I got into Customer Experience purely by accident.
I was in an account management role at a large Contract Research Organization (CRO) for about six years when I saw a job opening at a science-related startup in Silicon Valley.
The role was as a Customer Development Manager, which I hadn’t done before, but I’d had a lot of the same bullet points in my CRO position, so I quickly submitted my resume and put it out of my head.
The next day, I received an email from one of the co-founders asking me when was a good time for a Skype call. That twenty seconds of, "eh, why the hell not?!" turned into a passionate and diverse role in Customer Experience.
I learned more in my time at Science Exchange than I had learned in the entire six years beforehand.
Working at a startup is a surreal experience, but Customer Experience is anything but “all fun and games.” It’s a big responsibility, an innate skill, and you have to be extremely passionate about helping customers succeed.
Without further ado, here are five things I wish I knew before starting in customer experience:
1. Everyone is Responsible for Customer Experience
Your entire team must agree that customer-inspired business and product decisions are what’s going to drive your success. From the CEO to every support agent on your team, there must be buy-in around the importance of excellent customer care at every touchpoint along the customer journey.
That’s the baseline.
Job titles don’t matter much when you all work for your customers. Every member of your team is ultimately there because you have clients who need you to be. Customer Success Hero. Client Success Champion. Customer Experience Ninja. None of that matters.
Your customer matters.
This can be difficult for other members of the team outside of Customer Experience to grasp. Many teams are just not built that way. You are lucky to find one that is, because it’s going to be the defining characteristic in your own success in customer experience. You cannot do your job without the support of everyone else on your team.
Getting buy-in from teams that are on the fence is possible, but it requires quantification of support issues and feature requests. Keeping track of every issue and enhancement request, along with how many customers are affected, and the value of those affected customers will go a long way to proving the value of the product and business decisions for which you’re advocating.
Data will arm you with what you need to fight for the inclusion of customer-inspired features on the roadmap. Sometimes that’s the only way to get the attention of a team who may be focused too heavily on things they *can* build rather than things they *should* build to satisfy their client base.
Software specifically designed for customer success can allow you to monitor your users at crucial points, let you know which customers need attention and why, and quantify that data to inform the team who is affected to determine where improvements can be made.
2. You Will Develop a Serious Interest in UX/UI
UX and UI.
These letters may not have meant much to you before, but they will inform every decision you make regarding customer feedback. A customer doesn't always know what they want, and sometimes they only know what they don't want. Your job is to take their suggestions and translate them into the language of your team.
You will drive the product in ways you never imagined, and with great power comes great responsibility.
You'll obsess over every click a customer might have to perform during their journey: before they buy, while they're checking out, after they've bought, during a support experience, via email, via the site itself.
Then you will lean heavily on your UX/UI designer who can build something better than you or the customer could ever have dreamed.
You are not a designer; you’re an analyst. Pairing with a great designer means your customer is getting the best of both worlds. Together, you'll craft a customer journey that is simple, self-explanatory, and pleasurable, and the customer's experience will benefit greatly as a result.
3. You Have to Be Proactive
A typical business hears from 4% of it's dissatisfied customers, which means the rest of your unhappy customers are keeping their dissatisfaction to themselves. Tools and processes must be put in place that will give you the leg up on customer behavior via usage data, and customer satisfaction based on personal relationships between you and them.
Segmentation of users allows you to customize the communication and relationships you have with your customers, so they get the information most likely to fulfill their needs at any time.
Whether you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of users, automating this process based on specific customer criteria can give you a great foundation, upon which you suddenly have time for individualized moments of "WOW" that will delight.
Asking users what they want is half the battle.
Knowing what they want before they want it requires research and skill, and you’d have a hard time getting that information from just the 4% who are vocal with their feedback. Well-designed surveys can provide insight into the minds of your customers and supplement the other data you didn’t know you needed.
Another thing to keep in mind is your own bandwidth.
Segmentation for automated communication is great, but your team is also providing answers on an hourly basis that can be banked for future use. There are several ways to do this: snippet tools like TextExpander are platform agnostic and great for having responses saved in your support arsenal.
Snippets and canned responses are great to have on hand, but they are not the robotic script answers you rattle off before even properly reading a support email.
No matter which way you decide to bank your snippets, be sure to also populate your knowledge base with the info you dole out so that current and future customers can easily find the good stuff if they want to search on their own before clicking that “Compose” button.
4. There Is No Such Thing As Over-communication
Whether your team uses tools like Slack, Intercom or Zendesk, it's crucial to be as flexible and transparent as possible.
At a moment's notice, a new customer email can derail everything you had planned for the day. That’s why it’s so important to be transparent and honest enough to discuss hurdles you face as a team and tackle them to make the experience smoother for everyone.
I always recommend an Employee Journey Map along with the Customer Journey Map because your team doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. You could be experiencing friction throughout your day that is easily fixed if only a member of the development team knew it was happening.
Your entire team can and should support you, but they can’t unless they know what you are going through. The support of an experience team, engineering team, and executive team who realizes this is priceless.
It’s the job of management to train you and your team well enough that you can provide support to any customer who needs it.
Empathy cannot be taught.
Learn the vision of the company, internalize it, and carry it with you in every communication you have with a client.
5. Be Passionate Or Go Home
I'm not going to lie; Customer Experience can be a thankless job.
You become the buffer between the product team and customers, between the sales team and customers, and between the C-suite and customers.
The development team will get the applause when a new feature rolls out. You will manage every customer’s complaints while continuing to advocate for roadmap changes and feature improvements.
The sales team will get the applause when they bring a new client on board. You will manage every customer’s missed expectation while onboarding and supporting them.
It's not all fun and games, and you have to do it because you are passionate about excellence in Customer Experience and business.
You have to do it because you realize that without those users, your company would be nothing. Without them, you would not be here, working your ass off to provide excellence and raising the bar for businesses to come. You have to do it because you realize that your clients deserve excellent service throughout your relationship.
To wrap up this little customer love-fest, put your heart and soul into this job. It might be the hardest work you ever do, but it will be the most rewarding.
Invest in your customers and they will invest in your business.
About the Author
Brianne helps companies understand and get excited about customer experience and what it can do for their business. Check out her latest thoughts on SoSaaSy.