It is no secret that a company's most important resource is its customers; the business's success depends on them, which is why the concept of customer experience has been gaining more and more presence. It has reached a point where departments and roles are directly focused on studying and improving it, such as consultants, analysts, researchers, managers, supervisors, and designers.
In addition, as time goes by, consumers have more and more access to touchpoints with companies through different channels and media, which means that the purchasing process is evolving in diversity and complexity. If that were not enough, social relationships have also become an important pillar. Today it is easy and almost essential to look for reviews, likes, and comments from previous buyers before purchasing a product or service.
Therefore, it is vital to involve areas like information technology, human resources, marketing, sales, customer service, logistics, and quality, among others, in projects dedicated to building, improving, and managing the customer experience. But how do you design a customer experience? In this blog, we will talk about it, and we are going to understand it through two key tools: the Customer Journey and the Moments of Truth.
What is Customer Experience?
To understand what Customer Experience is, let's review a few concepts:
- Buyer Persona: is a semi-fictional character created from hypotheses and validated with data. It is the representation of one of our company's ideal customers. I recommend identifying at least three to begin to understand who your customers are and why they need the product or service you offer them.
- Customer Journey: is the buying process a Buyer Persona goes through to acquire a product or service, which does not necessarily have to be the ones offered by your brand. Later we will talk about what this tool contains. For now, it is enough knowing that it contemplates all the activities within three phases (before, during, and after the purchase).
- Moments of truth: in a Customer Journey, the moments of truth are when your Buyer Persona interacts with some element of your brand, either through direct or indirect contact. To give some examples, they can occur when your advertising reaches them, when they perform a search and find your website or when they talk to a salesperson.
An experience will result from the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, sensory, and social responses when having individual approaches to businesses. In other words, the Customer Experience is the perception that remains in your Buyer Persona when they go through their Customer Journey and is linked directly to the way they experience Moments of Truth.
What makes up the customer experience?
This is a topic that is still under study. All those elements that today we consider to be part of the customer experience are the result of research that began in the 1960s when the challenge of understanding the consumer decision-making process first arose. A decade later, evaluating customer perception, satisfaction, and loyalty to companies started. From the 1980s onwards, service quality came into play and became the focus of attention with the study of Customer Journey Maps. Still, it was not until the 1990s that the scope of what we know as customer experience was broadened, making it possible to study the effect of one element on the other.
Thanks to this, since the arrival of the new millennium, having Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has made it easier to study these effects. In the last decade, multidisciplinary challenges and placing the customer at the center of business have allowed today's experience design to have a pedestal within the processes of many companies. Remember, customer experience is a multidimensional construct that encompasses the cognitive, emotional, sensory, behavioral, and social responses that the consumer has to a product or service throughout the buying process. We are talking about the elements that make it up, all those that can trigger positive or negative responses in all these dimensions:
- Service quality
- Commitment or connection of a customer to the company
The Customer Journey is fundamental for design. Drawing it is the first step to identifying the Moments of Truth and analyzing how to improve them to strengthen the elements that make up the customer experience.
On our website, you will find more blogs about this tool. For practical purposes, here we will only highlight the phases that compose it and some of the moments contained in these stages:
- Pre-purchase: a stage in which the consumer interacts with different aspects of the product or service offered by a company before making a purchase. This may include their daily tasks or processes, the emergence of their need, the search, and consideration of options.
- The purchase: covers all consumer interactions with everything surrounding the product or service offered by a company during the purchase. This includes, but is not limited to, the decision, order generation, and payment.
- Post-purchase: is made up of a series of interactions with the brand and its environment that include the use or consumption of the product, post-sale involvement of the company, and service requirements depending on the product (such as training, repairs, adjustments, calibrations, among others). For this reason, the product or service also becomes a critical moment of truth and enters into what is called the User Experience (UX). In the case of Customer Journeys designed for B2B (Business to Business) Buyer Personas, it is common to enter a loop in which a customer repurchases the same product. In this scenario, there is a trigger; either the customer becomes loyal to the brand or starts a new buying process with another supplier.
As a consequence of the nature of the purchase, you should note that a consumer may need another product from the same brand (for example, from supermarkets, hardware stores, furniture stores, pharmacies, and restaurants, among others). So the Customer Journey becomes a cycle, and the post-purchase of a product or service becomes the pre-purchase.
Types of moments of truth
A vital element of these maps is identifying the moments of truth, which will help determine where to dedicate your efforts when designing the experience. To design, it is essential to know that there are different types of moments of truth:
- Moments of truth in charge of the company: these are the points of contact in the purchasing process through which a customer passes and which are designed and managed by the company, such as, for example, advertising mailings, websites, loyalty programs, or marketing elements related to the product or service (design of attributes, packaging, service, price, sales process).
- Moments of truth in charge of strategic partners: these are the points of contact designed, managed, or controlled by the company or a partner. In this case, we can talk about marketing agencies, distribution channels, and external communication channels (such as intermediaries). It is essential to pay attention to what partners do since a change in their process or information technologies may require updates in our elements, such as, for example, the dimensions of advertising designs or the shift in a distribution capacity.
- Moments of truth by the consumer: these are all those actions that the consumer voluntarily takes that bring them closer to the brand. These actions may include discovering their own needs or desires at the pre-purchase stage or their decision regarding the payment method during the purchase. Several critical touchpoints may occur after the purchase, such as product usage and consumption or the application of warranties. Currently, there is the concept of "influencer" where product users can make unboxings, user guides, or reviews through videos that can help us and that are not in charge of our brand but that we can enhance, for example, through actions such as affiliate marketing.
- Moments of truth by social/external sources: during the buying process, consumers live in an environment surrounded by other consumers, sources of information, friends, family, and co-workers, among others. During their Customer Journey, our customers may consult by word of mouth, check reviews on the Internet, look for positive and negative comments, and look at the number of "likes" or the product reach. This search can affect their decision to complete the purchase, postpone it or stop it.
How to improve the customer experience
With all this knowledge, I can tell you that there is no single way to design the Customer Experience, but I can give you a series of steps as a guide that can help you in the design process:
- First, we must position ourselves from the Buyer Persona's point of view to draw and understand their Customer Journey.
- Second, we must identify the moments of truth, i.e., those points of direct or indirect contact where the customer interacts with the company throughout its Customer Journey. We must also characterize them to analyze how we can control them.
- Third, we must now look at our company's point of view and discover whether we have the technology, the means of communication, distribution, the channels, the processes, and the resources necessary to meet the Customer Journeys of our Buyer Personas.
- Fourth, define the critical elements of each of these points of view to prioritize them over the rest since a simultaneous total change of the processes may affect the project's cost-benefit.
- Fifth, address the gaps identified in step three, gradually improving the processes to meet the customer's needs, eliminating their frustrations, and exceeding the expectations we mapped in step one.
- Sixth, start over. Consumers, technology, and competition evolve as time goes by. Consequently, the Customer Experience is also dynamic, and for this reason, it must be constantly reviewed and adapted to changes.
This blog contains very general information about what Customer Experience is, how to map it, understand it and improve it. However, do not forget to consider the elements that compose it so that you can view how your processes can generate positive responses from your customers during the design. Also, remember that there are social, physical, and digital environments where experiences occur and that we must prioritize those that are the preference of consumers. For this reason, it is still important to incorporate customers in the design process and conduct surveys, interviews, Focus Groups, Mystery Shoppers, and other activities that help you validate the hypotheses you are raising at each stage.