Between social media, online shopping, and review sites, your customers are hearing about your company from everyone and their brother. Think of them like gossip mags and rumor mills, but for marketing. Does that mean that your customers’ experience is out of your hands? It shouldn’t be. With customer experience management technology, you can get insight, overview, and control of your customers’ experience with your brand.

Customer experience management, also known as CEM, is defined by Gartner as, “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” As the diagram below shows, every part of the customer journey has to be accounted for in order to manage that experience.

From initial attraction to a brand, to becoming a returning customer, and then hopping on the advocacy bandwagon, participating in every part of the customer journey requires a lot more than just one piece of customer experience management technology.

In a recent Gartner report (available to Gartner clients), analyst Augie Ray talks about the three cycles of the customer journey: buy, own, and advocate. Below, I’ll go through each cycle, and highlight which customer experience management technology can help you deliver a positive customer experience in each.

 

Cycle 1: Buy

“Gaining attention, consideration and purchases will depend not just on what your brand says but what it does, building your brand’s ability to be in the right place, time and context through both words and actions.” (Gartner)

The first cycle is when your customers become aware of your product– whether through their own research or via marketing efforts from your company– and decide to make a purchase. For this stage to be effective, companies need to make sure that they’re present at the very beginning of the cycle, in places and on platforms where their customers already are, and there, providing a seamless purchasing experience.

The buy cycle includes every stage of the process up to and including the purchase, and most closely follows a traditional marketing trajectory.

Technologies for the “Buy” cycle of CEM

Social media listening

Finding out what your customers and potential customers are saying online about your brand can give you insight into customer needs and sentiments so that you can deliver an experience tailored to that. While a lot of what’s being said about a brand may be coming from existing customers (and can be used for advocacy, which I’ll talk about later), there are also people out there talking about what they want, or asking for recommendations from the online community at large. For a company, this can be a hotbed of new sales opportunities.

Software: Mention

Mention is a social monitoring and brand monitoring tool that helps users keep track of what’s being said about their brand, their competitor’s brands, and keywords or phrases related to the product or service on offer. With a tool like Mention, you can set up triggers and notifications that give insight into who’s saying what. After you’ve finished setting up your monitoring keywords, you’ll be able to get an analysis of the results to see a) which topics are coming up most and b) potential customers to target. It’s here where you can start engaging with these customers, whether that be in online conversations or via more traditional marketing routes.

Mobile marketing and personalization

Once you know what your customers are looking for, you can deliver marketing materials that are tailored specifically to their needs (and even more specifically, to them). Mobile marketing is becoming an increasingly tempting route for marketers because of the amount of time that people spend on mobile devices. Tailoring marketing materials to the mobile format, including email marketing with mobile-friendly templates, mobile ads, and even consumer messaging apps, is one of the most effective ways of reaching customers.

Software: Marketo

Marketo is a full marketing automation suite with a dedicated mobile marketing solution to pinpoint and target unique users. With a full view of the customer across channels like social and email, you can personalize marketing materials including push notifications and in-app messages, based on their actions on other channels. If, for example, you want to target a user that was curious about your product on social media, you could use that information to send an in-app message based on that interaction.

Point of sale

The final step of the buy cycle is the actual purchasing process. You’ll want to provide a seamless experience so that your customers don’t end up abandoning ship (or cart) before going through with the purchase. Here, it’s especially important to align customer experience with user experience, especially where eCommerce is concerned.

Software: Shopify

Shopify is a commerce platform for selling online, in-store, on mobile, and even on Facebook. Depending on where your clients are, you can set up shop to ensure that your users have access to your store, no matter where they want to purchase. With storefront themes, 70 different payment methods, and cart abandonment recovery, you can ensure that your customers have a smooth experience.

Cycle 2: Own

Earning loyalty and deepening relationships with existing customers in the own cycle will be more vital and more challenging as technology enhances consumers’ ability to gather information, find solutions that best fit their unique needs, and switch brands.” (Gartner)

Cycle two is all about building relationships with your customers. It’s the cycle where customers receive your product or start using your service. At this stage, it’s important to keep on top of your customers to transition them from simply using your product, to loving it. It’s there where you’ll get to the third and final cycle of the customer journey– advocacy.

Technologies for the “Own” cycle of CEM

CRM

A CRM, or customer relationship management software, is the best way to stay on top of the status of your customers. With records of every customer interaction across platform, you can get a healthy overall view of each customer and use these interactions in order to target the next follow-up post sale, or to target another sales opportunity.

Software: Hatchbuck

Hatchbuck is an all-in-one CRM and email marketing tool that helps you keep track of customers, allowing you to follow-up with marketing materials using templates that are built right into the software. With prospect nurturing, automated and personalized follow-up, and email integration, you’ll have access to the most relevant info about your clients and be able to contact them based on that information.

Email marketing

Once you have a better grasp on your customers via your CRM, you can target communications with them through email marketing software. Many email marketing and CRM solutions integrate so that you can segment mailings based on the status of customers, as well as send welcome and follow-up emails to make sure that your customers are satisfied with your product or service.

Software: Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular email marketing solution which benefits from integrating with a lot of different CRM systems, including Nutshell, Insightly, and and ProsperWorks CRM. With user segmentation, customer activity reporting, and customer analysis, you can see exactly how your customers have interacted with your mailouts (and link that with your CRM) in order to better target them and ensure that you’re not missing an opportunity.

Analytics

Customer analytics provides a huge opportunity to delve deeper into customer usage patterns and preferences, giving more insight into how or why customers may be using a product or service. It lets companies further segment users and gauge sentiment based on an analysis of data collected from customers. Predictive analytics is another area that’s helping to better provide customers with what they want, before they even ask for it.

Software: Gainsight

Gainsight is an analytics tool that pulls in data from various sources in order to give better insight into customers and which actions to take in order to ensure their satisfaction. With data from sales, customer support, and surveys, you’ll be able to see an overall view of customer interactions and use that data to make better decisions, decrease churn, and identify opportunities for upselling. Product teams can also use this data in order to make improvements to product or user experience. Features include engagement analytics, customer feedback via surveys, and customer health scorecards.

Cycle 3: Advocate

“Earning awareness- and trust-building word of mouth in the advocate cycle will become even more imperative as peer-to-peer communications pierce the stronger digital barriers faced by brands.” (Gartner)

Advocacy is more than just having returning customer; it’s having customers that are in love with your products and are willing to show their support for them. When harnessed properly, they help feed the customer experience journey by bringing new people into the buy cycle. While listening tools can once again come in handy in the advocacy stage to spot people talking about your brand, there are other technologies that can help in the advocacy cycle.

Technologies for the “Advocate” cycle of CEM

Surveys

One of the first steps of customer advocacy is identifying which customers are likely candidates for participating in an advocacy program. While the technologies already mentioned would be good options for finding loyal customers, surveys are one of the best ways to judge customer sentiment and willingness– you can use them to see how willing customers are to participate in being advocates, as well as what kind of rewards would entice them.

Software: Zoho Survey

Zoho Survey is part of the Zoho platform and is a survey software for collecting and analyzing data. The online survey platform lets you send out email survey campaigns, share surveys on social media, as well as add logic to your survey to better filter responses. The analysis features will ensure that you can understand the results, and can also integrate with Zoho CRM so that you can connect the survey results of users to their customer profile for better outreach.

Reviews

Reviews and ratings are a great way to get loyal advocates to share about a product and, in turn, attract more customers. Considering the importance of user reviews for purchasing decisions, it’s imperative to nurture and hone relationships with your biggest supporters.

Software: Grade.us

Grade.us is a review management software that lets you petition your biggest advocates to write reviews on your website. You’ll be able to choose which sites you want to drive reviews to, and then monitor the status of your review efforts. It also gives you the chance to recover customers from bad reviews and improve your reputation. Once you analyze the reviews, you have the option of streaming the best ones to your website or social media to showcase positive user sentiment about your brand.

Advocacy marketing

Advocacy marketing tools are especially designed to foster the entire advocacy process. They help with capturing leads and allowing for referral opt-ins, setting up rewards programs, managing customers through the referral process, and tracking referral campaigns.

Software: Omnistar

Omnistar is a referral marketing software that lets companies set up their own referral marketing program. The auto-sign up feature gives customers the opportunity to sign-up and become advocates; the feedback surveys help find which customers are most likely to become advocates; and the social share widgets let customer promote your business on social media. It also offers smart rewards, discount codes, and coupons to attract clients, as well as a way to track all advocates.

The long journey to customer success

The customer experience journey is a long one. In order to provide customers with a comfortable ride throughout, you need a different customer experience management technology for every cycle of the journey. As Gartner analyst Augie Ray notes, if you can master every part of the cycle, then you have a better chance at providing customers with the best possible experience.

“Marketers that excel in the future will be the ones who master not only the traditional marketing funnel —the buy cycle — but also become adept at maximizing both consumer experiences and brand opportunities in the own and advocate cycles. It is in these cycles that marketers earn and activate customer loyalty and brand word of mouth. Marketing leaders that deliver the awareness, consideration and sales results expected will be the ones most adept at foreseeing customer needs, understanding how technology facilitates those needs and activating the right end-to-end customer experience more swiftly than competitors.”

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