The importance of customer experience strategy cannot be overlooked if you hope for your company and your service or product to succeed. Customers will frequently judge your company by its customer experience and customer service above and beyond the quality of your product. What is entailed by customer experience is a series of important factors – how marketing and outreach was conducted, accessibility and value of the product or service to the customer, and customer service. Issues and questions will always come into being, no matter how much research, development and testing is done with your service or product before launch. Since customer experience strategy is essential to the success of a product or service, we are going to look at five steps to developing a truly killer strategy. Hopefully, this strategy will minimize issues that customers will have, increase marketability and value of the product/service, and will create a better experience for the customer. Step #1 – Product or Service Identity and Demographics When an idea for a service or product is incepted, it is a sensitive time to establish an identity for the product or service, and in doing so, identify your main demographics ahead of time. Who are the people who will use your service or product? What is their mindset and what interests do these demographics share beyond whatever data has led you to them as a target for your services? Tailor your product’s identity and purpose for these groups, so that they will feel like it is something they can use. Before you worry about marketing the product to them, or about PR, focus on making the product or service an obvious commodity they know was designed with them in mind. Make this, along with its functionality, part of the core of the product or service as a whole. In identifying your demographics, begin a proactive tactic to get inside the minds of the people you wish to serve, and understand what they may expect out of your service or product, as well as what questions and complaints they may have. At this point, you cannot begin to predict faults, but you can at least predict the complaints they will have that cannot be rectified. Look over these problems, and identify ways to explain these issues to customers, and find ways to offer them consolation that will satisfy them while retaining revenue and their loyalty to your business in the future. This along with the next step, will help greatly with CRM, which we will also discuss shortly. #2 – Proactive Contingencies During R&D and Testing Any product or service will require a long phase of research and development, as well as serious testing before it is even announced to customers, let alone launched. During this time, identify problems that the product or service may have that cannot be proactively prevented altogether, and log these as they arise. Log all problems you believe you can remedy in advance as well. Once this phase is over, stop before beginning announcing the product or marketing it. Gather your CRM professionals together and look over all problems, remedied or possibly random, and work out contingencies for all of these problems. Find ways to console the customers, while retaining profitability of the product. Some help from the marketing department will be wise here as well. This is a proactive step in your customer experience strategy, and one that will allow CRM professionals to handle issues much faster when customers contact your company with questions, complaints or problems that need to be fixed. This speedy CRM with answers instantly available will endear customers to your company, and they will have greater respect than they did before the product or service had issues, 9 out of 10 times. #3 – Unobtrusive Advertising and Marketing When the time comes to launch a product or service, this is where you need to listen to your marketing department, but only with these things in mind. First, be sure that the product or service’s identity and value speak largely for themselves after minor exposition. If you followed step one properly, this should be the case. However, be sure that the context of your advertising and marketing presence is such that it speaks to the demographics you are mainly targeting. Again, if you followed the first step, you should know your demographics like the back of your hand by this point, and in doing so, this should be simple to accomplish. Avoid being “in your face” with the advertising, only making a basic standard presence in any media outlet. Do not purchase voluminous amounts of air time or ad space for your product, as this will cause customers to become annoyed with the product, and even if they use it, their experience, from their point of view, will be tainted by this as a whole. If not launching a new product or service, it may be best to look over your marketing anyhow and see if it is the flaw in your customer experience strategy as it stands. #4 – Outstanding CRM CRM, or customer relationship management, is probably the most important phase of this customer experience strategy. This is the point at which you begin if you’re not launching a product or service anew, unless your advertising needs reworking to fit the previous step. CRM is all about listening to customers, and sympathizing with them. It’s about making the process of contacting you about problems or questions convenient and hassle free, which is something few companies seem to grasp today. The use of long phone trees with annoying nested menus and long hold times, as well as slow help desks which are hard to sign into and use are not good CRM, and therefore, bad for customer experience as a whole. Steps one and two will help with making CRM speedy and effective, but there are more ways to improve it. Abandoning these help desks and phone trees in favor of such things as old fashioned human phone operators is a major step in this direction, but modern technology has given us something new. Social media, primarily passive forms like Facebook, and direct communications like Twitter are a way to alleviate some CRM bottlenecking, by dealing with the less sensitive cases in this manner. Questions from the general public about a product, as well as opinions they wish to voice can all be handled over this, relegating the phones or, if you must, help desks to serious, personal inquiries and issues customers may have, which are too private for the social mediums to support. This combination of the old-fashioned and the futuristic is a great way to improve your CRM, and therefore your customer experience as a whole. #5 – Revisions, Updates and Derivatives Many products or services are updated and revised on a regular basis. This can be consumables such as foods and beverages, but even more so with software, gaming and other digital goods. This is a necessity to keep the product or service either technologically up to date, or up with the times, as well as an opportunity to improve upon it with new ideas and features. Customers appreciate this, but they like it in moderation. Work out a good frequency to release updates of packaging and identity, formulae or software patches. More so yet, with software or games, know when releasing a completely new version is appropriate, as this is often an investment for users to commit to such upgrades. If it happens too frequently, users will be disenchanted and stop purchasing these updates. In the case of foods and other branded materials, changing the packaging or identity too often can cause them to question if it’s as good as it used to be, which is a psychosomatic but very serious issue. Lastly, when releasing alternative styles, flavors or versions of your product or service, know to limit the quantities of these. A prime example of oversaturation of “spin-off” products is the Mountain Dew line from PepsiCo which has anywhere from two to five flavors beyond original at any given time, which cycle often. This will result in customers trying the alternative service or product once, being fed up with the flux, and returning to the original, or seeking a competitor with less of an identity crisis. If you follow these steps when launching a product, or revise your marketing with step 3, and follow steps 4 and 5, you are guaranteed to create a successful customer experience strategy – providing your product or service is good enough to garnet any interest of course.