Article

What world-class customer experience design looks like in 2021

CX has emerged as a key business strategy in 2021. Here's how to excel at customer experience design.

By Patrick Grieve, Contributing Writer

Published June 14, 2021
Last updated November 29, 2021

Companies are increasingly trying to promote customer experience into a key selling point. And for good reason—the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021 found that 75 percent of customers will pay a premium to buy from brands that provide a great customer experience.

Exceptional customer experiences require exceptional customer experience design. But what does that really look like?

To truly master it, businesses should study the benefits of an omnichannel approach and learn from companies doing customer experience design right.

What is customer experience design?

Customer experience design is the process of optimizing and standardizing every interaction consumers have with a company—before, during, and after they’ve become customers.

Though often mistaken for one another, there’s an important distinction between customer experience (CX) design and user experience (UX) design.

CX encompasses all the possible touchpoints between a customer and a brand. That includes every marketing, sales, support, and social media interaction.

UX, on the other hand, looks at the ways a customer experiences a brand’s specific product or service. That could certainly fall under the umbrella of CX, though it’s not really the primary focus of customer experience designers—they’re more concerned with the interactions happening between your company and your customers. A related concept is service design, a less well-known discipline that’s similar to UX design but even more granular.

The bottom line: CX design is the “big picture” view of a customer’s relationship with your brand, incorporating every stage and aspect of the customer journey. And it’s key to a good customer experience.

Why omnichannel customer experience design matters

omnichannel customer experience design matters

CX design matters more than ever because CX matters more than ever. According to our CX Trends Report, 50 percent of customers worldwide say that CX is more important to them now than it was a year ago. The same percentage also say they would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer experience. Businesses that wish to boost customer loyalty must heed these rapidly evolving customer expectations.

CX managers have reacted accordingly to this customer feedback, with 63 percent telling Zendesk that their company is prioritizing CX more than it did the year before. But businesses seeing the most success are those that are providing omnichannel customer experiences. Our research found that companies with omnichannel CX design have performed the best across key CX metrics, including quicker response times and higher CSATs.

What is omnichannel customer experience design?

An omnichannel CX design ensures that your customers enjoy a seamless, reliable interaction whenever and however they engage with your brand, regardless of the specific touchpoint. Omnichannel experiences go beyond providing multiple communication channels—it means having channels that work in unison. With an omnichannel approach, you can provide a connected and consistent communications journey for your customers, which means a better customer experience.

Your company may have several different channels in the form of web, mobile app, email, phone, and chat. But that’s not a truly omnichannel CX design unless customers are able to carry conversations from one channel to another. For example, someone who’s using self-service support can effortlessly switch to a live chat conversation if they need more clarity.

An omnichannel CX design also involves sharing information internally the customer journey is a lot smoother. Everyone on your team can know who the customer is, where they’re coming from, and what they’ve talked to your company about in the past. This context saves customers from repeating information (like their account type or phone number) every time they interact with someone on a different channel.

Consumers have more ways than ever to interact with brands. They’re going to gravitate towards the companies that can meet them wherever they are and make the process as painless as possible.

If you’re able to provide consistent customer experiences, it will help define and build your brand’s identity, too. Customers who frequently interact with your company will always know what to expect, creating a comforting familiarity that makes them want to come back.

The 4 key components of world-class customer experience design (with real-world examples)

creating customer experience design

An exceptional CX design is distinguished by the quality of interactions it provides and the proactive planning that goes into it.

Customers should be guaranteed a smooth, positive experience, one that’s free of pain points and is laser-focused on customer satisfaction. Behind the scenes, the company should be anticipating and addressing evolving expectations and omnichannel demands. That takes a carefully thought out customer experience strategy.

What does that type of CX design look like in practice? Consider how these brands have succeeded in embodying various aspects of the ideal omnichannel customer experience.

  1. Eliciting an emotional response

    Freshly ships healthy, pre-cooked meals to customers who can then heat them up in minutes. The company understands that, for most people, food frequently has emotional strings attached. And the customer experience Freshly provides contributes to that emotion, whether through the food itself, the delivery process, or the quality of customer support.

    But emotions ran high when customers started experiencing delays due to the pandemic’s impact on shipping and transportation. Some people relied on Freshly to feed elderly relatives, and they were rightly upset if meals were late or unusable. While the timeliness issues may have been unavoidable, the company realized it still needed to respond with empathy and awareness.

    “You have to listen through the emotion and curse words to hear the real message,” says Jashana Copeman, a senior training manager at Freshly.

    Using Lessonly, Freshly trained its support team to craft voice and text responses that are genuinely understanding and sympathetic. The company also conducted countless mock customer service interactions to help agents better understand the impact that their tone of voice can have.

    “We’ve really tried to make sure that our customers know that, ‘Hey, we’re in this with you as well,’ ” explains Dan Medina, Freshly’s senior director of global operations. “ ‘We know that you rely on this service, and we’re going to do our best to make sure that we can deliver every single week like you expect us to.’ ”

  2. Accounting for cross-channel challenges

    Singapore’s Carousell is an ecommerce site for buying and selling new and used items. The company needs to support customers not only through multiple channels, but also through multiple languages. In total, Carousell serves customers in six different languages through chat, email, and self-service.

    Initially, Carousell’s internal center was not up to the task. So, the company partnered with a BPO in Malaysia that had the ability to hire native language speakers. In some cases, Carousell even relocated agents to ensure that customer language needs were met.

    The Malaysia site now also serves as Carousell’s testing ground for new channels, such as chat. Once it’s been properly set up and tested, the company will expand it to the English-speaking center.

    Carousell continues to work with the BPO to translate all content into the other languages. By having the same messaging across languages and channels, Carousell can ensure that all customers are consistently supported—regardless of their location or issue.

  3. Showcasing a seamless experience

    Plexus Worldwide credits its seamless customer experiences to a very robust knowledge base and well-structured self-service. By taking support “back a half-step,” the company is able to give customers what they want, right upfront.

    All support—including live support—is accessible right from the homepage. But it’s the knowledge base that fuels the interactions, both for the customer and the agent. Customers can choose to self-serve, but if they do reach out via phone or chat, the agent will be using the same knowledge base to provide accurate and up-to-date information.

    “We all know that accurate information is required for great service,” says Louis Ross, VP of customer service at Plexus. “You have to get that information to your team anyway, so why not have a cloud-based knowledge base that everyone can access?”

    The Plexus publishing team is literally updating, editing, and archiving 15 to 20 articles a day. Ross calls it the “information river.” While agents don’t have to memorize everything, they do need to know where to look for things. They also need to speak up if the information proves to be incorrect or outdated.

    The fact that customers and support agents share access to the same knowledge base allows for a seamless user experience—no matter which channel the customer chooses.

  4. Planning for changing customer wants and needs

    Harry’s is one of those companies that clearly cares about the humans who use its products. The company is socially responsible, empathetic, and very connected to current events that may impact its customers or employees. And it’s always looking ahead and planning for change, staying nimble enough to react when necessary.

    Like the rest of the world, Harry’s was caught off guard by COVID-19. Yet that didn’t stop the company from quickly pivoting to meet the new needs of their customers. As the U.S. was locking down, Harry’s recognized that the mental health of its customer base was likely to be adversely affected by the pandemic. So, the company added a crisis helpline to its homepage and to every signature block—including that of support. Harry’s also pivoted emails and social posts to focus on its mental health nonprofit partners.

    Of course, Harry’s also keeps tech investments and other CX initiatives top of mind. But it’s the empathetic, immediately responsive acts that really make its customer experience design exceptional.

Support your customers with a comprehensive CX design

Any omnichannel customer experience design is bound to contain a lot of moving parts. But providing great CX doesn’t need to be complicated.

Avoid overwhelming your support team by bringing every single channel into one unified agent workspace. Find out how Zendesk can help you create a seamless experience for both your customers and your company.