As marketers, our goals are straightforward. We want to unearth a person’s desires and show them that they have a need—which, conveniently, the brand, product, or service we represent can fulfill. Ultimately, we want to help people solve a problem in their lives.
But for 90% of Americans, the customer experience they encounter after being wooed by our messaging dictates if they stick around and offer praise, or flee and spread the word of your brand’s false promises and tone-deaf communication.
To avoid losing potential or existing customers, your brand’s customer experience (CX) strategy must be comprehensive, effective, and efficient—from the very moment a user engages with your company. Deciding how to build those attributes into your CX strategy requires close integration with your unified content strategy.
Integrating CX as a core content strategy component allows you to provide the necessary solutions to a user’s needs preemptively. The more high-quality solutions you build, the stronger your customer journey becomes, and the more likely you can draw in users, convert them, and then retain their loyalty.
There are three crucial tasks you must include in your content strategy to develop top-notch CX pathways:
- Identify customer service pain points
- Create friction-specific customer service solutions
- Communicate authentically with customers
In this post, I’ll establish some of the options for tackling each task.
How to Identify Customer Service Pain Points with Content Strategy
In 2019, 49% of American consumers switched companies because the customer experience the original company provided was lackluster and lifeless. This percentage of customer loss is devastatingly expensive because investing in new customers costs 5–25 times more than retaining existing ones.
If you want to stagger fleeing customers and retain existing ones, part of your content strategy should be in-depth user research, which provides the needed data to learn where your existing customer experience is going wrong. Use the following data collection techniques to discover how your CX is breaking down.
Review Customer Contact Records
70% of the customer’s journey is based on how the customer feels they are being treated. The best data source to learn about how customers feel are chat logs, recorded calls, emails, social media interaction, and “contact us” forms.
None of us have the time to scour through hundreds of phone call conversations or skim thousands of chatbot messages. So the trick to deciphering this data is quickly identifying common themes your customers talk about.
The way you go about this step depends on your available resources, although two approaches tend to work well for most companies.
First, talk with your sales, customer support, and social media teams to learn about the most common feedback they encounter. Also, make sure you learn your company’s customer churn rate and probe the people you’re talking with to tell you why customers stop doing business with your brand. Afterward, you should have a clear picture of a problem area in the customer journey.
Second, if you use a chatbot or email support, analyze the records from those platforms with a natural language processor (NLP) to highlight any recurring themes. This technique requires a bit of technical knowledge and development work, but these 12 open-source NLP options can get you started. Compare the chat records with the information from the sales, customer support, and social media teams to get an idea of how widespread the CX issues may be.
Plus, because NLP relies on the users’ vocabulary, you know the exact phrases and keywords they use to identify their needs. You can then search for those phrases online and discover how other people, including your competition, are handling these concerns.
Another observation you should make is how the customer’s attitude changes depending on the contact option they use. HubSpot’s research shows that 62% of customers want to communicate with companies via email; 48% want to use the phone; 42% like live chat; 36% prefer a contact form. If you lack one of these contact methods, you may inadvertently be hampering your CX by causing unwelcome frustration.
Learn what contact methods your users like with feedback surveys, polls, or asking them directly while they are in your customer service funnel. Also, learn about the average time it takes a customer to solve their problems for each support method. If you’re unable to provide the most preferred and fastest option, make sure you at least offer their second choice.
Spot Missing Content with Analytics Data
Analytics data can help identify which type of CX content you’re missing or if your existing self-service content is underperforming.
The first step is to evaluate your CX content (product pages, customer service pages, important blog posts or white papers, etc.) with a small audit using a standard smattering of best practice content KPIs. I recommend starting with the basics like page views, bounce rate, and conversions, and then expanding your KPIs from there. This mini-audit will give you a great idea if your crucial CX content is resonating with users.
If you’re not entirely sure which pages you should audit first, take a look at your customer journey map and focus on the content your users interact with along their journey.
The next step, if your website has a search function, is to learn what people are searching for. If people are searching for content that doesn’t exist on your website, then those topics are something you should consider addressing.
For example, in February, three people searched for “podcast” on Portent’s website. After they found the page they wanted, those users spent an average of 17 minutes exploring that content and other areas of the website. Based on the average time of page for our site as a whole, we can assume they probably found what they needed.
On the other hand, if those users perform their search and instead immediately leave the website, that would signal they didn’t find the type of information they want. So we would either need to create new content or update the existing content, depending on how important those queries are to us. Check out this blog post for more tips on analyzing internal site search data.
User testing is another sure-fire way to learn what people do and don’t like about your product pages, customer contact journey, sales reps, etc. The most time- and cost-effective methods of user testing to determine CX pain points are:
- User Interviews
- A/B Tests
- Usability Tests
- Net Promoter Score analysis
If you’re trying to diagnose a multifaceted issue, then a combination of each test is preferred. But you can glean useful insights from even the simplest of exercises.
For example, one of our clients was getting an unusual amount of phone call traffic to their sales center. Normally, this would be great news. But most of these calls were not people trying to buy products; instead, these users wanted billing and account support.
The differing expectations among users and the sales team caused frustrations for everybody: the users kept getting transferred between departments, which increased wait times and delayed help, and the sales team was fielding calls for problems they couldn’t solve rather than helping new customers.
To identify what was going on, we used Hotjar to ask a simple, one-question survey on the homepage of the client’s website. The survey asked users about what type of help they expect to receive by calling a prominent phone number on the homepage.
The results showed us that we were displaying the wrong number for what most users wanted. By adjusting the phone number to meet user expectations, we improved both the customer experience journey and employee morale.
Heat Maps and Click Data
Heat map and click data shows you how much of your content users scroll through and what points they interact with. Use this information to identify if users are seeing the information they need from your self-service content, product pages, white papers, etc.
For example, if you have a contact page with one CTA and only 43% of users see the CTA, you’re creating frustrations for the other 57% of users.
Likewise, if you have multiple CTAs on a page but the most important gets a pittance of clicks, you should evaluate if the CTAs you’re offering users are the best choice for their needs.
The Best Friction-Specific Customer Service Solutions
Without a doubt, the hardest part of creating a seamless CX is having content that solves a user’s problem the way they want it solved, and presenting a personalized solution exactly when they need it most.
Ideally, you could always help users before they realize they need it, like offering an optional tutorial for newly installed software. Unfortunately, precognition isn’t a skill most of us have, so we’re stuck using the data we collected in our user research to build a world of personalized CX content that we expect users want.
As Ian Lurie, Portent’s founder, argues: marketers are world builders. We set the framework for users to tell us stories of what they need by creating places for user-brand interaction.
For example, let’s say your brand sells high-quality coffee grinders. A user who wants a new grinder may begin their journey with a Google search about coffee grinders, discover your website, and then convert.
Another person might start with a YouTube video review of different grinders, and your product could be mentioned; afterward, they find you on Amazon or Twitter. Eventually, they navigate to your website to look at specific products. After that, they go back to Google and search for reviews of the products they’re interested in. Maybe they poke around in Reddit or Quora for a bit, too, to read reviews from other users rather than bloggers or industry experts. And, after all that research, they finally take action and convert.
Every point of interaction in both of these journeys is a place.
As Ian explains, marketers don’t create the paths or tell the stories that users engage with. We put places on a map, create context, and let the audience do the rest. And every place you control should aid the user in whatever stage of the journey they’re in.
The following three types of customer-support content are among the more common places you’ll create or encounter.
Blogs, Guides, and White Papers
First, the most common content type: editorial content.
Whatever blog posts, white papers, case studies, etc., you choose to produce, your CX goal should be to establish the context that creates relevancy for all of the places users will visit when learning about or interacting with your business.
In our coffee grinder example, you could foresee the user’s confusion about their coffee grinder choices. In turn, you could make a blog post, video, or infographic about the different types of coffee grinders or what settings somebody would use if they’re making espresso compared to Chemex coffee.
Not every article you produce will perform on search engines either; more than likely, very few will. Instead, you’ll need to create content hubs and use a robust internal linking strategy to ensure users can find the relevant information when they’re ready to move forward along their path.
Research by Forrester shows that customers prefer knowledge bases over all other self-service channels, and FAQs are among the simplest and often most-effective knowledge base formats.
Writing an FAQ page is easy; after all, it’s a list of questions and answers. But writing a good FAQ page is much harder. You must give users enough information to meet their needs but not overwhelm them with too much information and cause sensory overload.
Here are a few FAQ best practices to keep in mind:
- The page layout, questions, and answers should be clear and concise
- Information must always be accurate and up-to-date
- Include the most important questions or answers first
- Afterward, organize questions by category
- If you have more than 10 questions, include a search bar
The key concept that ties these best practices together is that you should minimize distractions on your FAQ page. Keep the content focused on helping the user get answers fast and then empowering them to move on to the next step in their journey.
Customer Support Hub
Among the last troubleshooting steps customers want to take is physically getting in touch with your brand with a phone call, instant message, or email. That’s why self-serving customer service portals are crucial to providing a positive CX.
Amazon’s portal is an example of what works well.
Amazon has taken the most common queries users have and combined them into a self-serving customer service portal, presumably to cut down on the amount of interactions users have with customer support staff.
Let’s say you want to return an item. Choosing the refunds and returns section takes you to a short FAQ that walks you through the returns process.
The information also contains hyperlinks to the next steps a user may want to take after reading this information, which lets the user achieve their needs while Amazon saves resources. And crucially, this lets users approach the interaction at their own pace and on their own time.
Although your customer contact hub doesn’t need to be this robust, you should provide users with the opportunity to self-serve before they resort to getting in touch. Plus, during this self-service journey, make sure you provide the most relevant contact information for that specific problem, just in case they do need to contact your company for more help.
Communicate With Customers
Ultimately, good CX requires great communication. And great communication needs authenticity in the form of transparency and vulnerability, which most brands, unfortunately, shy away from.
The jumbled and inauthentic communications strategies that so many brands put forth create trust issues among users. This statement is particularly true for e-commerce and retail brands because 50% of shoppers believe any feedback they provide doesn’t get acted on.
You can improve your brand’s CX by proving to customers that their opinions are taken into consideration. Whenever you communicate with users, you should talk about the feedback you received from them and what you’re doing with that information.
The goal is to listen and respond. Listen in the places your users create: social media comments, independent blog articles, online reviews, Instagram posts, etc. Use tools like Buzzsumo to discover who on the web is talking about your brand.
Respond with thoughtful, honest, and transparent insights or solutions to the customer’s problems. If possible, avoid using impersonal, templated responses. You want users to believe you care about them; if they see the same response on every positive or negative comment, the personalized experience vanishes.
Each of these conversations builds a connection with your users and gives context to the places they create. Part of your unified communications strategy should be using these conversations to plan how, when, and why to communicate with users.
CX Strategy is a Plate of Nachos
As you’ve discovered, developing a unified content marketing strategy to bolster your brand’s CX is a multi-layered project. Fortunately, your content strategy team can deliver most of the research and solutions you need to cook up the best CX strategy for your company and its users. So go ahead: Collect the customer experience ingredients your users need to feel fulfilled and then bake it into a scrumptious journey that everybody will enjoy.