These days, customer experience is really what makes great companies stand out from good ones. It’s critical that organizations not only know how their customers feel about their product or service but perhaps more importantly, that they utilize that customer feedback to drive growth and innovation.
So, it’s time for you to start measuring and improving customer experience. Maybe you already have a customer feedback program in effect, but you’ve realized that it isn’t meeting your needs. Customer experience management software, or CX software, can help you monitor and optimize your relationship with your customers, particularly at key points in their journey with you. Selecting a technology vendor is a big endeavor, so you are going to take time to research and evaluate. Where do you even start?
There is little consensus on the category name for software that supports the customer experience champion. In general, all refer to software that enables a full cycle system of listening to customers, analyzing feedback, and taking action to improve customer experience and close the loop with customers.
Names and their acronyms include:
Customer experience management software (CX, CXM or CEM)
Customer feedback management (CFM)
Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM)
Voice of the Customer software (VoC)
Of course, it really begins with you and your understanding of your organization and its goals. What are your CX challenges and gaps? Define why you are investing in CX technology, what you want it to do, and what benefits you hope to derive. That will help both you and potential vendors streamline the evaluation process.
But for now, we thought we could help you get the ball rolling with a quick guide on what you should be considering as you search for the perfect CX solution for your organization.
1. Technology, of course
Before you embark on your journey and start scouring through the many possible vendors out there, you should know what level of complexity and features may be required to meet your organization’s needs. So, ask questions and communicate with your team. To decide on what you’ll need the technology to do for you, it’s helpful to think of customer experience management as a cycle:
Think about what you want and need at each step in the cycle. Ask questions, like:
What would be the best way to reach and survey your customers? Do you plan to use multiple channels, and if so, which channel do you want to start with?
What do you want to learn? If you’re bringing in high volumes of data, will you need text and sentiment analysis so that you can understand the why behind numerical scores?
How do you plan to integrate your CX management program with the rest of your tech stack so that you close the loop with customers? How do you plan to democratize the data so that cross-functional stakeholders can take action on insights? Product, Support, Marketing, Operations are all areas with a stake in customer happiness. They may want direct access to the data over time.
Once you’ve established what technology features you’re looking for in a CX solution, you might want to prioritize and rank these features from most important to least important. Keep in mind that your needs will change over time as your customer feedback program matures.
In these situations, if you’ve established early on which features are critical to your CX program and which features aren’t, you’ll be able to make decisions with much more ease. And, if you’re in talks with a potential vendor, your judgment won’t be clouded by the shine of a new feature or the charm of the sales rep you’re communicating with.
2. Vendor relationship. It maybe more important than you think.
Having a technology partner is critical as you scale your CX program. As you speak to sales reps, make sure that you not only get an understanding of the initial onboarding process, but that you know how the vendor plans to work with you after their solution has been implemented by your organization.
Look for vendors that will provide strong communication and support whenever needed. If you are scaling a CX program over time, you will want to work with a thought leader – a vendor who will provide best practices and shine a light on the path forward as your needs mature.
Talk to friends and/or colleagues who have experience with CX software – they may have recommendations. Read reviews and expert answers on G2Crowd and Quora, and factor those opinions in as you develop a consideration list.
If you are keen on a vendor’s technology but wonder if you will get the attention you need, you might ask to talk to a customer. They will most certainly refer you to an advocate, but a good referral will speak honestly about their experience when talking to a peer.
An additional tip: Request a product demo and pay close attention to your conversation. Does the vendor listen to you and your needs? Or are they simply selling you their solution? This is your first look into how customer-centric they really are and how they will treat you in the future.
Choose a CX vendor that you believe will deliver ROI quickly. CX software should produce insightful, actionable information and drive action that will result in happier customers and an increase in revenue. But how long will this take, and at what cost? A CX program is an investment of company resources. Showing value early gets the organization excited–and more resources are likely to flow your way.
So, make sure the technology you are purchasing aligns with your short-term and long-term goals. Some vendors may push you to purchase all the bells and whistles out of the gate–features or services that you can’t leverage in the near term. Other vendors may have technology that will meet your needs today but will be insufficient when your program matures. Switching software platforms can be a bear.
Ideally, your technology partner will offer a crawl, walk, run approach. For example, implementing a feature set that will help you show impact early. Then allow you to add (and pay for) more complexity when you need it and not before.
Time is money as well, so understand how long setup (implementation and onboarding) will take. Does the vendor you’re considering have the resources to move quickly and focus on your needs?
4. How hard is this going to be to implement and use?
You’re the one trying to make your organization’s customer experience better, but of course, you also want a great customer and user experience from your CX software vendor. The CX program that you choose should be easy to use, from implementation to everyday use.
Product demos will give you a good sense of what it is like to use a software program – how intuitive it is, for example. Ease of use ratings on G2Crowd are another source of guidance. Native integrations with your systems of records, like Salesforce or ZenDesk mean fewer resources will be required to get up and running. Some vendors offer trial periods, in which you can start collecting actual feedback from customers and see the feedback in real-time dashboards. If your needs are straight forward, sign up for those free trials and get a feel for it yourself.
Also, imagine how other team members might use the CX software for the first time, and whether they’d be able to easily navigate and get things done in it. Maybe even get some of your team to try the program out and ask for their opinions.
Later on, as you scale your CX program, you’ll want to democratize the valuable customer feedback that you’re bringing in and you’ll have to grant access to other team members and departments. This is why usability is so important – people should feel empowered to go into the program, review the data, and interpret it for themselves. Having a customer experience platform that’s easy to use supports adoption by other teams.