How to Conduct a CX Audit for Your Online Business
Asking the fundamental question, ‘What do your customers think about you?’ is a really effective way for online businesses to improve their competitive edge.
Customer experience (CX) audits can reveal surprising truths about your online business. Their purpose is to find issues that negatively impact your customer conversion and retention rates. If you’ve never conducted one before, it may feel a little daunting, but don’t worry—we’re here to demystify the process.
If you’ll forgive the cliché, knowledge is power. A full understanding of your customers’ experiences of interacting with your brand is invaluable. A CX audit will enable you to put in place effective marketing strategies, turning more potential customers into repeat buyers, increasing their lifetime value, and boosting your revenue.
It will also allow you to identify problems and ask the right questions to solve them. It’s an opportunity to assess how all your processes, procedures, people, and systems impact the services and communication that customers receive.
The importance of customer experience(Image source)
Customer experience is everything. In today’s world, all types and sizes of businesses have started to compete on the basis of CX. Indeed a 2020 survey found that 87% of marketing, CX, and analytics professionals placed great importance on exceptional customer experience above everything else.
It may be hard to hear some home truths (or you may be pleasantly surprised). However, you need to understand how your business is shaping up from a consumer viewpoint.
What is a CX audit?
A CX audit comprehensively assesses your target audience’s interactions with your business and their perceptions of it. It covers all of the touchpoints during your customers’ shopping journey, including both online and offline interactions. Touchpoints are all the places, from digital to in-person experiences, where consumers interact with your brand. There are potentially hundreds of touchpoints influencing if and how a consumer moves from one stage of their journey with your brand to the next.
Your customer touchpoints will be as unique as your business and will vary according to how you operate. For example, a solely online business will not have a touchpoint that involves their customer visiting a brick-and-mortar store.
It is important to take the time to fully understand the customer journey for your business. You will need to think about and document every interaction that your customers typically have with your brand. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here and you can’t simply use a customer journey template, as comparison with other businesses may not be relevant.
A customer journey starts with finding and choosing a product and can extend for a long time after the first sale has been completed. It is typically split into the stages of awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy but can vary from business to business.
What to consider when conducting a CX audit of your online business
Ask yourself what the perfect customer experience should look like for your business and start from there. Below, we will look at some of the most important considerations to include in your audit and why they matter.
1. Understanding and documenting your customer journey and buyer lifecycle
Understanding your customer is key to a CX audit. Identify exactly who your target customer is—have you created a customer profile or persona? This will act as a building block not just for your CX strategy but also for multiple strategies from planning your sales to marketing.
Once the customer profile has been decided on and studied, it will become easier to piece together the customer journey for your business.
What is a customer journey?
The widely used term ‘customer journey’ is often misunderstood. What it basically refers to is the set of experiences that someone has from the moment they start interacting with your online business, spanning awareness, consideration, and decision making. It is impossible to control every aspect of the customer journey, but it can always be improved upon.
Using a customer journey mapping template can help you to identify areas for improvement and manage existing touchpoints. After all, every journey is made easier by a map! Visually mapping out the process a prospect goes through to become a customer can help you understand customer behavior and thought processes and lose fewer prospects along the way.
What is a buyer lifecycle?
A ‘buyer lifecycle,’ also known as a ‘customer lifecycle,’ is a framework for understanding the typical progression of an existing customer from the perspective of a business.
Understanding and documenting your buyer lifecycle can help you to effectively categorize your customers. This will enable you to foster an experience and create content that encourages their movement through your sales funnel.
Speaking to your customers and asking the right questions
It is vital to understand your customers’ perceptions of your online business, and the only way to truly do this is by speaking to them in person. This can be very time-consuming, but if you have a customer service or support team or use the right sales team software, much of the work can be done for you.
Your team will be able to provide data on the most commonly asked questions, the most commonly voiced concerns, and the most frequent complaints.
There are many different customer touchpoints
2. Identifying all your customer touchpoints and their influence
One purpose of a CX audit is to improve the quality and effectiveness of your online business’ touchpoints. As mentioned, understanding touchpoints is key to planning your customer experience.
These interactions are powerful because they can change how people perceive your business. Examples of touchpoints include those detailed below, but the exact list you end up with will be unique to your business:
- Social media platforms
- Online advertising
- Digital marketing content
- Trade shows
- Trial offers
- Customer reviews and ratings
- In-person conversations with your team
- Point of sale
- Billing or invoicing
- Customer service
- Customer loyalty initiatives
- Subscription renewals
It’s important to pay attention to how much customers’ satisfaction with individual touchpoints influences their decision-making. Are customers influenced to spend more or less or become advocates for your brand because of these interactions?
3. Technology—is your integration seamless?
There are now more ways than ever for companies to interact with consumers and promote their brand identity. However, more choice actually places more demand on retailers to provide consistency.
Consumers often demand personalized and consistent experiences when they communicate with online businesses across various digital devices and platforms. For example, a message on Twitter can be continued through email.
A seamless and integrated customer experience is the holy grail of communication in 2021. The aim is to integrate online and offline communication channels to form a cohesive and simple experience from start to finish. If your customers are interacting with you through a multitude of methods, ensuring a unified and personal experience is a must.
Consider whether your team is using the right tools for the job. To ensure seamless integration, it’s a good idea to regularly evaluate the software you are relying on. For example, when was the last time you carried out a Flock comparison or looked for an alternative to Skype for business? A comparison between two providers is where you list all their benefits and line them up side by side. This helps you to see which suits your organization’s needs the best.
4. Using analytics to your advantage
Your analytics suite (e.g., Google Analytics) is an obvious platform to include in your CX audit. Understanding your website traffic numbers is a great place to start, but this alone doesn’t tell you what visitors to your website are actually doing. To assess customer experience and behavior, more in-depth information about how the website is performing is needed. This can be obtained through the use of specialist software, as discussed below.
Installing a clickstream analytics tool, such as Hot Jar or Mouseflow, will allow you to understand how users are actually experiencing your website. Through reports known as heatmaps, you can gain valuable data about the customer experience, including the following:
- Where on your website customers are clicking
- Consumer sessions
- How far people are scrolling down your website pages
- How well your website forms are performing
- Customer satisfaction
Analyzing your content and overhauling your strategy
If you’re looking to improve your customer experience, ask yourself this: is your website content user-friendly and does it address commonly asked questions from your customers? Take a look at content marketing examples from your competitors and see how you measure up. It might be time to refresh your content strategy to improve the customer experience.
5. Obtaining intelligence through secret shopping
Secret shopping, also known as covert or mystery shopping, gives you the chance to witness the reality of your customers’ experiences first-hand. How long does it take to receive a response on social media? Are call center staff friendly and helpful? How user-friendly are your website forms? These are all questions to which you need to discover answers.
It’s important to understand what is really happening in your business, so that any issues that arise can be fixed.
Although it is possible to carry out secret shopping surveillance yourself, you may prefer to use an experienced agency. Mystery shoppers are able to tackle the task in hand with objectivity, which you are unlikely to have. Secret shopping can also be a time-consuming business.
Assuming the same motivations and demographics your target customer would have, a secret shopper should start at the beginning of the customer journey. It is essential they carry out the same actions and ask the same questions a typical customer would.
You will need to document all your interactions, conversations, where your expectations were exceeded, and where you felt disappointed. To get the most out of this experience, it should be as ‘real’ as possible. Create a genuine shopping account and actually purchase and return products. The aim is to access as many touchpoints as possible.
Secret shopping can also identify areas where your team could benefit from extra training. You may think they share your brand and cultural values, but these may not be conveyed by their performance. In the post COVID-19 world, remote training is a must, so make sure you use the most effective tactics, such as the ability to share your screen.
6. Is your online shopping process customer-friendly?
A customer-friendly online shopping process isn’t just about easy online ordering. The online shopping process is initiated by a consumer’s need or desire for a particular product. It begins with motivation and ends with the decision to accept or return delivered goods.
Some important points to consider include the following:
- Is the sales copy on your website clear and convincing?
- Do your copy and calls to action persuade consumers to continue to the purchasing stage in a helpful manner?
- Does your website provide support in the form of a ‘human touch,’ such as online chat?
- If your website offers online chat, how helpful, knowledgeable, and responsive are your agents?
- Is your returns process simple and easy to understand?
- Does your enterprise ecommerce platform adequately serve the complex requirements of your business? It should be scaled to your business’ size and growth, not only meeting your customer needs now but also having the ability to grow with future sales volumes.
7. Are your pre-purchase and post-purchase experiences competitive?
Don’t make the mistake of solely focusing on your sales process in your CX audit. A large part of the customer experience involves pre-purchase and post-purchase touchpoints. These can leave an even greater impression on consumers than the actual purchase of an item. How does your offering shape up here? Don’t let competitors overtake you at these vital stages.
Think about how well your website answers questions that could arise during the pre-purchase and post-purchase stages. For instance, can consumers easily find the answers to queries about product variations, quality, and alternatives? Is it easy to find your returns policy and is it clearly worded?
Could your communication strategy be improved?
Getting to know your audience, crafting the right messages, and being engaged on all the right channels can drastically improve the pre-purchase and post-purchase experience. Improving your e-commerce brand communication strategy will build stronger and more memorable customer experiences.
Analysis and long-term strategy
Building an effective CX strategy
An effective CX audit can identify many short-term problems or opportunities, but it’s important to remember that the goal is to create a long-term strategy. Introducing a formal scoring and benchmarking mechanism will allow your business to measure overall customer experience management success.
By identifying, measuring, and benchmarking the touchpoints in the customer journey, you can identify your main priorities in improving customer experience.
After completing your CX audit, you should have the following information at your fingertips:
- Quick-to-implement minor changes needed to improve your customer experience
- The uncovering and creation of strategies e.g. resource planning and team training
- New opportunities
- Which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor in the future
Keep an eye to the future
It’s also important to sit up and take notice of customer experience predictions for 2021, with the event of new technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) expected to have a significant impact. It is vital to focus on your long-term strategy as well as improving customer experience in the short term.
For example, consider what your organization’s approach is to digital transformation. This technology-focused shift has changed how businesses interact with their customers and the processes they use. Adapting to new technologies is achieved by innovating and investing in digital strategies. With robotic process automation (RPA) reducing call handling time and improving customer experience, this is an area in which you simply can’t afford to lag behind your competitors.
Customer experience is not static and will change over time. This is why it’s so important to conduct regular CX audits, perhaps on a yearly basis, or if there is a big change in company structure or processes. Pay attention to how customer experience is affected at different times of the year. CX strategies for the holidays are particularly important to ensure that the pre-Christmas rush doesn’t negatively impact the service you provide.
If you want your online business to succeed in today’s crowded and competitive marketplace, it pays to embed CX into your culture. From frontline employees to the board level, the whole team must understand the importance of this strategy.
If CX isn’t currently getting the attention it deserves within your business, then conducting audits should soon help set you on the path to success.