examine any process documentation available.
In some cases, organizations pride themselves on having buttoned-up, unified processes and sometimes they pride themselves on their entrepreneurial, process-free cultures. Either way, somebody’s written something down somewhere about sales. Find it and see how things are supposed to happen.
2. If survey results or other macro customer data is available, review it, look for patterns and look for places to investigate more.
Surveys are great, but often they lack the right questions. More often, they highlight an area that requires more attention and investigation.
2. Interview employees directly and indirectly related to the process.
Ask questions about how things work, and more importantly, what they think could work better. Employees observe a lot and don’t discuss it with their bosses. More often than not, they’ll discuss it with me because most want the best experience for the customer and the best results for their businesses.
3. Interview customers who recently purchased.
These customers have a lot to tell you. They are typically happy (they purchased for a reason) but are honest about what could work better. One customer once told me she was thrilled with the sales process – until her first invoice. She had no problem with the price, but hated the look/feel/tone of the cold, sterile business document which was so different than her experience with the sales team. It was a simple fix for the company – and they heard tons of great feedback after making a more customer-centric invoicing system.
4. Interview prospects who didn’t buy.
These customers have a lot to tell you, too. They often tell you why they bought from a competitor. Ask questions about why they didn’t buy, what they liked about the sales process, and what they didn’t. While your sales person may have checked off “price” as the reason in the sales system, often there’s a bigger dialogue. These reasons are the true obstacles to sales.
5. Review your online and call center sales processes.
Don’t just review them – go through the process as a customer would. Using this approach, you could uncover many obstacles to the sale that are there simply because “it’s always been done that way.” This is challenging for those familiar with these processes. For a more realistic viewpoint, get a true third party perspective.
6. Take a careful look at communications.
Communications come in all forms now – so don’t forget to review text messages, emails, direct mail or other forms used during the sales process. As I’ve repeated more than once on this blog, communication matters a lot in the customer experience. If customers don’t get what you’re communicating, they won’t buy. It’s really that simple.
6. Continue this exploration with all the next steps.
Be sure you examine the process all the way from pre to post. A sale doesn’t stop when the prospect decides to buy, it really just starts. How is confirmation handled? What about if someone doesn’t buy? Do they remain in the system?
As you can tell, this investigation is really just getting started. There would be different steps for different processes, but many of these actions (like interviewing employees and customers) can be applied across the experience. While any exploration of your customer experience will help you get a better picture of where opportunities are lost and attitudes are formed, a thorough exploration will help you put together a true map of the experience.
This list could go on and on, so setting up scope is important when taking on customer experience issues.
What about you, fellow customer experience explorers? What else do you tackle during the investigation?