Creating a customer experience (CX) strategy that truly meets the needs of your customers is paramount to differentiating yourself from your competitors and maintain customer loyalty. Brian Gilmore, Head of Growth of EPAM’s MACH practice, shares his insights on building a successful CX strategy and the technology and teams that support it.
Complex customer journeys require a more sophisticated customer experience strategy
Customer journeys are evolving, and your CX strategy needs to evolve with them. Currently, customers expect seamless experiences across an ever-expanding set of channels and access to products, services, and account information 24/7. Customers also demand interactions tailored to their individual needs and preferences. Delivering these personalized, omnichannel customer experiences requires a more sophisticated CX strategy.
Five to 10 years ago, we could map a linear customer journey and build a CX strategy around it, but the proliferation of customer touchpoints and devices has made customer journey mapping more complex. CX strategies now must take into account the multiple journeys and touchpoints that work together to create successful customer experiences.
In addition, CX strategies today have to focus on understanding the fundamental customer needs: convenience, education, exploration, etc. Those needs change across the customer's lifecycle and even within individual journeys. Providing customer satisfaction depends on recognizing customer needs as quickly as possible and presenting them with the most relevant content, value exchange, or call to action.
But while companies recognize the need to create personalized, omnichannel experiences, being able to successfully deliver them is a struggle for a variety of reasons.
What’s stopping companies from delivering great customer experiences?
Slow monolithic platforms
Some companies invested significant portions of their budget in a large, monolithic platform with the expectation that it would have all the features they needed in one suite. But monoliths come with pain points that cut into expected value, including:
Monoliths lack the agility to enable customer experience management in an omnichannel world.
It’s difficult to pivot monoliths to handle new business goals, and it takes time to adjust them to new workflows.
Monoliths require a lot of maintenance.
Monoliths don’t enable marketers to easily reuse content and messaging across channels.
All of these issues result in a very slow authoring and publishing cadence that hinders your ability to deliver the experiences customers want.
Siloed, fragmented content
Fragmented content makes delivering seamless experiences and consistent messaging across channels slow and inefficient. This is a common challenge in companies where content grows organically. These companies have multiple platforms that house content — SharePoint, WordPress, you name it — placing content in siloes that don’t work well together. Further, splitting the content between platforms means it’s not organized for reuse across channels.
Overcoming systems that lack agility, keep content siloed, or force teams to work around rigid monoliths requires a Herculean amount of time and effort. Without efficient workflows and automation, scaling content production to support different personas and omnichannel experiences can be costly.
To overcome these challenges, companies need to build a more customer-focused CX strategy that leverages composable and MACH (microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) technology. Using a headless architecture built on composable technology helps businesses adopt a more flexible approach that enables them to support multiple channels, deliver experiences to market substantially faster, and reduce costs.
How to create a CX strategy that transforms customer experiences
A winning CX strategy is customer-centric, focusing on customer data and insights. To deliver customer satisfaction, companies must understand what the customer needs and structure their strategy, teams, and technology around it.
Use service mapping to understand customer journeys
Service mapping is a critical tool to document and understand complex customer journeys. A service map helps teams understand the holistic, as-is state so they can identify gaps, areas for improvement and the ways channels can work together to build stronger customer relationships.
Service maps help you discern:
How channels can work together.
Which channels are involved at different stages.
What operational and technical capabilities support each of those stages.
What the current customer sentiment is at each stage.
Research, research, research to build a truly customer-centric strategy
Collecting customer data and getting customer feedback takes time, so it is often skipped or rushed. However, performing research across channels is vitally important. Running 1:1 interviews with customers, creating online surveys, visiting stores and reviewing analytic data helps you go beyond customer experience metrics to truly understand customer needs and what solutions can address them.
Align teams to deliver great customer experiences
On top of observing the customer closely and deriving CX strategy from those insights, it’s important to think about how the internal organization is structured and incentivized. Delivering seamless, immersive experiences across channels is extremely difficult when teams are organized around siloed channels and functions.
To develop and implement a strong CX strategy, companies must integrate and align customer experience, operations, technical capabilities, and business value. Customer-experience team members might include people from digital, retail, merchandising, marketing, legal, HR, and technology, all with a shared purpose to deliver customer support and business value together.
Such alignment helps ensure the CX strategy:
Delivers on real customer needs.
Has the right teams and technology in place to deliver and support initiatives.
Collects the right data to measure the value it delivers and help you understand how to improve it.
Companies can also use their internal incentive structure to compel a more collaborative approach to customer engagement. For example, through the elevation of customer value as a measurable critical success factor (CSF).
Get the right tools and thinking in place to support your CX strategy
Once you have a CX strategy built around your customers, you need to think about how to support it long term. How will you continue to understand, iterate on, adapt, and improve customer experiences over time? This is where composable tools and a composable mindset come into play.
Embrace MACH technology: the power of composable tools
Rigid monoliths and siloed tools that don’t work well together make it hard to support and scale the personalized, connected experiences customers demand. MACH technology — microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, headless solutions — empowers companies to build a stack composed of the tools they need to deliver positive experiences.
Microservices enable a modern architecture that makes your IT team agile and supersonic, and they offer business capabilities as discrete, individual services. APIs can significantly boost performance, improving the current experience of customers browsing a channel and enabling new features that would have been impractical with slower data transfers. The cloud ensures that systems supporting your CX strategy can scale with traffic, eliminating downtime during peak usage. Headless architecture streamlines the process of distributing customer experiences across multiple channels in a consistent way.
Cultivate a composable mindset
In addition to leveraging MACH technologies to provide flexibility in technical architecture, businesses need to have a composable mindset when it comes to the operating model that supports the technology. They need to create product or value stream teams that own and deliver capabilities. They also need to push decision-making authority down into those teams and create global guidelines to provide guardrails.
Align content strategy with composable architecture
If you are moving from a world where content is tied to page templates, you should consider hiring a content strategist. An experienced content strategist can help you:
Think about content as a thing unto itself.
Understand how content can be used to compose multiple experiences.
Figure out what to do when content is unleashed.
Understand the implications for editing and collaboration.
Include teams you haven't interacted with before into the content process.
Overall, a content strategist can bring new ideas to light and help you take advantage of the modern architecture that composable tools bring.
Conclusion: the importance of partners and ongoing investment
Creating a customer-centric CX strategy and identifying the organizational and technological changes needed to support it is only the beginning. How a business implements, maintains, and builds on that strategy is equally important. Many companies take a fire-and-forget mentality, launching a new website or app to great fanfare but with no budget in place to monitor results and evolve the work to continually improve it and drive maximum value.
A scalable, sustainable CX strategy requires the right tools and expertise to implement and support it. This is where experienced partners like EPAM and Contentful can help.
EPAM is a leading digital transformation services and product engineering company that provides end-to-end strategy, design, and implementation services. We combine our expertise with tools like the Contentful Composable Content Platform to help our clients make award-winning CX strategies a reality. Together, we enable companies to start building better customer experiences faster than with traditional platforms and give them the power to scale their CX strategy to meet future needs.