The Complete Guide to Building a Customer Experience Platform in HubSpot
How to Rethink Your Website
The Website Has Evolved.
It’s time to change your way of thinking and use your most powerful assets in a way you never have before.
Your website's content management system (CMS) is more than just content. It affects the buying experience for your customers (and anyone interacting with your brand). When you really begin to see how that happens, you’ll begin to see your website (and it's potential) in a whole new light.
A robust CMS and a powerful CRM can be used together as a Customer Experience Platform, the next evolution of consumer websites. And it can all be done with just one tool— HubSpot. Our team has mastered this entirely new way to use HubSpot and we're stoked to bring our insights to the world.
Explore our journey to elevate and fuse the marketing, sales and service experiences, all within one tool that can power a Revenue Operations engine.
Introducing the Customer Experience Platform
Reframing Your Website and CRM as Operations
First, a note: The tool we at Impulse Creative work with is HubSpot. Much of what this resource covers lives in HubSpot. However, tools are just that: tools. They're interchangeable. And the concepts we've brought to fruition are more than just the sum of their parts. The crucial ideas here are the strategy and mindset behind our CMX platform journey.
It's time to go beyond the idea that a content management system (or CMS) simply hosts your content for marketing purposes.
Too often we put content management systems into one simplified bucket. This includes content management platforms like WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, HubSpot and others. Each of these tools can be so much more than content managers when we reframe and elevate their purpose by using them in combination with additional technology.
When we think of a customer experience platform, we have to rethink how all the components come together.
Imagine your contact relationship management platform working in conjunction with your content management system to create personalized experiences for each interaction with your brand. When you can make the data of your CRM and CMS work together, you can create a unified, frictionless experience for your customers, partners, leads and website viewers.
HubSpot makes it possible to combine your CMS with your CRM to create this kind of game-changing customer experience platform. But you don't just get it by default; there's a lot of theory and strategy behind it.
You have to go from thinking of 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.
It's a pivotal shift that totally reframes the customer experience conversation and the utility of your platform. It's no longer a marketing cost, it's an operational investment.
The Evolution of the Website
Now let's look at how website technology factors into the modern CMX.
New media always echoes past media until it grows up. In the dawn of the internet, when websites launched, the vast majority of websites were simply digital copies of printed brochures.
A couple of decades later, the biggest advantage to websites is that these glorified brochures now had tools to capture leads. They were also a place for blog articles and product pages. That's essentially success from a CMS point of view. And in that way, the HubSpot CMS is really amazing because it hosts smart content, personalized recommendations, pages for different buyer personas and analytics.
But the industry tends to just put things into silos. Even with modern CMS functionality, we still only view the website as a marketing tool (a glorified brochure) while too often ignoring how it can work for sales and service. That's where there's room to grow.
And how do we grow? By bringing your website into the realm of operations.
Your Website as an Operations Tool
At Impulse Creative, we launched a newly redesigned website for ourselves, leveraging all of HubSpot's CMS features to create our own customer experience platform– an end-to-end solution for marketing, sales and service.
Our team had to begin thinking about our website as a Customer Experience Platform and an operations tool. That mindset led to creating an end-to-end solution for an effortless customer experience without the traditionally fragmented processes of marketing, sales, service, delivery, etc.
Here was the problem: In business, we buy technology to address a process. Then 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 on-boarding process. There are even processes for the delivery of goods or services and even a renewal process.
All these processes are very fragmented, each with additional layers of complexity that were actually designed to make it easier for the people in those processes (but don't really). 🤯
Does this sound familiar: You have a chat tool, but it's only used for marketing. You also have a CMS. Customers also need to be able to log in and see support. So you get something like Zendesk. Then you have another tool to help with email automation for customer service. Then customers pay with a tool like Stripe. So now there's a Stripe app and login.
At the end of the customer experience, how many emails have you sent 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 demands and friction points and none of them are working together and moving in the same direction.
A Real-World Example from the Impulse Creative Team
We assessed this problem here at Impulse Creative first. Not only are we a HubSpot Diamond Solutions Partner, but our business really does run on HubSpot.
Unfortunately, we still have to rely on all these other tools. It's a big pain point and one of the issues we looked at first.
With the current state of the world in 2020, we were trying to figure out how we make things more efficient when Remington, our CEO, first began to wonder, "How do we minimize the effort on our end and increase the customer experience?"
Here's the example:
We have an on-boarding process for one of our vendors that occurs over 90-days. When 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 everything from "Hey, just wanted you to know we have a meeting coming up," or "Did you get a chance to look at 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, even a reasonable amount of emails suddenly becomes a barrage.
Think of how many minutes it took to write those.
Think of all the different ways you could spend those minutes instead.
(To be clear, not one customer complained about the number of emails they received, they weren't unhappy. We just realized that numerous people weren't executing the way that we'd like them to, hitting the goals that we all agreed to at the beginning of onboarding or getting where they need to go from a training standpoint.)
So we started questioning everything.
We looked at every part of the customer experience through the lens that we're asking customers to do too much at a time. And we realized just how many other directions we're pulling them.
It was time to align the vectors.
So we built and installed a dashboard that we affectionately call the pizza tracker (thank you Domino's). The dashboards show customers exactly where they stand in the onboarding process. For instance, they know how many meetings they have left and what they need to do for the next meeting, as well as extra resources based on the context of what those goals are.
We answered all the questions a customer typically has, down to booking a project's 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 customer-facing pieces, without requesting them.
Now our team is using the CRM while the client automatically gets the information they need. And because the data comes straight from the CRM, everyone automatically sees the status of each part of a project and 100% is hosted on the CMS.
It's an operationalized Customer Experience Platform.
And it all came together in about four weeks. Not months. Weeks.
Go Through Your Own End-to-End Customer Experience
When thinking about this end-to-end experience, we wanted to think about it all the way through.
It's no longer sales and marketing and service separately. It's now Revenue Operations: a foundation in your company that allows for you to serve both customers and your prospects (because remember, they're not customers yet).
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.
When we think about this customer experience platform, we knew it was going to be a complex build-out. There's a lot of bells and whistles and a lot of things that had to be addressed. But we knew it couldn't be complicated if it was going to work. It had to feel very simple to the user, which is almost always the customer.
We wanted a streamlined, end-to-end customer experience solution.
But here's the thing: no matter your company size, the customer experience is gigantic.
Going back to our onboarding example, there were a lot of pieces. We had 300 emails in one segment of our business for that entire experience. It took time to read them all and understand whether that was a standard baseline situation or an outlier.
We needed to go through our own customer experience process. For some companies that may involve buying their own product or service. For us, it was going through our own marketing audit something we offer as a service.
Some of that experience was painful. Some of it was amazing. But it all helped us to see first-hand how the experience plays out on the client's side of the screen.
Content Experience and #OneForm
Over the years, there's been a movement for companies to give away content. Sometimes it's been behind a form. Other times, like with pillar pages, you simply give it all away.
We started to examine the content experience within our customer experience and the idea of #oneform. We wondered, "Just because the customer doesn't want to fill out a form, are they actually more excited about getting 10,000 words on one page?" We weren't sure that was the case.
We were also pretty sure contacts didn't want to be followed up by sales every single time they did fill out a form.
It all goes back into that cumbersome customer experience that we've all just accepted. And we started to reject it.
The idea of #oneform is that you only fill out one form, one time. Now, since we know who you are, you never have to fill out a form ever again. For a website with the CMS as the center of a company's marketing, it's possible by leveraging 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 was how users were interacting with content on different devices and how that plays into the #oneform experience.
Think about how someone comes into your digital world. They might be on a laptop or desktop at first. Maybe someone fills out a lead form or someone fills out a chat and then we know who they are. Then they go away and come back later. But it's not on the same device. Maybe they've left the office and now they're at home making dinner when they search for a quick FAQ on their phone.
The fact is: Very few of us go through a purchasing process or perform research and only use one device. The biggest challenge with multi-platform experience is cookies, which can be cleared and don't follow you to other devices. So we needed a new angle.
Enter the membership site experience, a perfect solution when you're operating on a Customer Experience Platform because it ties all of your data together. HubSpot's CMS Hub Enterprise has membership functionality and ties into a contact database, while serving as the backbone for the entire customer experience platform.
Getting Ready to Explore the CMS and CX Platform from Different Points of View
When you can manage your data well with one singular truth, you're ready for a stellar customer 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 and it hurts your CX strategy.
When you end up with five spreadsheets just for onboarding, all for different functions, plus a CMS or CRM, it's almost always because you couldn't do it in one system. Since 2012 we haven't run into a problem that we can't solve with HubSpot.
That's why creating a Customer Experience Platform with HubSpot has become our North Star.
The Marketing Side of a Customer Experience Platform.
This section will explore what a customer experience platform, built via your website and CMS, looks like through the lens of marketing.
Thinking of your website and the CMS behind it, from a marketing and demand perspective, feels very familiar.
What's unfamiliar is when your team starts to leverage it a bit more from a sales and service perspective. When we think of websites and CMSs from these different lenses, different needs arise.
For a few years now we've thought of the website from a "smarketing" perspective, aligning sales and marketing. It's time to grow beyond that and think about your CMS from a Revenue Operations perspective, bringing together marketing, sales and service, then combining that with an operations mindset.
Let's Start with Marketing and Demand Generation
Historically, your website was created so that you essentially had a glorified brochure. That was step one.
Step two was when you started thinking about it from a demand point of view.
For marketers of brands around the world, inbound marketing started by writing some blogs, creating calls-to-action for those blog posts, pushing viewers to a landing page where using an offer and a form to capture their info and then nurturing the heck out of them until they became a customer. What's interesting is that process really hasn't changed over the years other than adding in pillar pages and even un-gating some additional content. Marketers injected conversational marketing into the mix too but, in general, that's still the world we operate in. That's modern marketing.
When we think of marketing from that website and CMS point of view, it's very familiar. We have to get buyers to the website. We have to have the highest possible conversion numbers on our landing page. We have to use automation and nurturing to get a salesperson on the line.
So when we think of marketing's goal for most brands, it's not to get a customer in most cases (unless you're eCommerce). Marketing's goal is to essentially get a sales qualified lead, so that it can be passed off to sales on a silver platter.
Think of your website from a Demand Gen Point of View
When we think about it from a demand point of view, the mindset changes to "Maybe I already know Dan Moyle at Impulse Creative, or I know he exists, how can I target Dan Moyle?” And then, “How can I entice him to reach out, visit my website, and see my product or my service and make him want to have a conversation with sales?"
Your homepage does not have to be an answer to everyone. It can be the answer to the one person on the other side.
Marketing tool brands like Drift or Terminus talk about this strategy from a software point of view, how their software can enable it. But virtually no one is talking about how your website is still statically the same. This is where marketing and your CMS can really come into play. HubSpot makes this easy to do, but you still have to think about all the complexities of it.
If a contact comes into your system via email, they're known by you. There's a campaign that someone shared, essentially, with smart content using contact personalization, because you've got the contact relationship manager (CRM) hooked up to the CMS.
You've got the ability to combine those two things into one customer experience, which essentially is marketing. The key is, your homepage does not have to be an answer to everyone. It can be the answer to the one person on the other side. In other words, you could have, "We help companies grow" on your home page by default. If you don't know who the contact is, it's general.
But, when you know the contact, you could essentially say "We help Acme Co. grow. Here's how."
Maybe that could come across pretty creepy if "it's the first date", if you're just getting someone that comes to the site. But you could find ways to make that button, unbeknownst to the user, point to a industry page that is relevant based on the industry.
As a CX Platform, your website contextually changes based on the information that's known. That’s really powerful. However, if you don't have the contact side of the customer experience platform put together, you're not going to be able to do it wel and that's the big catch.
The importance of housing your data all in one spot becomes incredibly important.
If you have a tool, like Terminus, allowing you to get in front of contacts, those contacts will have some kind of data attributed to them. Maybe it's contact ID or actual contact information. Maybe it's just knowing that a specific user clicked on an ad and got to a page. If that page is the same experience for both known and unknown users, there's a huge opportunity to improve your marketing, improve the experience and increase conversions.
What's Next for Marketing and the Website/CMS?
What's next for marketers in thinking about their website and CMS in the customer experience world?
First, it has to be flexible. And that's one of the beauties of the HubSpot CMS Hub. It's incredibly flexible. You're able to change essentially whole elements on a page if/when you need to.
Here at Impulse Creative, one of the things that we're doing in our quest for that effortless customer experience is to automatically recommend content for you based on our interactions and data, along with what you've said you want to accomplish (either explicitly or implicitly).
Those two actions are necessary form submissions. What context do we know about someone that has done those two actions? They've downloaded a use case or a case study on how inbound marketing helped the manufacturing industry, and then they download as social media for business ebook. They essentially care about acquisition.
Knowing that, we can hedge our bets to say 80% of the time, people who like these two things are interested in acquisition-type activities. Then you could essentially act like Amazon and say, "People like you also enjoy these types of articles."
Marketers get really activated to try and close the deal for sales. In effect pushing for buy now, when that's not really their job. Their job is to tee up the qualified lead. If you do demand gen the right way, you're recommending extra content. And the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. Now all of a sudden, you'll start to know if a user engages in that content, becoming more valuable and providing more data to the sales team.
So while much of this strategy feels familiar because we understand websites and the CMS from a marketing perspective, there's still a lot of room for growth with customer experience.
Now let's explore the sales side of a CX platform. We've talked about the CMS from a marketing perspective, where the job of marketing is to tee up, sales qualified lead to sales. Now let's look at the website and CMS through a lens of the sales team.
Start at the Beginning: Ask Sales What Works for Them
When thinking about how your website can assist the sales team, you have to go to the beginning. You need to find out if your sales team even uses the website. If you're building a Customer Experience Platform, it will have to work for your entire company.
Start by asking your sales team where they get their tools for sales. Find out what content they use, what material they create and where it all comes from.
Hopefully they talk about your website, but don't lead them in your questioning. In fact, since salespeople are good at reading people and figuring out what they want, you may not want to have marketing ask.
Essentially, you want to find out if the website is in the top three tools they use. If sales can't reinforce their position in the sales process with content from the website, then how can you expect your prospective customer to do the same in their buyer's journey?
The Two Schools of Thought in Sales
Generally you'll find two schools of thought in sales when it comes to sharing content.
School of Thought 1:
"I have my secret sauce. I don't want that stuff to be available to the general public."
School of Thought 2:
"We're awesome. We care about our customers and want to make sure they have all the resources, if they can find that information."
When customers are in the sales process, School 2 is ultra-powerful for your company. Empowering the customer.
Too often Sales will say, "I don't want that stuff to be available to the general public. That's my secret sauce. It's not worth it." They consider the answer a one or a zero. It's either yes or no, it's not the gray area in between.
By using a CMS like HubSpot to create a CX platform, you can create contextually relevant information for the sales process.
We propose that by using a CMS like HubSpot to create a CX platform, you can create contextually relevant information for the sales process. There's a huge opportunity to remove that hard line of black and white, one or zero, and actually have some gray.
We took this idea to another level at Impulse Creative.
Here's how it works: We actually have a front-facing, HubSpot "deal object." So as Jackie on the sales team puts in information, she can drop in resources. It'll automatically recommend testimonials that are relevant. It'll automatically show recent, relevant work that typically holds up the sales process because people ask for it, then and the sales team has to find and send it.
Back to School of Thought 1, you might have people that say "Don't lead with testimonials or references because that can slow down the sales process."
While it can absolutely slow down the sales process, why would you withhold that information when customers want it? That's a goldmine.
Rethink Your Website as a Sales Tool (CMS + CRM)
When we rethought the website and the CMS from a sales perspective, we understood that there are two things that you have to really have right: You have to have the right information and you have to have the right buyer's context. A buyer's context is the key piece.
Here's an example. The buyer's context is that Dan is coming to talk to your company about XYZ app. That app helps him solve problems. What are those key problems?
He could have filled that form out in the beginning. But he could also have had a really amazing conversation with Jackie from the sales team. And Jackie could have uncovered more things or gone deeper into said goals.
If we look at a website, as just a website and just a CMS for managing content, the only available context we can use to share or modify anything for Dan is what he submitted on that form.
We could change information on the website based on that form submit. We could change information in CTAs. We could even change chats. You could also do that with a lot of other tools.
The problem that you have to think about, especially from a customer experience platform mindset, is that now the information Jackie puts into the deal record in her notes is digging deeper into who Dan is and what he cares about.
Those individual interactions are so valuable towards the sales process. But they're also very valuable from a context process.
Imagine sales uncovering that the reason a prospect wants more leads is because they're about to launch a new product offering. If they just said "I need more leads" as the reason on the form summit, we might talk about how you could do pay-per-click or how you could expand different areas of your business. We're really just recommending sections of our website.
Why hold on to the data that we know the client is going to request?
But when Jackie uncovers that this need for leads is for a brand new product or service, and that information is connected the right way, a feature could pull relevant testimonials. You'd see what we've done to help other people launch new brands. That feature could recommend service or product offerings on the homepage for when you come back to do more research and so much more.
All of that content is what sales traditionally likes to hold in their hands and provide to prospects so they're the point of authority. But when we think about the customer experience, it's not the salesperson's experience. It's the customer's experience. Why hold on to the data that we know the client is going to request? Why not provide it to them and make it easy?
When that prospect comes back to the website throughout the sales process, how can we make that information more relevant? Then thinking of this portal, this logged-in view, if you will, you can almost make this home base for those testimonials and other assets.
Now you're giving hyper-relevant information that's based on your sales team's conversations.
Satisfying Several Stakeholders in Sales Conversations
Whether it's gatekeepers in B2B sales or multiple contacts in a B2C situation, oftentimes sales has to satisfy several stakeholders through the process. And with a CX platform like we've built, it helps when you have multiple sales conversations.
Let's go back to our example of Dan thinking about this app. He may go to his CMO and ask her to look at the same company he's been considering making a purchase from. With our logged-in CX platform, that CMO can see the resources Dan has access to and the relevant, contextual content– instead of a generic experience.
So when Jackie asks Dan who else should be in on these conversations or who should also receive the resources he's requesting, Jackie can add them to the CRM and create an account.
Once again, it's an example of a website or CMS combined with a contact management system or CRM. That relationship management becomes really powerful from the context of the website.
Connection is critical.
What we're really getting down to is the connection and the data consolidated all in one spot. And for us, that happens in HubSpot. HubSpot CMS Hub connects to the Sales Hub, all in one ecosystem.
Bonus: Serving the Sales Team
One of the bonus outcomes of working on a customer experience platform from a sales perspective is the service to the sales team.
Now, your sales team can go from asking which examples of work they can share with the client, to clicking a button that says show examples of work and they appear on the screen. When your CRM and CMS connect, and your team is putting the information into the CRM, the CX platform shows relevant work in context.
Sales doesn't have to go ask someone in service and wait. The client gets it faster, the content has more continuity to it and it was all less effort for both the prospect and sales.
At Impulse Creative, Remington even found that the dashboard feel of the CX platform prompted Jackie to ask for her own portal for sales.
Now she has one with open quotes where one click gets her into look at a quote, rather than going into CRM and having to use a filter. So this strategy creates a more effortless experience for your sales team as well, especially if you're using membership.
Smarketing is growing up and becoming a customer experience platform in our new world of revenue operations.
The Service Side of a Customer Experience Platform.
Now let's look at the service side of a customer experience (CX) platform.
We've explored the familiar territory of thinking about your website and CMS from a marketing perspective. Then we moved into newer territory in thinking about them from a sales perspective. Now we head into a really new area for most brands: Thinking about it all as a customer experience platform from a service perspective.
Let's start with what this "feels like" to Remington and a personal story:
I'm going to start with what the service side of a customer experience platform feels like before I explain what it looks like. There is a SaaS company which I will not name that has chat on their website. And we've been their customer for years. (It's not HubSpot for the record.)
[I] was running into some issues with their tool couldn't figure out how to do something. I tried to search for a how-to doc, couldn't find it and ended up finding another help doc they linked me to some other place. There was like an inkling of [a solution] and I was like, "Screw it. I'm just gonna reach out to these people."
So I tried to find a way to submit a support ticket in their app. It wasn't very easy to do.
I ended up deciding that it was something that needed action a little bit faster than a two to three-day turnaround from the support ticket. It was nice that they define that, but at the same time, I'm trying to do something this week, not next week.
So I went to their homepage, and I got to this handy dandy live chat feature. [So I] hit the live chat, went through the whole process. They asked me who I was, I told them and then they go, "Oh, you're a customer. You can't chat with us here. This is for sales only." 😮
That's a big old fail right there. You care about getting my business enough to be on instant live chat, but not if you already have my business.
So let's unpack the service side of a customer experience platform.
That experience highlights that familiar feeling that occurs when it seems like companies you rely on are they're giving everybody deals, discounts or free stuff unless you're already a customer. As a customer, we feel left out by a lack of service and support.
What a CX Platform with a Customer Service Focus Looks Like
Think about your website from a current customer's perspective. One great example of where to start is the pricing page. If a customer visits your pricing page, there's a high chance that it's not a positive indicator.
Here's why: If a prospect visits your pricing page before they're a customer it's a good thing. That's a high signal that they're interested in your business. You know this.
And it's possible that multiple visits happen because the first time they got sticker shock, but coming back a second time they're still in consideration.
However, that signal goes out the window if they're a customer. That typically means one of two things. Either they want to upgrade, or they want to see what value they're getting, what is included.
If we treat the experience of that pricing page and the automation of the pricing page as if they're a prospect, we're going to automate the experience. We might have a salesperson reach out and maybe deploy a chat that says, "Hey, want to talk to someone right now?"
But if a customer comes to that pricing page, what signal is that sharing? We need other points of data. Hence the CRM. If that customer has an NPS score that was really high, maybe a nine, they could be looking to give a referral or want to upgrade. Those are the likely two paths.
If instead they have an NPS score of two and come to the pricing page, they're almost certainly not looking to give a referral. They're potentially trying to justify the cost they're paying.
Understanding Service Signals
You have the data to do that readily available in your CRM now, just like we do with HubSpot. But if you're not thinking about it from a customer experience point of view, there's a huge potential miss because the context of the pricing is not considering who the user is, it's strictly focused on acquisition and demand.
As a customer, I want to have more information, not "be sold to”. Maybe I want to know what that line item in the pricing thing is to see whether I'm even utilizing it or to better understand what I'm paying for.
There are also very obvious notifications that need to go to different people. If a prospect in the sales process hits my pricing page five times after I gave a price, they have questions. If I'm in customer service and an active account hits my pricing page five times, I should reach out to ask them if they have any questions about their product or service.
When we talk about the CMS by itself, there are ways that we can explain things. For instance, if we figure out the reasons why people are coming there, we could very easily change the chat. The chat also changes based on the context of whether I'm a customer or not. If I'm an active customer, then have the direct line to whomever your customer service contact is for that user. And if they ask a question, let that person be the superhero for your customer.
If they are not an active customer any longer, give the chat to the salesperson with the context that this chat is only for people who were previously customers. Sales doesn't have to do any of the value prop. All they have to do is give them a red carpet.
Helping Your Customers and Prospects
In Remington's earlier example of his personal experience, he talked about a knowledge base as he looked for some help documents.
Right now, businesses have so many different technology pieces that help us to perform individual functions that, in a lot of cases, the user on the other side also has to use each and every one of those pieces of software. We might have our help docs and our knowledge base in one tool, our chat in another tool, our CMS in yet another tool and the information for the contact record in the CRM, which is another tool. There's no way to connect those knowledge base articles to the context of the user.
We shouldn't be sending that message that users should search for what they want and hope they can find it. It shouldn't have to be that way. If a user has a certain product or service, prioritize what they see based on that product or based on service. Odds are, they're going to be interested in it. If someone is not a customer yet, and they have questions or are searching your knowledge base, it's probably because they want to know how you would solve a specific problem.
Service departments classically invest a lot in the technology to be able to find all the resources they need for their internal service teams. In a lot of cases, they're using that as an internal intranet with use cases. For instance, when someone calls in with an issue to solve, the service rep goes to the intranet and searches to get a recommendation or a direction to go in order to solve that problem. Then they essentially walk the customer through it.
With a Customer Experience Platform, the service team could make that information available to the customer on the front end. Unfortunately, the platform that provides those directions from the sales point of view, in most cases, is not the platform they use for their CMS.
So right now, for most companies, the information can be inaccurate when you compare the two disconnected systems and isn't as accessible to either party. And in some cases, there can be some disparity between the two, which is going to add frustration for both your internal team and the customer.
If you instead have a Customer Experience Platform that helps with customer service, everyone is looking at the same information with different lenses.
The example we discussed is what commonly happens when you have two separate tools for solving a connected need. If you don't pay for that other tool anymore, think about how much more you could invest in improving both experiences at the same time.
That's the question that we want you to identify and ask.
Let's Talk About Customer Dashboards
The other areas that become fun with a customer experience platform happen if you were to create a customer dashboard. When we think of a customer dashboard, imagine another homepage that's only for customers. There's cross-sells and upsells there's, "I want reviews" ... There are so many different things that we want from the customer at that point.
And in order to be truly a customer experience platform, we have to figure out what experiences they're looking for.
- Are these the right resources?
- Is this the right way to get support?
- Do they just want to understand their billing? (Knowing when their due date is and knowing where the current state of the account is.)
They could be looking for a lot of those things, and a thorough investigation into that customer experience is necessary to answer those questions. But at the very least, you could recommend the content. You could give links to the knowledge base articles. You could also have a quick link/form or chat that takes you straight to the service rep to get support.
Cross-Sells and Upsells in a CX Platform
The opportunity for cross-sells and upsells in a customer experience platform is incredible.
We (in marketing and sales) spend so much time on automation, to say "Hey, one plus one equals three." For example: You want this thing, and you want this thing. You're really going to want this thing. And we send an email.
Nothing changes on the website to alter the experience of what we would recommend. By having a customer dashboard you get to say, "Hey, customers that like these two services you currently have with us also really love this."
And you could choose to show that only if the NPS score is high.
But if the NPS score was low, you could say, "Hey, want a fireside chat with our CEO?"
Now all of a sudden, you know they weren't happy. So you offer the CEO's meeting link.
How many CEOs would be more than happy to have a conversation with someone that didn't have a good experience? It just that their company isn't structured in a way that would allow it. What if it was automatic? What if you just presented the link?
The customer now feels like, "Holy crap, I matter."
Improving Your Onboarding Process
The final piece of the customer experience platform is the onboarding experience.
Back in the introduction of this page, we talked about the onboarding experience and the 300 or so emails following up over this 90 day period. That's a pretty extreme case.
Our normal onboarding experience is not that crazy, but where it does get a little involved is all the technology pieces. We ask for access to all of the reports, access to all of the data that we need, the right logos for your business... it's a lot.
That bulleted list of things we need lives in a knowledge base article which then gets emailed to the client, usually the primary point of contact. When they send it back, someone reviews it and checks off a task internally. "Yes, we have this. Yes, we have this. Yes, we have this. No, I need more info."
Well, "No, we need more info" is a pretty important piece in this scenario. So we go through the whole process.
Meanwhile, the customer is thinking, "I'm done. Have a nice day. I just did my part. Now you're going to just make me all the money."
But as the agency, we're thinking, "I can't help you with anything until you fix this one problem."
We might have sent a request for what we need to you via email, but it's not your full-time job to be our customer. It is our full-time job to make sure that you're happy. Communication is usually one of the biggest problem areas.
Now, more importantly, especially when we think about onboarding, is the problem of not really understanding the context of what someone wanted in the first place. How often does a customer go through the sales process, answer the questions for the salesperson... and then get asked the same questions by the service person?
And not knowing the information internally in your organization is a major pain point for the team, which is usually connected to a different platform or a different system.
So we want to take all the information in the sales process where we talked about goals, software, everything, and pull it into context so that the customer service person doesn't say, "And can you talk to me about your goals?"
Now we could just say, You talked to Jackie about XYZ goal. And you said this, is that still true today?"
This allows your customer to feel like you didn't waste their time in the sales process. It allows for the service person to be able to ask more engaging questions because they partially already have the answer. And it allows for there to be less time wasted in that onboarding process.
It's all about making it an effortless customer experience.
And when it's all in one system, where all the data points live and work together, you're not "Frankensteining" it together, each department gets effortless and as less friction-filled as needed. Get that flywheel going.
Customer Experience Platform with a RevOps Perspective.
Now it’s time to see how it all comes together, and how it relates to Revenue Operations, or RevOps.
For reference, we're talking about a few things here.
First, websites are no longer online brochures. At least we should have evolved past that by now.
Next, we've taken this thread throughout all of the different parts of our website and who interacts with it: marketing, sales and service, to create a customer experience platform with our websites. And it's all built on a CMS, the content management system working with a CRM, contact relationship management.
So for those that are visual learners, you can imagine the HubSpot sprocket. The main circle of the logo is the CMS. That envelopes the white dot inside of the circle, which is the CRM. Then we've got three sprockets. We've got marketing, sales and service.
That’s your Customer Experience Platform (CXP). The idea is that the CX platform really becomes integral to your entire business. And it's all wrapped around the CRM and your customer, prospect or contact.
Revenue Operations and Customer Experience
When it comes to creating the best customer experience and reducing negative friction, we’re really focusing on Revenue Operations (Rev Ops). And we see as much emphasis on the operations part of it, if not moreso, than the revenue. Revenue becomes the (desired) byproduct of a great rev ops strategy.
Revenue operations is one of those things that should focus on the entire lifecycle of the prospect, from customers to brand ambassadors.
For instance, building a well-oiled machine often includes the directive to remove the silos. But maybe there’s a different way.
Silos can help keep us organized. After all, completely open-floor plan offices for businesses haven’t exactly worked out for everyone. Instead of deconstructing silos, we can think of it as sawing out windows between them to be able to pass the messages through.
It’s about communication and collaboration along the journey.
Technology Plus Culture
Now, when a business thinks about its CX platform and this shift in communication, most people will go right to technology. While tech is important, it actually starts with a mindset shift. It starts with culture.
The problem with focusing on technology first is that you’ll likely make the same mistake so many businesses make. We often see negative friction and go right to software or another tool to solve the symptom.
Each piece of tech brings its own issues, which often go unnoticed until this new tool comes into play. These technologies that help solve one specific problem often create three or four more.
As a business, you may have your website framework (CMS), accounting software, a chat option on the website, a CRM for your sales team (or multiple places for customer data), a video platform that brings in lead information, all without a single, central point of truth for your data.
That’s the problem with taking on the technology without a culture behind it.
Building a culture focused on customer experience enveloped in rev ops starts with the team coming together on things like efficiency, communication, revenue, experience and more.
It’s a lot like a baton handoff in a relay race. In many races, a single person might be able to go faster than a relay team because they have to rely on each other. But you can go further with a team when they can create synergy.
For instance, the person who receives the baton can't look back at the handoff. They're supposed to have their hand there, ready for the baton as they begin to speed up. And they have to trust the other teammates to put the baton in their hand.
That’s a collaborative, trusting mindset. That ties into a company culture with trust in the team, or the other silos. At the end of the day, everyone has to be moving operationally efficiently in order to actually win. And winning, in most cases, is the customer not feeling like there are five races going on.
The culture in your organization has to care about that Northstar of customer experience.
Making Your Technology Fit into Company Versus Making Your Company Fit into Technology
A common problem we see is companies trying to make their operations fit into a specific technology. We suggest instead taking the path of making technology fit into your business.
Here’s an example:
Imagine you have a conversion problem on your website. Drift could help you. Fantastic. So you buy Drift.
Then you need help with email automation. So you decide to buy into MailChimp.
But you also need a new website, so you build a WordPress website.
Now you discover you need a customer service solution, so you end up with Zendesk.
Look at that MarTech stack. All of a sudden you have all these different buckets. Each of these silos of information solves one problem. But what is the byproduct of solving that one problem? It's in some cases, creating two or three problems that you might not feel until you have to move data or processes.
Another example is when we recently conducted an analysis with a client. We asked for a list of all the software they use. They gave us a dozen tools for their sales and marketing operations. Then, we interviewed the salespeople on what software they use individually. We got almost a dozen more. And guess what… some of them weren't the ones that the company is paying for!
Besides the costs involved, there’s a security point of view with major liabilities.
For instance, one issue was a salesperson that said, “I don't use the company phone because I'm not always at my desk. So I use my own Google Voice on my personal phone.”
Pressed further on why, they told us their customers also like to text. They just find it easier because they're not always in front of a computer.
So your salespeople are creating processes themselves. They're making technology fit into their needs. Conversely, the company tries to fit processes into technology, which is a very limiting experience. You can't focus on making your operations fit into a certain technology set while also caring about the customer experience. Another problem is that by adding all these pieces of technology in a disconnected manner, you’re not consolidating and protecting data.
The Power of Consolidated Data
The power of consolidated data, in particular when it comes to your CX platform, lies in perspective.
Maybe you’ve built your website on WordPress and you have Drift for chat and MailChimp for email, Zendesk for support tickets and Hootsuite for social media. There’s no connective tissue bringing all of your data and customer behaviors together.
Each of these solutions may be great for their specific goal. However, your tools are only as smart as the data that you provide to them.
Amazon, for instance, is extremely powerful because of their perspective. Amazon knows what you are going to want to purchase based on the stuff you've looked at before. They have an immense amount of perspective that feeds that AI engine to allow for them to give this deductive reasoning.
But you don't need to spend as much money as Amazon does for that level of perspective, because any perspective is better than none at all.
Let’s look at a simple example. If someone subscribes to your blog, you know them. They’ve filled out a form and you now know that they subscribed.
How many businesses still have a subscribe box for every visitor? Why waste that space? Instead, that could be the next step. You could offer a new form asking what topics they’re interested in. Bringing your data together gives you the opportunity to offer smart content.
Another example is live chat and chatbots. When you have a tool that’s separate from your CRM, your data isn't consolidated. When your chat tool doesn't know the lifecycle stage, the pages visited, the forms converted or the conversations that we've had in our CRM, it starts to fail.
A final example we see often with clients is Net Promoter Score (NPS).
A brand will want to use net promoter scores with a third party system because they want to survey people and figure out how happy their customers are.
Let's say marketing does that because they want to know what people care about how happy they are. The C suite probably sees that too. They look at the score. That information exists in a separate platform from the CMS and the CRM.
What happens if one of the people, who was a promoter, goes to your pricing page? What happens if a promoter calls you on the phone? What's the conversation going to be? It's probably going to be happier. It could potentially lead to upgrades or a referral.
On the flip side, if you knew that they were a detractor, if you knew that they were very unhappy and visiting that pricing page, it’s a five-alarm fire. You might send your senior support person or even the CEO instead of sending the message to a level one support rep.
But if your data isn’t consolidated? It’s a crapshoot.
How Impulse Creative Made the CXP Jump
It’s time to get tactile. Let’s dive into a real example of making the jump to a Customer Experience Platform. Impulse Creative made this CXP jump ourselves in 2020.
We started thinking about enhancing the customer experience in January. Coming out of the new year we talked about what objectives we had for 2020. As we started to think about how to enhance the experience, we knew we’d make it more effortless. Remington looked to make it happen in quarter three or quarter four.
Instead, the Universe threw a curveball with coronavirus and COVID-19 and the quarantine. A slight dip in business gave us the opportunity for some time to dig in earlier in the year.
Between the news of the world, having children at home instead of in school, uncertainty and other mental stressors, the team needed to know where things were and our customers needed to know where we were without us having to repeat it and sift through hundreds of emails.
So we wanted to create that Northstar of efficiency and really make it a more positive experience all around. We also leaned into the CX strategy because of the market. We saw some changes coming quickly that showed us this effortless experience or this velocity was becoming really important.
One of the ways to enhance that experience and really think about the customer experience platform was to make our delivery processes more efficient for the customer. In return, it becomes easier for us. For instance, as we performed onboarding for one of our partners through our CX platform, we immediately started having customers get excited about the number of meetings they could see they had left.
While we continue to work out the occasional bug, overall it's allowed for us to have more continuity in the customer experience. There's also a lot more continuity internally around processes. An exciting byproduct is more buy-in from the team. Many businesses face difficulty getting sales to adopt the CRM into their workflow.
By using the CX platform as we have, the entire team from sales to onboarding to ongoing support uses the backend software. On the frontend, the customer experiences a top-notch interaction with the entire brand.
How Do I Build a Customer Experience Platform and Build Revenue Operations?
Ready to begin this transition and pivot your website from an online brochure to a customer experience platform?
The first step is questioning the experience your customer has. Be the customer and actually sign up or purchase your own product or service.
Have that meeting as a customer if you can, or attend those meetings. Be the fly on the wall and listen for what sounded right, what sounded wrong. Don't make any recommendations until you've gone through the whole process. Because again, perspective is what matters here.
The next piece is to assess all the technology that you have and all the different places that data lives. For instance, do you have spreadsheets? What about the rest of the team? What's customer data or analytics on your company that you have to manually put together? That's a data consolidation issue.
Once you start bringing the data together, you can start to really think about how to create this platform that allows for that perspective.
You want to think strategically about how your CMS and CRM interact, how a support technology plays into it and how communication happens between your team and the customer.
And then from there, it's chipping away at things and understanding trade-offs to the changes and then waiting to see adoption and making sure that you're just mindful of change management for both sides.
BONUS: Who Owns RevOps
Someone in your company has to own Revenue Operations. For some brands, you get a Director of Growth, a Chief Revenue Officer or Director Operations.
Regardless of the title, it cannot be subordinate to marketing or sales. It has to be separate with marketing, sales and success reporting to the person who owns rev ops.
Operationally-minded folks have the perspective of revenue most often ready to head up a rev ops mindset for the company. When you’re small, that may be the CEO or founder. As you grow, it will be the spokesperson for revenue, someone who can ask how the decisions you're making affect every area of your business.