In 2016, an influential report began making the rounds. Released by Bain and Company, with research conducted by Frederick F. Reichheld (the inventor of the net promotor score), the report came as a bombshell. You can see why when considering just one datapoint: while 80% of CEOs believed they were creating compelling customer experiences, only 8% of their customers agreed. The customer experience (CX) gap was here.

When you dig into recent research, the situation hasn’t improved much for most industries. It’s in this context that Sitecore’s Product Marketing Director Jill Grozalsky joined Wina Wichienwidhtaya, Digital Marketing Technologist at Microsoft, to dig into CX success at Sitecore Symposium 2020.

In their presentation, “The Ten Commandments for superior CX with Sitecore,” they offered real-world insight into CX success with Sitecore. They organized their insight into Ten Commandments, aligned under three categories.

Preparation and operations: Setting your organization up for CX success

1. Thou shalt align goals

Are your digital activities connected to your business objectives? If not, it’s time to ensure they are. Aligning these goals enables you to identify key digital metrics to report on for success and learning throughout your organization. These goals set the baseline for experimentation, and accompanying hypotheses, to discover where CX can be improved.

Wina went on to talk about how Microsoft uses a goal map to (a) get a clear grasp on their digital goals and (b) align them to their business goals. In addition to the clarity that comes with visualization, the goal map also enables Wina’s team to share the goals across teams — from marketing to operations to engineering, all the way to the C-Suite.

2. Thou shalt be connected

Even if you’re just getting started with Sitecore and not yet ready to use it to its full potential, there’s one thing you shouldn’t wait on: connecting systems. It enables consistency in both messaging and moments across the journey, leaving little room for your competition to swoop in. While you may feel like this aspect can wait, you’ll be thankful later that you did it. Re-architecting systems already in place is a lot harder than architecting them correctly in the first place.

Start by taking inventory of all the systems that power your customer touchpoints. You may not be ready to tap into all of the data, but you’ll want to be ready for when you are.

3. Thou shalt be channel agnostic

The customer journey takes place across various channels. You need to ensure they’re connected and the messaging across them is consistent. Wina shared a time where her team released a paid ad campaign. After launch, they realized the ad’s messaging promised one thing, but because the ad connected to the wrong landing page, the experience was off.

Innovation and execution: Implementing experiences

4. Thou shalt personalize by segment

In our increasingly media-rich world, brands compete for mindshare, and personalization is the way to cut through the noise. Personalization does more than grab attention and create in-the-moment delight, it also builds trust and loyalty.

Use the data you have to begin identifying audience attributes and creating personas. Then begin personalizing based on that.

Both Jill and Wina drove home a critical point: Start small. Even if you don’t have the perfect dataset, or aren’t ready to analyze it for insight, you can still start personalizing by using deterministic rules. Again, Wina offered a clear example from her team at Microsoft.

When they began personalization, they started with simple rules, such as whether or not a visitor was a part of their partner program. Once they had some clear KPIs that this very simple level of personalization was working, getting the buy-in and support needed to expand the program to more mature and data-driven personalization was simple.

5. Thou shalt test and optimize

Wina’s team had a question. They wanted to know if Microsoft’s brand was more powerful than their value prop. So, they ran a test. What they found was that in most instances their brand name was better at converting than their messaging. They could have made assumptions, but now they knew.

Wina reminded us how critical it is to have a hypothesis: “If we do X, we expect to see Y.” Start small and ensure you have your hypothesis. Sitecore offers out-of-the-box A/B and multivariate testing, and Wina suggested a first step is getting familiar with Sitecore’s testing capability. The good news is it’s not complex. With a few tests under your belt, it will become a part of your culture.

6. Thou shalt use AI and automate

Here’s what AI gave Microsoft: 224% greater engagement. According to Wina, Sitecore AI – Auto Personalization provides the ability to connect with their audience with much greater breadth.

Some of us may be a bit intimidated by the thought of AI. Again, Wina and Jill both stressed the idea of starting small, as Microsoft did. The first year, they personalized four modules. This past year, they personalized 19.

Wina also stressed how simple it was to start with Sitecore AI. She was the lead in implementing it, and she’s not a data scientist. Start with just one component, on one page. You can also use your rules-based personalization alongside AI. While you shouldn’t expect to be an expert immediately, the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll be up and running, and gaining learnings. With Sitecore AI becoming available as a standard feature in Sitecore XP 10 early next year, now’s the time to start planning how to leverage AI.

Evolution: You began, now keep it moving

7. Thou shalt not ignore data

Along with performance data, customer engagement data helps you understand what’s working and what’s not. If you have your goals set up (see the first commandment) and your systems connected (see the second), it’s easy to report on this. Determine KPIs and collect baseline data early. This will also help you measure success over time.

8. Thou shalt collect customer feedback

The next stage in measuring customer experience success is getting customer feedback. Wina’s team at Microsoft understood this early on. When they started this process, it was literally Wina reading through Excel sheets of feedback. It was worth it, providing deeper insights than digital analytics alone.

Now Microsoft collects feedback through page forms and a quarterly survey. They also do a monthly review. And instead of Excel sheets, they have a dashboard that everyone on the team can access. To prioritize recommendations, they look for pain points that are commonly repeated. Their goals also play into decision-making.

If you’re looking to get started, create a feedback form on your site. It could be a pop-up survey or something else that’s quick and simple for a user to fill out. This is another area where you conduct tests to see which format works best.

9. Thou shalt scale

Jill and Wina both stressed that there is no one way to scale. But your governance, training, and feedback are all essential, along with scaling at the pace of your organization. As her team scales their efforts, Wina is constantly checking in to ensure quality is maintained.

10. Thou shalt evaluate and iterate

New technology appears almost daily, and the methods for reaching audiences follow. Thus, your tactics and strategy can, and often should, change. A growth mindset is critical. Your CX needs to adapt to fit your customers’ needs, not the other way around. By constantly evaluating your audience, segments, personas, and various kinds of data, you can keep a pulse on their needs and desires and maintain meaningful, holistic, and consistent journeys that convert and nurture loyalty.

If you’re looking for more strategic insight on personalization and analytics in Sitecore, check out our Getting started on Sitecore section. If you’re interested in learning more about strategies, tactics, and tools for AI, explore here.

Dan Olson is a Copywriter and Content Marketer at Sitecore. Follow him on LinkedIn.