Speaking From Experience – The CEO’s Guide To UX

When it comes to getting to grips with the user experience, embrace the power of your three most important weapons - technology, your employees and your customers!

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As a CEO, you’ll already know that your business begins and ends with the customer, or user.  

Not to be confused with customer loyalty, the term ‘user experience’ embraces the relationship between customer and brand and is based on a wide range of factors.  

As the name suggests, user experience is all about a customer’s perception of your brand – from the aesthetics of a physical store to the in-depth experience of site navigation and customer service.

Customers tend to measure experience against previous visits and visits to your competitors and this experience will determine whether a future visit is going to happen. 

User experience embodies anything from a swift social media visit to a multi-dimensional physical store visit and is influenced by factors such as up-selling and cross-selling. 

Needless to say, the concept of user experience should be an integral part of any business, implemented by every member of staff.

At the helm of the UX ship is the CEO and we’ve put together our guide to UX for CEO’s and business owners. 

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

In order to begin examining the user experience, a CEO needs to place him or herself at the sharp end of the business – the position of the customer.  The idea here is to try to see the brand from the customer’s viewpoint; particularly that of a brand new or potential customer.

For this, we’ll also take a deeper look at the customer journey – the different touch points that a customer will pass through before ‘sealing the deal’ with a purchase. 

When looking to improve and build on the user experience, your first step is to take off your CEO hat and rediscover your brand through the eyes of the customer. 

Although you know the nuts and bolts of your business inside out, you really are working blind until you take a look at it from the other side. Pretend that you’ve just this minute discovered your brand and take a walk through the customer experience – from browsing and making enquiries to making a purchase and after-sales care

This simple exercise will, in most cases, highlight the good, the bad and the ugly of the user experience for your business. 

Things to look out for: 

  • How easy is the site navigation?
  • How quickly are queries responded to?
  • Did you feel valued?
  • Were you offered an incentive to purchase?
  • What was the purchase process like?
  • Was there a range of payment options?
  • Were you offered after-sales care?
  • Did you receive after sales care and, if so, was it effective and relevant?

Portrait of a customer

Now that you’ve seen your brand from the other side – and identified some strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to work on getting a proper, detailed idea of who your customers are. 

Before starting out, you no doubt created a broad profile of your target customer but, you need so much more than that in order to stay competitive.

It’s great to know the age, location and salary range of your target but, you also need to know what their interests and priorities are and, what kind of things compel them to make a purchase.  

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The Customer Profile

Deeper Demographics

We’ve mentioned customer demographics and, these are great as a starting point – you also need to look at your own brand’s demographics including:

  • Which markets does your product serve best, for example, software for finance
  • Which specific vertical does your brand operate in?
  • What is your annual revenue?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • Where is your business located?

Putting the customer into context

Now that you’ve examined your own brand’s demographics, it’s time to delve deeper into those of your customer, in terms of context.  

Things to look for: 

  • What are the pain points for the customer?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What technology are they using?
  • What are their short and long term goals?
  • How are they currently solving challenges and pain points?

Now that you’ve assessed your brand and taken a look at the issues facing your customer, you’re in a position to move onto the most important questions: 

  • What value can my brand offer to these customers?
  • Can my brand solve some or all of the customer’s paint points?
  • What differentiates my brand from my competitor’s?
  • How does my brand’s solution tackle the customer’s short and long term goals?

Flesh to the bones

Once they have this customer profile information, many brands find it useful to put together a customer persona – in essence, a more detailed and tangible recreation of the customer – In addition to basic demographics, you’re now looking to put flesh on the bones of the customer with information including the following: 

  • Level of education
  • The marketing channels that they favour
  • Their spending habits
  • Their role in decision making is at work and at home
  • Their priorities in life and spending
  • Their priorities when it comes to new products or services
  • Their influencers

Don’t worry if this all seems a bit complicated, there are a number of profiling tools out there that can help you include: 

Draw a customer journey map

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So, now you know who your customer is (feel free to give him or her a name and a backstory), it’s time to look at the customer journey.  We’re not talking about their bus journey to your store or the traffic on the North Circular but, those factors which drive customers to loyalty.  

This means finding out the things which are most important to your customers and potential customers and, which generate the highest economic value.  The customer journey is made up of many segments and often offers surprising results – for example, in a study by a UK airport, results showed that customers were more adversely affected by the behaviour of security personnel than they were by long waiting times.  

There are a number of ways in which a brand can gather and analyse data regarding the customer journey.  One of the most effective of these is Sentiment Analysis.  Sentiment Analysis is in the process of trawling the internet for mentions of your brand on forums and social media and then analysing the ‘emotion’ behind those mentions in terms of ‘positive’, ‘neutral’ and ‘negative’.  This is a really effective way of gaining information directly from the customer and, there are tons of tools out there to help you with this including: 

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The most successful brands tend to have one thing in common – outstanding customer service.  To achieve this, customer facing employees need to be motivated, experienced and empowered to make decisions based on customer satisfaction.  As CEO, your job is to make this happen by providing training, incentives and employee onboarding. Going back to your Sentiment Analysis, you’re looking for comments which state that your customer service employees go the extra mile, rather than stalling half way through the customer journey.    

Your journey is being re-routed

Once you understand what the customer journey is, you can begin to use digital technology to reinvent and redefine it – and continue to do so throughout the lifetime of your brand.  Use multidisciplinary teams to design, test and re-test high impact processes and continue to use your Sentiment Analysis to encourage feedback for a completely customer-focussed approach.   Research shows that many customers will avoid a brand after just one negative experience and, so, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of feedback. 

Redefining the brand

It may not just be the customer journey that needs tweaking – sometimes, customer feedback will indicate that the brand as a whole is lacking appeal.  This doesn’t mean a complete overhaul of the brand, but yet more alteration of the customer journey to fix the parts that don’t pass muster; whether that’s lacklustre packaging and marketing or poor customer service.  The customer journey should always be an ongoing process of innovation and improved technology in order to remove customer pain points and offer an effective and attractive solution whilst managing customer expectations. .   

Getting into the customer’s head

These days, we’re increasingly aware of the benefits of applying behavioral psychology to the customer experience in order to influence customer perception and, therefore, satisfaction.  Although this may sound a little new-agey, it’s quite straight-forward – for example; a brand can combine and streamline two or more stages of customer interaction to decrease the perceived duration or waiting time.  If a customer feels that they are saving time, this automatically puts a tick in the satisfaction box. Similarly, providing a wider range of options during the customer journey gives the user the perception of being more in control of the process, resulting, again, in increased satisfaction. 

The Brand Ambassador

As you work hard to empower your employees and improve the customer journey, it’s time for your customers to do their bit.  If your business has been up and running for a while, and you’ve been doing your Sentiment Analysis, you’ll hopefully have a valuable collection of feedback and testimonials from happy customers.  Use these in your marketing materials to promote the sense of a superior user experience. Customers praising your customer service, product quality and after-care are beyond value when it comes to the perception of your brand – use incentives to encourage these customers to champion the brand to others.

Back to you

So, you now have your employees (across all levels) and your customers helping to create the perfect user experience so, it’s time to sit back and relax, right?  Wrong, creating an effective customer-centric model requires strong and proactive leadership – that means you. For any brand, great governance is the bridge between success and failure and, as CEO, your job is to be executive champion for every stage of the customer journey.  Not only does this mean being a role model for staff across every department but active involvement at every stage. Now that you have the framework for your new and improved user experience, you need to nurture it and build on it. You can do this in a number of ways including: 

  • Employee motivation – create a work environment whereby employees don’t work for you but are thought of as partners.  Ensure that the message regarding user experience is properly communicated to every member of staff, however junior, in order to make them feel empowered and involved. 
  • Encourage employee feedback – when it comes to improving your user experience, your most valuable tool is your workforce; listen to them!  Create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences and making suggestions regarding improvements.
  • Create an army – In addition to communicating new initiatives to employees, make sure that you organise regular events and activities to create a sense of excitement and motivation amongst your workforce.  An ethos of ‘we’re all in this together’ is incredibly effective in changing employee perceptions from ‘just a job’ to ‘this is my mission’. 

Nobody said it would be easy

If you imagined the life of a CEO as one where you lay back on a yacht sipping cocktails whilst your employees put in a graft, we apologise.  As CEO, your job is one which takes responsibility from everything from new product launches to employee gripes. When it comes to getting to grips with the user experience, embrace the power of your three most important weapons – technology, your employees and your customers!