8 minute read · Published June 8, 2024

How to create great end-to-end customer experience (and where product managers can go wrong)

Latest Update June 9, 2024

A lot of the time, when we think about customer experience and what to optimize, we focus on the initial user onboarding flow, or time to an “Aha!” moment, or maybe how we can best keep people on the platform and reduce churn.

These are critical moments, and it is valid to emphasize them – to a degree.

But the reality is that your entire end-to-end customer experience matters, not just these moments.

Every touchpoint and every interaction with your brand and product informs the CX, not just your main and directly growth-correlated ones.

To deliver great CX, you need a clear and comprehensive view of your entire customer journey, from that first marketing touchpoint to their final retention or churn moment.

It's not just about having smooth workflows and UX – it's about a unified experience that relies on a great understanding of your users' wants and needs.

We’ll return to that, but first, let’s review some core CX truths.

Differences between CX, CJ, and UX

I want to take a moment to dig into the difference between user experience, customer journey, and customer experience because I know that these terms are often used interchangeably, and some people think that they're the same, leading to the UX-minded (or blinded, shall we say) approach we discussed above.

However, they have key differences. Think about it this way:

UX

User experience/UX captures your users' actual interactions with the product. From the moment they begin to onboard and interact with the tool, they are having user experiences. When we talk about UX, that's what we're referring to. It's fully in the product.

CX

On the other hand, the customer experience/CX also covers those moments, but it is broader and more expansive. It captures the customer's feelings about their interactions with your marketing website, advertising, support staff, salespeople, and more. Essentially, it covers all the other things in your brand that go on outside your product experience itself.

CJ

The customer journey is the visualization or model of all of those actions, touchpoints, and moments that inform the CX. It’s often a literal Figma or Miro model that your team has built to map out the entire flow.

Looking at this UX and CX landscape, it becomes clear that every touchpoint within the customer's experience is important. Where does that leave us? It's clear that:

  1. Good CX requires good UX.
  2. But good CX also requires more than just good UX.

From end to end, you must provide great value and clear, demonstrated solutions for your users. But not every part of the customer journey has the same needs!

Key stages of the B2B SaaS customer journey

With this mentality of end-to-end customer experience optimization, you need to ensure that you fundamentally understand every stage of the customer journey. This is key to ensuring you're taking the right action at the right time. Let’s very briefly review these stages:

Awareness: This is the initial stage where potential customers become aware of your product or service. It is mostly driven by your various marketing efforts, which must highlight the problems your product solves and attract potential customers' attention and interest.

Consideration: During this stage, your prospects begin to evaluate your product against competitors. They are likely talking with your sales team. Providing valuable information, such as case studies, demos, and personalized communication, can strengthen your case and improve your potential customer’s understanding of your product and how it will work for them.

Decision: This is the point where folks decide whether to purchase your product (hopefully they say yes!) You’ll want to have attractive and clear pricing + unique and clear value propositions are essential to convert prospects into customers.

Onboarding: Here, a new customer becomes an actual product user. Effective onboarding helps them get going and learn the product. You can have any variety of in-app messaging, training, resources, and human help to get them started and closer to seeing the value of the product quickly.

Active In Product: Continuous engagement is vital as customers start using the product. Having great support resources, both self-serve and active, as well as targeted in-app messaging, is key to maximizing product usage and satisfaction.

Renewal or Churn 😰: When it comes time for contract renewal, you must balance some sales pressure with listening to concerns and issues. Find a balance that will optimize for renewal or upselling while keeping customers happy.

Best practices for creating great CX during different stages

Every stage matters for creating great end-to-end CX. But doing this doesn’t mean having a one-size-fits-every-moment approach. Rather, you need to tune into the different stages of your customer’s journey and tailor your approach to that moment.

Initial phases

In the beginning, when your customer is really just starting to learn about what you're doing, you do not want to be heavy-handed. You want to be useful and helpful but also ensure that you're maintaining visibility and relevance. When users are beginning to consider your product, you want to make sure you're delivering value. You want to ensure that folks understand that you can deliver solutions for them. At the same time, you do NOT want to be pushy or aggressive.

For example, you might have:

  1. Clear and concise value props captured in sales and marketing collateral
  2. Sandbox/demos for folks to try out and play with
  3. Friendly and well-trained sales staff
  4. Consistency and clarity across the discovery and sales cycle

In product

If you can convert users and begin their onboarding and activation, what's most important is seamless communication and clear support. That doesn't mean just having a huge team of support agents. Rather, it's about having great in-product experiences that naturally allow folks to engage and onboard themselves with a light, helping hand when needed.

Here, simple product tours, nudges, and tooltips can do a lot of the heavy lifting!

Now, that might not be the case for an enterprise tool, where you really need to be onboarded by an account manager.

But I do think it's possible for most companies to be able to accomplish what they need to accomplish through a fairly self-serve flow.

Pro tip: one of the biggest issues that companies run into is a large discrepancy between what sales promised and what's actually delivered in product. You'll want to make sure that you're messaging and the value prop that you're promising in your initial phases lines up with the actual product experience.

Importance of continuous engagement in the middle and later stages

As folks begin to become regular users of your product, you want to ensure you're using in-app messaging to target and gather feedback. That means not just asking them for a survey once in a while but rather truly engaging with them on a nuanced basis.

For example, if you find that they're rage-clicking or getting frustrated with your product, you can offer them up a quick nudge for assistance.

You can deploy an AI agent, like our Copilot, and allow them to get assistance on demand as needed.

Essentially, you want to be omnipresent but non-intrusive.

You want users to feel like they have a supportive, friendly, helping hand in their corner, but not that you're constantly blasting them with nudges or pop-ups and in-app messaging. Your mindset has to be of ongoing engagement, timely help, contextual help, and one that relies on nuanced and targeted messaging.

This becomes even more important when you're thinking about retention or churn. For example, when users are about to decide at the end of the 12-month contract or at the end of the month whether they're going to renew with you, you want to make sure that you're offering more white-glove service than you might during a normal period. Reach out over e-mail or Slack, have live calls, etc. Go the extra mile.

This personalized engagement helps you address concerns, demonstrate value, and ensure a higher likelihood of retention.

Strategies for continuous engagement

The best and most proactive way to offer support is to make it intuitively available. There are two ways to do this.

In-app messaging

One is to have highly targeted and detailed in-app messaging that responds to actual user actions. I mentioned the rage clicking earlier. You can also use it for time periods (show this product tour after onboarding, or this nudge after 3 days) or from other triggers like upgrades, downgrades, etc.

If a user logs back in after 30+ days absent, welcome them with a “Welcome Back” nudge! Present them with a quick nudge to recap the new product features released.

If a user upgrades, celebrate that with a message! Serve a simple product tour highlighting the new features they just unlocked.

These minor moments go a long way!

AI assistance can help

The other way to do it is using a tool like Copilot, where you have that AI agent in the bottom right, trained on your help documentation and knowledge base. It can address concerns in real time as users have them. Instead of going through a ticketing system or calling a support channel, your users can quickly get answers through Copilot. Plus, if they are not satisfied, Copilot can still connect them to a human support agent.

Clearly, as you move through these different stages, there's different needs for continuous engagement. It's not about just having one approach throughout the entire workflow. Each stage requires a different approach, some of it more automated, some of it more manual and human-driven. What is continuous is this mentality of engagement that is nuanced and targeted.

If you have that mentality, it doesn't just mean doing the outreach.

It means having mechanisms in place to collect the feedback, turn it into actionable insight, and create real positive change within your users, your teams, and your organization's mindset.

One of the best ways to do this is to use your data to create proactive support. If you picture your user as an individual and not as a monolith, you'll come to understand that even those who are from the same kind of role or the same kind of customer profile will have a somewhat unique set of needs, problems, and circumstances.

It's not that hard to do

This all sounds great, but it also sounds complex. How are you meant to manage all of this continuous engagement to create a really great end-to-end customer experience? The reality is that there's more software than you could ever imagine out there. Luckily, a lot of it integrates. What you want to look for in specific tools is obviously domain expertise and functionality, but also the ability for that technology to integrate into your tech stack. For example, we’ve always ensured that CommandBar integrates with core providers of data visualization, like Amplitude, or CS agents, like Zendesk.

Some people also have a dedicated customer success platform, where they monitor all of their customer data and feedback. We found that this can be helpful at scale, but for many small—to medium-sized startups, it's not necessary and, in fact, can lead to analysis paralysis due to too much unsorted and unfiltered data.

You don't have to do it all in one place, but you should make sure all of your "places" connect well to make this as easy as possible.

By providing real-time assistance that improves not only the customer experience, but also your team's customer support experience, you can deflect tickets and reduce your agent's burdens while also maintaining that level of quality, service, and speed that your users come to expect.

Conclusion

You're right to prioritize onboarding, expansion and retention, and other key moments.

However, you'd be wrong to ignore everything in between.

Every moment matters. Every touch point in interaction contributes to a user's perception of their customer experience.

The human reality is that any negative moments weigh much more than all the positive, passive things that have already happened.

By bringing a holistic and end-to-end customer experience mindset with the stage-based approach we've talked about to your organization, you can create delightful moments for users throughout their journey, leading to more growth, reduced support tickets, better retention numbers, and better user satisfaction scores.

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