10 Methods To Improve the Customer Experience

Jeff Sauro, PhD

There are some good metrics to collect and a lot to keep track of when measuring, managing and improving the customer experience.

Here are 10 methods we use to improve the customer’s experience on websites, mobile apps, software and hardware.

  1. 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 demographic of the people who purchase, make repeat purchases 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 (e.g. 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 which may not be representative of your customer base.
  2. 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, it also allows you to discover any unmet needs and deliver better products and services in the future.
  3. Persona Development: It’s hard to develop for a generic group of 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.
  4. Journey Mapping:  Rarely do customers follow a simple linear path from prospect to customer. A customer journey map helps identify problem areas customers have 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.
  5. Top-Task Analysis: A product or website can’t do everything for everyone. Despite there being dozens to hundreds of features and functions that products and website support, customers usually want to perform 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 will have the biggest impact means more satisfied customers and customers who are more willing to repeat purchase, return and recommend to friends.
  6. 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 use the product can uncover most of the common problems with an interface. Use data from a top-task analysis to understand what users want to accomplish and find users that match your customer segments. The most important concept in a usability study is to watch what people do instead of asking them what they think or want.
  7. 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 like a specialized usability study that focuses on the taxonomy (labels and hierarchy) and ignores the design, layout and search capabilities.  It’s used for testing everything from cable TV interfaces, the “Settings” screen on an iPhone to product categories on a large ecommerce website. Findability studies use the methods of tree testing and card sorting to uncover problems and identify fixes.
  8. 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. Conjoint analysis is typically used in the product development stages to understand which features to build or how changing price or options will affects customers’ future behavior. The conjoint analysis is one of a number of prioritization techniques to help get the biggest bang for the development buck.
  9. Key Driver Analysis: A key driver analysis identifies which features are contributing 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 with an experience. Include items on quality, features, value, service and usability where appropriate. A Key Driver Analysis will provide the relative weight of each of these ratings using multiple regression analysis. For example, we’ve often found that improving a usability rating by 1 point will lead to a half-point increase in customers’ likelihood to recommend.  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.
  10. Gap Analysis : Conjoint Analysis 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 conducted 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 where customers are least satisfied and presents the best opportunities for improvement.


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