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Rethink Your Website: An Intro to a Customer Experience Platform

by Article by Dan Moyle Dan Moyle | June 22, 2020 at 8:50 AM

It’s time to change your way of thinking. Your website and its content management system (CMS) is more than content. It can affect the experience for your customers (and anyone interacting with your brand). When you see this, you’ll begin to see your website in a new light.

A robust CMS coupled with a powerful CRM brings it all together to create a Customer Experience Platform.

Reframing Your Website and CRM as Operations

First, a note. The tool we work with is HubSpot. Much of what this article covers lives in HubSpot. However, tools are just tools. They're interchangeable. The crucial idea here is the strategy and mindset. 

It's time to go beyond the idea that a CMS simply hosts your content. 

Too often we put CMS into a simplified bucket. This includes content management platforms like WordPress, Shopify,  Squarespace, HubSpot and others. These tools can be so much more than content managers when we reframe their purpose and put them together with others tools.

When we think of a customer experience platform, we have to rethink how all the components come together.

Pair your CMS with your CRM, then add in all your data to work together so you can create an experience for your customers, partners, leads and website viewers.

Imagine your contact relationship management platform working in conjunction with your content to create personalized experiences for each interaction with your brand. 

When your merge CMS + CRM together, as HubSpot allows you to do, you have an opportunity to create this customer experience platform.

You don't just get it by default; there's a lot of theory behind it. There's a lot of strategy behind it. Go from thinking your website or your CMS as the center of your marketing to making your customer experience platform (CMS+CRM) the center of your entire organization, your entire company.

It's a pivotal shift, which totally reframes the conversation. It also reframes the utility of the tool so it's no longer marketing cost. It's really more of an operational investment.

The Evolution of HubSpot CMS Hub

Let's look at how we got here today with the HubSpot CMS Hub and how it plays a critical part in creating a customer experience platform for your business.

As HubSpot has grown over the years, they've worked to change to world of marketing. As they added features and the tool grew from a simple blog and landing page tool to include sales tools like contact information and more, they saw the opportunity to reframe the content management system conversation.

The Content Optimization System (COS) was born out of this conversation. But taking on WordPress at the time didn't work out well. While the COS term didn't make waves like inbound marketing did, it did help push the idea that the CMS could be more.

In 2020 HubSpot released their updated and upgraded CMS and called it the CMS Hub. Now with the CMS Hub, Sales Hub and Service Hub working together, you all the tools available to create a customer experience platform. 

The Evolution of the Website

New media echoes past media until it grows up. When websites launched, the vast majority of websites were simply digital copies of printed brochures. 

A couple decades later, the biggest difference is that these glorified brochures have tools to capture leads. There's a place for your blog articles and product pages. That's essentially success in a CMS point of view.

Sure, the HubSpot CMS from that angle is really amazing because you have smart content and you can keep track of the analytics and everything.

But we tend to just put things into silos. We see the website as a marketing function (a glorified brochure) while many times ignoring it for sales and service. There's still a lot of room to grow.

How do we grow? We think you should bring it into operations.

Your Website as an Operations Tool 

At Impulse Creative, we launched our own "new website," leveraging all of HubSpot's CMS features. We've created our own version one of the customer experience platform; it's an end-to-end solution.

We've moved into thinking of the website as a Customer Experience Platform; it's an operations tool.

Of course as an end-to-end solution it's not a simple out of the box product. It's complex. There are lots of bells and whistles that make it work. Our team put a lot of hours into it. But the idea is at the end of the day, it creates an effortless customer experience.

So... why is the customer experience platform—the website—part of Operations?

In a business we often buy these technology tools to address a process. Then we we define a process so that our team has standard operating procedures (SOP).

Marketing has a standard operating procedure. Sales has a standard operating procedure sales process. Service has an onboarding process. There are even processes for delivery of goods or services and even a renewal process.

All these processes are very fragmented. The problem with that is then we add another layer of complexity to it, designed to make it easier for the people in those processes. 🤯

Does this sound familiar? You might have a chat tool, but that chat tool is only used for marketing. Then we have the CMS. And then we want them to be able to log in and see support. So then we have like something like Zendesk. And then we have a tool to help with email automation for customer service. So we've got that tool they pay with Stripe. So now there's a Stripe app and login.

When we think about it, at the end of the customer experience, how many emails are you sending them? How many logins do they have to have? How many passwords do they have to manage? And how many people do they have to talk to? It's this just barrage of different things, and none of it is actually trying to move in the same direction.

A Real-World Example from the Impulse Creative Team

We assessed this at Impulse Creative. We're a HubSpot Diamond Solutions Partner. Not only are we a partner, but our business really does run on HubSpot. And yet we still have all these other tools like billing. It's a pain. That was one of the areas we looked at.

With the current state of everything in mid-2020, we were trying to figure out how we make things more efficient, and Remington had this thing go through his head: "How do we minimize the effort on our end and increase the customer experience?"

Here's the example. We have an onboarding process for one of our vendors. That process is a 90 day time frame. We looked into our HubSpot analytics at all the individuals that touch that account. We found almost 300 emails over a 90 day time period.

Investigating those emails, Remington found them to be everything from "Hey, just wanted you to know we got a meeting coming up," or "Did you get a chance to look at do these things?" to clients requesting things like, "Hey, can I get a copy of that recording?"

When you have four or five people on the client side and four or five people on the agency side, that suddenly becomes a barrage of emails.

Think of how many minutes it took to write those.

Think of all the different potential areas you could spend those minutes.

To be clear, not one customer complained about the number of emails they received. They weren't necessarily unhappy. It was just one of these things that we just realized that numerous people in an onboarding process weren't executing the way that we'd like them to. They weren't hitting the goals that we all agreed to in the beginning of the onboarding. And they weren't getting where they need to go very much on a training standpoint.

And so we started by questioning everything. We went through and we looked at it through the lens that we're asking them to do too much at a time. We realized how many other directions we're pulling them.

It was time to align the vectors.

So we built out a dashboard and installed what we affectionately call the pizza tracker—thank you Domino's.

The dashboard will show you where you stand with onboarding. For instance you'll know how man meetings you have left and see what you need to do for the next meeting. You'll find extra resources based on the context of what your goals are.

And so we just answered all the questions all the way down to the very first thing you need to do is book your initial meeting.

The best part on the internal side? Suddenly, some really amazing things happened: We had internal use of the CRM with all of the pieces that were now customer facing, without being requested.

Now our team is using the CRM, the client gets the information they need and because the data comes straight from the CRM we can show the information on the status of where things are all hosted 100% on the CMS.

It's an operationalized Customer Experience Platform.

And it all came together in about four weeks. Not months. Weeks.

Experience Your Own End-to-End Customer Experience

When thinking about this end-to-end experience, we want to think about it all the way through.

It's no longer sales and marketing and service separately. It's now Revenue Operations: Building a foundation in your company that allows for you to serve your customers and your prospects (because remember, they're not our customers yet).

Our friend Doug Davidoff, from Imagine Business Development, talks about the fact that there's a difference between complicated and complex.

Complicated is hard to use. Complex means it took a lot of thought, or it takes a lot of thought to build.

What we need to do when we think about this customer experience platform is it's going to be a complex build out. There's gonna be a lot of bells and whistles and a lot of things that have to be addressed. But it can't be complicated. It has to feel very simple to the user, and user in most every case is going to be the customer.

From the beginning all the way through the journey, this is an end-to-end CX situation.

And no matter your company size, customer experience is gigantic.

Remember in our example, there were a lot of pieces. We had 300 emails in that one segment of our business for that entire experience. It took time to read through and understand and see whether that is this normal or is this an outlier.

But since you care about your customer experience, you'll need to pay attention to it. You need to experience it.

One suggestion is to go through the process. Buy your own product or service. Or maybe for you it's something like going through an audit, like we did.

We offer marketing audits as a service, and we went through our own audit. Some of it was painful. Some of it was amazing. But we got to see first-hand how the experience played out.

Content Experience and #OneForm

We've talked about this on previous podcast episodes of Wayfinding Growth and other content, but we're very excited about taking on content experience for our website viewers and the #oneform idea.

There's been, over the years, a move to give away all of your content. Sometimes it's been behind a form. Other times, like with pillar pages, you simply give it all away.

We asked the question, "Just because the customer doesn't want to fill out a form, are they actually more excited about the fact that they get 10,000 words on one page?" We weren't sure that was the case.

Plus, we wondered whether a contact wanted to be followed up by sales every single time that they fill out a form. Probably not.

This goes back to that experience, specifically in regards to content. So the #oneform thought for us was you you fill out one form, one time. Then from there, if we know who you are, you never have to fill out a form ever again.

When we think about the website, with the CMS as the center of your marketing, that's possible with HubSpot smart content. You can choose to essentially just have submit buttons that aren't really forms, because the information is known.

Another layer to consider in the customer experience is how they're interacting with your content on different devices and what that does to the #oneform experience.

Think about how someone comes into your digital world. They might be on a laptop or desk top at first. Maybe someone fills out a lead form or someone fills out a chat and then we know who they are. But then they go away and come back later. But it's not on the same device.

Maybe they've left the office and now at home while making dinner they're searching for a quick FAQ. On their phone.

Very few of us go through a purchasing process or research and only use one device.

With this multi-platform experience, you'll face a challenge: Cookies. The problem with cookies is you can clear them or you can or you can use a different device.

We've found that what's working right now is leaning into a membership site situation. Which You can do with a Customer Experience Platform that ties your data all together.

HubSpot's CMS Hub Enterprise has membership functionality and ties into a contact database, which allows for a lot of that same stuff. It also is the backbone for the entire customer experience platform that we're talking about.

Getting Ready to Explore the CMS and CX Platform from Different Points of View

The golden egg of CX is data. When you can manage your data well with one singular truth, you're ready for a stellar customers experience platform strategy.

You can't build this castle on the sand of multiple spreadsheets, disconnected systems and the hope that it'll all work together. 

You have to build it on the bedrock of a system that manages the data with a strong strategy.

You can solve some contact management issues with a spreadsheet, yes. You'll likely have few errors. But when you multiply data fields, disconnected spreadsheets and people on your team, it's now a much bigger issue. Which in turn knocks your CX strategy down.

What if you have five spreadsheets just for onboarding, all for different functions? And you use the CMS or CRM. All of a sudden now it's like, "Wait, what? Why do we Why are we doing this?"

The answer is almost always because you couldn't do it in one system. We propose the real answer is because it's easier to do it in this system than it is to think about putting it in that system.

The reality is that since 2012 we've worked in HubSpot and we have not run into a problem that we can't solve with HubSpot.

This is why creating a Customer Experience Platform in HubSpot has become our North Star.

Want to know more about what this looks like? Stay with this series to explore CX Platform from the marketing, sales and service perspectives plus how it all comes together.

▶️ Go to Part 2—Rethink Your Website: The Marketing Side of a Customer Experience Platform