How to Carry Out a Customer Experience Audit

In the modern marketplace, organisations of all types and sizes have begun to compete on the basis of Customer Experience (CX).

CX is the sum of all the interactions a customer has with your organisation over their lifetime – from first contact to final goodbyes. It’s the perception your customers have of your organisation and the way they interact with it and it’s a way of seeing whether you’re satisfying your customers’ expectations.

If you’re going to compete on CX, you need to have a way of measuring and analysing CX for strengths and weaknesses. This is achieved by carrying out a CX audit.

  1. Understand why a Customer Experience audit is necessary

If we had to provide a simple answer as to why CX audits are necessary, the argument would likely centre on the importance of Customer Experience to customers themselves. Recent research has shown that CX is becoming just as important, if not more important, than other key brand differentiators, such as product and pricing (Walker).

That being said, there is a range of other, more complex reasons CX audits are necessary.

How to Carry Out a Customer Experience Audit

Refocus your view of customer service

One of the most valuable consequences of carrying out a CX audit is that it forces you to step back and view your organisation as an interconnected whole, rather than a series of isolated teams, technologies and channels.

With a CX audit, we want to study individual touchpoints, but we also want to examine the way customers move between and link them. This forces us to join the dots, creating a more complete picture of the organisational structure and customer journey, whilst also helping to highlight parts of the organisation that are still siloed and not yet integrated into an omnichannel system.

Identify areas for immediate improvement

A CX audit will typically identify several moments within the customer journey that can be immediately improved in some way. These improvements may be as simple as clearer signage on a website or a quick change to your IVR menu.

They’re small adaptations that often don’t require a great deal of effort or extensive resources to implement. However, they can make a big difference to the way your customers perceive their interactions with your organisation.

Use findings as the basis for new mid and long-term CX strategies

CX audits don’t just help with quick fixes, they shape and justify mid and long-term strategies, too. Not every problem can be resolved immediately – many issues will only be remedied through long-term planning and investment in new products and technologies.

A CX audit identifies those areas where long-term strategy shifts could improve the customer experience and allows us to prioritise certain changes.

Provide in-depth information on customer values in relation to particular channels
It’s clear that different types of customer prefer and use different channels. It’s well documented that millennials are shunning voice-based channels for text-based communication (Forbes) and that access to technology also determines which channel you’re likely to use.

What sometimes gets forgotten, is the fact that customers also have different expectations for their CX because of the channel they use. A customer who would rather pick up the phone is going to have different expectations to one that’s happy being served by a Chatbot. A comprehensive CX audit should provide in-depth information on customer values for individual channels, allowing you to fine-tune their performance and preventing you from taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

  1. Map customer journeys to lay the foundations for CX improvement

The first step in carrying out a CX audit is to map your customer journeys. It’s important to remember that ‘journeys’ is plural – different types of customer will engage with your organisation in different ways, resulting in several distinct customer journeys.

A customer journey map is an effective way to ensure you’re looking at the whole of the customer-facing side of your organisation. It ensures everything is on the table and that you’re considering every facet of the customer experience. Having a visual representation of CX also helps when it comes to analysing it and assessing it for strengths and weaknesses.

To create a customer journey map, follow the steps below.

  • Develop or create your customer personas. These are semi-fictional ‘ideal representations’ of particular types of customer that allow us to examine the emotional and motivational factors that determine how people interact with an organisation.
  • Research and list your customer personas’ touchpoints. Having created your personas, it’s time to explain how they move through your organisation. What channels and resources do they use? What order do they use them in? How do they move between them?
  • Break down the customer experience at each touchpoint. Detail which channels they used, what specific actions they performed at each stage of their journey and whether or not there were any obstacles or pain points that prevented them from satisfactorily completing their interaction.
  • Consider customer intent and motivation. Customer journey maps are most useful when they help you ask and answer ‘why’ questions. Why did a customer opt for one channel over another? Why did they give up on your FAQ and send an email instead? Why didn’t they want to engage with your Chatbot? At this stage, we’re looking to pad out our personas with emotions and motivations that explain their behaviour and that help us develop solutions to their problems.
  • Create a visual representation of the journey. CX analysis is much easier when you can study a visual representation of your customer journeys. This can take the form of a flow chart, a table or even a storyboard. As long as it sets out the customer journey in a clear and understandable manner, it’s going to be useful.

If you’d like to check out a more detailed guide to mapping the customer journey, you’ll find our step-by-step guide here.

  1. Use your customer journey map to identify pain points

By mapping the customer journey we’re hoping to create a tool that allows us to identify where things are going right and where things are going wrong. When we know this, we can begin to implement changes that tackle our CX weaknesses.

To do this we’re going to focus on several areas in particular.

How to Carry Out a Customer Experience Audit
  • Initial engagement – how do your customers engage with your business at the beginning? Is it via your preferred channel? Is it via their preferred channel?
  • Transitions – how do customers move from touchpoint to touchpoint and why? Are these transitions a natural part of the customer journey or are they forced upon the customer? Are customers making unexpected or undesirable transitions?
  • Obstacles – does anything get in the way of customers engaging with your organisation in the way they want to? Is there anything slowing them down?
  • Organisational silos – having looked at how channels and touchpoints link up, can you identify any silos within your organisational structure? Are there any areas of your organisation that haven’t been successfully integrated into a truly omnichannel approach?
  • End of journey – how does the customer journey end? Satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily? What steps are taken to re-engage customers once they’ve been through the first phase of their interactions with your business?

At this stage, you’ll want to be looking at pain points of all types. A CX audit is all about assessing the state of your existing customer service system – developing solutions come later.

  1. Look for insight from frontline employees for a different perspective

One of the major challenges any organisation has to overcome is tunnel vision. In hierarchical organisations, it’s all too easy for those at the top to make and pass down decisions based on assumptions that don’t ring true with those on the frontlines.

That’s not to say that those higher up in an organisation are less qualified to make decisions than frontline employees (more often than not, supervisors and managers have earned their position). Rather, that they don’t have a complete understanding of the effects of their decisions unless they’re engaging with frontline employees.

Consequently, it’s a good idea to ask your employees to partake in the CX audit. This can be achieved via a simple questionnaire, dedicated team meetings or even special workgroups. However you choose to engage your employees, try focusing on the following issues.

  • Common customer complaints – are there any customer complaints that employees hear time and time again? Do any specific customer frustrations arise on a regular basis?
  • Technology – are there any problems with particular tools, technologies or channels? On what channels do employees find it easier to work? In which channels do customers seem more satisfied?
  • Factors slowing down employee action – are there any factors that impede employee action or that slow their response? Which small changes to organisational structure and work practices could achieve big results?
  • Information access – do employees have access to all the information they need to serve customers quickly and efficiently? Is information circulating as freely as it should under an omnichannel system?
  • Training – are there any areas in which employees feel under-prepared or under-trained?

  1. Go to your customers for a true account of their expectations

Next up are the customers. At this stage, we’re looking to build an accurate picture of their expectations. To do this, it’s necessary to carry out market research. When doing so, it’s vital that you consider the following.

    • Quantitative and qualitative – when performing market research, it’s important to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The former focuses on measurable phenomena that can be represented by statistics (e.g. ranking satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 5). The latter concerns less measurable phenomena, such as what motivates an individual to act a certain way or how they feel at any given moment.
    • Methodology – How you deliver your questions to customers can have a big impact on how they respond. Similarly, the environment in which you ask a question will determine how it’s answered. For instance, you’re likely to get a far more detailed response in a focus group than you would from a post-customer service call IVR survey. For this reason, it’s beneficial to use a range of resources and methods.
How to Carry Out a Customer Experience Audit
  • New and existing customers – As well as talking to existing customers, it’s a good idea to engage with potential customers in your target markets. This will ensure you’re working with a respectable sample size and prevent you from limiting your business growth by only valuing the opinion to existing customers.

  1. Compare your perspectives and study where they diverge

If you’ve completed the previous steps, it means you’ve analysed the Customer Experience from three different perspectives – those higher up the hierarchy, frontline employees and customers.

Now, it’s time to combine those perspectives for a holistic, 360 view of the CX, your customer service system and the way your organisational structure affects CX. When doing so, consider the following.

  • Look for agreement – keep an eye out for any areas where your different perspectives agree or say the same thing. If it’s positive feedback, make sure you keep on doing what you’re doing and apply any lessons learnt to other parts of the CX. If it’s negative feedback, prepare to make changes.
  • Look for disagreement – if there’s disagreement between perspectives, ask yourself why. Why do the managers believe x is happening but employees are reporting y happening instead? Why don’t customer and employee reports quite match up?
  • Make connections and pose theories – don’t hesitate to discuss your findings. You’re going to have a lot of information at your disposal and one of the best ways to make sense of it is to throw around ideas, make connections and pose theories. Some of your theories may not lead anywhere, but this process ensures you’re much more familiar with your own data and findings and will often lead to interesting results.

  1. Create your recommendations report to get the ball rolling

The final step in the process is creating your CX audit recommendation report. This will include,

  • Established pain points
  • Recognition of those areas in which the CX is overwhelmingly positive
  • List of those instances in which your manager, employee and customer perspectives differed or diverged
  • Suggested quick fixes for smaller problems
  • Suggested strategy shifts to tackle those issues that require mid and long-term action
How to Carry Out a Customer Experience Audit

When creating the report, it’s important to remember that an audit is an analysis of the existing state of your CX. Though suggested changes to strategy and work practices will feature in the report, you’re not expected to have all the answers. In the future, your audit will prove a key resource for those tasked with designing, developing and implementing changes that tackle problems highlighted in your findings.

What Next?

Though a Customer Experience audit is relatively easy to carry out, it can yield big rewards for an organisation. Not only does it provide you with a more holistic and well-rounded picture of CX, it helps identify strengths and weaknesses and allows you to begin making improvements. By looking at where you excel, where you’re struggling and what requires considerable change, you can identify work practices you need to protect and encourage, areas where quick fixes are likely to result in big gains, and areas where long-term strategic shifts need to be discussed, developed and deployed.

Our expert team have been providing customer self-service solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more.