Article

Customer experience management 101: A beginner’s guide

Create a customer experience management strategy to build connections with your buyers, foster loyalty, and stand out from the crowd.

By David Galic, Contributing Writer

Published March 29, 2019
Last updated March 25, 2022

The customer experience (CX), in broad terms, refers to every interaction (or “touchpoint”) a consumer has with a company and its products or services. Touchpoints might include visiting a website, making a purchase, or reaching out to customer support.

As customer expectations continue to rise, businesses that want to stay at the top of their game need a dedicated customer experience management strategy. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, consumers today have a low tolerance for subpar CX. And they’ll actively seek out alternatives if their expectations aren’t met: 61 percent of customers will leave for a competitor after just one bad experience.

61% of customers will leave for a competitor after just one bad experience.

To build a more successful business, form a plan to provide a seamless, intuitive customer experience that minimizes frustration and delights customers.

What is customer experience management?

Customer experience management (CXM or CEM) is a system of processes companies use to track, organize, analyze, and optimize customer interactions. CXM encompasses the entire customer lifecycle, from the marketing strategies that pique a buyer’s interest to the support offered to retain existing customers.

CXM vs. CRM

CXM is sometimes confused with customer relationship management (CRM), but these acronyms aren’t quite the same thing. CXM is an overarching concept that covers every aspect of the customer journey and prioritizes customer experiences. CRM, on the other hand, focuses on optimizing internal processes and facilitating customer relationships through support interactions.

What is the importance of customer experience management?

The primary goal of CEM is to create positive customer journeys by providing great experiences at each touchpoint. But the real reason businesses want to invest so heavily in CX? It ultimately leads to a better bottom line.

According to Adobe’s Digital Trends Report, companies that invest in CEM are three times as likely to significantly exceed their business goals. They also see 1.6 to 1.9 times greater year-over-year growth in customer retention, customer loyalty, repeat purchases, and customer lifetime value compared to companies that don’t focus on CEM.

This shouldn’t be surprising—research shows that consumers value a positive customer experience:

  • A Qualtrics study found that customers who rate a company’s CX as “good” are 34 percent more likely to make repeat purchases and 37 percent more likely to recommend the company to others.
  • Convince and Convert research shows that 71 percent of Americans who make word-of-mouth recommendations cite a great customer experience as the motivation behind their advocacy.
  • In our Customer Experience Trends Report, over 90 percent of respondents said they’re likely to spend more money with companies that offer streamlined experiences.

Simply put, CEM enables businesses to deliver the standout CX that consumers are looking for, increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Customer experience management also opens lines of communication between companies and consumers. By interacting with your buyers and collecting their feedback, you can gain a deeper understanding of their needs and make improvements to your products or services. And even if customers do end up churning, good CEM helps you determine the reasons why.

What is a customer experience management strategy? (+3 tips for success)

A CEM strategy describes the steps you’re taking to provide positive experiences across every customer touchpoint and how you’re measuring the results of those efforts. The specific details will depend on the channels and tools your company uses to interact with customers. Though no two CEM strategies are the same, businesses can follow a few basic tenants and best practices to form their plans.

  1. Define your primary CEM goals

    While the high-level objective is to consistently provide positive customer experiences, you’ll need more granular goals to thoroughly evaluate your CX.

    Identifying common problems for your customers is often the best place to start. Talk to your customer-facing teams and gather customer feedback via surveys to see where you need to improve.

    Actively learning about customer pain points helps set boundaries and provides a clear direction for the strategy, both in terms of the actions you’ll take and the results you’re going to measure.

  2. Free customer experience guide

    Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

  3. Identify internal stakeholders

    Once you determine your primary goals, decide who will be responsible for implementing and executing the strategy.

    As you choose stakeholders, remember that customer experience management is incredibly cross-functional. The touchpoint you’re looking to improve can just as easily be linked to your marketing and product development teams as it can to your customer support agents.

    Find the right stakeholders, and ask for their feedback on the customer challenges you’re looking to eliminate.

  4. Map out the customer experience

    A customer experience map is essentially a design tool that helps you visualize the entire customer journey. CX maps also highlight customer pain points, making it easier for businesses to spot where difficulties are occurring and come up with ways to remedy them.

    By viewing every interaction a consumer has with your brand, service, or product, your team can gain valuable insights to better understand how customers think, feel, and act during the course of their journey. In this sense, mapping helps your employees build customer empathy, too.

Customer experience management tools to try

To reliably manage your customer experience, you need to have a tool by your side. Use a customer experience management platform that empowers your staff to evolve with modern CX demands, encourages internal collaboration, and provides actionable analytics for fine-tuning the customer experience.

Omnichannel solutions

The terms “multichannel” and “omnichannel” are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be.

A multichannel experience is one in which a business offers multiple channels to customers—such as a website, social media, email, and messaging apps—but the channels aren’t connected to one another. When conversations can’t continue from one channel to the next, it can be nearly impossible to get a comprehensive view of customer interactions, which can severely impede CX management.

An omnichannel platform, on the other hand, creates a consistent communications journey by unifying all possible touchpoints to give support agents crucial context about each customer. This enables agents to interact with customers on the channel of their choice and to move conversations seamlessly between channels.

For example, say a customer opens her laptop to make a purchase on a retailer’s website but discovers the item she wants is out of stock. Because she has to head to a business meeting across town, the customer reaches out to customer service via her mobile phone and files a ticket: Is there a brick-and-mortar store nearby that carries the item? When the customer steps out of her meeting, she receives a text from the support agent about her request. Indeed, a store in the area has the item she’s looking for.

Because the retailer adopted an omnichannel approach to the customer experience, the agent could assist the customer across multiple touchpoints without a hitch.

Omnichannel solutions can play an outsized role in shaping (and implementing) your company’s customer-centric CEM strategy. This can mean the difference between a positive customer experience and one that’s, well, not.

Cross-functional CRM integrations

Behind the scenes, a good customer experience owes a lot to how well a company’s support staff works with other departments, such as product design, marketing, and sales.

So, choose a CRM with integrations that promote cross-functional collaboration. Chances are, your company’s sales team likely uses a CRM while other departments use separate tools: perhaps communication applications such as Slack and software production tools like Jira. When these tools are connected, customer experience management becomes easier.

Say your support team receives feedback about a bug in your product—something that negatively affects the customer experience, such as frequent crashes in a software application. If your software production tool is connected to your CRM, agents can escalate and link tickets to specific issues to give the development team better visibility. Engineers can then use that information to resolve the issue quickly.

These types of CRM integrations also allow agents to view the team’s progress on fixing the bug, which can be communicated to customers and help turn an inconvenience into a positive customer experience.

Reporting and analytics software

If there’s one must-have for CEM, it’s data. Without metrics detailing the customer experience, your company will be left in the dark about how to improve its product or service and how to react to a changing business landscape.

According to Adobe, “the ability to rapidly analyze and act on data defines the ceiling for customer experience.” You need customer analytics tools that can integrate real-time data from every channel and provide reports that allow you to measure customer engagement across every touchpoint. Your CX will suffer if you don’t have insights into what happened, what might happen, and what actions your organization should consider taking in the future.

To put it simply, data is the backbone of your company’s efforts to provide proactive customer experiences.

Customer experience management is no longer optional

Consumers increasingly expect effortless experiences, and companies are beginning to understand that prioritizing CX is a must. According to Zendesk research, 34 percent of businesses anticipate having to invest more in CX technology this year.

When coupled with the right CX tools and processes, a strong CEM strategy enables your company to not only meet customer expectations but surpass them—laying the groundwork for long-term success.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Free customer experience guide

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Read now