How to Take a “5-D” Approach to Optimizing CX

Customer review satisfaction feedback survey concept, User give rating to service experience on online application, Customer can evaluate quality of service leading to reputation ranking of business.

Four Methodologies to Dig Deeper and Learn More About the Customer Experience

By Emily Bielak

In a previous article, we examined why it’s important to take what we call a “5-D” approach to optimizing the customer experience a company wishes to engineer and deliver to its existing and prospective customers:

  1. Discover Uncover critical CX pain points and challenges through in-depth discovery work with internal stakeholders. 
  2. Diagnose – Monitor, measure and document the current state of customer experience before you do anything to change it.
  3. Design – Develop CX concepts and messaging to test various proposed solutions to see how they will be received by the target customer.
  4. Deploy – Implement the appropriate changes to the experience and messaging, based on feedback received during the design and testing phase.
  5. Drive – Drive action and monitor/track outcomes and changes, positive or otherwise, and analyze the data to determine what to continue, what to tweak, and where to potentially change course.

Now let’s look at four methodologies we use to not only understand the existing customer experience, but to optimize that experience for how an audience wishes to experience an interaction with a brand. Each of the below methodologies has different uses based on the CX needs and challenges of the brand and can often be used together to solve for several challenges at once.

Voice of Customer

Voice of the customer (VoC) research is the process of discovering the needs and wants of customers through quantitative and qualitative research. It is used to capture the authentic “voice” of respondents to better measure and understand customer satisfaction and loyalty. Importantly, a significant portion of such studies should be qualitative in nature, so that what is being captured is research participants’ opinions, wants, needs and perceptions as expressed in their own words, whether through open-ended survey questions or, even better, personal conversations and interviews. We recommend combining qualitative research (understanding deeper context) with quantitative research (put numbers and metrics to the findings).

The other critical component sometimes overlooked is the study of audiences outside of the existing customer set. Gathering and analyzing opinions, perceptions and preferences of potential customers provides important insights that a brand may otherwise not consider, perhaps missing opportunities to gain market share and conquest competitors’ customers. This may include expanding the respondent pool or engaging in what’s known as “social listening” — studying conversations happening in online forums, social media and other digital communities, where people freely express preferences and perceptions openly and without the filter of a survey construct.

An Unmet Needs Analysis pinpoints which aspects of an experience customers have relatively high importance but low satisfaction, highlighting where the brand should focus in improving the customer experience.

Martec emphasizes the importance of integrating our Emotion Intelligence methodology into VoC research, so that the authentic and rich voice of (existing and potential) customers is understood through the prism of the emotions being experienced and how those emotions influence the perception of the brand interaction — whether pleasant or unpleasant, to varying degrees of intensity, and how active or passive that emotion may be at various points along the customer journey.

Segmentation and Persona Development

Many companies are engaging in the practice of developing “buyer personas,” but as is the case with VoC research, we recommend taking a more nuanced and detailed approach — one that includes audience segmentation as a first step. While many marketers will develop various customer profiles based on needs, we recommend a more holistic approach to customer segmentation and persona development that also considers inputs that influence purchases, emotions, and brand loyalty beyond those tacitly stated by the customer. 

A needs-based approach studies the expressed customer needs in the process of making a purchase: what problem is being solved, what aspiration is being met, price preferences, convenience or ease-of-use, etc. A more holistic approach will develop personas based on user behaviors and tendencies. This expanded data set might call into question website user statistics to study frequency of visit during purchases, length of stay per visit, cart abandonment contributing factors, how much money a user is willing to spend, and so on.

Again, we find it critical to move beyond demographics and behavior analytics to work to understand the emotions being experienced by each persona segment and at each brand interaction along the complete customer journey. This mapping will often reveal nuances — or even obvious differences — from persona to persona, in the intensity and positivity of various emotions experienced along points during the customer engagement.

Customer Journey Mapping

One pillar of Martec’s CX research practice is customer journey mapping. Using a complement of qualitative and quantitative techniques, Martec isolates individual customer segments and creates a detailed map of their journey with a brand, product or service. By focusing on each layer of the journey — each stage, step, emotion and touchpoint — and folding in the critical KPIs and business challenges and considerations, a holistic view is developed to help brands understand exactly where and how to touch their customers.

As demonstrated here, Martec applies our proprietary Martec Emotion Score to quantitatively and visually demonstrate the “sentiment journey” — emotion mapping along the customer journey. This customer journey map shows the stages, steps, emotions, considerations and touchpoints that a customer undergoes during their experience with this client.

Because emotions are inextricably linked with experiences and human customer behaviors, Martec advocates for the application of Emotion Intelligence (as illustrated above) to each and every stage along the customer journey, and for each relevant buyer persona segment. By mapping these stages to emotions, you can quantify the qualifiable inputs numerically, then compare each segment’s emotions against the mean of those participating in the study to identify significant gaps, trends and addressable concerns or opportunities. 

Such analysis provides a brand with data-driven insights on how to align messaging and product or service delivery to maximize satisfaction in accordance with the customers’ own expressed emotions, be they pleasant or unpleasant. This is where Peak-End Theory and the concept of creating “memorable moments” for the customer comes into play, as defined in our previous article.

The goal should be to create intelligence that is much more than a mere map, which simply demarcates events and behaviors along a timeline. Closely examine how emotions change with each interaction (not only the purchase-related milestones), and study how emotions and perceptions might deviate from the product’s or service’s intended experience at each touchpoint, so that you can re-engineer and iterate wherever shortcomings reveal themselves. Emotions at the peak and end, as well as those memorable moments that customers take with them even after a purchase, could very well represent the difference between a one-time customer and creating an enduring relationship with that purchaser, who could become a repeat/lifelong customer and one that serves as brand advocate and referral source on the brand’s behalf going forward.

Martec recently had the opportunity to present this case study at the Quirk’s New York City event.

Additionally, Martec was able to look at the emotion score by journey stage by customer segment.  This helped our client to understand the best ways to message and communicate with specific members, by arming them with the knowledge of their behaviors, preferences, attitudes, and desires.

If you would like to learn more about the concept of EI, visit our archive of educational articles on Emotion Intelligence, or download our free Emotion Intelligence ebook here.

Testing (Concept, Messaging and UX)

Brands should consider market research also as a means to test concepts with smaller groups of people (and at less risk or exposure to the overall company and reputation) before rolling them out to the public at large. Research can be used to “beta test” product or service iterations and innovations to determine how customers (or customer segments) will respond to them once fully implemented. This provides the opportunity to optimize the customer experience precisely and completely…and to the greatest possible extent at the least possible risk. 

Real-world experiences can be monitored, analyzed and evaluated, using all of the methodologies we’ve covered above, so that the company making changes to its product, or its messaging, or anything related to the User Experience can do so with confidence and conviction.

Market testing is of particular use and importance to those brands that might have multiple layers of customer cohorts. For example, franchisors have two primary audiences, each with its own motivators and preferences: franchisees as one and end-customers as the other. If a change to the customer experience is being considered by the franchisor, it may wish to test this concept first with the franchisee audience, who is closer to the end-customer than the franchisor itself and may have relevant intelligence on customer perceptions that would impact whatever change is being considered. A similar opportunity exists for wholesalers and product manufacturers, which serve a distribution or retail channel as one customer cohort, and the end-buyer as another.

Testing not only insulates the brand from risk and error, it often saves considerable time and financial resources by allowing the company to roll out new ideas and test them before investing fully in a significant change of course that might prove costly and imprecise.

What, Why, So What, and Now What

In our view, effective Customer Experience research goes far beyond merely studying what is being stated by customers (and prospects). It is the hard work of learning the why behind the whats: drivers, influencers, emotions, impact, opinions, perceptions, etc. And beyond even the whats, Martec always wants to deliver the “So what?” and the “Now what?”. Once the Customer Experience is clearly understood, in terms of what it is (as perceived by the customer) and what it should be, a brand can work with confidence to optimize future customer engagements. 

So what tells the company why, and Now what paints a data-driven picture of what the future will hold, once the Customer Experience is engineered for maximum customer satisfaction, engagement, retention and loyalty.

Emily Bielak serves as Director for Martec, with specific emphasis on customer experience research and initiatives. To get in touch, use the Contact Us form below.

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