Managing the customer experience (CX) is becoming more important than ever before—to the point it’s growing into a key differentiator between brands. Rather than disrupting industries through new product or services, businesses are focusing on disrupting industries through better customer experiences.
For example, the helpfulness of Google’s search engine made the phrase "google that" part of our collective lexicon. Similarly, the iPhone experience transformed many of our lives—quickly becoming a device we’d simply feel lost without. Then there’s Amazon, which has transformed the way we think about how we buy everything. These developments laid the groundwork for the rise of companies like Uber, Netflix, and Airbnb—all of which disrupted their respective industries due to transcendent CX.
Suffice it to say that CX is not hype—it’s the real deal, and it’s rapidly becoming the new brand.
Increasingly, organizations are finding out that their investments in CX improvements translate into happier customers and, by extension, healthier bottom lines. This is why 80 percent of organizations say that improving the customer experience is a critical or high priority over the next 12 months.
Now that you understand the current state of the market and why companies are increasingly investing in CX initiatives, let’s take a step back and get our terms straight.
What is the customer experience?
Simply put, the customer experience refers to all of the ways your customers interact with your company, its products and services, and the way they perceive those interactions. It includes both the user experience and experience design.
The stronger your customer experience is, the happier your customers will be and the better your brand will be thought of—which translates into more sales and more profits.
This is why the customer experience is quickly becoming the new product—while customer experience management becomes the new product management.
How does the customer experience differ from the customer journey?
For years, marketers and brands were focused on the customer journey—or the path your customers take as they find out about your products, buy them, and use them.But many businesses are realizing that the journey is just as important as the destination.
This is where thinking about the customer experience comes into play. It places the emphasis on how a customer regards the touch points throughout their journey. Positive experiences are more likely to result in a customer continuing their journey and becoming an advocate for your business, while a negative experience may result in churn.
Mapping the customer journey is still a smart move for many organizations and should compliment customer experience analysis. This analysis should go beyond behavior to include identifying points of friction during the transition from prospect making a purchase to a full-fledged customer. Collect and analyze feedback about satisfaction with the product and support and identify reasons for customer churn.
How Online Qualitative Research Ties It All Together
Historically, when organizations needed to find answers to questions, they’d conduct quantitative surveys to find out how many customers felt a particular way or how many were interested in a particular product or service. While this data is certainly useful, it often doesn’t provide any insight into why people feel a certain way.
The easiest way to understand, with certainty, what your customer journey looks like and whether the customer experience is strong or weak is through qualitative research—and, more specifically, through online qualitative research, which is fast and cost-efficient, delivering a short distance to action.
With online qualitative research, companies can interact with consumers to see their experiences first hand with photos or video, find out why customers feel the way they do and explore what they would do differently if they were in charge. They can also discover the reason and root causes behind these sentiments—giving them a clear picture of what both the customer journey and customer experience are like.
Armed with that information, they can then take proactive steps to improve and optimize both—creating compelling experiences for customers along the way.
What are the benefits of online qualitative research?
Online qualitative research delivers several benefits to organizations. For starters, it’s much more affordable than traditional qualitative research initiatives (e.g., in-person focus groups) and it also takes a lot less time due to its digital nature. Beyond that, online qualitative gives you access to a wider cross-section of customers. If, for example, you want to roll out a product across the entire country, it’s much easier to research potential markets online than it would be to do in the flesh.
Today’s leading companies use online qualitative tools to conduct rapid research sprints—which can last anywhere from a day or two to a few weeks. During these sprints, consumer insights teams test certain hypotheses, get feedback and data directly from their target customers, and then revise their hypotheses accordingly. As a result, they are able to get deeper insights and really uncover why customers feel the way they do—which informs the best path forward.
For example, after determining the correct audience, an insurance company might conduct a sprint to find out how a certain product/service in its current iteration is received. The company might send pre-interview activity to research participants to capture their process of interacting with the company or website. Then, they might conduct a live video interview to drill deeper into pain points or ideas, and even see how the participants react to products or visuals of potential changes or improvements. Using that information, they can then drill down even further with some follow-up questions to pinpoint whether they are on the right track with improvements, and what they should focus on next.
This versatile approach to research provides provides a depth of learning that in-person sessions simply cannot. But beyond that, online qualitative research enables flexibility to iterate that is not available to companies that conduct in-person research.
For example, online qualitative platforms let you use heat mapping tools to find out what’s happening across the customer journey—both the bad and the good. Maybe you’re wondering where in the journey customers experience the most friction. A heat mapping tool can let participants share where in each step of their journey they feel the most friction and why.
Additionally, online qualitative research lets you conduct video screen capture exercises. For example, you might set up an activity and have some talk through their experience, moving through moderated and unmoderated activities over the course of your sprint. This data can help you learn what customers are doing when given directions and what they’re doing when they are poking around on their own.
As we noted above, online platforms also let you conduct video interviews on their phone and even have a customer demonstrate how they use a product (e.g., "unboxing"). These can either be recorded by participants on their own, or scheduled as a live interview—giving you more options to conduct research in a way that meets your need best.
Further, leading online qualitative platforms also provide robust analysis and reporting tools that make it even easier to find the information you’re looking for. To illustrate, you might have access to video analysis tools that provide automatic transcript and clip reel creation. This makes theme and sentiment analysis much easier; all positive reactions to a topic can be grouped together and negative reactions can be, too. This way, you can zoom in on the particular reactions you’re looking for—and analyze video much faster.
The benefits and features of online qualitative don’t stop there. For example, you can also have group discussions with several participants. In any case, the above should give you a pretty good idea as to how powerful and helpful online qualitative research can be.
Are you ready to take your customer experience to the next level?
At this point, you understand why the customer experience is so important and you’re convinced that it’s time for your organizations to pay more attention to it. That’s great!
To learn more about how you can use online qualitative research to strengthen the customer experience—and optimize the customer journey—check out this webinar, How to Improve the Customer Experience Using Online Qualitative, hosted by Digsite CEO Monika Wingate and Daniel Roundy, Freestyle CX guru.
In it, you’ll learn what sprints look like, how to connect agile research to agile execution, tips for getting started, and a case study of all of this in action.
Here’s to happier customers and a healthier bottom line!
Learn more about how Digsite can help you capture and understand customer experiences to open up a whole new world of understanding with our overview of Digsite for CX research.