The role of marketing is very clear: generate awareness and demand for a company’s products and service. The role of customer service is equally clear: ensure customers are happy with what they’ve bought and resolve any questions or problems. When you start talking about the customer experience, however, the boundaries of those two functions may start to get a little blurry.

Discussions about “customer experience” have become so pervasive that many experts have shortened it to simply CX. Unfortunately, however, the way CX is handled in some organizations is so poor it needs an Rx – in other words, a prescription of some sort to make it look healthy again.

This is probably more challenging for Canadian small and medium-sized businesses than large enterprises, because in many cases SMBs have a single marketing department, rather than a marketing communications team, a product marketing team and a customer marketing team.

When CX is healthy, on the other hand, organizations flourish. For instance, Forrester Research recently studied the links between customer experience and revenue across seven different industries over a five-year period. The results? CX leaders tended to see revenue growth of 15 per cent, versus 2.5 per cent for those in the “laggard” category.

2016 State of marketing. New research based on 4000 marketers worldwide. Get the report.

Start your path to customer experience transformation like this:

Map Out The CX Journey

Here’s a skill-testing exercise of sorts: talk to five people on your team. Ask them to outline, even at a high level, what they think a year in a customer’s life with the company looks like from start to finish. This might include things like:

  • Marketing content they’ll receive – e-mails, social media posts, direct mail, event invites
  • Contact with the sales team – in-person meetings, phone calls and e-mail exchanges
  • Contact with fulfilment – this could include everything from visits to physical locations like a store or warehouse to interactions with delivery services.
  • Contact with customer service – call centre interactions, e-mail inquiries or even questions via social media count here.

Chances are people on the team will overlook at least some of these points on the journey, or will see interactions happening in a different order and with varying opinions about the quality of the experience.

This is where it’s important to start looking at the CX journey in both its ideal form – what you want customers to think and feel about their experience with your company – and in its various iterations. For instance, the journey may not span a year for customers who only buy from you once and then never again. Get as detailed as possible in outlining what the CX journey is today and how it should evolve.

Pinpoint the CX Stakeholders

Theoretically, everyone contributes in some way to the customer experience, but not everyone does it in the same way. A big part of improving CX is having a solid understanding of the players and how they can better collaborate (or at least stay out of each other’s way). One way to do this might be along the following lines:

Front-line: Those whose roles are directly customer-facing, like sales, some marketing team members, and many within the customer service domain.

Supporting roles: Those working behind the scenes can influence a lot of what customers will think and feel about their relationship with a company at particular stages. Business owners or leaders may set the overall direction, for example, while admin staff could ensure processes happen on time or meet various standards.

Indirect contributors: Not everyone who contributes to the customer experience will be on the payroll. Customers may influence other customers through what they share on LinkedIn or Twitter, for instance, and in some cases media coverage will affect perceptions. Third-party suppliers and fulfilment partners will also be part of this group.

Go back to your CX journey maps. Plot out who does what along the way. Where is the potential for duplication of effort, extra unnecessary steps or gaps in information? This is where CX starts to get more visible and actionable.

Test-Drive The CX Journey

The one risk in tackling CX improvements is keeping things too broad or hypothetical. Use more granular examples to help isolate specific areas that need additional work. For example, the introduction of a new product or service is a great way to drill down on CX to ensure the launch is a success. Either mentally or on a white board, pose the following questions:

  1. What kind of persona or personas is this particular customer experience designed for? What do we know about these kinds of buyers?
  2. How does the customer experience with this product compare with the marketing, sales, and customer service steps associated with our other offerings? What’s better and what’s worse?
  3. If there are any CX “swamplands” – moments in the journey where customers might get stuck, confused or otherwise compromised – what’s our mean time to resolution and how can we make it shorter?

Committing to a better CX strategy could instigate a lot of change in your company – everything from the way you budget to the kinds of people you hire. There’s proof, however, that it can make a substantial difference in your results. To see what real businesses say about the relationship between marketing and the customer experience, download the 2016 State of Marketing, a new report from Salesforce.

2016 State of marketing. New research based on 4000 marketers worldwide. Get the report.