One of the main keys to success is the ability to set your business apart from your competition. While certain factors, such as the quality of your product, are important, the biggest difference maker will be the customer experience. If the customer had a poor experience with your brand, they’ll not likely return as a customer, no matter what they think of your product or service. Creating and implementing an effective customer experience strategy that goes beyond just providing a high quality product or service will substantially improve your ability to retain customers.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a strategy that will help you to improve your customer experience. CEM allows you to oversee all of your customer’s interactions throughout their customer journey involving the marketing, sales, service, executive, and management levels at multiple touchpoints. A strong CEM strategy is essential to your overall customer experience, and largely depends on the following:
Implementing a CEM strategy so that you can execute a customer experience strategy may seem like a lot of work and may require some fundamental changes in how you do business. At this point you might be wondering whether it’s worth it. After all, can’t you just find ways to improve your customer service and have the same impact? The thing is, customer service and customer experience are not interchangeable. Customer service is just one part of the entire customer experience. Experience has demonstrated that improving the customer experience is worth the effort. In fact, a study published by Oracle revealed the importance of customer experience in the following ways:
The user experience (UX) is a part of the customer experience. The customer experience encompasses the entire experience that a customer has interacting with your brand and whether it was positive or negative, where the UX is more about the ease of that interaction. For example, a customer’s ability to find what they’re looking for on your website, the speed at which your webpages load, the ability of your website to be properly displayed on mobile devices, all affect their UX and will factor into their overall customer experience.
Just like UX, customer service factors into the overall customer experience. Customer service refers to a single touchpoint, whereas customer experience involves the entire customer journey. For example, when the customer speaks to a representative over live chat, email, or by phone, they are receiving customer service. If the person they are speaking to is friendly and helpful, that means that they are experiencing good customer service. If the product that the customer ordered online arrives earlier than expected, that’s a good customer experience, not good customer service. Customer service refers to the direct interaction that customers have with your company’s representatives.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what a customer experience is, begin crafting a customer experience strategy that will help you reduce churn (the loss of customers), improve customer satisfaction, and increase your revenue. Some of the important steps that you will want to take to improve your customer experience are as follows:
It’s difficult to improve your customer experience if you don’t know who your customers are, or what they want or need. To get a better grasp on who your actual customers are, you will need to develop buyer personas. Buyer personas represent who your ideal customers are and are necessary not just for creating a positive customer experience, but also for the development of successful marketing and sales strategies.
A buyer persona is a fictional creation that takes into consideration things like gender, age, job position, education, location, hobbies, needs, wants, challenges, and more. You can have more than one buyer persona to represent the different facets of your audience. Most businesses will even name their buyer personas. You can find the information you need to develop these personas through the information customers have provided on their opt-in forms, by their behaviors on your site, through their interactions with your brand, and through surveys.
By creating these buyer personas, it will be easier for you to recognize who your customers are and will allow your organization to become more customer focused, which will make it easier to provide a positive customer experience.
The customer experience consists of the experience a customer has at every point of their journey. To ensure that you are able to meet the needs of your customers at any point of their customer journey, you should map it. Mapping the customer journey involves identifying all of the potential touchpoints, which are the points at which customers engage or interact with your brand, for each one of your buyer personas. You can then trace these customer journey maps yourself to determine what the experience is like.
You can also use analytics for each touchpoint to identify if there are any roadblocks. For example, if you notice that there’s a high bounce rate on one of your touchpoints, it means that there might be a technical issue that’s hurting the customer experience on that page.
When a customer looks back on their experience with a company, they will do so in emotional terms. It’s just how human beings function and it’s why you need to find a way to establish and foster an emotional connection with your customers to provide them with a positive experience.
Businesses will often go out of their way to help a customer who has been through a distressing event and improve their experience on an emotional level. For example, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico just a few years ago, many airlines helped out by waiving checked bag fees for residents who were flying stateside to escape the damage that was done.
You could argue that opportunities to improve the customer experience in such ways often come out of simply wanting to do the right thing. However, there are plenty of other ways that you can connect to your customers on an emotional level throughout their customer journey. Here are a few effective methods for doing this:
Personalize their experience – This can be done through segmentation, automation, and dynamic content. For example, you can send your customers emails based on their behavior on their site. If they’ve downloaded certain eBooks or whitepapers or have provided you with specific information, you can use this to tailor the content you send them to their specific interests. You can also automate certain emails based on actions they take. If they purchase a specific product on a regular basis, you can send them a discount offer for that product.
Make it easy for them to reach you – A lot of businesses are difficult to reach. They may provide an email address but won’t respond for days, leaving customers frustrated. If you provide your customers with multiple ways to reach you at any hour of the day, their experience will improve dramatically. Things like email, phone, social media, and live chat allow customers to interact directly with your representatives. Even implementing chatbots so that customers can get answers to basic questions after hours can be hugely beneficial to their experience.
Offer channel flexibility – Customer journeys can start and end on different channels, so position yourself to meet the needs of your customers no matter where they are and at what stage of the journey they’re in. For example, you should have a website, a social media presence (hopefully on multiple channels), a phone line that they can call or text, and an email service. This makes it more convenient for customers to interact with your brand on their platform of choice.
Because of how important an emotional connection to your customers is, your brand needs to have a personality. If your content or engagement lacks personality, customers will view you as yet another faceless corporation doing everything it can to increase profits, which is not an impression that you want them to have of you. By having a personality, it makes it easier for customers to relate to you, to identify you, and to connect with you, which will improve their overall experience with your brand.
However, creating a brand personality is easier said than done. First, develop a personality that’s suitable for your specific audience. If your audience is mostly older and mostly female, they probably won’t connect with a tone that’s more reflective of a hip, male personality. If the service you provide is inherently serious (for example, prescription medication), then using an inappropriate sense of humor simply won’t be… appropriate. Your personality should also be consistent across all platforms, both online and offline.
A great example of a successful brand personality is Taco Bell. Taco Bell knows who their audience is. Their food is cheap and fast, and they’re open late. This means that their audience is mostly younger people in their 20s. They smartly tailored their personality to match their audience. They use humor and a certain amount of snark across their social media platforms to connect with their audience. Just look at their Twitter page, which is full of comments that they’ve posted in response to not just customers, but other brands. For example, Men’s Humor once tweeted out “This morning I gave birth to a food baby and I think @tacobell is the father.” Taco Bell’s response? “I want a DNA test.”
Another reason to map your customer journeys is because it will give you the opportunity to improve your UX design for all of your digital touchpoints. A good UX design will integrate the branding, usability, function, and design of your website to help enhance your customer satisfaction. Every digital touchpoint should meet the needs of your customers, whether they’re looking to consume content provided at that touchpoint, find related content, learn more about your brand, or contact your company. A good UX design ensures that they can do all of this and that there aren’t any roadblocks preventing them from doing any of these things (such as slow loading pages, broken links, or a lack of contact information, to name a few).
Certain tools will make it a lot easier to track your customer experience efforts and to improve the experience at every stage of the customer journey. There are tons of individual apps out there that make it easier to engage with customers; however, the best course of action is generally to get a comprehensive CRM (customer relationship management) software tool, such as HubSpot CRM.
HubSpot CRM is effective because it acts as a centralized customer database that can consolidate all of your customer data across numerous platforms. It allows you to track all of your customers interactions, transactions, and actions, giving you clearer insights into your customers. By implementing a CRM tool like HubSpot, you’ll be able to improve your customer experience in many ways. For example, customer service reps will be able to pull up information on a customer instantly as they speak with them, allowing them to tailor their conversation to the customer’s personal behaviors, purchases, and needs.
Consider implementing customer experience software tools, such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey and customer satisfaction survey tools to obtain valuable customer feedback.
The experience you provide to your customers will depend considerably on your employees. You want your customer-facing employees to be able to respond in a friendly tone that’s engaging, helpful, and easy to understand. They should be able to pay attention to minor details so that they can help customers even if the customer doesn’t know exactly what they need or what their problem is. It helps to hire individuals who are team players, have interpersonal skills, can remain calm even when a customer is angry, and who display the ability to interact and connect with people on a personable level.
Simply hiring employees who are level-headed and personable is not enough. You need to train them as well to help them to do their jobs more effectively. For example, if a customer is having a problem but can’t clearly define it, then the employee should be trained on what questions to ask to get to the root of the issue. If a customer is clearly angry, the employee should be trained on how to speak to that customer in a calm manner and how they should diffuse the situation. If your employees don’t know what to do when engaging with customers, it will be difficult for them to provide a good customer experience no matter how friendly and personable they are.
One of the things that improves a customer’s experience with a brand is the knowledge that the brand cares about their experience. You should not only be attentive to any feedback that they provide, but you should actively request feedback from your customers. Not only will they feel like their experience mattered (thereby improving their impression of your brand), but you’ll also collect valuable feedback that can actually help improve your customer experience in the future.
Providing customer support following a sale is a great way to establish and extend a relationship with your customers. You can do this through automation in a number of ways. For example, when a customer finalizes a purchase for the first time, you can automate an email sent to them soon after they’ve checked out thanking them for their purchase and asking for some basic feedback. This can be as simple as requesting that they rate their experience as bad, average, or good along with providing the option to leave additional comments.
Getting feedback from your customers through post-interaction surveys is a great strategy; however, don’t forget about your employees. Your employees who deal with customers directly (especially your customer service representatives) can provide insights into what your customers want, need, and demand out of their experience. Conducting employee surveys is an excellent way to discover such helpful information.
Knowing what your competition is up to can help you identify areas in which you can improve your own customer experience. For example, analyzing their UX to see what works and what doesn’t work can provide you with insight into how you can improve your own UX, which will factor into your overall customer experience. It can also help you avoid making mistakes that your competitors make. For instance, take note of customer service blunders made by your competition and take steps to prevent those same mistakes by training your employees on how to avoid them.
Even after following the previous nine steps in order to implement an effective customer experience strategy, you’re not done. The most important thing to understand about your customer experience strategy is that it’s a long-term strategy, not a short-term strategy. This means that you need to be regularly measuring your ROI and analyzing your customer experience strategy to make adjustments and improvements. In this way you will continuously improve your customer experience over time.
Understanding what the customer experience is and how you can go about improving it will go a long way towards improving your ability to establish and build customer relationships. By creating a customer experience strategy, you’ll find that it will become a lot easier to successfully communicate with your customers, collect insightful data, and make more informed decisions. To improve your customer experience strategy over time, keep identifying gaps between your customer experience and your customer’s expectations and be sure to address those gaps.
The essence of a solid customer experience strategy is the understanding of what your customers’ needs and wants are. There’s no exact blueprint for creating an effective customer experience strategy. What’s effective for your brand will depend on the research you do on your customer base.
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