10 Methods to Improve the Customer Experience

By Jeff Sauro

Measuring, managing, and improving the customer experience involves collecting good metrics and keeping track of them. Following are ten methods to use to improve the customer experience with websites, mobile apps, software, and hardware and services.

True intent/voice of customer study

You can be a successful company for quite a while without really knowing who your customers are. At some point, though, it makes financial sense to understand the basic demographics of the people who purchase, repeat purchase, and recommend your company and products to friends.

For companies with a strong web presence, a True Intent Study with a web intercept or conspicuous link and survey allows willing customers to let you know who they are (age, gender, occupation, salary) and what they are trying to do (goals, tasks, and interests). This becomes vital information for subsequent customer metrics and methods.

In addition to website intercepts, you should also target past customers to understand the same core aspects of who they are and what they do or want to do with your product and company. This way, you aren’t relying exclusively on website visitors who may not be representative of your customer base.

Customer segmentation

All customers are not created equal. With data from a True Intent Study, Voice of Customer Survey, and other data sources, you can begin to understand what differentiates your customers based on demographics, behaviors, and profitability. Not only does segmenting customers tell you how to better serve current customer demographics, but it also allows you to discover any unmet needs and deliver better products and services in the future.

Persona development

It’s hard to develop for a conceptual group of hypothetical customers. A persona helps focus product development and marketing efforts on real customer needs and goals rather than just abstract demographics. It embodies the key characteristics of a customer segment by highlighting salient demographics, goals, and top tasks for development teams.

Personas represent fictional customers but should be based on real data obtained from customer segmentation analyses, ethnographic research, surveys, and interviews.

Journey mapping

Rarely do customers follow a simple linear path from prospect to customer. A customer journey map helps identify problem areas customers encounter while engaging a product or service and can locate opportunities for improvement. It can also help unify often disparate and competing efforts within the same organization by providing different departments with a single document that maps the customer’s entire experience with a product, service, or company.

Top-task analysis

A product or website can’t do everything for everyone. Despite there being dozens to hundreds of features and functions supported by products and websites, customers usually want to perform only a small number of tasks.

A top-task analysis helps separate the critical few tasks from the trivial many by having customers pick their most essential tasks. Targeting your efforts on significant tasks and delivering a solid experience where it has the biggest impact means more satisfied customers and customers who are more willing to repeat purchase, return, and recommend to friends.

Usability study

Just because a product has all the right features and is priced right doesn’t mean it will be a big seller. If customers find it difficult to use your product or website, they’ll look for easier alternatives and are less likely to reuse, repurchase, and recommend.

Observing just a few customers who use the product can uncover most of the common problems with an interface. Use data from a top-tasks analysis to understand what users want to accomplish and find users who match your customer segments. The most important concept to understand in a usability study is that it is not what customers think or want that matters, but to observe them using the product.

Findability study

One of the biggest pain points on the web and with software is just trying to find where features are buried. A findability study is a specialized usability study that focuses on the taxonomy (labels and hierarchy) and ignores distractions such as the design, layout, and search capabilities. It’s used for testing everything from cable TV interfaces and the Settings screen on an iPhone to product categories on a large e-commerce website.

Findability studies use the methods of tree testing and card sorting to uncover problems and identify fixes.

Conjoint analysis

Customers usually want a lot of features for a low price, or for free. Just asking customers what they want is usually insufficient for understanding what really matters. A statistical technique called Choice Based Conjoint Analysis produces a more accurate view of customer ratings by isolating which features have the biggest impact on preference.

A conjoint analysis is typically used in the product development stages to understand which features to build or how changing price or options affects customers’ future behavior. The conjoint analysis is one of a number of prioritization techniques used to help get the biggest bang for the development buck.

Key driver analysis

A key driver analysis identifies which features contribute the most to customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, or any other key variable of interest. Have customers rate their satisfaction with the most important features or functional areas of an experience. Include items on quality, features, value, service, and usability where appropriate.

A key driver analysis provides the relative weight of each of these ratings using multiple regression analysis. A key driver analysis is typically performed after a product, website, or service has been in use for a while to evaluate what to improve, add, or remove.

Gap analysis

Conjoint analyses and key driver analyses usually require advanced software and some statistical sophistication to conduct and interpret. Another prioritization technique, called a gap analysis, can be performed more easily by asking customers to first rate or rank the most important features and aspects of a product or service. Then, have the same customers rate or rank how satisfied they are with each of the features.

For each feature, find the “gap” by subtracting the average satisfaction rating from the average importance rating. The largest gap identifies the features that are the most important but with which customers are least satisfied and therefore presents the best opportunities for improvement.