Customer Experience Audit: 6-Step Process to Improve Retention, Increase Sales and Acquire Customers
By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer
In a competitive marketplace with virtually unlimited options, customer experience has become more important than ever before. According to Walker, it’s overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator, with 62 percent of companies currently investing to meet the changing needs of their customers.
With more brands adopting this customer-centric mentality, it’s important to continuously seek to understand, evaluate, and improve the experience for your customers. Here’s how a customer experience audit can ensure your business continues to deliver exceptional experiences.
What is a Customer Experience Audit?
A customer experience audit is a “comprehensive evaluation of your customers’ interactions with your brand,” Qiuping Yu, an assistant professor at Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, told CMS Wire. “It includes all the critical touchpoints during your customers’ shopping journey, from searching, choosing your brand, buying the product/service, to interactions after their purchase.” She said it’s also important to track historical purchases, as customers may have repeated purchasing incidences.
Fulfilling your customers’ expectations starts with a strong execution of your brand, including how it’s represented throughout your brick and mortar locations and online. A comprehensive customer experience audit includes a review of all touchpoints, including:
- Social media
- Unboxing (if ordered online)
- Return (when applicable)
It’s also crucial to also evaluate the brand promise, mission, and purpose as well as marketing and promotional materials in your audit. After reviewing these items, a customer experience audit should then outline actionable insights on how to improve your customer experience.
Why Conduct a Customer Experience Audit?
In an age of viral social media posts, advances in automation, and 24/7 connectivity, customer’s behaviors and expectations quickly change. One 280-character tweet can change the perception of your brand. One automated task can make even the most dedicated customer switch brands. It’s important to audit your customer experience to ensure you are continuously delivering exceptional experiences at every touchpoint.
A customer experience audit can:
- Map touchpoints across your customer journey.
- Benchmark the competition.
- Challenge organizational assumptions about the lifestyles, needs, and expectations of your customers.
- Validate customer experience strategies that are working and recognize exceptional performance.
- Improve operational strategies, processes, quality assurance, and training procedures.
How to Audit Your Customer Experience
Don’t limit your customer experience audit to one facet of your customer journey. When you begin to evaluate your customer journey, a top-to-bottom approach is best. Following this simple six-step process for a holistic audit can help tee-up actionable results.
Step 1: Identify Key Performance Indicators
Before you can conduct your audit, it’s important to first understand your customer journey and audit goals. Why are you auditing your customer experience? What do you hope the audit will accomplish? This will help you identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your current customer experience and even track its improvement after the audit is complete. While every brand’s goals and objectives will be unique, some metrics you might consider tracking include customer churn rate, abandoned cart rate, customer lifetime value, average response times, etc.
Step 2: Map Your Customer Journey
Once you’ve identified your goals and objectives, the next step is to document your customer experience. After all, you can’t audit your customer experience without first understanding its current state. “Reverse engineer” your customer experience, by taking it apart and understanding why and how it’s built. Start by mapping your customer journey to identify the actionable touchpoints (e.g. website, social media, telephone, checkout, etc.) that impact the overall experience.
Step 3: Conduct Competitive Analysis
What are your competitors up to? Conduct competitive analysis and study market research trends to understand what the current state looks like in your industry. By using industry-wide trends, such as price, convenience, selection, and of course, customer service, you will be able to draw a line the sand when it comes to establishing your benchmarks.
Step 4: Gather Customer Feedback
Don’t forget about your customers! It’s important to gain insight as to how your customers think and feel about their experiences with your brand. Leverage solutions like mystery shopping and voice of the customer tools (e.g. surveys, review platforms, etc.) to gather the necessary feedback to assess each touchpoint along the customer journey, starting with the discovery phase, followed by the purchase process, and finally, ending with the post-purchase experience.
Step 5: Evaluate Your Customer Experience
The combination of market research, competitive analysis, and customer feedback should provide you with a holistic overview of what your customer experience currently looks like and what it should look like. Go back to your journey map and evaluate the current performance of each touchpoint. Compare it to your benchmarks and goals to determine what’s currently working (where your business excels) and what’s not (where your business needs to improve).
Step 6: Improve Your Customer Experiences
In order to see your desired return on investment, it’s important to outline actionable next steps based on your evaluations above.
- What’s working. Use the areas within your customer experience where your business excels to clarify corporate expectations and reward top performers. For example, if you find that customers really appreciate your fast delivery times, communicate the importance of speedy delivery to your associates and recognize the performance of those who excel at meeting these times.
- What needs to be improved. Your business may already do a good job in these certain areas of your customer experience, but you may find through your audit that there is room for improvement or gaps in your experience. For example, maybe your customer service department is top-notch, but with advances in technology, your business hours no longer meet your customer’s expectations of 24/7 availability. It’s important to identify actionable next steps on how you can improve these interactions. In the case of the customer service department example, you could deploy AI chatbots to help answer routine questions during off hours.
How Often Should You Audit Your Customer Experience?
The question of frequency largely depends on your current understanding of your customer journey and experience. For brands that have never audited their customer experience or mapped their customer journey, you’d want to start right away, as it’s critical to acquire and retain customers and improve sales.
For brands that may have audited their customer experience in the past but didn’t see the return on investment you were looking for, you’ll need to find a partner, like IntelliShop, that can deliver on those expectations. Our customer experience solutions, including mystery shopping, market research, and voice of the customer programs, can help you better meet the needs and expectations of all the customers you serve. We’ll take the time to understand who you customers are and gather the feedback and actionable insights needed to audit your customer experience and create an actionable strategy for improvement.
Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.