Customer experience design (CX) puts the customer’s needs above all other priorities. It can transform an entire organization by injecting experience design into every customer touch point. As a designer at a digital agency, I have helped shift marketing efforts to help companies differentiate through CX. Here are some practical takeaways to help you start thinking about customer needs first.

Becoming Customer-Focused

The first step is to empathize with and fully understand your customer’s journey. Get inside your customer’s head and start thinking about what you can do to create a better experience. Personas, journey maps, empathy maps, user research — they’re all helpful tools for understanding your customers. The next step is to start defining your role through the lens of fulfilling a customer need. If you are an SEO specialist, how does SEO help customers? It’s not quite that simple. You need to be prepared to use research data to prove what works and what doesn’t.

Data & Technology

Collecting data can be as simple as following up after key interactions with a short survey. Ask your customers to rank their experience! Don’t ask leading or biased questions — just get to the data so you can find actionable opportunities.

Data can also be gathered using more costly techniques, such as usability testing, or focus groups. These methods are typically implemented for big decisions like rolling out a new brand identity or a major marketing campaign, but should also be considered for more routine tasks like testing small refinements to a product.

There are many UX methods which can be used to collect quantitative and qualitative data. If you have access to user experience professionals, you can leverage their user research across the whole company to make data-driven decisions. If you don’t have access to a UX professional it might be time to hire one or more.

When in doubt, turn to your trusty webmaster tools in both Google and Bing. They will alert you if your site traffic drops off or spikes and your analytics specialist will be able to attribute these variations to particular activities.

Leverage Technology

Marketing Automation, Customer Relationship Manager, Experience Cloud, Customer Service Platform, Business Intelligence — or all of the above. Leverage technology to automate processes, facilitate customer service, and optimize experiences in both meaningful and measurable ways.

Personalization & Automation

Personalization and automation are extremely important in marketing right now and they will only become more critical moving forward.

Personalization engines analyze thousands of data points to deliver the right content, offer, or experience at the right time. Personalizing your website, emails, and other touchpoints should be transparent when done right. They leverage context to inform communication such as addressing the customer by name and only delivering content based on relevant interests.

Remember, it is not always what you say, but, how you say it. A/B test your communications to find the most effective language and if a customer is not engaging with emails, your marketing automation system should send fewer emails — not more.

Optimizing Search For Customer Experience

SEO is a constantly moving target so if you are still optimizing for the algorithms of a couple years ago, its time to realign your scope.

The time of meta keywords telling Google what your page is about have passed. Advanced algorithms read your content and decide how relevant it is to a query and if it has value to their user. When optimizing your content for SEO, ask yourself, “Does this content answer a question my customers are searching on google?”. If not, you might not be providing the right kind of value to rank well.

Search engines also try to determine if you are designing for user needs. Google ranks websites higher when they are optimized for mobile, prioritize page-load speeds, and when they load over secure HTTPS protocol. Google will even penalize a website that has too many broken links or redirect chains.

You can start to piece together your ranking power by looking up your domain authority and page authority using google webmaster tools or one of my go-to SEO tools: SEMrush, and MOZ.

Despite smarter algorithms, maintaining metadata is still valuable and adding metadata for accessibility purposes can create even more value. For more information on using metadata for accessibility look to schema.org and w3.org. The surge in digital assistants also presents new opportunities to optimize your metadata for voice search. If you are not familiar with featured snippets — check them out asap.

Content Strategy

More than ever your content strategy should be aimed at creating value for customers. Aligning an article to your keywords is no longer enough. Search engines know when your site only contains a single article on a subject, and it won’t help you gain page authority. Google is looking at your entire site to determine the true value of your content. Are you an expert on any given topic? Are you a reputable resource for Google to send its users? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when planning your content calendar.

Last year HubSpot rolled out a feature called Topic Clusters and the term has caught on. Its really just a tool for building a cluster map, but nevertheless it is helpful for visually organizing the topics which are most important to your customers in relation to your existing content. The visual map helps reveal holes in your content and opportunities for your content calendar.

Don’t forget, video, audio, and rich media are still king in content strategy. This has been true for a while, but rich media and interactive components create a more immersive experience while building credibility as an authoritative voice on a given topic.

Link Optimization

An internal link strategy will help search engines see logical relationships between content on your website. Take your topic clusters and try to draw a line between each piece of content to create a web. This is how you want a search engine to see your content: a continuous wealth of information on a particular topic.

Social Media Optimization

Posting on social media aimlessly will bring little to no value to a business. Schedule your posts, staggering them across your different social channels to maximize impact. Optimize the titles and descriptions used in each post to draw attention and encourage engagement. Finally, monitor engagement to make sure you are not posting too much or too little — identify what works for your audience so your team can continue to improve their strategy. Remember, post and engage on social media with intent and you will create value for customers.

Customer Service

Critical to any customer experience is designing a customer service model that meets customer needs. This will look different for every company, but new technologies are rapidly evolving to serve diverse models. Your customers might be motivated to use live-chat widgets, text message support, or help desk channels, but don’t burden your customers with unnecessary hoops to jump through. Know your customer’s intent and design a customer service model around meeting their needs. Whenever possible, leverage AI and machine learning to take some pressure off your service team through internal search algorithms or chatbots.

Reputation Management

Wherever your customers are talking about your brand, go there. Read what they are saying and stay engaged. Respond thoughtfully and with empathy to any negative feedback. Praise and reinforce positive feedback, for example, by retweeting a happy customer.

Your customers often reveal what they want without you asking. The best way to find opportunities is to stay engaged and listen.

That’s A Wrap

Be a customer advocate. You should always be thinking, building and implementing new digital experiences that get to the heart of the human experience. Infuse new insights into every project and never stop learning.