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How to make smart CX and EX decisions to grow in the middle market

A hand, palm upward holding a growing plant

These days, it’s obvious (or at least it should be obvious) to leaders that customer experience is vital to companies seeking next-level growth—and that good experiences always rely on the strength of your digital tools and systems. This is especially true for companies selling digital services, but it’s also true for brands with retail locations: 87% of customers begin their research on digital channels, and more than three quarters (76%) say they search for a company’s website before visiting its physical location.

Unfortunately for leaders in the middle market specifically, achieving a great digital customer experience can be challenging because you’re less likely to have the budget and resources of a large enterprise. This puts mid-market leaders in the position of needing to make tough choices. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a digital experience that delights your customers. You just need a thoughtful approach to investing the resources you do have.

This exercise in CX is well worth doing, as the benefits of strong UX investment are many:

  • Meeting customer expectations 
  • Strengthening the brand’s reputation
  • Enabling long-term growth
  • Success breeding success, drawing additional interest and investment from leadership

Mid-market leaders looking to grow can focus on the activities below to form a smart, actionable plan for achieving their business goals.

Start by understanding your real customer pain points, backed by data

Leaders can fall into the trap of thinking they understand the root of a customer problem because it appears obvious, but jumping to conclusions will set you up for failure. Tailored, strategic research on UX and the voice of the customer may seem too expensive and time consuming to invest in, but trust us when we say it’s far cheaper and more efficient than paying for one or more failed solutions. 

Here’s an illustration: we worked with a pharmaceutical company providing medication and a delivery device to healthcare providers, and they were struggling with meeting device adoption goals. At the start of our research process, some leaders were certain that improving the device training experience for providers would have the greatest overall impact.

Research, however, showed training was a blip on their radar. What caused the most friction for providers was procurement and dealing with insurance. Had they spent a lot of time and money on their initial assumptions, those resources would have been largely wasted.

Research enables a company to solve the right problem the first time. And frequently, assumptions about customer pain points are proven wrong by research data.

Pick the wisest of many viable paths; prioritization is key in the middle market

Even once you are certain you understand the problem thanks to research data, that doesn’t mean the way forward will be obvious. You may see multiple ways to address customer pain points. Plus, there’s never just one problem to address. Prioritization is critical when you’re setting ambitious growth goals with limited resources.

As you prioritize, ask yourself:

  • What will produce the most value with the least amount of effort? Early wins build confidence and increase morale. They also build relationships with leadership, whose backing you’ll need for the more complex projects.
  • What CX improvements require prior projects to be completed as a prerequisite? You may need to clean your customer data or invest in technology improvements before doing anything else. Establish the dependencies and make a plan. 
  • What resources are required for each possible project? Since you’re limited, take stock of what’s possible, inventory the resources you have, and match them to the initiatives you could or should do. 

As you start to take action, continue to listen to customer feedback at every point of iteration and take stock of what is and is not successful.

Remember: investing in employee experience will improve customer experience

Often, people think of customer experience and employee experience as separate functions—and they can be. But research will frequently show that CX challenges are rooted in an EX issue. Placing an order on a website may be a perfectly intuitive, streamlined, and delightful experience, but if shipping processes delay delivery due to poor internal tools and systems, the customer won’t be happy.

We’ve seen time and time again that investments in employee experience have a direct impact on what customers experience both digitally and in person.

Are you ready to improve your CX and EX?

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For instance, a telecommunications client that operates in retail locations had one store that wasn’t meeting metrics goals. Leadership thought there might be a problem with advertising and marketing, or that poor service design was causing customers to leave the store without making a purchase. In reality, there was an issue with their employee-facing system that caused a delay in accurate information being served while supporting customers—and calculating accurate metrics for that location.

In another example, a retail brand we work with recognized patterns in which a customer ordered an item at a kiosk, but then an associate would have to call them over to say that the item was out of stock. Since employees were responsible for noticing something was out of stock and then entering it into the system, this task would often get missed during busy times of the day. To improve the CX, the company had to rethink their EX and process.

The bottom line is that focusing on the customer’s digital experience is important, but mid-market companies often overlook the ways in which their internal tools and processes are affecting the customer and their perception of the brand. At this stage of growth, investment into EX is just as important as the time and money put into improving customer-facing tools. Service design thinking could be worth investigating since these efforts often provide a sense of consistency for customers and employees across touchpoints.

To grow, focus on experience

CX and EX are critical to the success of a modern business. And though the middle market has fewer resources to devote to improving UX, taking a data-oriented approach combined with smart prioritization and systems improvements ensures that every dollar and resource spent helps your company meet its business goals and stay ahead of the competition.

If you’re ready to discuss ways to help your organization grow, let’s talk!

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