Most companies intuitively understand the value of customer service. When a buyer has a problem, or even a simple question, it’s important to provide them with answers and support; otherwise, you could lose that customer forever. But if you want to compete in the modern business world, you have to think beyond mere customer service.
According to Financial Force, you have to think about customer experience – the sum total of experience a buyer has with your brand, from first hearing that your customer exists to navigating customer service after dealing with an issue.
So what exactly is customer experience, and how can you improve it?
Defining Customer Experience
According to HubSpot, “Customer experience, or CX, is the customer’s overall sentiment of every interaction that they have with your company.” These interactions include things like hearing about your brand in an advertisement, talking to a friend about your brand, visiting your company’s website, interacting with a salesperson, using your products and services, getting help with an issue, and even cancelling a subscription or leaving the company permanently.
The more positive your customer experience is, the more your company stands to benefit. Good CX is associated with higher rates of buyer retention, higher average order volume and sales, and a greater propensity for growth. It’s a make-or-break factor for businesses everywhere since a negative CX could result in your ruin.
Customer Experience in Action
It’s easiest to understand the impact of customer experience when you see an example of it in action. Let’s say a customer, Mark hears about a new tech company, TechCorp, that’s selling a new gadget; he sees an ad for the gadget on a streaming service and it makes him laugh. He immediately feels a sense of connection with the brand and investigates more.
When he visits the website, he finds it easy to get more information – and he finds the design to be original and interesting. He ends up chatting with a salesperson (or a bot) and getting answers to some of his biggest questions about the gadget. After a bit more research, he feels good about the decision and purchases the product.
Out of the box, the product looks and feels great. It starts working exactly as intended, but it has a small persistent issue. He follows the company on social media, and finds they have a convenient link to a customer service page.
He reaches out with a question, gets an answer, and the team sends him both a solution and a gift card for his patience. Mark has had nearly a dozen separate interactions with this brand, and all of them trend toward the positive (except the small issue with the gadget). Accordingly, he feels better about the brand, he’s more likely to buy their products, and he’s much more likely to recommend those products to friends and family members.
Improving Customer Experience
So what steps can your company take to improve customer experience?
These strategies are a good start
Think in big-picture terms
Most customer experience strategies begin with mapping the “customer journey,” the path a typical buyer takes from first hearing about your business to becoming a (hopefully) lifelong buyer. In any case, you’ll need to start thinking in “big-picture” terms like these. It’s not just about customer service or onboarding. It’s about every interaction a buyer has with your business.
Coordinate different departments
CX isn’t a customer service issue, or a marketing issue, or a sales issue. It’s something that every department of your organization should be involved in. Accordingly, you’ll need to spend some time coordinating the people in these various departments to share data, work together, and align their messaging.
Establish clear brand values and priorities
It’s much easier to provide consistent and clear customer experiences when every department and every individual in your business starts from the same place. Establish clear values, principles, philosophies, and characteristics that define your brand – then make sure everyone understands how to incorporate them into their work.
Train and educate all employees to provide consistent messaging
In line with this, you’ll need to spend time educating, training, and preparing your employees to provide consistent messaging across the board. Your social media marketers, salespeople, and customer service agents should all have an understanding of the “voice” of your organization and be prepared to deliver similarly excellent experiences to your buyers no matter where they are in the customer journey.
Improve response times and wait times
Today’s buyers want speed and convenience. Blame it on dwindling attention spans or high expectations in the internet age, but it’s clear that most buyers are somewhat impatient.
Therefore, one of the best strategies in your CX arsenal is going to be improving response times and wait times; the less your customers have to wait, the better. Try to respond to all customer inquiries within a few hours, or at most a day, and decrease things like shipping times for an added bonus effect.
Master UI/UX design
User experience design is crucial if you want your customers to have a good experience. Your website, your app, and any other platforms your buyers use on a regular basis should be designed in a way that makes them easy to navigate and understand.
Gather as much customer data as possible
One of the most important aspects of your customer experience strategy will be gathering data. It’s vital to study your user behavior patterns, gather customer feedback in the form of surveys, and collect other points of information to learn what your buyers actually think of their experiences with your brand. The more objective data you have, the more confident you can be in your upcoming changes and improvements.
Reflect and adapt
Take the time to analyze the data and creatively brainstorm new solutions. CX optimization isn’t a set of one-time changes; it requires commitment to ongoing adaptation if you want to be competitive. Be prepared to make iterative changes to your business on a near-constant basis.
With a better defined and more consistent approach to CX, your buyers will be happier, your brand’s reputation will improve, and your business’s growth will accelerate. As long as you keep learning and improving, you’ll be in a position to reap the continued benefits.