Preparing your digital experience for an eventual return to scale

No matter what our future holds, there will be the opportunity of some form to return to scale for organisations that have been seriously affected by the coronavirus. Perhaps your organisation is already planning its next steps and how it can return to scale.

From our experience, you are going to be faced with rethinking, and potentially reframing, your strategy and operating model. Your customer lifecycle may have changed dramatically, and customer thinking along with it. 

The new normal will require many organisations to increase their digital to consumer (D2C) activities. In some cases, digital may become the primary channel. This in turn will require organisations to adjust their thinking and activities. They will need to become more adapted to the digital environment.

To do this well, organisations should be considering some of the following activities:

  • Creating new customer profiles, as well as, adapting existing ones
  • Exploring new revenue models
  • Adapting operational models.

The critical role of user experience design

How can user experience (UX) play a role in this process of adaptation, and support your return to scale? How can your organisation make your digital customer experience as intuitive as possible for both returning and new customers?

In this article, we explore three UX considerations that can help your organisation emerge strongly from this challenging time:

  1. Understanding customers’ changed needs and expectations
  2. Identifying changes to customer journeys
  3. Establishing new measures of experience success.

1. Understanding customers’ changed needs and expectations

Customers’ needs have likely undergone some notable changes. Those changes may be extreme, depending on your industry and its previous reliance on offline interactions.

No matter your industry, though, it is broadly agreed that customers will have a higher propensity for trying digital solutions than they did before coronavirus. Necessity is the mother of invention, and many people have needed to move their day-to-day activities to online, digital activities.

Also, because more customers are now accustomed to trying, and depending upon, online solutions, there will be less tolerance of encountered frustrations or roadblocks. An average D2C experience will not meet customers heightened expectations about quality and value.

Understanding and researching these changing customer needs and expectations is of paramount importance. To research is to prepare, and good preparation increases the likelihood of making the right changes to your digital touchpoints and customer journeys.

You can research what customer needs are now, both online and remotely, using a combination of techniques, such as:

  • Online surveys, to broadly explore customer segments and their varying needs
  • Customer interviews conducted by phone, to deep dive into thought processes and requirements
  • Website analytics (including social analytics), to compare patterns of online usage before and after coronavirus, helping identify shifts in behaviour and needs

From these research activities, you’ll be able to create personas or update existing ones. Personas are realistic descriptions of the people who represent your key audiences. Getting everyone onboard means they can easily relate to changes in customer needs and behaviour, and as a result, better decisions about customer experience emerge.

2. Identifying changes to customer journeys

A customer journey is a way of describing how users think and move through one or more interactions with your organisation. This could be towards a goal such as subscribing to your service or purchasing a product. Often customer journeys are visualised in diagrams. This allows everyone internally to share the same understanding of key journeys and make smarter, more coordinated decisions.

As customer needs and behaviours change post-coronavirus, so will customer expectations about what they need from you online. You therefore need to realign your online customer journeys so they continue to meet their needs.

Here, we list three examples of aspects of your customer journey that may have changed:

  1. Returning customers who left you or were ‘paused’ during coronavirus may be using different parts of your website than before. This could be to understand what’s changed in your offerings, how they can take advantage, and whether it’s worth staying with you. They’ll be looking for additional value and will want to be convinced.
  2. Potential new customers may now be more focused on the quality of your online offerings compared to the competition. So, the way they use your website to research your proposition, and the content they consume, may have changed. They’ll judge an organisation on the quality of the customer experience provided and whether it is good enough.
  3. Customers may have higher expectations of online account management than before. For example, expecting to change or expand some part of their account that previously required them to phone you or visit a physical store. They’ll want more for their money and expect higher levels of customer support.

Understanding customer journey changes such as these will support your teams in making the right adjustments to content, design and functionality. This will all help to shape the customer experience. And don’t worry if you didn’t have customer journey diagrams before. The key takeaway is that you need to explicitly research, document and share the new journeys internally so everyone is fully aligned and focused on what needs to change.

If you have many, complex customer journeys, where should you start? We recommend that you double-down on onboarding efforts, making it easy for returning or new customers to join you or benefit from your service offerings. A great onboarding experience is the foundation for KPIs such as Customer Lifetime Value and encourages customer to return and ultimately remain a customer for longer.

A great onboarding experience is also an important ingredient in customer retention. Many potential customers will obviously be starting out and supporting them with a great onboarding experience is a vital aspect of customer service. After all, great customer experience requires great customer service.

3. Establishing better measures of experience success

You may be planning to make many changes to your digital touchpoints and online journeys. How can you communicate these to managers and directors that those changes will contribute in a meaningful way to your return-to-scale success?

Many organisations have previously measured online success using simple measures such as unique website users, or in slightly more detailed ways such as conversion rates for a signup journey. However, these rudimentary measures connect poorly or intangibly to organisation-level KPIs. You cannot say, for example, that an increase in signup conversions is a sign of improving Customer Satisfaction or Customer Lifetime Value.

In addition, these measures do not easily correlate to UX investment. How can you demonstrate that it was your journey improvements that enticed more customers to use your digital service? Might those higher numbers resulted because of a successful marketing campaign, or simply because customers are visiting for some other purpose?

And with all this uncertainty in your measurements, how can you continue to make a strong internal case for more investment in UX, if the work you’re doing is so intangible? For all these reasons, you need more sophisticated measures of digital experience success as you position your organisation for a return to scale.

Specifically, you need to measure the outcomes of your UX work in commercial terms. You measure how your UX investment ties directly to KPIs—with a few connected dots along the way. Shifting your UX measures to outcomes and KPI impact is a bigger discussion than we can cover in a later article.

However, here is a quick example of how you should think about outcomes as you improve UX in your revised customer journeys:

  1. When you have created new customer journey diagrams, go through each step of the journey and identify (i) likely pain points for customers, such as places where they may be tempted to consider a competitor’s offering, and (ii) the areas of largest change from the existing customer journeys. Sometimes those pain points and changes may be related; sometimes they may be independent of each other.
  2. Consider each pain point and area of change in terms of each of your organisation’s KPIs. For example, what impact will a journey change likely have on Customer Satisfaction? How might a pain point negatively affect customer churn unless addressed?
  3. Identify the UX projects or activities needed to address each pain point or area of change—keeping in mind the desired KPI impact.
  4. Prioritise those UX projects or activities based on highest KPI impact.
  5. Identify specific, success metrics for each of those projects and activities that will help demonstrate that KPI impact.

As you measure your UX work in terms of commercial outcomes, the whole organisation starts to listen. It becomes easier to secure future UX investment, and to get all employees thinking with a customer-focused mindset. Critically, customers enjoy the benefits, and feel your commitment through the quality of the customer experience you deliver.

Next steps

There is, understandably, great uncertainty as to how a ‘return to scale’ will pan out. However, some form of consistency will emerge, and smart organisations will learn how to adapt quickly to new market conditions. Slow-moving incumbents, with inferior customer experience and less relevant value propositions, will likely succumb to an emerging host of new disruptors.

Another threat will come from ambitious competitors. They will be looking to grow marketshare and take advantage over organisation that can’t adapt quickly, and in turn make their their products and services more relevant to customers. There will be be many losers and winners in the months that follow. A great customer experience will be a sure defence.

Organisations should start preparing so they are ready for the return. You should work to:

  • Understand how customers’ needs and behaviours have changed
  • Prioritise and plan your improvements
  • Know how you’ll measure those improvements so you can prove to stakeholders that customer experience, and KPIs, are better as a result.

Be committed to delivering a great customer experience because, one thing hasn’t changed. Delivering a great experience was, is, and will continue to be a strong commercial differentiator in a world where more organisations will be investing in D2C.

The opportunity is there for the taking, so take it. Begin today. Get in touch at hello@nomensa.com or +44 (0)117 929 7333.

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