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How do you optimise the customer experience?

Challenging many CEOs, CXOs, CMOs and CTOs is the delivery of a strong, positive, and enduring customer experience across all of the brand touchpoints. Too often brand (the company) focus on the technology, which delivers the experience, rather than on customer experience itself. Brands grow and thrive through optimising customer experiences. Research tells us this. However, too few leaders are looking at how to innovate customer experiences as a way to grow their brands and optimise revenue streams.

Leaders might talk about optimising the customer experience however, what happens is something else. Sometimes other priorities get in the way. This can happen because innovating the customer experience is hard. When innovating the customer experience, you get a chance to see your brand from the perspective of the customer. Often leaders don’t like what they see. No one wants to see all of their flaws. It makes us vulnerable and uncomfortable. The reality is if we want to improve the customer experience, we need to get into their shoes, warts, and all, and see our brand from their standpoint.

Teams innovate and work in silos, often misaligned from the brand’s values, purpose, and the task. No one intends to create poor experiences for customers. It is just that often, when making decisions to improve something the customer experience is not at the forefront of mind.

With 24/7 access to brands customers experience brands in a variety of ways, from virtual reality, augmented reality, to voice, to the Internet of Things, to automation. Customers control their own brand experiences from the palms of their hands. Customers decide to scroll down or swipe left or right. Customers are in control of what media and channels they use and consume, they decide which brands they pay attention to, initiate a conversation with, buy from, have a relationship with or advocate for in a world that is constantly changing. Customers engage in experiences using their all or any of their five sensors – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling. They recognise the smell of coffee, see the coffeeshop, hear the cluttering of coffee cups, buy coffee, feel the warmth of the coffee in their hands, and experience that first taste of coffee which in that moment is blissful, relieving, invigorating, and thirst quenching all at the same time.

Have you thought about the sorts of experiences your customers are experiencing when they engage with your brand? Are they passing by on social media as they scroll down, or are they stopping to engage?

While there is general understanding of what customer journey maps and customer experience maps look like, there is still too little understanding of how to use these maps for the purposes of optimising the customer experience. Both customer journey maps and customer experience maps tell a chronological story of a customer from first learning about a brand (brand awareness) right through to repurchasing the brand on a regular basis (brand loyalty).

Across the various pathways there are a variety of touchpoints. At each touchpoint there is an opportunity for the customer to engage with the brand. When analysing an actual customer journey, design thinkers, innovators and analysts see the captured data showing the thoughts, feelings, actions, pain-points, wow-moments customers are experiencing. They see the highs, lows, the positives, the negatives, and the indifference. They see the extent to which these occur, low-level positive or negative feelings or indifference can be easier to convert into positive feelings. However, the strong negative experiences are harder for customers to forget and harder for the brand to convert into positive experiences. Noted from a brand leadership and managerial perspective are the roles, and actions of the brand on the journey map. They tell a story about the actions (or inactions) undertaken when interacting with the customer.

To optimise the customer experience often requires an innovative approach like a design thinking. A framework like 4DLX-Grow guides the leader and the team through the four-phase innovation process helping them to innovate the customer experience. The 4DLX-Grow Framework helps the team to uncover customer insights from a range of different perspectives, to see the customer experience from the customer’s perspective warts and all, and to find out from the customer the best places along the journey to optimise the customer experience. With this information the CXO and team can redefine how they design, track, and optimise customer interactions across all of the brand’s touchpoints ensuring they are providing customer value in the experience.

Optimise the customer experience through value

Value happens within the experience. There is no delivery of value, like a pizza. It is a common misnomer that brands create value and customers receive value, or that brands deliver value in much the same way a delivery driver delivers parcels or a pizza. Brands don’t deliver value. Customers perceive value through their five senses and in their minds. Value happens as customers experience an interaction with the brand, at each, and every touchpoint. Value happens when the perceived benefits outweigh the costs to the customers (time, money, effort, energy). There are several types of value, here we list the six most common types of value. We are listing these values because, if you understand the several types of value that can occur within the customer experience then you can redesign the customer experience to optimise opportunities for valuable experiences at key brand touchpoints.

Six different types of value

1. Functional value – is the basic expectation – like performance, it works, it lasts, it addresses a problem or a basic customer need.

2. Social value – is the belongingness that people desire, the interactions between people and how well the brand helps the individual customer be “more socially accepted.”

3. Expressive value – is the ability of the individual customer to express who she/he is to other people through the use of the brand to signal to others and convey something about who they are as a person.

4. Emotional value – are the extent of feelings felt (strong or weak) and positive or negative when the customer interacts with the brand. The customer will often remember how they felt, not why they felt that way.

5. Epistemic value – addresses the customers curiosity and desire to learn new things. If for example, the customer is a connoisseur, then she/he will value learning new things to improve their level of expertise.

6. Situational value – are the different contexts that impact (positively and negatively) on the value the customer perceives when interacting with the brand. Situations are contextual. The brand experience can occur online or offline. The brand experience will depend on who the person is with, the time of day, the time of year, how much money she has, or the mood the person is in. All of these different situations affect the value perceived in the experience with the brand.

When looking for ways to optimise or innovate the customer experience with the brand, consider adding value swim lanes to the customer journey or experience maps.

To optimise value in the customer experience, consider the diverse types of value that a customer experiences at each and every brand touchpoint. Consider situational value and the moderating impacts situational value has on the customer experience. Ask what customers are doing when they are interacting with the brand? Ask who they are they with? Ask how you can enhance the value a customer experiences. Asking questions helps us to understand how we can help others. This is important. Because if the research is right, and brands truly do grow and thrive through optimising the customer experience, you may want to prioritise customer experience innovation initiatives.

Consider design thinking as a guide to help you to optimise customer experience. Consider using the 4DLX-Grow Framework as a guide to assist your team. Consider the six kinds of value as a starting point to enhancing value with the customer in their experience. Consider asking Leadingrowth for assistance.

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