Most people think end-to-end customer experience (CX) starts when a customer begins to evaluate their buying options or after they’ve bought a product. This perspective leads many organizations to focus on improving the experience of using their product (usability) or shortening the time it takes to resolve a customers’ issue (customer service). But, in reality, by that time may already be too late.
A great customer experience begins at the point of need
If you think about it, your customer’s buying journey begins before they buy—or even see—your product. It starts when a need forms in their mind—either consciously or subconsciously.
A customer may face an immediate problem (“darn, my car battery is dead!”) that needs an easily identified solution (“I need to buy a new battery.”)
More often than not, however, an issue or uneasiness begins to rattle around in their skull, and, often, the “need” is not precisely concrete (“Ugh, I hate this bathroom!”) Plus, they may have only a vague idea of how they can satisfy their needs (“Maybe I should get a new tub?”)
Companies that are smart about CX and customer’s needs begin to engage the customer at this early stage—when the need is still forming in their minds. They help the customer understand the challenges they face and may even educate them about problems didn’t even realize they had.
By engaging at this early stage, companies develop a relationship with their customers. The customers, in turn, begin to see the company as a trusted advisor guiding them along their journey.
And, of course, when the customer is ready to acquire or purchase a solution, they are more likely to turn to the company that has been with them from the start of their journey.
Create an end-to-end CX that generates value for your customers
An example of this kind of customer experience from my own life involves a product I love, my Instant Pot.
As a father of two pre-school boys, I’m usually responsible for putting dinner on the table. I love the fact that I can throw all the ingredients for a healthy meal into my Instant Pot, turn it on and forget about it. That means I can get out of the kitchen and referee the hockey game/wrestling match that has inevitably broken out in the family room.
One afternoon when I was trying to think of what to make for dinner, it occurred to me that I could maybe use my Instant pot to make black beans and rice—something both my boys will eat.
Like most people, my journey started with a Google search (“instant pot black beans and rice”). That search led to 365 Days of Slow + Pressure Cooking, the excellent website run by Karen Bellessa Petersen. On her website, Petersen shares hundreds of easy-to-follow Instant Pot recipes for free, including one for Mexican Black Beans and Rice.
After a few minutes of searching Petersen’s site, I was hooked! I signed up for her daily recipe emails and, eventually, bought her The 365 Days of Pressure Cooking Cookbook, which I refer to on nearly a daily basis. The cookbook’s recipes contain QR codes that link back to the website, making it easy to watch the videos showing how to prepare each dish. And now I thumb through the cookbook almost every evening to figure out what I can make for dinner with the ingredients I have on hand.
You might say that Petersen is just doing smart content marketing when she provides free access to her recipes—and she is! But she’s doing more than that. She anticipated her customer’s needs and created a customer experience that delivered value.
In exchange, Petersen’s audience generates revenue for her when they visit her website and, of course, when they buy her cookbooks. It’s a win-win relationship that creates value for her and me.
Start your end-to-end CX by researching customer’s needs
As my Instant Pot example shows, a great customer experience begins by understanding and anticipating your customer’s needs and what drives their behaviors.
You can start to develop that by simply interviewing your customers and potential customers. Begin by asking what triggered their search for a solution—the trigger could be something you didn’t expect.
Then, follow up with questions about how they searched for a product to meet their need, how they selected the product, and what factors lead them to choose one product over another. Finally, ask about their experience using the product and what they did after they finished using it.
After you interview a handful of people, you’ll start to gain insights into the key factors that drive your customers’ experiences. You’ll also begin to identify opportunities to meet your customers’ unmet needs.
Map your customer’s journey for a great customer experience
After conducting some customer interviews, you will then want to create a customer journey map to understand your customer’s experiences better. By mapping your customer’s journey, you’ll gain perspective on what is going on inside their head and understand their end-to-end CX better.
Plus, when you map your customer’s journey with your colleagues, you will build empathy within your organization for the customers. You will also identify opportunities to design experiences that create actual value for your customers.
Take the first step to an end-to-end CX
Getting to understand your customer’s end-to-end journey can seem daunting, but you’ll see the benefits quickly. The key is shifting to a customer-centric mindset and becoming curious about what is happening inside your customer’s head—before they ever even make a purchase.
Your customers and stakeholders will thank you for it!
If you want to take your customer experience to the next level, please contact us. Our CX experts are ready to help you develop a vision and strategy for your customer experience, conduct customer research, and create customer journey maps.
Scott J. Anderson is a subject matter expert within Celerity’s experience practice. He has helped clients in the health, financial services, business services, and non-profit sectors with experience design, content strategy, UX design, and Design Thinking coaching.