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CEx Mashup: Merging Customer Experience and Product Innovation

We are constantly negotiating ongoing relationships with all products and services that inhabit our lives. Whether or not they perform as expected, it’s up to us to choose how much time, money, and energy we’ll put forth to maintain this seemingly symbiotic relationship. As the director of user experience at The Garrigan Lyman Group, I frequently work with clients to help them overcome user experience challenges. But product innovation alone cannot be solely responsible for customer happiness. True loyalty comes from innovating the overall customer experience and harmonizing it with your product innovation. This is the newest competitive space companies are trying to win.

Customer experience: As important as product innovation

Gartner research indicates that 2015 will be the first year that companies spend more on improving customer experience than they will on product innovation. For marketers and innovation offices, I see how this can be challenging. Your role is evolving into that of a chief marketing technologist. In one of our previous posts, Now hiring: creative technologist, travel required (in a larger universe), we note this shift in responsibility and identify the critical need for understanding a single customer’s behavior across all touch points.

Despite this need, there is likely no dedicated line item in your budget for improving the overall customer experience. This endeavor will be shared across your organization and spread across a variety of initiatives. In your new role, you’ll need to act as the broker between sales, technology, and the customer support functions within your organization.

At GLG, we work with clients such as Rick Steves’ Europe and T-Mobile to improve their overall customer experience and align initiatives within their overall organization. What has made our client partnership successful boils down to a few essential practices and techniques.

Start by mapping the journey.

As you begin to look at your customer experience, you’ll want to know how and where all of your customer touch points are tied together. One of the best ways to learn this is with customer journey mapping working sessions. In these sessions, you invite your cross-functional team to plot out all customer interactions and identify points where service isn’t so seamless. In the later sessions, you can brainstorm strategies for addressing the breakdown and identify the underlying technologies needed to build your next-generation customer experience. (For additional thinking about the customer journey, take a look at our earlier post: Strong customer relationships go deeper than loyalty cards.)

Persona and scenario development: The who and the how

To ensure your cross-discipline team members avoid their own customer bias, I recommend developing a set of personas based on existing customer research. You can use both qualitative and quantitative data to create these persona types. Set the personas in motion along their journey by introducing scenarios. Each scenario will uncover your organization’s communication and interaction needs at particular points in the overall customer journey. (For additional information about the evolving needs of customers, check out Empowered customers demand resourceful marketing executives.)

Agree on the measuring stick.

For all touch points along the customer journey, assign what values you’ll measure to track the effectiveness of your tactics. You can find additional reading about how to understand metrics in our earlier blog posts, Balancing hard and soft ROI is more essential than ever and Demystify your marketing data with a five-second dashboard.

Cultural observation: Stretching out beyond your normal comfort zone

Journey mapping, personas, scenarios, and metrics are all techniques for focusing on the services you deliver today. However, it can be difficult to break focus away from your known universe and understand what your organization needs to provide in the future. To articulate an experience that has never been imagined before, spend time observing larger cultural trends. Learn how your business has evolved over time, and research what overarching themes garner media attention in your category. The true innovators are the ones who are able to forecast future trends and predict larger unmet needs.

These tools will help your brand harness your cross-functional team’s collective knowledge to build a holistic customer journey. Because when you invest in improving customer interactions, great service, quality, and lasting relationships are sure to follow.