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How Customer Experience Insights Drive Engagement and Brand Loyalty

Brad Weiss, Radius Insights, Radius Global Market Research 2021/10/brad-weiss-bio.jpg

by Brad Weiss-Holmes

Executive Vice President

Staying close to your customers through Customer Experience (CX) research ensures you’re asking customers questions about what they want and need from your products and services. The research insights uncover new ways to grow your business — from the products that you develop all the way down to the way you ship products out to customers.

Customer Experience research helps brands in the B2B and B2C space explore the ecosystem of touchpoints that customers navigate when researching, making purchase decisions, and using your products. Research uncovers insights about how customers:

  • Navigate your website to discover, shop, and compare.
  • Explore and interact with your product on and offline.
  • Move through your ordering, payment, and invoicing processes.
  • Engage with customer service and issue resolution.
  • Interact with sales representatives.

When is the right time to consider a Customer Experience study?

Staying close to customers is a pillar of our Brand Growth Navigator approach to overall brand health. The ongoing customer experience program helps brands understand how their CX program works, but there are specific times when CX research is important. For example, when a brand is entering a new market, or launching a new product, CX insights can help teams develop the right approach. If team members are seeing changes in customer satisfaction due to customer pain points or rising competition, CX research can help to level-set by creating new activation strategies based on the research.

Exploring your CX helps you gauge your ability to meet and exceed customer needs.

When you identify moments and needs through an insights-driven approach, you can significantly influence the factors that lead to deeper customer satisfaction. Insights help you identify areas where your brand might fall short at crucial junctures so you can develop strategic action plans to fill gaps in your product offerings or services to maintain a positive growth track.

Businesses are flooded with customer data opportunities, but frequently underuse these insights. When we begin a CX engagement, our first step is to interview stakeholders throughout your organization who are involved in your CX to understand their roles, issues, and goals. We also review historical and current customer data sources to begin building our research approach and strategy.

Key elements of CX research include:

  • A holistic approach: A comprehensive view is necessary to capture the entirety of the customer experience.
  • Structured and actionable research design: Strategies are carefully designed with implementation in mind.
  • Effective Communication: From our first conversations with stakeholders, we’re focused on how to effectively integrate insights into team planning across the organization.
  • Robust reporting: We deliver Qualitative and Quantitative results in clear, story-driven reports paired with tools that empower your teams to make informed decisions and take purposeful actions based on CX findings.

How Customer Experience affects business success.

Brands with a full view of their customer experience can build a consistently customer-centric approach throughout their organization. This approach to CX fosters customer loyalty and advocacy and increases the lifetime value of a customer.

When brands struggle with customer experience, they will notice customer churn, tarnished reputations, and lost revenue, while organizations that prioritize CX tend to outperform their competitors in terms of revenue growth and market share. Understanding how CX influences the bottom line is essential for any business aiming to remain relevant, stay ahead of the competition, and enjoy consistent profitability.

When customers have a positive experience, they are more likely to become loyal customers, and brand advocates, but the benefits can also drive internal value.

Supporting a well-defined CX program also leads to higher employee satisfaction rates, as engaged and motivated employees play a pivotal role in delivering exceptional customer service.

When brands struggle with customer experience, they will notice customer churn, tarnished reputations, and lost revenue, while organizations that prioritize CX tend to outperform their competitors in terms of revenue growth and market share.”

To develop a holistic view of your CX, we develop a custom research approach.

Gaining a full view of the end-to-end customer experience requires a tailored, holistic approach to ensure we’re answering the critical questions that are being asked, and delivering a true representation of the customer’s perspective that stakeholders can act against.

Designing a holistic Customer Experience program.

Assessing the entire customer journey, including all touchpoints and interactions, provides a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience. A number of techniques contribute to a truly holistic approach, but some of the most critical elements are:

  • Pre-work review and ideation: Brainstorming and ideation to identify key areas of study.
  • Onboarding study: Understanding how customers interact with your products and services.
  • Ongoing transactional studies: Continuous study and measurement of consumer transactions at key points.
  • Competitor study: Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition to build and improve your approach.
  • Exploratory Qualitative: Explore customer wants, needs, and connection with your brand through immersive research.
  • Relationship study: Looking at the long-term relationship customers have with your brand to identify ways to strengthen connections with customers.
  • Churn study: Uncover key points where underlying issues cause customers to move away from your brand.
  • Periodic Qualitative studies: Check-ins and deeper exploration to maintain a world-class approach to CX.

Bringing the customer voice into research helps teams develop strong action plans.

A comprehensive CX evaluation includes immersive sessions with customers to gain their clear input and insights. These can include in-depth interviews (IDIs) with customers, or similar methods of gaining direct feedback, but we also develop experiences to help our clients engage directly with customers to learn first-hand how they feel about the brand. These can include:

  • Immersion Excursions: Deep dives into the customer experience through immersive, in-depth explorations, often involving direct observation and participation.
  • Popup communities: Temporary, focused groups or online communities created to gather customer feedback, insights, and e1ne discussion platforms where customers engage in ongoing conversations and provide feedback, allowing for continuous insights and discussions related to the customer experience.

Immersion techniques provide a personal view of the experience.

Immersion techniques help brand teams build powerful connections with their customers by hearing their perspectives on products or services. In these sessions, stakeholders gain a profound understanding of customer wants and needs, capturing memorable emotional insights, real-time feedback, and contextual factors that influence the customer experience. By listening to customers, and even immersing in their environment, brand teams can create comprehensive journey maps, develop detailed customer personas, and identify pain points and opportunities.

For example, we recently hosted a Customer Connects Immersion Excursion where a brand team explored sustainable packaging. This two-day tour helped the team gain first-hand knowledge about sustainability in action in key community locations during an in-home visit.

Another way to gain first-hand insights from customers is to ask them to video their routines, or their purchase experiences. Voice-activated technology enables rich customer feedback. During Real Time Concept Optimization sessions, customers co-create with brand teams in small groups to develop, for example, messaging, positioning, and customer experience strategies.

Social listening and online reviews provide ongoing insights.

Another way to gain ongoing customer feedback is through social listening. Highly engaged and influential customers on social media, act as strong advocates. Companies that take a strategic approach to social listening can gain valuable information and feedback on how the customer experience resonates in the real world. While there are many social listening tools, companies that tailor their social listening programs have the advantage of being able to track and measure specific insights that are critical to their brand growth. Learn more about taking a strategic approach to social listening.

Emerging technologies in customer-focused research.

Tech-assisted research methods include GPS-Assisted Mobile Research to quantify tangible and emotional triggers that influence customer choice, as well as mobile ethnography options and camera-based research that help you travel through the experience with the customer. Similarly, web-based video feedback makes it easier for consumers to deliver rich insights. Read more about new methods for data collection.

Identify the best methodologies for Customer Experience research.

The primary role of a research partner in CX research is to find the best method for uncovering the insights, and to recommend the best ways to help brand teams understand and use the data to create action plans for their brand. Our first step in ensuring the insights we uncover will be useful to client objectives is selecting the research methods and tools that will lead to the strongest insights for them.

Unified customer data allows brand teams to create plans that align with the insights.

Dashboards and other data tools are essential for helping stakeholders to easily reference and use customer experience research for data analysis. They can consolidate customer data from various sources into a user-friendly interface and makes it accessible to both data analysts and non-technical stakeholders, fostering data-driven decision-making. Users can drill down into the data to explore specific details, facilitating a deeper examination of critical trends. The platform enables comprehensive analysis of both structured and unstructured data for a holistic view of the customer experience.

An “elevation” tool” automatically identifies key insights and trends, directing attention to areas requiring immediate action or further exploration. This platform simplifies data integration, enhances accessibility, and supports in-depth analysis, empowering brand teams to make data-driven decisions about their customer experience program.

Custom metrics provide a clear path to developing and tracking your CX program.

Custom metrics provide a framework brands can reference to arrive at the optimal customer experience, enabling businesses to use customer scoring to precisely define customer profiles and identify the best customer experience models. Insights can also boost overall brand recognition by providing the right messaging and advertising, generating deeper interest in your brand. With key metrics about true customer needs and wants, brands can innovate products to meet needs, and enrich sales opportunities.

Key metrics in CX research include the following scores:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand customer loyalty and advocacy.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) to assess customer opinions about their experiences.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES) to uncover insights about the ease of customer interactions.

Additional research tools for customer experience can be useful.

Structured Equation Modeling provides a precise view of customer sentiment.

Structured Equation Modeling (SEM) helps stakeholders understand their brand’s health and customer experience, allowing them to:

  • Enhance brand equity to strengthen brand perception.
  • Influence behaviors to shape customer purchase patterns and spending.
  • Boost engagement and encourage active product usage.
  • Foster advocacy that turns customers into enthusiastic advocates.
  • Expand loyalty concepts to develop deeper dimensions and connections with customers.

SEM creates a framework of attributes, including emotional elements, brand image, and purchase process attributes, visualized in Path Models. It identifies the significant levers driving crucial business outcomes. SEM considers both direct and indirect attribute impacts, providing a precise understanding of which attributes wield the most influence. SEM doesn’t just identify; it offers actionable outputs, helping prioritize investments, refine messaging, and differentiate your brand effectively. Read more about SEM models.

Choice-based research models for CX research.

Recent advancements in realistic choice-based models are enhancing the evaluation of products, services, and marketing efforts, providing a more accurate reflection of the consumer’s actual purchase decision process. Combining elements from graphics and choice modeling, the tool simulates the genuine buying experience in a controlled environment.

For example, we used advanced choice models to replicate real-world customer decision-making processes for a fast-food chain, testing factors like special offers and menu item arrangement. Learn more about the specifics in this blog post.

Rich Customer Experience data leads to powerful segments.

A holistic customer view helps brand teams produce differentiated, targetable segments based on needs, attitudes, and motivations. We look at a representative sample of current and prospective customers and focus on behavioral, attitudinal, and needs-based insights to uncover real motivators. By connecting these marketable traits with existing data, we identify micro targets that are then combined into macro targets, enabling marketing teams to build unique approaches for each segment. This segmentation approach helps teams identify valuable targets, improving marketing campaign performance and contributing to brand innovation and growth.

Activation: Integrate action planning throughout your organization.

Our commitment to working with clients on activating the insights we uncover is especially important when it comes to Customer Experience research, which has an impact across the entire organization.

We work with clients throughout the engagement, scheduling initial interviews and check-ins along the way, with a clear focus on how the teams will act on the research to create the optimal customer experience.

A Looking Glass™ workshop helps teams collaborate on action planning.

One of our most important working sessions with teams takes place once the research insights are in. During this workshop, we provide a high-level view of the research implications, and host sessions where stakeholders can roll up their sleeves and dig into the findings within their own teams, and with cross-functional teams across the organization.

We help teams develop a Customer Experience Action Framework, and host regular action planning sessions in addition to these to review and interpret data and identify action steps and strategies they can use to integrate the new CX information into their plans.

Team-specific outputs help stakeholders work with the new insights.

Building a strategic plan for CX can be complex. We develop Executive Summaries and team-specific report stories that help teams develop tactics, and pair them with visualizations, graphics, or online dashboards they can reference as they continue their work.

During these sessions, we also help teams develop KPIs they can reference as they move forward with implementation, giving the team goals that align with the overall program. Teams also have access to the customer insights such as interviews, videos, and data that we’ve gathered during the research phase.

Implementing a strong Customer Experience program can take time, so strong activation planning includes follow-up calls and check-ins to ensure that the teams are on track with their plans, and the program is achieving the anticipated growth for their brand.

Common challenges in CX research.

To gain a wide view of customer needs and behaviors, we cast a wide net. This process requires us to be mindful of issues ranging from data integrity and privacy to inclusion and empathy for the customers we interview. We maintain a strong program to ensure our data models and processes meet a high standard.

Maintaining data privacy is crucial for all of us.

Data issues are crucial to your brand, as well as to our business. Transparency and consumer privacy respect is vital for building trust and brand health. Data breaches remain a key issue, but complex privacy policies confuse customers. Making data privacy an important element of your customer experience initiative can help you build and maintain trust.

As an extension of your brand, we maintain a strong commitment to best practices in data collection in our surveys and research. We also take careful steps to avoid survey fraud.

Biases in customer feedback

Incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into brand initiatives, such as advertising, influences consumer behavior, enhancing brand perception, purchase intent, loyalty, and growth. High-growth brands set DEI performance metrics, ensuring effectiveness in reaching diverse audiences, addressing subconscious associations, extending inclusivity, accurately capturing diverse self-identifications, making offers accessible, and portraying diversity authentically. Learn more about how we can support your DEI initiatives.

Empathy training workshops help teams develop skills.

Empathy skills training equips teams with vital abilities. This includes self-awareness, recognizing emotional responses, and addressing biases. Cultivating a deeper sense of empathy aids cross-cultural research, conducting precise surveys, and understanding diverse customer needs. It fosters authentic interactions with consumers, valuable for ethnographic research. This training promotes a common language and shared goals, enhancing team effectiveness and customer resonance. Explore our brand team empathy training.

Strategies for helping leadership overcome resistance to change.

Influencing leaders to embrace change can be challenging. We find that VOC insights are a powerful tool for illustrating why change is needed. Key points directly relevant to the brand, backed by memorable qualitative stories can help make the case for change. For example, pairing a statistic about children’s vitamin taste preferences with a brief video of a concerned mother can leave a lasting impression. This approach captures the executive team’s attention in just a few minutes, making it more likely that additional meeting time will be secured while delivering a powerful impact on leadership.

The future of Customer Experience research.

We carefully evaluate new techniques and technologies to identify the best research methods for our clients. As AI and Machine Learning continue to expand, our data scientists are looking at new ways to use these tools to optimize our offering. We’re also interested in new technologies that support gathering VOC insights and analytics. Another technology that holds promise for some of our clients is Virtual Reality.

Want to explore ways to improve your CX across your organization?

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