Why the End-to-End Customer Experience Matters & What You Can Do to Make Yours Frictionless

You’re ordering swag for an upcoming outbound campaign. You find a vendor that looks great. Their buying experience is streamlined. The website is easy to navigate. And you get what you need in a matter of minutes.

A great experience from start to “Add to Cart.”

Then, a week and a half pass. And you notice your order hasn’t arrived and the delivery date was two days ago.

“No problem,” you think, “I’ll contact customer support.” You find an email and a phone number. You send an email off. Then you wait. And you wait. And you put up with waiting for 2-3 days before resorting to the phone number.

Sigh. A 60-minute wait time. You throw up your hands in exhaustion and hang up.

You get an email two days later saying the items you ordered were out of stock the whole time 🤦‍♀️

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’ve experienced the reverse: Where the buying process is difficult and cumbersome. But the eventual customer experience is stellar and cohesive.

According to Salesforce’s 6th edition State of Marketing report, 84% of customers now “believe the experience a company provides is just as important as its product and services.” In other words, companies can no longer afford poor CX and convoluted buyer experiences.

But solving problems like the ones mentioned in our scenario above aren’t overnight fixes. They require going back to the basics and really looking at the journey you’ve built for your buyers and customers.

In the next few sections, we’re sharing tactics for creating a frictionless end-to-end customer experience – from simplifying touchpoints to delivering digital innovations that delight:

Make the Buyer & Customer Journey Less of a Labyrinth

Use Data Responsibly & in Service of Your Buyers & Customers

Invest in Digital Experiences that Support & Scale

Make the Buyer & Customer Journey Less of a Labyrinth

Old inbound funnels leave a lot to be desired. With lengthy forms, delayed follow-up, and generic digital experiences, it’s no wonder the buyer’s journey often feels disjointed.

👆 And that’s just one half of the customer lifecycle.

According to Salesforce, “54% of customers say they get annoyed if they are targeted with an ad for something they’ve already bought. With 71% of customers having used multiple channels to start and complete a single transaction.”

So what can you do to make your experience less of a labyrinth?

Let’s dig in 👇

Create or Revisit Your Customer Journey Map

Customer journey maps are pretty much what they sound like. They’re blueprints of the different paths customers take with your brand:

“A customer journey map is a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you. It helps to tell the story of a customer’s experience with your brand from original engagement and into hopefully a long-term relationship.”

– Salesforce

The example we used earlier is just a small part of a larger customer journey map. When creating a customer journey map, you’ll work with other departments to identify points of friction. These could include things like needless touchpoints, a complex internal tech stack, long wait times, and confusing marketing copy.

Here’s an example of what a more robust customer journey map might look like:

Source: BrightVessel.com

As part of this map, companies will also include customer feedback gathered from these touchpoints and layer that on top of this journey. We’ll discuss more about using customer feedback to improve experiences further down in this article.

Finally, we suggest revisiting your customer journey map at least every quarter. Given digital experiences, technology, and preferences change, revisiting this on a regular cadence is important.

Once you’ve identified your problem areas, next you’ll need to act 👇

Seriously Simplify Your Touchpoints

Earlier we showed a buyer journey for a paid advertisement. Here’s that same journey simplified:

Drift: Conversational Marketing Paid Ad Flow

This journey no longer relies on static communication and replaces forms, emails, and delayed follow-up with chat.

Chat is just one way to help minimize the number of hoops buyers jump through. You should also look at other critical milestones in the customer lifecycle – like onboarding. Drift partnered with CustomerGauge to survey 100+ B2B businesses on the state of buyer and customer experience. In that survey, 57% of respondents said their onboarding was only somewhat effective in setting their customers up for success.

Yikes.

Stats like these are a good reminder that you need to look at the entire end-to-end customer journey and critical milestones within that journey.

Use Data Responsibly & in Service of Your Buyers & Customers

According to Accenture, 83% of customers are willing to share their data to personalize experiences. The problem? Customers don’t think their data is being put to good use.

One of Drift’s leadership principles is to “put the customer at the center of everything you do.” This is a good policy to keep in mind when it comes to using customer and buyer data: Only ask for the data customers and buyers will see tangible benefits from.

In that vein, here are some best practices for using data (responsibly) to improve experiences:

Keep Data Asks Small

Forms with endless fields are antiquated and lead to a poor experience. And even if you do invest in more real-time communication, it’s important to limit your number of asks (basically don’t turn your forms into long chat conversations).

For example, only ask for an email if you’re actually sending something, and phone numbers if buyers actually want to talk over the phone. Append data with third-party vendors to fill in the blanks and layer on additional personalization 👇

Another reason to keep your data asks small: A growing list of data privacy laws. Since GDPR came into effect in May 2018, a number of new privacy laws have been added to give buyers and customers more control over their data 👀

  • Nevada Senate Bill 220 Online Privacy Law
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • New York SHIELD Act
  • Maine Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Consumer Information
  • California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)
  • Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)
  • Schrems II decision

Adhering to these laws is important for building trust with your customers.

Another key way to build trust around data? Putting it to good use for your buyers and customers. In the next section, we’ll dig into best practices for using personalization data in your marketing.

Get Personalization Right

Personalization isn’t just a name token at the top of an email. It’s an entire strategy. That means your first step should be to map out where you want to use personalization in your buyer and customer journey. This will identify what other data you need to capture, and how you plan to use it.

Ideally, personalization should focus on two key components of the customer lifecycle:

  • Acknowledging the buyer or customer in their journey: This means you know who they are, where they came from, and, potentially, what led them to your website (i.e., you know which offer they clicked based on UTM parameters).
  • Helping them find answers now: What do they need to know? How can you best point them to an answer?

In both cases, you’re helping vs. selling. You’re providing value up-front and identifying how to help buyers and customers now. You can learn more about these two methods in Gartner’s Maximize the Impact of Personalization report.

To end this section, we’ll look at another key piece of data not just for improving experiences – but for improving your business as well.

Use Customer Feedback to Improve your Products & Services

Whether you’re a product- or service-based company, customer feedback is an invaluable tool to elevate your business.

Yet, many companies aren’t using feedback effectively according to our survey with CustomerGauge. In that survey, 64% of respondents either didn’t send a survey to customers at all or only sent one survey a year 😬

Sending a survey after milestones – or on a quarterly basis – makes it easier to identify problems or potential churn. Companies can then be agile in acting on those findings and plan accordingly.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when using surveys:

  • Keep them short: Whether you’re using Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), or Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys – keep them short and keep them simple.
  • Explain how you’ll be using the feedback: In your intro to a survey, you should explain how this feedback will benefit respondents.
  • Act on what you find, close the loop: Closing the loop means following up on the feedback you receive, resolving issues, and communicating solutions back to respondents.

Invest in Digital Experiences that Scale & Support

2020 was a wake-up call for marketers still on the fence about investing in digital innovations.

As the world went virtual and physical channels became less viable, marketers had to double down on digital marketing to make up the difference in pipeline.

Customer marketing, customer success, and customer support have been equally tested. Customer support hotlines and generic help@ emails led to long wait times and frustrated customers.

There’s no question – companies can and must do more to support their employees and customers across the board to scale and support their work.

In this final section, we look at two ways to better prepare and scale your business with digital, while also empowering buyers and customers.

Make Communication & Self-Service Easy

Earlier we showed how chat can simplify the buyer’s journey and enable better communication between buyers and sellers.

The same benefits can be found with customer support.

Here’s Hannah Steiman, COO of Peak Support on why conversational channels are so important to customer enablement 👇

“You have to invest in conversational channels – online chat and social media. Studies show that customer satisfaction rates for chat are as high as 92% – greater than any other channel. That’s because live chat enables you to have a back-and-forth conversation, resolving multiple questions in real-time.”

– Hannah Steinman, COO, Peak Support

Chat also enables better self-service for buyers and customers. A survey from Zendesk found that more than 67% of buyers and customers prefer self-service over talking with a rep. Empowering customers and buyers with self-service options are vital in scaling marketing and customer-facing business operations.

Adapt Your Experience to a 24/7 World

In a digitally-enabled world, business doesn’t stop when the workday ends. That means your ability to help clients get the answers they need shouldn’t either.

Automation and AI have given companies – from small businesses to the enterprise – the ability to service and help clients 24/7.

Only a few years ago, both automation and AI seemed inaccessible to small and medium-sized businesses. But new advancements in technology have lowered the barrier of entry for these companies.

Take Drift’s brand new Virtual Selling Assistants. Based on patented technology, Virtual Selling Assistants are AI-powered chatbots that engage and qualify your site visitors at all hours of the day, in multiple languages. They allow salespeople to book meetings while they sleep, help customers find the self-service resources they need, and navigate buyers seamlessly through a website. A win-win-win.

Forbes contributor Daniel Newman explained perfectly why AI-powered chat plays to our culture of convenience (and the massive opportunity it holds):

“The first thing I do when I hit a snag on most websites is search for the “chat now” button. Yes, I know I will most likely be talking to a robot. But, as long as they answer my question quickly, I’ll leave a happy customer.”

Final Thoughts

Buyers and customers have more options than ever before.

If you want to create lasting loyalty, you need to focus on delivering experiences that are frictionless – and memorable.

Here’s a recap of the best practices we shared for delivering a great end-to-end customer experience:

  • Create & revisit your customer journey map
  • Simplify your journey touchpoints & work across your departments to remove friction
  • Keep your data asks small
  • Focus on delivering personalization at scale
  • Use customer feedback to improve your products & services
  • Make great self-service a cornerstone of your digital experience
  • Use AI & automation to adapt to a 24/7 world

This list is by no means exhaustive. But it’s a good starting point if you’re looking to make an impact sooner rather than later.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in July 2020 and has been updated to reflect new information.

Interested to see how your brand experience stacks up against the competition? Check out the full State of Buyer and Customer Experience report.