Fundamentals of Programmatic CX
When we talk about CX processes we're talking about a lot of different actions:
- Conducting surveys
- Analyzing data
- Developing playbooks
- Running those playbooks
- And more
But it doesn't help to start with the tactical if you don't have a holistic strategy in place. We’ve broken it all a simple, three-step strategy that can serve as a foundation for your CX tactics.
- Feedback: Capture insightful feedback by giving your customers frequent opportunities to submit feedback.
- Workflows: Follow up promptly so customers know that they are heard. Quicker response to customer feedback results in a greater impact.
- Insights: Assess progress against goals and measure improvement to keep the program on track.
None of this is possible without technology. At Gainsight, we're not agnostic to that fact, but this Guide won't serve to push our products on you. However, it does assume that you'll need software tools to accomplish even the barest minimum. At various stages of scale, different toolsets will have different advantages and disadvantages. But that is the key word: scale.
In a face-to-face retail environment, one human can just ask every customer how they're doing, how their experience is, whether they'll come back, etc. You could even read it on their face. That's not the world we live in anymore—even in retail
! CX software automate repetitive tasks, from reaching out to thousands of customers to aggregating feedback.
The 3 Processes of CX
While these three processes are necessarily reductive, we've found that boiling CX down to a more concise strategy helps solve the two main challenges of ensuring great customer experiences: consistency and speed.
It's not a challenge to make sure a few customers have a concierge-level experience some of the time. And it's likewise easy to get it right on an infinite timeline. But in the real world, elite CX is great 99% of the time—and it happens simultaneously with every interaction.
And practically speaking, as we're talking about feedback and data, those two qualities are paramount! Consistent surveys (for example) will generate consistent data for benchmarking purposes. Speedy responses will likewise mitigate negative experiences and capitalize on the value potential of positive ones.
Process 1: Feedback
The information you collect in this step will deliver the blueprint for the entirety of your CX operation. So, not to overstate the challenge, but this is the most important step—if you get the wrong feedback, you'll take the wrong action, even if it's the "right" action. Getting the "right" feedback depends on three things: asking the right person
the right question
at the right time
Every person is unique, but every survey can't be. Some effort needs to be made to understand your customer base as cohorts. That means building persona profiles that exemplify the types of customers or users you have that can align meaningfully to survey questions. Building standard personas helps to easily define who is involved with your product and the level of their interaction. This takes the guesswork out of finding the right person to answer your questions. For example, you don't want to ask end users who weren't involved in the buying decision about how easy it was to work with your Sales team to purchase the product. And you don't want to ask procurement people who don't use the product about feature performance.
It makes it so much easier to formulate effective questions once you've built out your persona cohorts. But now what do you ask? A good first principle is that you should never ask a question you aren't ready and willing to take action to solve. Surfacing an issue you don't have intention on fixing will damage your client relationships. That said, there are two main types of feedback this Guide will look at:
Direct feedback: This is feedback received directly from clients, commonly through surveys. This includes NPS scores, lifecycleCustomer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, transactional CSAT scores, community posts, etc.
Indirect feedback: This is feedback generated by the ways clients are engaging with your product. For example, usage data, support data, and other behavioral metrics.
It's not good enough to just have one or the other. Having both indirect and direct feedback gives you a much more comprehensive picture of the customer's experience. They work together to fill in the blanks that would be left if you only relied on one type of feedback. For example, someone could send in direct feedback in the form of a negative NPS score, but not give any other feedback explaining why they chose that answer. Taking a look at their indirect feedback, you notice that they have multiple support tickets that concern a particular aspect of your product. You can make a very good guess that their unhappiness is a result of the trouble they’ve had with that part of your product and start a dialog based on that. And in the aggregate, it's much more than a guess—it's a diagnosis.
Timing is everything. Did you know you can meaningfully—even drastically—skew the results of a survey or questionnaire depending on when you send it? Unscientific pollsters have used this to intentionally pitch data to get the results they want, but that's not what we want. We want accurate and insightful data.
Timing also makes a huge difference when it comes to response rates. Volume of responses will be a big help in making sure your results are meaningful as well. So you want to align your surveys to important milestones in the customer journey
. Not only will you get better response rates and more meaningful data, but you'll also derive helpful and prescriptive steps to solve problems exactly where they arise.
Here are two best practices:
- Send out a survey within a few days of the end of implementation to get the customer's immediate sentiment about the process and learn how comfortable they are now that they're effectively "flying the plane."
- Follow up every support ticket with a one-question survey to close the loop. Ask if they’re satisfied with the support they received so you can find out whether or not you need to reach out and offer additional help.
So, you’ve created personas, decided what feedback you want, and identified ways to ask for it. Before we send you off to the next step, there’s one last thing to keep in mind: the bane of CX professionals (and marketers)—survey fatigue. This can happen when you send too many surveys in a small span of time or you fail to set an accurate expectation for the amount of time your survey will take. Here's another set of best practices:
- Set a reasonable cadence for how many surveys each cohort should be sent over a given period of time. This could be as frequent as four times a year, depending on the trigger and the audience. Some cohorts will expect monthly outreaches, but many will get fatigued before then.
- Keep the surveys short. If it's longer than one question, tell people exactly and accurately how much time and how many questions. It's their time you're taking.
- Give them the value proposition. If you're doing CX right, the survey will result in meaningful action that will make life better for the customer. Tell them how this outreach will be worth it for them.
- Keep the questions relevant, focused, and non-repetitive.
Process 2: Workflows
This sounds intutitive, but you'd be surprised how many companies send out surveys but never take any action on them. These actions don't need to take lengthy review processes, in fact it's better to respond quickly and at a grassroots level.
In CX, you don't want to collect a survey response, discuss it in committee, send it to a consultant, lose it, dredge it up months later, and build a four-year strategy around it. Best practice: act immediately to address the concern and fix the problem. And definitely don't wait for the third process to close the loop! Respond quickly to make the most of the situation, whether it’s positive or negative. An unanswered positive response is just as wasteful as an unanswered negative one. In NPS terms
, we call a positive responder a "promoter," and that's not a jargon word. If someone indicates that they would "recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague," they probably would—but they're not going to without a prompt from you. The longer you wait to thank them and give them an advocacy opportunity, the greater chance they'll slip into becoming passive status or worse, become a detractor.
Use playbooks to scale
Let's say you have a thousand customers. You send out a survey. If you follow our advice, you're trying to respond to hundreds of responses "immediately" which is just impossible to do one by one manually. If you want to scale, you need a set of playbooks. All that means is a standardized set of best practices that your team can use to streamline how they address customer feedback. You can break these playbooks out by level of touch, type of response, and many other vectors. They can even be automated to huge degrees in this day and age.
Any CX or CRM software will be invaluable in building out these playbooks. These days, there are several platforms and any number of stacks designed to scale these types of responses. For your outreach team, your CRM reveals insights about a customer’s health which can then be used as talking points. Instead of having to rely on their own instincts when mediating situations, pre-populated emails give team members confidence and save them time. Keeping support documents organized and easily accessible enables team members to quickly share them with customers in need.
Create a CX-driven culture
In order for feedback to become reality, your entire company, from Sales to Services to Product, needs to view the customer experience as a priority. We've seen more established companies struggle with this transition. It's not enough to hear a fiat from the CEO to somehow become customer-centric. It's going to take a top-down effort in concert with an operational approach as well as individual buy-in from the people who work closest to the customers day in and day out.
In his famous "customer obsession" letter to Amazon shareholders, Jeff Bezos outlined his strategy for this kind of company-wide focus on CX. Read it here
for some insights into bringing customer-centricity to a large corporation.
Process 3: Insights
You've asked for feedback. You've taken action and closed the loop. Now it's time to learn and improve going forward. We think about this insights process across three vectors: business analytics, outreach analytics, and program insights.
includes all the metrics you want to track and benchmark against. It’s for internal use and will give your teams something to report on and be held accountable to. Data in this bucket can include NPS trends and follow-up response time. For example, track your NPS score to see how it trends quarter over quarter.
reflect the performance of your customer outreach attempts. You can take these metrics and use them to optimize your outreaches against industry benchmarks. Examples include the performance of surveys, the number of recipients, the number of emails sent/bounced/clicked, and unsubscribes. Combine direct and indirect feedback to create a holistic health
score across subjective and objective measures. This health score will give you a high-level view of customer health and enable you to easily identify at-risk customers.
An important metric to keep an eye on is the number of people who didn’t respond to your survey. Unless this number is jarringly low, it’s sometimes overlooked. Don’t ignore it. Instead, dig deeper. Maybe you need to change your messaging, or perhaps certain people aren’t interacting with your product at all and you need to find a way to engage them. Outreach analytic data is powerful and tells a story, all you need to do is look at it at different angles to glean a wealth of insights.
are gleaned from both business and outreach analytics. Use these insights to identify strategic priorities to improve your overall strategy. For example, text-based answers can be extremely valuable but hard to analyze at scale. Some software, like Gainsight, have analytics tools
baked in that help to extract tone and intent. Using this technology, identify themes in feedback to get a better overall view of your customer experience. Then, apply these learnings to your strategy and track your results.