Marketers are being beat over the head today with the demand to be “customer first.” In my view, the emphasis should be on becoming “customer experience first”; the customers will naturally come along with that. According to Gartner, 89% of companies expect to compete on customer experience in the coming year, compared with just 25% four years ago. Despite this insurgent need, CX is the area CMOs are making the least amount of progress in.

The way I think about CX can be distilled quite simply: creating a memorable customer experience is a lot like building a three-legged stool. You’ll need each of these legs to make it work: relevance, value and consistency. Try to build your stool with fewer and it will surely collapse. By making those legs your foundation, you’ll construct a great customer experience that will be your brand’s competitive advantage in the years ahead. 

Given my position, I was interested to see the recent data from eMarketer on where marketers are focusing their CX efforts. 33% of client-side marketers surveyed by Econsultancy said they were focusing on making the customer experience personalized and relevant in 2015. Almost as many – 29% — put a priority on making the experience valuable to the user, while consistency ranked third as a concern, with 12% making it a primary area of focus. Worldwide, 22% of those client-side marketers said customer experience was the most exciting opportunity for their business in 2015.

improve cx customer journey

The problem? When it comes to CX, one can’t think about these aspects separately. They are needed in concert  to build an experience that breeds engagement and loyalty.

The rewards for companies that prioritize and focus around CX are improved market share and revenue performance. Marketers and especially CMOs know it’s a need-to-have, and here’s a look at why you need to be thinking about all three legs of the CX “stool”.

CX Building Block #1: Relevance

It’s obvious (or should be) that you don’t want to be talking to your customers about Christmas shopping in April, but true relevance today is far more nuanced and subtle than that. If your customer has never expressed an interest in full-priced items over $150, and consistently favors practical, no-nonsense purchases made only when there’s a sale, you should think twice about wasting her time urging her to consider buying a $250 silk camisole. 

The key to relevance is personalization; you quite literally have to know customers as individuals. This requires developing a full view of the customer based on all of their behaviors and interests and using those insights to communicate in a respectful and meaningful way, by offering them deals and information that will resonate to them.

CX Building Block #2: Value

Whether your customers are carefree spendthrifts or stern penny pinchers, young or old, dazzlingly wealthy or solidly middle-class, they’re all still looking for the same thing: a good value for whatever they’re buying and the feeling that the retailer is committed to providing value through a great customer experience as well.

This is because value today is about more than price; it’s about feeling that at every stage of the customer journey, you’re committed to meeting their needs, answering their questions, solving problems as soon as they arise and delivering excellent service.  Whether it’s in processing a return, locating an out-of-stock item or understanding what makes a customer tick in order to deliver personalized, and appropriate, offers the value customers get from you goes beyond the dollar signs as time and respect become currencies in their own right.

CX Building Block #3: Consistency

When it comes to the customer experience, it needs to be predictably smooth, enjoyable and user-friendly – each and every time. Of course,  the product you’re selling can’t waver in quality or value, but consistency means more than that: it’s about the consistency of customers’  interactions with your brand.

How do you achieve that consistency? It’s rooted in goal, procedure and value alignment across your top management team. In a CMO Council survey of senior marketing execs in North America, more than a third – 35% – said their senior teams lacked the alignment to focus around a single customer experience strategy. With alignment in check you can get moving towards delivering a consistent omnichannel customer experience and successfully beat the competition as a result.

–Neil Capel, Founder & Chairman of Sailthru