It’s no secret that attracting, satisfying, and retaining customers is becoming increasingly challenging.
The sheer amount of choice and demand for fast, flawless service demands businesses to formulate and execute effective ways to deliver excellent customer experiences.
Without acknowledging the importance of the customer experience at every touchpoint, companies miss out on great opportunities to develop a strong brand identity; opportunities that cannot afford to be missed in a business environment where first impressions are pivotal.
A slew of recent research studies provides us with the data to support this perceived demand to enhance customer experiences.
McKinsey research found that 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated—and a large part of that has to do with showing the customer you (as the brand) care about them, and value their business.
It’s also been found that 58% of consumers are willing to spend more on companies that provide excellent customer service throughout the buying process.
To cap it off, the Digital Marketing Trends Report by Econsultancy and Adobe asked companies to indicate the single most exciting opportunity for their organization in the upcoming year – and, yes indeed, customer experience came out on top.
Consistently delivering a fantastic purchasing experience for customers engaging in digital commerce requires a certain level of specialization. This is where Customer Experience (CX) design comes in – a business function created to enhance the experience of every customer at every moment they interact with your business.
In this post, we’re going to dive into how you can go about designing pleasant and engaging customer experiences that will improve customer loyalty and help your brand develop a strong image.
First, let’s clarify what CX design really is, why it matters, and address one of the most common questions when it comes to CX – how is it different from UX?
Then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty.
What is CX design?
Customer experience sounds like a broad, rather vague business function, and that’s because it is.
CX is concerned with optimizing the experience for customers at every touchpoint (any way a customer can interact with a brand).
For example, if a person sees a commercial and would like to go ahead and make a purchase, what steps have been taken to make that experience as smooth as possible?
It is the responsibility of the CX team to optimize the customer journey so purchases can be made in a way that leaves the customer satisfied and with a lasting impression of the quality service they received.
What is the difference between UX and CX design?
This is perhaps the most common question people ask when they are first introduced to the concept of CX design.
The distinction can be explained in both simple and complex terms.
The simple way to explain the difference is that UX design works with the product, while CX design works with the brand.
In other words, UX designers are responsible for creating an enjoyable user experience within a mobile app, website, or other kinds of software that customers engaged with. On the other hand, CX designers are focused on aligning business goals with the entire experience of a customer during any interaction with a brand.
Therefore, there is a significant amount of overlap, in that UX is a component of CX.
As illustrated in the image above, it is the combination of UX and customer service that characterizes CX.
UX Design focuses on usability, interaction, and visual design, while CX Design focuses on customer service and brand reputation. Furthermore, UX Design is also about a user research, information architecture and content strategy. At the same time, CX Design also concerns the sales process, advertising, product delivery and fairness of the pricing. – Adoriasoft, CX Design vs UX Design: 4 Differences You Need To Know
Although it is written clearly and makes perfect sense, there are a lot of buzzwords in that excerpt that can make it a little difficult to understand. A simple way to think of it is that CX design is concerned with all aspects of UX like usability and visual design, while also placing an equal amount of focus on the sales process and customer service.
It’s simply broader in scope, as there is obviously a lot more involved in the overall customer experience than there is in UX or customer service as a standalone function.
Key principles of CX design
According to full-stack development firm Adoriasoft, the following are key principles of CX design to follow if businesses want to successfully deliver first-class digital experiences.
- Understanding a customer journey in all the channels where customers appear is vital for the creation of winning customer experiences.
- Customer experience is totally subjective, so interactions and touchpoints must be personalized.
- Offline customers no longer exist, so get ready for ongoing cross-channel interactions and conversations with the brand.
- Knowing that at any touchpoint there’s always a chance that users may drive away and choose a competitor should foster ongoing user experience optimization.
- Customer experience has a direct impact on how much money users are ready to spend on the mobile app or website.
- Inviting customers to participate in conversations with a brand and collaborate with it as partners helps to provide better customer experiences and improved brand offers.
- Customer experience design enhancements must be based both on financial data (how customer spends money) and observational data (what customer actually does interact with the brand).
In essence, these principles are saying that…
- You cannot create truly excellent customer experiences without first having a solid understanding of the customer journey in all available channels.
- Customer experience is not some fluffy buzzword that has no direct relation to financial prosperity. To the contrary, it has a direct impact on purchasing decisions and has the potential to greatly improve the bottom line.
- Experiences must be continuously optimized as standards increase among competitors and customers are more likely to turn away at a given touchpoint.
- CX design initiatives must be supported by financial data as well as observational data to ensure they are addressing the right issues and forwarding business goals.
6 essential components of CX design
Now that we’ve highlighted some key principles that must not be overlooked if a CX design strategy is to be successfully implemented, let’s go over the main components of CX design to understand which aspects of service delivery need to be continuously optimized.
The Customer Strategist Journal has stated from their research that there are 6 core areas of CX design:
- Reachability: This is concerned with the existence and reliability of digital channels, and what strategies are used to attract customers to those channels. Is it easy for customers to interact with your business?
- Purchase convenience: How seamless is it the purchasing process for your customers? Is product and price information clear and up-to-date?
- Service convenience: How frictionless is the digital service experience? Are there tools to find more information like FAQs and self-service knowledge bases?
- Personalization: How well does your business meet/cater to individual customer needs?
- Simplicity and ease of use: Are service/informational channels optimized for mobile?
- Channel flexibility: Is context about the customer being used and applied across all channels? Is there a history of behavior, transactions, and conversations across touch points available for each customer?
How to craft a winning CX design strategy
So, we have a decent understanding of why CX is so important and what the essential components of a CX strategy are.
The next thing is to provide some top tips on how you can go about crafting a CX design strategy that will help you achieve the results you’re looking for.
Before we go into some specific pointers, however, it’s important to mention that a CX design strategy is a long-term play (as most strategies are). It is not something that has the ability to produce notable results in a few weeks. It takes a considerable amount of time to understand the customer journey and identify real opportunities for improvement at various touchpoints.
The customer journey map tells the story of different customers’ touchpoints with a brand—as seen from the customers’ points of view. For each customer segment, the customer journey map shows a timeline detailing the customer’s interaction with the brand at various touchpoints, often also describing emotions, motivations, and context. A customer journey map helps identify gaps in the customer experience. – The Interaction Design Foundation, Customer Experience (CX) Design
This initial process of gathering information and working purely on building an understanding of what you’re working with must not be rushed.
The customer journey is the foundation of CX design and if not properly understood, will seriously limit the success of experience enhancement initiatives. And so, simply respect the fact that CX design optimization takes time, and you’re off to a good start.
This point about taking the time to really understand customer personas and journey mapping conveniently leads us into the initial steps that need to be taken when crafting a winning CX design strategy.
1. Understand your target audience
The first step is to really understand who you are speaking to, so you can then work on speaking the same language.
As straight forward as it may sound, we all know how complex and unpredictable us humans are, so it takes patience and in-depth research to really nail down the profile of your target customers.
A good rule of thumb is to develop 2-5 personas of your customer base and build experiences for your most valuable segments. These personas should include a demographic profile, attributes, motivations, needs, and pain points.
Ultimately, the purpose of CX design is to build emotional connections with your customers, and the first step to doing this is understanding who those customers are, what they want, and how they want it.
An effective way to gather this insight is to conduct customer interviews and internally analyze the data gathered with a group of team members.
2. Create a clear CX vision
Creating a “vision” sounds fluffy and ambiguous, but the easiest, most practical way to do this is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles and can be communicated throughout the organization.
What kind of experience do you want your customers to have? What kind of experience most accurately reflects the values of your organization?
Much of this vision can be captured in your company’s set of core values, which should be incorporated into all areas of training and development so all team members are on the same page with regards to what lies at the heart of the organization.
3. Map out the customer journey
This is a big one.
A customer journey map is designed to provide a clear view of the end-to-end experience of your customers; a way of visually representing customer’s actions, needs, and perceptions throughout their interaction with your product or service.
Creating a customer journey map is relatively straight forward – pick a persona, identify all potential interactions, and map out the key steps across the journey that would eventually lead to a transaction.
An effective way of identifying the key interactions throughout the customer lifecycle is to use the 5 A’s customer journey mapping framework.
The framework is as follows:
- Attract – How are customers attracted to and informed of the service or product?
- Accept – How does the customer enter into dealings with your organization?
- Adopt – How does the customer interact throughout the entire experience?
- Amplify – How do you leave the customer feeling at the end of the interaction?
- Advance – How do you follow up with customers and extend the current relationship?
This framework provides a simple and effective method of seeing things through the customer’s perspective and helps identify pain points and opportunities to enhance their experience.
4. Create emotional connections
According to Salesforce, 84 percent of customers say being treated like a person – not a number – is very important to winning their business.
Today’s customers demand more than a sound product or service. They want to feel valued and appreciated by the businesses they are interacting with and handing over their hard-earned cash.
Therefore, the importance of creating and maintaining emotional connections with your customers cannot be overlooked, or they will not hesitate in turning to a competitor that makes them feel appreciated.
If you have taken the time to identify your target audience and build clear customer personas, then the task of creating emotional connections is much easier, because you know what they want, and can create products and experiences that meet their demands.
5. Capture feedback in real-time
How are your customers receiving the services you offer? What do they think of the user experience and customer support services?
Collecting this insight is incredibly important to continuously optimizing their experience, and the best way to do it is, surprise surprise, asking them!
Send follow-up emails to customers following their interactions and include post-interaction surveys to gather information about their experience.
You can also call customers to ask them in person, although you should be careful not to pester them as this can backfire and make the experience more negative.
What makes a great CX designer?
To further clarify the distinction between a UX and CX designer, and maybe even help you in your search for an all-star CX team, it’s useful to go over a few characteristics that define a great CX designer.
The meaning of the term “customer” in the context of CX must not be misunderstood. It is not referring only to individuals or other businesses that have already made a purchase of some sort.
A customer refers to any person that interacts with the company including prospects, partners, and end users.
A CX designer needs to have a comprehensive understanding of why and how customers interact with the business in order to place themselves in their shoes.
This is much easier said than done because humans are complicated, and we make purchasing decisions for all kinds of different reasons. Therefore accurate customer segmentation is essential for a designer to understand what kind of persona the company is attracting and how they can go about optimizing their experience at every touchpoint.
Thinking far beyond the product
Unlike UX designers, CX designers need to focus on a lot more than just the product user journey. All customer interactions with marketing, sales, customer service, support, self-service learning as well as the product itself must be taken into consideration.
Seeing as it is concerned with a variety of business functions, it’s beneficial if the CX designer has a good amount of experience in less technical business roles like sales and marketing.
Solving ambiguous, complex problems
After all, working to enhance an experience that can take place in so many different places requires a high-level of patience and recognition of complexity.
Problem-solving goes hand-in-hand with good design, but this role is unique in its ability to solve all types of problems. From evaluating web form accessibility and improving sales communications to designing customer onboarding, a CX Designer helps drive optimal experiences in several different areas. – Bonnie Bohan, 5 Things That Define a CX Designer
There are no straightforward problems that have obvious, clear-cut solutions. Coming up with and implementing effective solutions requires in-depth research, creativity, and collaborative effort to truly enhance the experience for all customers.
Challenging assumptions with compelling data
Initiatives to enhance the customer experience must have a strong foundation of data and research to support whatever measures are being taken.
It is the responsibility of the CX designer to challenge internal assumptions with well-sourced data and provide compelling information to support certain changes that will provide customers with a better experience.
A great CX designer will always recognize the importance of data. Because the day-to-day tasks of a CX designer are relatively vague, as are the metrics for job performance, managers and other team members will likely lose confidence in a designer that fails to support design improvement initiatives with sound, credible research.
Empower your CX designers with simple workflow software
Our mission is to make recurring work fun, fast, and faultless for teams everywhere.
By documenting your workflows in digital checklists, you are instantly creating an actionable workflow in which tasks can be assigned to team members, automated, and monitored in real-time to ensure they are being executed in the way they are intended to be, each and every time.
The point is to minimize human error, increase accountability, and provide employees with all of the tools and information necessary to complete their tasks as effectively as possible.
Below is a Customer Journey Mapping template that can be used right away to make sure you are gathering all of the important details necessary to gain a full understanding of how customers are interacting with your brand.
Each task included in the checklist can contain various details in the form of text, a variety of form fields including sub-checklists, and rich media so each individual working on the process knows exactly what is required and has access to relevant information.
If you need to make a change at some point to refine the workflow, Process Street’s template editing system allows quick and seamless edits on-the-fly, without disrupting existing workflows.
Our extensive integration capabilities allow you to connect with over 1000 other apps, so you can create automation rules between Process Street and the tools you already use to extend the capabilities of your tech stack ecosystem.
If you haven’t already, sign up for a free Process Street account and start customizing our templates or build your own right away!
I hope you found this article helpful! What are your thoughts on the rise of CX design? What steps is your organization taking to continuously optimize customer experiences? Let me know, I’d love to hear your insight!