7 minute read · Published April 15, 2024

Don’t leave product out of the customer experience management equation

Latest Update May 16, 2024

The difference between a good product and a great product with staying power boils down to one thing: its alignment with the customer. 

While we often think of the hands that customer success, marketing, and sales have in building and maintaining relationships with customers, you can’t ignore the importance of centering the customer in building the actual product. 

So, how do you ensure that customer understanding is fully integrated into every feature, button, and overall “vibe” of your product?

Before we get into some of the strategies you can use, we’ve first got to touch on one critical distinction. 

Customer experience management vs customer relationship management

Sometimes, people will use customer experience and customer relationships interchangeably. But they’re very different, both in their objectives and how they look in practice.

If we were to summarize the difference between these two disciplines at the highest level: customer relationship management is mostly human-focused, and customer experience is broader and incorporates more product-driven elements. 

Customer relationship management vs customer experience management

Customer relationship management (CRM)

As the name implies, managing customer relationships involves optimizing the interactions between your team and current or potential customers. This often involves direct contact with customer-facing teams like marketing, customer success, and sales. 

Customer relationship management's goals are usually to boost sales, retain customers, and deepen relationships to increase customers' lifetime value. 

CRM platforms like Hubspot or Salesforce are often used to track these interactions and automate parts of the process to scale their relationship-building efforts as their organization grows. 

Customer experience management (CEM)

Customer experience, again, as the name implies, is about the overall experience that a customer has with your brand. While the customer relationship may be one part of this broader experience, CEM is much broader and tracks the experience across the whole journey. 

So, the easiest way to tell the difference between relationship and experience is that the customer experience is much more inclusive of all interactions.

The customer experience may start with marketing and sales, but then it’s continuously influenced by both your customer success team and the in-product experience

The goals for customer experience management are to think in the long term to create memorable interactions that generate loyalty. Another major goal, as it relates to the product, is to keep the customer at the heart of the additions, improvements, and pivots within your product.

So, what should product teams focus on more?

While it’s really important for the product team to coordinate with the other teams involved in customer relationship management so that all teams are aligned, you can more effect change as a product person in customer experience management. 

Moments you can leverage customer experience to create great product experiences

Customer centricity is often seen as little more than a buzzword. And that’s because of the shallow way that it’s typically implemented. The mantra of “giving the customer a seat at every table” (or in Amazon’s case, physically leaving a seat empty) is often more aspirational than tangible.

(Video Source)

However, when you create processes that turn customer-centricity into more than just talk, it can be a strategic compass to guide every strategic decision that a company makes.

And product decisions and product design absolutely play a role here. Customer-centricity requires that non-customer-facing teams have direct involvement. 

When it comes to product teams harnessing customer centricity, success lies in keeping the following fact at the forefront of every discussion: You can’t get caught up in your assumptions of what you think is cool or different, and instead, your barometer of a “great” idea is how in alignment it is with what moves the needle in a positive direction on your customer experience. 

And I get it, when you’re so deep in the building process, it’s easy to get caught up in all of these “cool” things, or pushing for innovation. However, focusing on customer experience just pushes you to avoid innovation for innovation’s sake and instead seek ways to innovate based on what your customers care about most. 

Need an example of a company that is customer-centric to its core when it comes to its product design and functionality? You’re like one of the two billion people with one of their devices: Apple. 

Between the seamless integration between all of their products, a highly intuitive user interface, and regular updates that serve to continue enhancing the product, Apple’s commitment to customer centricity is clear. 

Here are some tangible tips on how this may look in practice in your product. 

Put your best foot forward with killer onboarding

Onboarding is your team’s first meaningful touchpoint with the customer, so you want to make sure you leave a strong first impression. 

Put yourself in your user’s shoes. The typical onboarding experiences with SaaS products are usually some combination of confusing, overwhelming, and boring. You have the opportunity to create an actually fun onboarding experience for your new users. 

Craft an experience that helps them get up and running in minutes without feeling like they’re being dragged through an unnecessarily stuffy process. The best way to do this is to provide help that’s intuitive, not annoying. 

Anticipate any challenges your users may have in this process and be proactive about getting in front of them. Self-guided onboarding can be enhanced by giving them a simple list of action items to check off, an easy-to-find library of intuitive help materials, and nudges that seamlessly move your users around the app.

Before they know it, your users will understand your platform. This onboarding experience is one of the best indicators of who will become power users. The stronger they start out, the stronger their engagement will continue to be. 

Personalize the experience to resonate across personas

Not all of your users are the same. They’ll be coming into your platform with different goals, challenges, and things that excite them. So the best way to enhance the customer experience in-product is to take advantage of opportunities to personalize the experience. 

We wrote a whole article about how to create personalization that scales in a recent blog post if you want to dig really deep into this. But we’ll give you a brief summary here. 

The base level of customization here is to establish your personas. Figure out a handful of different groups of like people using your product, and map out their problems, goals, and challenges in your platform. Craft your experiences around those personas and bake in triggers to deliver custom messages or actions that make them say, “Oh wow, that’s exactly what I needed at this moment.” 

For example, if you know that one specific feature is going to be especially important for one of your personas, add a quick nudge that gives them tips on how to get the most out of that feature. And if you can customize this even further to their role or industry, even better. 

But in the age of AI and really advanced new technology, you can and should do better than that. Instead of creating broad moments of customization where you’re talking to a group of people, talking to that single user in your product is much better. 

Copilot

This is where real-time personalization comes into play. Using features like our Copilot makes your user feel like they have a real person there to help them in real time. In their natural language, they can ask questions about how to do something in your platform, about the capabilities your platform has, or anything else they’re curious about and instantly get really relevant answers. 

This level of customization will automatically boost your customer experience because you’re crafting the experience to their needs in real-time. 

Pull feedback and integrate it

One of the core tenets of customer experience is building a solid feedback loop. While your customer success team obviously has a big hand in this, the product team should be tightly intertwined into this feedback loop since they’re often the ones getting face time with your customers. 

And that’s because you have hard evidence of your user engagement

You should be digging into the direct feedback you get from customers through methods like surveys, but the indirect feedback is perhaps even more valuable. Sift through your platform analytics and look into trends around the following things:

  • Interactions with support materials
  • Feature usage
  • Conversations with bots
  • Time in platform

All of this data is fuel to create better, more intentional customer experiences. Use this data to determine the most engaging parts of your platform, the features that people struggle with, the features people overlook, and things that your users are trying to do in-platform that isn’t yet possible. 

This process of applying feedback is a continuous process that doesn’t have one clear path. It requires your team to be experimental, iterative, and extremely empathetic. 

Like we said towards the beginning, the best tip we could give you into creating better customer experiences in your product is to constantly ask the question, “how would the customer feel about this?” 

How product teams can have an impact on the customer experience

We’ve got to give product people their flowers

Many people tend to conflate customer relationships with customer experience, but this critical error typically leaves product out of the loop. While the human elements of your brand cannot be disregarded, the product is created to seamlessly blend with these interactions to create the best overall experience. 

When you look at it like this, it’s impossible to untangle the role that the product plays in this whole process. 

So if we want you to take one thing from this post, it’s that you have the power to shape your user experience in a very tangible way. It’s up to you to put the strategy in place.

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