Customer experience is top of mind for companies large and small but nonetheless businesses still commonly fail to make the grade. No company can afford to drop the ball: a Microsoft survey found that 96% of respondents felt customer experience plays a role in their choice of brand.
With customer experience so vital to success it is essential to take a more holistic approach rather than tinkering at the edges of customer service. Your business needs a customer experience strategy.
In this article we outline how your company should go about creating a customer experience strategy that will deliver for you and your customers.
Consider Your Aspirations
Customer experience principles are not universal, one-size-fits-all answers. For example, companies offering a value-driven business model will offer a different level of service when compared to a business operating in the luxury sector. That’s not to say your business should aim low in a world where customer expectations are always increasing. Instead, consider the following points:
- What matters most to your customers?
Regardless of your business model every company has customer service pain points that your customers will care about. Identify these and prioritise accordingly. Yes, look at what your competitors are doing but also examine trends and survey your customers. You might not be able to fund every aspect of superior customer experience but fund the most important ones.
- Is your company agile enough?
Some customer experience pain points may be more difficult to fix than others. Look for quick wins which your operating model can easily accommodate, balanced against the priority your customers give to these issues. It’s a strategic way to more rapidly boost customer experience.
- Aim for competitive advantage
It’s hard to argue that any market sector offers universally excellent customer experiences. Identify the typical pain points in your sector and aim to fix these in your business so that customers choose your product or service over and above a competitor’s.
With any strategic roadmap, goal awareness increases the chances that your plans will come to fruition. However, there is another important point that’s worth getting to grips with before you get into the details of customer experience.
The Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Service
Everyone knows what customer service is. Was the staff member at the checkout helpful and friendly? Did your broadband provider suggest you switch to a cheaper package based on low usage? Has your hotel offered a credit for a poor stay? There are countless examples of individual customer interactions that result in good customer service, or the opposite.
In contrast, the customer experience describes the customer journey: the sum of all the customer touchpoints with your company whether sales, billing or customer service centre. It involves the actual product or service too, not just interactions with your staff.
The customer experience is less measurable and more emotive than customer service, and more long-lasting. A single customer service mishap can be forgotten, but an overall negative customer experience over the customer lifecycle can be extremely difficult to repair. In the past this meant a negative story being shared with a few. In today’s ultra-connected world, social media can result in it being shared with hundreds of people or worse still it could go viral.
Though customer service is typically the remit of a specific department, customer experience involves the entire organisation from product development through to sales and marketing. Implementing key customer experience initiatives cannot be left to a single staff member or a single department, everyone must pitch in.
So, where should your company be looking for customer experience wins?
Identify Your Customer Experience Touchpoints
OK, so you understand that you need to take a holistic approach to customer service. You also know that you need to prioritise according to your company’s market sector, its ability to enact change and the opportunities for competitive advantage.
But when it comes to customer experience wins, where should your company be looking?
Personalised Customer Journeys
An understanding of your customer’s journey is central to getting customer experience right. Find out what motivates your customers, and what they want to achieve. Distinguish between their needs and wants and understand their preconceived notions and likely emotional responses.
Next, focus on ways to personalise each customer’s journey and delight them at every opportunity. You may feel you don’t have enough data to do this but even if it’s the first time a customer has shopped with you, there are ways to delight them.
Laura Ashley took this opportunity and made one customers day. They took note of the bedding she had ordered and included a pair of socks to go alongside it along with a personal note.
Making sure that all branches of the company had centralised information meant that in this case customer service was able to liaise with the business to agree to include this extra treat with delivery, complete with a personalised note.
Find ways to thank your customers and encourage them to become brand advocates for your business. Loyalty schemes and money off vouchers have proven success rates. If you can find ways to include personalisation? Even better.
Do so and your customers will understand that you empathise with their needs. It strengthens your relationship with the customer. Today’s data-driven operating models make personalisation of the customer journey easier than ever before.
Do You Meet Convenience Expectations?
It seems redundant to state this, but never make it difficult for your customers to buy from you. Optimise buyer’s journey and look for innovative ways to make the buying experience easier and more enjoyable. The same goes for service, offer 24/7 chatbots if possible and put in place a contact centre strategy that reflects the needs of your customers.
Overall, your business should aim for simplicity. People live busy, complex lives and will appreciate vendors that make it easier for them to go about their daily routines. There is a difficulty in that doing so implies getting all customer experience touchpoints just right, from mobile through to the in-store experience. Nonetheless, a relentless pursuit of a frictionless customer experience will pay off.
Stop Looking Through the Cost Lens
Yes, every organisation has a limited pot of money that’s in high demand from a range of stakeholders. But barrelling down on customer service in order to save money is not the right approach. Instead, consider investing in the customer experience in order to drive business growth.
Carefully executed customer experience investments will set a business apart from its competitors and help retain customers in the long run. It’s a well-known rule that keeping an existing customer is far cheaper than acquiring a new customer, so customer experience investment stands a high chance of paying off.
Don’t Forget the Emotional Connection
Finally, it is important to grasp that emotion shapes how customers respond to your business. Even the best customer service experience can fail to land a win if your customers do not view your business in the right light. Instead, engage with your customers emotionally by understanding what drives their decisions, and their views.
Do so successfully and you can expect to outperform your peers. Shaping an emotional connection through the customer experience can keep your customers from interacting with your peers altogether: a Harvard Business Review study found that 44% of emotionally engaged customers never shop around.
A Customer Experience Roadmap Can Deliver
Your customer experience roadmap won’t instantly transform the customer experience. Yet, follow it step by step, and your business will see the results over time.
Yes, optimising the customer experience within business and operational constraints involves a fine balance, but it’s worth pursuing your customer experience strategy nonetheless as it offers immense long-term benefits.