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In today’s fast-paced digital world, providing outstanding customer experiences has become a cornerstone of success and customer loyalty. Today’s customers have more options, more leverage and less patience with businesses that fail to meet their experience expectations. Nearly half—49%—will cut ties with a brand over a single bad experience, and the overwhelming majority—86%—will gladly pay more for better customer experiences. With the stakes high, businesses must focus on how to holistically improve customer experience by creating a customer-focused culture and implementing data-driven decisions in their processes. 

Creating exceptional customer experiences isn’t the work of a single discipline or department. It involves deep coordination of people, processes and technology. In this guide, you’ll learn about the artful and scientific steps for designing better customer experiences. 

Key takeaways

  • Delivering superior customer experiences has become indispensable to success.
  • Designing and shaping customer experiences requires aligning your teams’ direct customer engagements with insights from integrated customer data.
  • There are practices and technologies you can adopt to master the art and science sides of customer experience improvement.  

What is customer experience design?

Designing experiences doesn’t neatly compare to other kinds of material or even conceptual design. Because experiences take place in the minds of unique individuals, no single process produces the same results every time. Engineers, architects and other designers-by-science focus on a single medium and can confidently rely on processes once they’ve proven successful. By contrast, designers of subjective experiences must coordinate the media of other designers and rely more on continuous, present feedback than single past successes. 

This process integrates the soft-skilled management and training of all team members interacting with customers and data-driven decision-making. It is a balance of art and science.

The art

Your business can adopt practices to improve customer experiences through enhanced customer understanding and personal interaction.

1. Map customer journeys

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Customer journey maps illustrate the paths by which potential customers arrive at the decision to purchase a product or service from your brand. The waypoints along these paths consist of the engagements with a specific customer captured in your customer data across all channels. These include: 

  • Visits to your site through both ad clicks and organic search
  • Social media interactions such as likes or comments
  • Account registration with your site for benefits and discounts
  • Marketing emails opened
  • Queries to customer service

Although drawn from your customer data, customer journey maps create value primarily by aligning different departments and disciplines in your organization to understand who your customers are and how they prefer to engage with businesses to get what they want. You can use the insights customer journey maps reveal to create a shared plan for customer-centric engagement in the separate channels of sales, marketing and customer service. In the process, this alignment develops consistency—from the customer perspective—at all touchpoints and helps close any gaps where customers tend to leave the path. 

2. Improve your primary UIs with user-testing

Most customer journeys begin with a visit to a page within your site through ad clicks or organic search. Because first impressions in the digital world happen so fast—about half a second—you cannot overestimate the importance of intuitive, inviting UIs on all pages where customers land in search of information. 

  • Nearly all customers—88%—will not return to a site after a difficult or unsatisfactory first experience.
  • Among potential customers, 75% judge your site’s credibility on aesthetics alone.
  • You can solve 85% of UI first-impression issues with the insights gained from just five user-testers. 


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3. Create roles responsible for communicating the importance of customer experience

As you try to close gaps in your customer journeys, it’s vital that every stakeholder remain committed to the process of refining customer experiences and constantly adapting to ongoing changes. Customer preferences evolve—even more rapidly in increasingly digital environments—and shaping a superior customer experience isn’t a hurdle cleared once and dismissed.

To keep your teams’ customer focus live and continual, you should consider designating areas of accountability or even creating new roles altogether for assessing and emphasizing customer experience alignment throughout your organization. 

The science

On the science side of customer experience design, there are data-driven decision processes you can employ for overall improved experiences. 

1. Automate personalized engagements

Automated personalization may sound like an oxymoron. Nevertheless, your customer data collected across different channels and platforms likely contains insights you can use to effectively distribute by automation the kinds of personal touches in digital engagement that 76% of customers report responding to. Examples of automated personalization include:

  • Dynamic website and ad content that serves customers based on previously observed preferences
  • Personalized email campaign content
  • Unified customer profiles visible throughout your systems that enable all team members to see customer data and past interactions in real-time

2. Integrate customer experience data from multiple departments

Departments such as sales, marketing and customer service engage with customers through different channels and evaluate their performances by different metrics. Creating the tools you need—such as customer journey maps—to communicate shared customer engagement strategies throughout your organization requires integrating customer data from different sources.

Reunifying the diaspora of data you likely have scattered across dozens of different applications, CRMs, and databases isn’t a task any IT department can handle manually. Instead, you must enable comprehensive, real-time data integration with a dedicated solution technology—a customer data platform (CDP). CDPs link all your data sources system-wide and allow you to create unified customer profiles that eliminate discrepancies between departments.

3. Measure your performance with customer experience metrics

Even data-driven strategies are only as good as the outcomes they deliver. Once you’ve mobilized people and processes—equipped with insights from current integrated data—you need to deploy internal and external measures to capture performance metrics. Highly-rated customer experience metrics include:

  • Customer effort score
  • Customer retention rate
  • Churn rate
  • Average resolution time
  • Net promoter score

With these tools, you can create the necessary feedback loops to keep your customer experience improvement strategies adapting to match customer preferences.

Unlock your digital potential with Optimizely

Mastering customer experience improvement requires data-driven decisions, continuous experimentation, and a commitment to innovation. Optimizely’s Digital Experience Platform gives you the tools you need to unlock your full digital potential.

To learn more and schedule a customized demo, contact Optimizely today.