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The first thing organizations need to think about, especially during tougher economic times, is the importance of customer experience. This requires keeping loyal customers close and really listening to them.

If you want to see your business succeed, listening is not an option, it's mandatory. 

This is critical because their business will help you weather the storm, and second, because you absolutely need to understand what's in the hearts and minds of your customers to make sure that your business is responding to the market conditions it’s facing in the world of customer experience.

Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida, a customer experience management company, explained it all starts with a commitment to understanding what your most valuable customers are saying and making sure your business can be responsive and agile to ensure that you're providing the best experience and value possible.

“The deliverable is threefold,” he said. “You retain the customer, you expand the offerings and services you provide to those customers, and finally, they help you shape your customer engagement model, which you can then apply to your entire customer base.”

Wainwright said at the end of the day, prioritizing customer feedback and having the courage to listen is what will have the biggest impact on your customer experience and business.

Investing in VoC Data for Better CX

Chad Storlie, senior director, and analyst with Gartner Marketing Practice, said investment in CX programs must be based on a dual use of voice of the customer (VoC) data as well as demonstrated positive results of key touchpoints along the customer experience.

"When performed to the customers' performance specifications, this leads to a higher probability of customer retention and growth," he explained. 

For example, a common challenge within B2B industries is turning around a bid or price quote in a sufficient amount of time. Oftentimes, a late bid can lose the business opportunity even if the pricing and the terms and conditions are correct — this is because it did not leave sufficient time for the customer to submit that bid response as part of a larger bid package.

Storlie said an organization needs to study its bid response times by customer, industry, time of the year and time of the week to determine if a faster bid response helps it win more deals.

“This example is the thought process organizations should take in order to fully understand customer needs, as well as how their quantitative customer experience metrics deliver an experience that leads to improved customer retention, customer growth as well as customer advocacy," he said.

He added investment that leads to improved customer experience and customer retention must be measured and demonstrated using both quantitative metrics. These include reducing customer wait times or ensuring on-time delivery as well as the ever-present voice of the customer to solve a customer issue.

Related Article: Your CX Design Is Not Working. Are You Doing It Right?

Taking an ROI Value-Based Approach and Listening to the Customer 

Wainwright said in today’s climate, every decision that executives make is going to receive tremendous scrutiny around the value they provide.

“Everything must be value-based and must have a return on investment,” he said, adding organizations must be able to close the feedback loop. “Throwing a survey together with a group of people won’t drive incremental value to ensure a successful business outcome. The reality is, you have to be creating successful business outcomes every time and achieving them quickly.”

This means the technology must get up and running in months, if not weeks, and the ROI needs to take shape in a matter of months.

“The ROI value-based approach is absolutely critical,” Wainwright said. “You need to work with a CX provider that will help to build the ROI and do the analysis specifically on how this is going to shape an outcome that can be quantified from a return.”

Storlie added listening to the customer entails both quantitative and qualitative understanding of the direct customer experience.

“This includes the use of VoC platforms to understand customer sentiment around interactions as well as digital processes that can capture the consistency and inconsistency of an organizational process and how it meets a customer performance standard,” he said.

Technology such as survey platforms, the use of natural language processing (NLP) to capture customer sentiment consistently from voice and text interactions, and the use of traditional business intelligence processes that are used to measure from a customer perspective how the interaction occurred along the customer journey.

“This use of technology to listen, evaluate, assign and direct are critical uses of customer-facing and internal-facing technology that allow an organization to constantly understand and deliver quality customer experiences,” Storlie said. 

Related Article: 5 Overlooked Datasets in CX Road Mapping

Consolidate CX Spending With an Integrated Platform

The other thing he sees in the market today is consolidation of spending in CX.

“Many companies have multiple survey providers, such as a vendor that provides net promoter score and another for market research,” he said. “There is a better way to do it.”

From his perspective, having two or three different providers in this economic environment is a luxury that almost all companies can't afford.

“Now is the time to consolidate and there's a consolidation approach that not only reduces the fixed costs of software and head count, but it also drives efficiency,” he said. “The cost-effective approach that companies need is an integrated CX platform.” 

An integrated platform will be able to offer a variety of CX tools all on one single integrated code base, which helps drive efficiency through the agility of the product. This approach also allows you to start wherever you need to start, and then you can migrate based on what best suits your business.

“In this economic environment, agility, time to value, time to insights, and time to return on investment are absolutely mandatory,” Wainwright said. “Using one integrated agile platform is the right way to do that and now is the best time, more than ever.”