Content Marketing

What Is Customer Experience Management and How Can It Take Your Content Beyond the Funnel?

As marketers, we’ve always loved the concept of the buyer’s journey, the idea of a linear path from the awareness stage to the decision or even the advocacy stage. That neat, orderly flow from top-of-funnel (TOFU) to middle-of-funnel (MOFU) through to bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content is easy to align a content strategy to.

But savvy content marketers who analyze their organization’s customer research recognize that the reality of the customer experience is anything but linear. Instead, it’s a chaotic, messy back and forth from one point to another. In one Gartner report, 77% of B2B respondents acknowledged that their last purchase process was complex or difficult.

Gartner B2B buyer journey

To ensure your content remains effective and valuable to your audience, it’s crucial to pivot toward customer experience management rather than trying to take customers on a predefined journey. But what is customer experience management exactly, and how do you incorporate it into your content strategy? Let’s take a look.

What Is Customer Experience Management?

Customer Experience Management (CEM) is the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations, with the goal of increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. It goes beyond the traditional buyer’s journey to encompass the full range of experiences and interactions a customer has with a brand.

Rackspace partnered with global consulting firm XPLANE to create a customer-facing guide that accurately illustrates the complexities companies can encounter during IT transformation. While it still includes the process milestones, it also acknowledges the inevitable challenges that can take a customer down a side road.

Customer experience map

This new perspective highlights the importance of personalization and tailored experiences, crucial elements of a brand’s appeal that shape these interactions. Your brand isn’t just a logo or a catchy slogan; it embodies your relationship with your customers. And this relationship shapes each interaction and experience.

The Zig-Zag Reality of Customer Journeys

While the linear buyer’s journey model has served us well, the reality is much more complex. Customers don’t follow a straight path from awareness to consideration to decision; they zig-zag. They visit content, chat with friends, read an email, watch a video, discuss with peers, read reviews, and only then might they decide to request a demo or make a purchase.

This simplified version of a customer buying marketing automation software, for example, shows some of that zig-zag movement not only within the stages but across stages as well.

zig-zag funnel

Let’s say friends tell you they’ve started to get into playing pickleball. You’re interested in joining them, but really don’t know much about the sport. After chatting with your friends, you may take the following steps over the next couple of weeks:

  • Google “What is pickleball?”
  • Visit 3-4 sites that explain the game, how to play, and the equipment needed
  • Watch a YouTube video of a pickleball game
  • Google “pickleball paddles”
  • Browse through sponsored shopping listings shown in search results
  • Read reviews for some of the paddles
  • Call a friend to see which brand they recommend
  • Visit the brand’s website to browse the product selection
  • Decide on a model to purchase
  • Check Amazon to see if it’s offered at a lower price
  • Read Amazon customer reviews for the item
  • Add it to the cart and check out
  • Google “pickleball courts near me”
  • Map the closest location
  • Text your friends to coordinate an outing to play once you receive your paddles

As you can see, this “simple” buying decision took many steps, and that’s without any complications. This is a good start for mapping the customer experience, but it’s missing the thoughts and feelings customers experience as they take these steps. That’s why it’s important to add voice-of-customer research into your process, so you can include an empathy layer to your customer experience map.

The Power of Personalization and Tailored Experiences

In a world where customers are bombarded with marketing messages and engaged with brands at different touchpoints, standing out is crucial. Personalization is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Tailored experiences that resonate with customers on a personal level can make the difference between a customer choosing your brand over others.

But according to a Forrester report that Adobe commissioned, customers now expect personalized brand experiences, with B2B customers having the highest expectations.

B2B customer personalization expectations

Personalized experiences lead to increased customer loyalty and higher conversion rates, and customers are more likely to engage with a brand that recognizes their unique needs and preferences and tailors the experience accordingly. But where do you start?

Once you’ve compiled your customer experience map, look for opportunities where your brand can improve or even delight customers. In this example from Spotless, they’ve begun to catalog recommendations along different touchpoints. This step can also become quite complex, so you may want to create a symbol or color key to indicate which recommendations would happen in-product, via customer support, through content marketing, or other areas of the business.

Customer experience map

Your Brand as a Shaping Force in Customer Experience

Beyond simply understanding the concept, it’s important to be able to answer the question, what is customer experience management as it relates to your brand? Your brand is more than just a name or a logo. It’s a promise to your customers. It’s a set of expectations and experiences that your customers associate with you. And it plays a crucial role in shaping the customer experience.

memorable experiences

Successful brands understand this. They leverage their brand identity to create unique, memorable experiences for their customers, setting them apart in a crowded marketplace. Strong brand identity leads to increased customer loyalty, higher conversion rates, and, ultimately, business success.

As we move forward, customer experience management will continue to evolve. Technology will play an increasingly important role in shaping customer experiences. Machine learning, AI, and big data have revolutionized how we understand and respond to customer needs and preferences.

As marketers and businesses, it’s vital that we keep pace with these changes. We must continue shifting our focus from the traditional, linear buyer’s journey to the zig-zag reality of customer experiences. We need to embrace personalization, create tailored experiences, and utilize our brand identity to shape these experiences.

We want to hear from you. What is customer experience management to you? How is your business adapting to elevate and manage your customer experiences? How are you leveraging personalization, tailored experiences, and brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace? Share your thoughts, experiences, and insights with us. Let’s create together.

Image by Kristina Astakhova

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