If you want to improve customer experience in your business, you have to put your customers first. Not only does customer experience (CX) help you stand out from your competition, but it also generates greater revenue for your business. In fact, companies that lead in customer experience outperform by nearly 80%.
Taking action to improve your customer experience is no longer optional, but how do you get started? Though most brands agree CX is important, they’re busy focusing on the wrong things. Whether they’re investing too much time in attracting new customers (but not keeping the ones they have) or they’re offering ineffective service, these things don’t add up to an outstanding experience.
Your customers expect more than ever before. In the digital age, your customers know what it means to have a seamless experience from start to finish. You’re not just competing with those in your niche. You’re competing with all companies that offer a great experience. With this much pressure, you can’t wander through half-effort experience checkpoints.
With that in mind, how do you really improve your customer experience? If you want to reap the benefits of great CX (revenue, reputation, retention), you need to get serious. To begin, start with these must-do steps that are proven to pay off in a big way.
- Build exceptional service into your brand identity.
- Build your service efforts around what customers want.
- Keep communication channels open (and varied).
- Support existing customers like you do new ones.
- Support your team as well as you support customers.
- Empower every team member to serve customers in the same way.
- Plan ahead for customer experience “emergencies.”
- Take advantage of technological tools.
- Always collect customer reviews and feedback.
- Always turn feedback into action.
- Supercharge your customer experience.
Build exceptional service into your brand identity.
First, it’s time to break down the barriers around service. While you might have a dedicated service team, this is only the first step. Exceptional service is the responsibility of everyone, from tech support to sales. When you empower all of your employees to deliver exceptional service, it’s built into your brand.
With a reported 96% of consumers saying customer service is important when deciding brand loyalty, service should be a huge component of your business values. What exactly is exceptional service? It’s a proactive approach to customer service, helping customers reach their ideal outcome with as few steps as possible.
One brand that isn’t afraid to go above and beyond in terms of customer service is Expedia. This travel planning platform doesn’t just deliver great deals, but it acts as a concierge to help users manage their travel reservations with ease.
Prompted by the COVID19 crisis, they revamped their support page to be as easy for customers to use as possible. With 4 clear options for users based on their goals (cancel trip, change dates, ask for a refund, chat with support), it’s possible for users to get help fast. Expedia understands that travel arrangements can be stressful, and they work with their customers to make things as seamless as possible.
Build your service efforts around what customers want.
Next, make sure your service efforts actually mirror your customers’ wants. More often than not, brands focus on what they think customers want instead of actually listening to their needs. The Platinum Rule says it best: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”
Instead of assuming you know your customers’ needs best, ask them directly. You should focus on communicating with customers in the ways they want to be reached. Additionally, prioritize the fastest, most effective ways of serving them where they already are.
An example of a brand that builds service around its customers is Carvana. Because they’re focused on creating a fully digital experience, they know most of their customers might not want to talk to a service agent over the phone. They make it easy to contact support through text or online chat. Not only do their quick answer videos reduce the need to contact support in the first place, but their self-service portal puts customers in the driver’s seat (literally and figuratively).
Keep communication channels open (and varied).
Additionally, do you know how your customers like to communicate? Today, your customers want more options than ever before. While in the past most customers would have expected to talk to a support agent via phone or in-person, times are changing. People expect service quickly, and they want it to be as easy as possible.
When it comes to making an impact through communication, speed and effectiveness are everything. Nearly 60% of customers feel that long wait times are the most frustrating part of contacting a company. You want to make it a goal to not only serve customers in a personal way but also serve them quickly. To succeed, ask customers how they want to reach support. Then, make it possible to access multiple channels.
For instance, the bookselling giant Barnes & Noble offers a wide array of varied communication options. Not only can you reach support through the phone or in person at a local store, but you can also contact the support team through chat or email. These options make it simple for customers to get help fast, reducing tension throughout the customer journey.
Support existing customers like you do new ones.
Next, make a point of supporting existing customers just as much as new ones. Too many brands are focused on selling to new customers, but they let their current ones slip through the cracks. This is seen most often with cable companies. They reel in new customers with a tempting offer, but then they neglect them as soon as that intro expires.
In fact, it’s 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one you already have. Though it might be tempting to always cast a wider net, your current customers are also an essential asset. Learn from cable companies. Though they might lure in new users, they notoriously have the worst customer satisfaction scores in the country through their lack of support for existing customers.
With this in mind, how do you support your current customers? Aside from interacting with them regularly, offer some special loyalty programs, referral perks, or discounts for repeat purchases. Joe Coffee is an up-and-coming coffee app that taps into the power of supporting existing users. By offering referral discounts and loyalty perks (like free coffee), they’ve earned a dedicated base around the country.
Support your team as well as you support customers.
Moreover, support your team just as much as you support your customers. Your team is a foundational part of your business. When your employees are happy, you see results with your customers as well. This goes back to your company culture. If your employees aren’t empowered to help customers, they’ll only get in the way when it comes to customer experience.
We’ve all dealt with the frustration of talking to a service agent who needs approval from several managers before they can offer a discount or freebie. When these blocks get in the way, nobody wins. Instead, keep lines of communication with employees open. Make sure they have the tools and resources they need to succeed.
The Walt Disney Resort is perhaps the best example of a company that empowers its employees. Through ongoing training opportunities at Disney University and in-depth, ongoing education programs, cast members have an endless pool of support to draw from. Whether faced with a frustrated guest or weather delays, they never hesitate to take action.
Empower every team member to serve customers in the same way.
Similarly, it’s frustrating if you talk to different service members and hear different things. Not only is this confusing for the customer, but it sends the wrong message that your brand is disorganized. No matter who a customer interacts with, they should always have a consistently wonderful experience.
This means you need to train every individual within your organization in what it means to deliver a great experience. While most training is typically focused on support teams, it really applies to everyone. Value every employee within your organization, and recognize that a variety of roles often interact with customers in meaningful ways.
Again, take a look at Disney. They train employees in the 5-Keys of Service. These ensure consistency across parks, roles, and even continents. Whether you’re talking to a cast member at the Magic Kingdom or at the airport, you’ll experience the same level of service and expertise.
Plan ahead for customer experience “emergencies.”
Additionally, always be proactive with your customer experience. In a perfect world, everything would go right 100% of the time. In reality, things happen. You’ll likely need to put out “emergencies” from time to time, so prepare for them.
Whether that means dealing with tech failure, power outages, or shipping delays, train your employees so they’re ready. When employees know the protocol when things go wrong, they can take charge to make things right. You want your customers to feel informed and valued every step of the way, even if things don’t go according to plan.
The online publication platform Issuu was quick to handle a mistake with their email marketing campaign. When promoting an upcoming event, they accidentally listed the wrong date. Instead of waiting, they quickly connected with affected customers to let them know the updated time.
Take advantage of technological tools.
While improving the customer experience might seem like a lot of work, this is a chance to take advantage of tech tools. There are endless support-related tools that don’t even require constant human contact. Using a support database, for example, requires no support staff. In fact, 60% of US consumers prefer an automated self-service tool like a database.
Other tech tools include chat features, a support ticket system, or customer retention software. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. Though it might be a greater upfront investment, you’ll save time, money, and manpower in the process. Airbnb does a great job of this through their comprehensive Help Center resources.
Always collect customer reviews and feedback.
Next, always collect customer reviews and feedback. No matter your industry, you don’t exist in a vacuum. You’re affected by the entire industry, and you need feedback to succeed. You also need to leverage your existing reviews so they work for you. A reported 72% of customers won’t take any buying actions until they’ve read reviews.
Not only does asking for feedback give you the opportunity to succeed, but it also is a chance to ask for reviews. Reviews act as social proof, building trust in your abilities and skills. Though you can talk about how great your business is all day, customers won’t take you at your word. They want to hear from other users just like them.
In addition to asking for reviews, don’t forget to collect indirect customer feedback by monitoring your social media channels and identifying the most popular search terms in your help center. For retail companies, Zendesk even recommends tracking the trends in your returns, as the reasons customers provide for the return can be a valuable data point.
The homework help platform Chegg uses customer reviews to boost trust right on the homepage. By highlighting feedback and reviews from real users on social media in their own words, prospects see how other students use Chegg to boost their studies.
Always turn feedback into action.
Last but not least, take that feedback and turn it into real action. When reviews and feedback go ignored this shows customers you don’t take their concerns seriously. In fact, 75% of businesses don’t respond at all to reviews.
When businesses reply to customer reviews and make real changes, it shows the company cares. Not only does this decrease churn, but it results in more revenue and a boost in the company’s reputation. Because your customers are taking time out of their day to share insights with you, it’s only fair to take them seriously.
One lighthearted example of this is the recent menu changes from the fast food giant Taco Bell. Though they originally removed potatoes from their menu to simplify offerings, this led to an outcry from their fans, many of which liked how the potatoes were a veggie-friendly alternative to meat. As of January, 2021, Taco Bell launched their potato options permanently. By listening to fans, they discovered how to better meet the needs of their customers.
Supercharge your customer experience.
Ultimately, if you’re not actively working to improve the customer experience, you’re falling behind the competition. Competition is fierce. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re focused on improving loyalty and satisfaction, you’re creating a superb experience.
When your customer experience is memorable, you turn passive users into superfans. These are brand evangelists who are passionate about your values, offerings, and continued success. To tap into these superfans, you need to implement clear strategies that put your customers first.