With everyone expecting iPhone levels of smoothness to every business interaction, customer experience strategy has become a focus point. Below we'll stick to a simple definition of custom experience (CX) and then show you 8 examples of how companies implemented CX strategies.
Essential resource: A Simple CX Win? Give your Customer Service Team Sight.
Customer experience trends: AI and the Rise of Super Agents
8 CX strategy examples
- Mckinsey's work with a US Airport
- Kone elevators found the customer journey to be critical
- Gusto got an NPS of 75 by not caring about NPS
- Avast fixed the broken things first
- Dell were once known as Dell Hell
- Southwest focus on employees as no.1
- Nordstrom focus on employee freedom to act
- Upscope made super agents to provide a super cx
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The customer journey is not the average of the individual customer touch points.
If a company's onboarding is 10 steps all being given 90% marks, they probably feel good but their customers didn't want to go through 10 onboarding steps. Read more on Mckinsey's CX discoveries.
What are the common elements of a CX strategy?
You'll see a lot of CX definitions out there so we'll stick to the common elements taken from Forrester research.
- A CX vision.
- A customer description.
- Gap analysis.
- A road map.
- An accountability outline.
You'll see some of these in the examples below but overall a CX strategy needs a company wide vision, a road map of how to get there and execution with support from the ground up to the very top.
CX and positioning combine to be a superpower
Some new fast growing companies are using the latest developments in product positioning and combining it with unique onboarding experiences to create a new standard of CX.
Superhuman.com is a perfect example.
They're now onboarding every single individual customer one by one, human to human, for 30 minutes each and have a backlog of 180,000 customers to onboard.
It's happening and those people being onboarded become raving fans.
Why is this working?
Superhuman have positioned themselves as the "Fastest email experience ever".
It's for heavy duty email users which is a far larger niche than I imagined.
How does Superhuman's CX and positioning successfully fit together?
- They say they are the fastest email experience ever.
- They prove it by engineering from the ground up for speed.
- During onboarding they teach every user how to use shortcuts for speed.
- Every other feature they build then reinforces that core need for speed.
They've got raving fans and 180,000 heavy email users on their waiting list and are a perfect example of how their positioning, messaging and onboarding line up to promise and deliver on a great experience.
Positioning is now more of a science thanks to recent developments and understanding this new science will change how companies are built.
Read more on Superhuman's market positioning along with 9 other companies.
A US Airport had ground up and top down problems
They had a 15% increase in sales following execution of a customer experience vision but first they had to understand the problem they had.
What management thought mattered to customers, did not.
Queuing was not as big a problem as how staff behaviour was perceived and the staff themselves had problems with management's behaviour.
They used the compass model to get perspective on the situation
They used Disney's Compass model to understand customer perspectives by interpreting their needs, emotions, stereotypes and wants.
Need (North): I need to transfer to an aircraft to begin an air-travel journey
Emotions (East): I feel rushed and annoyed that this is so hard to deal with. I’m anxious about getting to the gate and missing my flight. I really need this trip to be behind me.
Stereotypes (South): Curb side will be a hassle. TSA lines will be long and hard to predict. There will be no time to eat. And the airline may lose my bag, so best to carry it onboard.
Want (West): I want a really positive end to my business trip that leaves me feeling good, relaxed, and in a positive mind-set to go home.
It needed ground up work and they found problems on the ground
- Management were told by empoyees “I will care about what you say when I believe you care about me,”.
- Employees had no backstage area to step away from customers during breaks.
- Lack of training outside of their own specific tasks.
- Resented leaders who never seemed to care about feedback or input.
- Staff walking through the airport avoided customers because they didn't know how to help them if asked.
The customer experience vision
By including everyone, they came to the following shared aspiration:
"To delight and value each guest with the finest airport experience in the world."
They broke this down to: Safety, comfort, ease, speed.
What needed to change?
Employees needed to know that management are serious about the change.
Frontline leaders needed to be involved in the change.
Everyone needed to see progress in the metrics and feel a part of it.
They organised around the four themes of safety, comfort, ease and speed.
Mixed teams worked to develop new ideas.
What did they do and what was the result?
New apps for navigation, new forms of entertainment, layout changes, curb side valet, bag check at parking garages. They made sure to pick up trash, make eye contact and smile, proactively offer to help. They had regular weekly gatherings to reinforce and advance it. The CEO and staff were on the front lines interacting with employees.
"Average retail spending per passenger at the airport is more than 15 percent higher than the pre-transformation baseline"
Read more on Mckinsey's study of the Airport
KONE found the customer journey to be critical
This is quite an enjoyable read as building elevators is an industry most of us know little about. It's reassuring to see they have the same problems we all do.
Even KONE elevators have found customers to be more demanding at every level wanting real time information and B2C type customer service.
They began by mapping the customer journey.
How did they understand the customer journey?
- They focused on one specific business unit in France.
- They picked a specific district.
- They picked a specific set of customers.
- They spoke to technicians and salespeople.
- They spoke to housing and building managers.
- They used the feedback to redesign the process around 9 moments of truth.
What they discovered and worked on
- Some key participants, like housing-owners, were being completely ignored.
- The first visit of the technicians with the customer was a critical buy-in moment and part of the onboarding process.
- They saw that responsiveness was essential as customers wanted to see what's happening in real time.
- They learned that building initiatives is best done in the field and not in HQ.
As a result, they made KONE Care Online / KONE Mobile available globally so customers know what is happening at all times.
The KONE CX program was expanded to the entire company not just one section, they expanded it to R&D, sales, marketing and finance. They're all participants now.
Read more about KONE's journey
Gusto's incredible NPS of 75 by not caring about NPS
Gusto is a payroll and benefits service that has a nearly impossible NPS score of 75. Consider that 30 is thought to be good and 70 is world class.
The weird thing?
They don't really believe in NPS and they're willing to be bad for some customers.
Gusto believe in asking yourselves the following questions.
What is your customer experience strategy?
Gusto do not think NPS is a good way to manage your business as they believe you can work hard, measure NPS or CSAT scores but still fail without that CX strategy.
Gusto leadership point out that companies have go-to-market strategies but go blank when asked about CX strategies.
If your CX strategy is based on having better customer service (rather than technology led with network effects) then you have to be clear on that and have a framework for implementing it.
Below is Gusto's framework for implementing a CX strategy of listening, hiring and engineering.
How do you execute it? Listen, hire, engineer.
Gusto publishes a monthly voice pack of the customer including qualitative and quantitative metrics, published to the whole company.
At customer experience meetings "ask “Who in the room has talked to a customer in the last week?” and if there’s nobody who has, cancel the meeting. Get on the phone. Sell something or go service someone, but we shouldn’t be having a meeting."
For Gusto, this is intellect, empathy, energy (because there is no manual for this) and also diversity because they serve the world.
Engineer for solutions.
"After you’ve listened to your customers and your teams that can provide great feedback, engineer solutions.
We have a mantra. If get an issue 10 times, we don’t get it the 11th because the product has been fixed."
Who are you willing to be bad for?
As an example, Southwest is 'Low cost excellence' - designed for the budget traveler. When the random luxury traveller turns up and gives them a bad score, they don't freak out. They celebrate it by saying their strategy is working.
This is the classic case of focusing on good-fit customers and not trying to please everyone and it seems Gusto also live by it, which is why they score better.
That's why having management onboard with CX from the very top is essential, otherwise ground level teams end up reacting to every bit of bad feedback because of potential reprisals from disconnected management.
Read more and see the full video of Gusto achieving an NPS Score of 75
A Simple CX Win? Give your Support Team Sight
Your team only sees or hears words. Like radio before TV came.
Give them sight by letting them see what the customer sees, instantly.
Learn more about how adding vision changes everything
Or go direct to Upscope co-browsing and see it in action
"The fact that it is a no download software for the customer is great and very frictionless. I recommend this product to anyone who is on a sales, support, or onboarding SaaS team" Cainen Gererty, Square
Avast fixed the broken things first
This is a good study of technology driven companies learning customer experience thinking.
The problem they had
Avast, a cyber security company, acquired HMA (A VPN solution) which had performance issues.
Typical to their industry, they were focused on technology first and ran into the same problem their competitors had:
"All companies should understand their customers are more demanding, impatient, informed and empowered than ever before"
The question that defined the strategy
To begin solving the problem, they were asked the question:
"‘What is the right strategic customer experience for your customers, your ambitions, and to differentiate the brand versus your competitors’.
They then compared the difference between the now and future state they wanted and listed and prioritised activities to fill the gap they saw.
"We then compared the two states and identified the delta, allowing the complete set of activities required to redress the difference. Next, we ensured the activities were prioritised to provide rapid customer and company benefit."
Changes were made in three phases
- Fix obvious broken things.
- Easy-to-do innovations.
- Hard innovations such as personalisation.
Read more on the HMA case study
Dell were once known for 'Dell Hell'
Dell is a huge company that went public, ran into problems, had its shares bought back and made private again and now might go public again.
This was probably the most difficult company, in terms of researching their customer experience strategy. There were many disjointed parts to pull together and I'm still not sure I understand what it is. Maybe that says something, maybe it doesn't.
They've had customer problems in the past
Dell have had their problems, for example they were part of the 'dell hell' storm which spread like fire.
A focus on the customer may also not have been in their DNA from the top down as their own executives were saying that senior management rarely met customers outside of a sales or marketing environment.
This is how they're now learning more
"So we partner with people who are trying to purchase our products, whether it's a large commercial customer, small business, or consumer, and we study their experiences and interactions with Dell across the customer journey. Not just what it's like to use a product or set it up, but literally what is it like if they have to call our tech support."
They looked for trends in both quantitative and qualitative data to understand where the problems were.
They get input from the following sources:
Social media. Twice a year NPS scores.
Commercial clients give feedback through sales and partners.
They recruit people who are target users.
Customer advisory councils.
How are they changing their customer experience?
They have appointed CX engineers and other CX related roles.
They discovered that lots of metrics and customer satisfaction scores for individual touch points still does not mean everything is right. They found they needed an overall qualitative understanding of the journey.
That involves a three-part process:
- Using data analytics to study customers and how to make them successful
- Innovating customer expansion modality (I do not know what this means)
- Acting as a “not-so-secret-shopper” where the engineer studies the complete customer experience in order to understand it.
An interesting side note is that, certain at one point, their bonuses were linked to the NPS scores.
Also, they have a CX day where celebrate and raise awareness of professionals providing customer service.
Original page on study is not there but here is a podcast with Dell's lead on CX.
Southwest's focus is on employees as number one
There are lot of stories about how Southwest airline employees went over and above to help customers and that's why they're known for providing a great customer experience.
How do they do it?
This tells you everything. Herb Kelleher told his employees that they're in the customer service business and it's incidental that they fly planes.
To achieve great customer service though, they focused on the employees first.
“If the employees come first, then they’re happy. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders.”
Hiring and employee satisfaction is number one
Their belief is that you can’t train employees to care so hire based on overall attitude - candidates who will exude warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit BUT this has to be earned by the company by taking care of them.
Hire for heart. Hiring by watching the other interviewees as the first tells their most embarrassing story. They looked for:
- a warrior spirit
- a servant’s heart
- a fun-loving attitude
They have weekly shoutouts to employees who demonstrate CX best practice.
There are internal videos highlighting best examples of empathetic engagement.
Kelleher acknowledged births, marriages and deaths by notes and cards.
Staff were encouraged to pitch in and help out, especially at check-in, giving Southwest turnaround times less than half the industry average.”
Senior management set an example
Herb Kelleher was known to arrive at 3am to help clean out planes.
He often assisted with baggage unloading.
Storytelling to aid empathy
"We’re focused on telling customer-centric stories. In addition to talking about our unique differentiators, we want to show customers why we do business the way we do,”
Southwest score well compared to industry average
Six Pillar scores vs. industry average
- Personalisation: +12%
- Time and Effort: +9%
- Expectations: +12%
- Integrity: +12%
- Resolution: +12%
- Empathy: 11%
Read more on Southwest's customer experience strategy.
The very core of Nordstrom's customer strategy is around employees and specifically giving employees freedom to treat customers the way they like to be treated.
How are they structured
The organisational structure is an inverted pyramid so that sales and support people are at the top and everyone is there to help them.
Senior execs learn about employees and customers ground up by working on the shop floor when they start. They hire internally.
They don't brag about their customer service achievements. The attitude is "There's always more to learn".
"Since each employee has wide discretion to take the initiative, talking to an employee is just like working with the owner of a small business. They can take the initiative and act without impediments to create added value for the customer." The Nordstrom Way
Here's how far their staff go
"My personal Nordstrom shopper (Joanne Hassis at the King of Prussia, PA store, if you’re curious) makes a point of refunding the difference between full price and the sale price for anything I loyally bought from her at full price in the weeks leading up to the sale." Micah Solomon
They're known for accepting obviously damaged goods from customers and still refunding them.
New Nordstrom employees prioritise one rule above all others: “Use good judgment in all situations.
Some of the ways they implement their standards in both physical and online environments.
Any sales person can get products for a customer from across the department.
Staff can build personal relationships with customers as they see fit, which is a bit like running their own company within a company.
They send marketing from an email address that can actually be replied to.
Employees respond authentically to customers on chat rather than following scripts.
They've created detailed profiles for each customer including their style preferences. There are apps so busy folks can contact stylists on the go.
Loyal customers who happen to be in-store are geolocated and given a hyper-personalised experience.
Floor staff have mobiles and iPads to track inventory across the chain and give accurate and up to date answers to queries.
Shoppers can buy items they see on Pinterest and Instagram with just a couple of taps on their phones.
8. Upscope made super agents for super CX
Director: "What if we train them and they leave?"
CEO: "What if we don't and they stay?"
At Upscope we've added something to that classic conversation.
"What if training them to a high level costs just $30? and what if super agents are a better CX than any other change we could make?"
Upscope co-browsing is for seeing what your customer sees, without downloads. Many support requests can involve technical questions during initial set up.
We gave team members time to educate themselves and they're able to answer 50% or more of technical questions giving our tech team time to focus on the more complicated requests.
Super agents want to learn and are happier in their jobs
Here are some common sensible assumptions about training:
- Having well trained employees has the greatest CX impact.
- Employees who are learning and developing are happier.
- Training is expensive and takes time.
Point 3 is partly incorrect.
Both time taken and cost of training are much lower now than before.
The lesson we learned at Upscope is that some of the best educational material ever made is now online, available and cheap.
Educational courses are available for IT, marketing, personal development and 100s of other subjects.
Most of that time is spent studying on their own.
Non-tech team members are now answering 50% or more of incoming technical queries in a way which delights the customer because they don't get passed around or have to wait.
Why is it now possible to train people to a high level for $30?
In school we had 100 teachers.
5 of them were great.
1 was exceptional.
Online there are 100,000s of teachers who have produced courses and a few among them are world class.
Through natural selection, some of those ranked at the top, happen to be the some the best online learning courses on the planet.
Udemy offers courses often heavily discounted and we picked up some for $30 per person. Codeacademy does many courses for free. We told team members to set aside learning time each week and to complete the course.
Everything improved after they did the course
Upscope co-browsing is complicated tech to support as it's a bit like adding customer TV to your support system.
Upscope is interactive screen sharing without any downloads needed.
This means that some of the queries we get are technical.
Customers ask questions on:
- How to use CSS elements to hide parts of the screen for security.
Anyone doing support who has completed the courses can now answer anywhere from 50% to 80% of those questions without needing another more technical team mate to help.
Fast accurate responses and happier teams
What difference does that make to customer experience AND for employee satisfaction?
- Even very technical questions are quickly answered by front line support
- The customer is delighted that their complicated query was answered first time
- Fewer low and mid level queries are passed to the tech team, so they can focus on solving the harder problems faster
- Team members are more confident, happy and enthusiastic because they're developing their skills and can see progress
- First contact resolution improves
- Average handle time improves
- NPS and CSAT scores go up
What to consider when implementing something similar
- The biggest initial problem in learning technical skills was knowing where to start and what to ignore. We helped pick the right course.
- We gave an overview of how the web works but after that, off they went.
- Naturally, as a result of their day to day work doing support, they gained confidence in answering queries.
- Occasionally we'd run a special class and everyone enjoyed it because the tech guys love teaching and the other team members now love learning. (well, unless the tech guys go too hardcore but that works itself out).
People want security in a time of automation
People want to feel secure, feel valued, feel like they have developed a skill set.
They are aware that computers are automating many jobs into oblivion. AI and bots are pushing agents to handle some of the most complex queries.
However, computers are currently bad at automating some simple physical tasks and they are also bad at automatically understanding and replying to complex cross functional requests.
We realised we need to raise expectations on what all team members are capable of by themselves.
We want to give them time to learn.
Expect them to be better.
No matter who it is.
The opportunity that sites like Udemy provides is unprecedented.