Create an end-to-end customer experience

In the current marketplace, one of the most important ways that businesses can differentiate themselves is customer experience. The end-to-end customer experience describes the totality of a customer’s interaction with your company, from onboarding to final purchase and—if you play your cards right—beyond.

Previously, many businesses envisioned the customer experience as a series of touchpoints. Optimizing these isolated interactions, and making sure that customers were happy with each of them, was the core focus of CX strategy.

But thanks to the developing digital landscape, this approach to CX is changing. Increased access to information means that customers now know more about their options than ever before. At the same time, businesses can also develop incredibly detailed pictures of their customers’ behavior and preferences.

And all the different variables for those customer choices have multiplied, growing along with the number of channels that customers and brands can use to interact with each other. For businesses invested in the customer experience, that’s a huge number of touchpoints to track and optimize.

Instead, businesses are increasingly taking a holistic approach to CX. But that doesn’t mean abandoning their interest in individual touchpoints. Instead, end-to-end customer experience approaches those touchpoints as part of a larger, interconnected whole. The different elements of the customer experience can support and enhance each other, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

An end-to-end customer experience strategy asks businesses to change their perspective on CX. If you’re just starting your CX journey, it may not immediately be clear how to do that. Here are a few ways to broaden your view on customer experience.

Visualize the journey—not just touchpoints.

Drawings and markers on a blackboard signifying the end-to-end customer journey.

Traditional customer experience strategy has focused on making each individual customer interaction the smoothest and most enjoyable it can be. That means investigating and monitoring single moments like onboarding, or ecommerce checkout, or a customer-service interaction. 

An end-to-end customer experience view looks at the entire process as a whole. And the first step to getting this high-level view is mapping (or re-mapping) your customer journey.

Creating a customer journey map involves documenting the route that each of your customer segments takes when they interact with your company. That’s true for any goal that they might have: a new purchase; a request for sales information; a customer service call; a service renewal.

Most businesses have assessed these customer pathways to some extent. But, as Qualtrics explains in their Mapping 101 article, if you’re only listing the mechanics of each touchpoint, you’re missing a lot of valuable information. The customer’s intent, emotional experience, and needs throughout the process are critical information to capture.

With the increase in available communication channels, customer journeys have only grown more complex. An end-to-end review can identify points of friction that might not appear when you only examine individual customer events. 

While customers might find each interaction satisfactory, a fully-fledged map could reveal long delays or logistical challenges between steps. For example, customers may be requesting multiple individual service calls, over lengthy periods, to resolve an issue that—with better cross-team communication—could be handled in a single touch. 

Creating or updating your detailed customer journey map gives you the chance to optimize your operations, both for yourself and your customers. It can also help you identify strategic priorities for the future. These might include collaboration tools, or any other infrastructure that improves access to customer information.

Treat customer experience as added value.

As a subset of customer experience strategy, customer service can sometimes get a raw deal. Some businesses approach service calls as an unfortunate necessity, a process that only becomes relevant when something has gone wrong with the product or service.

But data shows that customers view service, along with the customer experience as a whole, quite differently. PwC found that 59% of American consumers would walk away from a brand they loved, if they endured a few bad experiences. 

But on the other hand, the same report found that companies who invest in an excellent end-to-end customer experience can charge a premium of up to 16% for their products and services. And 65% of US consumers say that a positive experience with a brand is more influential than great advertising.

A strong customer experience encourages customers to stick with your brand. And customer loyalty is a financial win as well: it’s less costly to retain happy, loyal customers than it is to acquire new ones, to say nothing of the potential for brand advocacy.

Customer experience is an expansive concept. Measuring it is tricky, and without a flashy ROI to show off, CX initiatives can be tough to champion convincingly. But the message from customers is clear: exceptional customer experience has value, and customers are willing to pay more for it. 

Rethink your customer experience metrics.

It may be difficult to measure your CX performance, but it’s not impossible. Customer experience has tangible drivers within your company and material results with consumers. The trick is to uncover which of those exist for your business, and to create a framework for tracking them.

We covered a variety of metrics related to customer experience in a recent post. Many of the measurements are rooted in customer satisfaction, and in related surveys like Net Promoter Score. A good customer experience should in theory create satisfied customers—it’s a logical connection. But there are a few caveats.

Like any strategic initiative, connecting metrics to your CX efforts requires investigation, planning, and testing. First, you’ll need to identify the customer-satisfaction or customer-experience outcomes that you’re seeking to improve. And that can be a strategic task in and of itself. 

Then, ideally, you should monitor the metrics associated with those outcomes for a set period of time. Check the metrics against your financial and other business goals, and see if they’re as closely related as you expected them to be. 

If so, then you can begin to investigate the business decisions that drive those metrics. Develop theories, and test them with tweaks to see if your chosen metrics respond. Once you’ve established a pattern of correlation, you’ll know which drivers and metrics correspond to your business goals. Then, you can begin to strategize ways to monitor them. 

Tracking your metrics doesn’t have to be a complex undertaking, but you might see a benefit from some infrastructural changes, like customer relationship management software, or more advanced IP phone systems. The value of a high-quality end-to-end customer experience should help you develop your case for investing in it as a strategic goal.

Develop customer relationships beyond sales.

In some ways, “end-to-end” customer experience is a misnomer in today’s marketplace. Customers view brands as an extension of their own identity and values, and choosing to associate with a particular brand is an investment of their social capital. They expect a dialogue with their favorite brands, and this gives brands an opening to develop an ongoing relationship.

To take advantage of that opening, brands need to be more than just the sellers of a high-quality product. They need to be a trusted partner to consumers. And building trust involves demonstrating not just that you understand your customers’ needs, but that you’ve anticipated them.

Technology gives businesses the tools to accomplish this. Surveys, social listening strategies, and in-depth customer research can all provide insights on what your audience is looking for, and how they feel about your current offerings. It’s a chance to show up for your customers with expert advice and proactive support, so they feel comfortable coming back to you whether they’re considering a purchase or not.

On top of that, businesses can know their customers better than ever—and in more granular detail. That data is a stepping stone to greater proactivity. Especially for B2B providers, the ability to offer help before the customer has experienced a problem makes customers feel like you take their needs seriously. 

Approaching the customer experience like long-term relationship building will help your business create a base of loyal customers. And that foundation will sustain the future growth of your company.

Practice the customer experience through the employee experience.

A woman leans back from her laptop and stretches, with a satisfied smile.

Zooming out even further, a focus on the end-to-end customer experience needs to be an organization-wide endeavor. The principles you strive for in your customer experience should be reflected in your parallel internal processes—namely, the employee experience.

Denise Lee Yohn writes in the Harvard Business Review that “it’s time for leaders to double down on the idea that EX is the key driver of CX.” That holds true for a variety of reasons, but it makes intuitive sense that a company’s internal well-being would affect its ability to support its customers.

Happier, more satisfied employees have the resources to provide an outstanding customer experience. And satisfied employees tend to stick around longer, meaning that institutional knowledge and on-the-job training don’t leave the organization with employee churn. That expertise is a benefit to your customers, as well.

Additionally, customer access to information also means access to information about company culture. Consumers are invested in the employee experience, in that they seek out brands that share their values, and prioritize companies that take care of their people. 

The employee experience also mirrors the customer experience in a lot of ways: onboarding; service requests; learning and growth; loyalty and investment. The parallel internal processes offer companies an opportunity to test out strategies and measure the results before taking them public. 

End-to-end customer experience is a key differentiator.

It’s a must in today’s marketplace to provide your customers with an outstanding experience, from the first moment they encounter your brand. Customers place high value on good CX, and will reward your investment in it with long-term loyalty.

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Megan Wells
Megan Wells
Megan is a content writer and strategist who loves to dig into the ways technology is changing consumers' relationships with brands.

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