The term “customer experience” is something you’re bound to stumble upon online, but what does this term really mean in practice? What sets a good customer experience apart compared to a bad one? More importantly, how can you use this definition to grow your own business?
The definition behind customer experience (CX) isn’t as complicated as it might sound. In simple terms, it’s the impression you make on your customers with every interaction. From the first time your customers discover your brand until after they’ve made a sale, each impression matters for your overall experience. Like customer service, this is a way to stand out from the competition no matter your niche.
How vital is customer experience? Just look at the statistics. Customer experience drives more than a reported two-thirds of customer loyalty. This means it’s more important than brand recognition and pricing combined. With that in mind, what actually makes a good customer experience? In this guide, we’ll explore the concrete things that make a good customer experience so you can replicate them for your own customers.
Consistent and Exceptional Service
First, customer service and customer experience go hand-in-hand. In fact, they’re two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. Brands with good customer experience have exceptional customer service not just when customers contact support, but with every interaction. It’s this kind of consistency that builds real-world brand loyalty.
What exactly does it mean to have outstanding customer service? It’s when your customers can count on your team to offer high-level, comprehensive service not just when things go wrong. Customer service should be built into your brand, and it’s not limited to just your service team.
Service Case Study: Ritz-Carlton
To further understand what sets consistent, exceptional service apart, look at the high-end hotel brand the Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton’s service is so famous it’s even the subject of author John R. DiJulius’ marketing book titled What’s the Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.
After DiJulius forgot his laptop charger at the Ritz-Carlton resort in Sarasota, FL, he received an overnight package at his home before he even had the chance to call the hotel to ask about it. Known as the 2000 rule, the Ritz-Carlton empowers each staff member at all levels to spend up to $2,000 per guest per incident to create an outstanding customer service experience every time.
This commitment to service is why the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton was able to respond so quickly when they noticed a guest left behind important tech gear. By anticipating their customer’s needs, Ritz-Carlton proves they go above and beyond with their service. You don’t have to be a luxury hotel chain to replicate this dedication to each customer interaction.
Optimized Sales Processes
Next, while it might sound simple, your sales process is another essential part of your overall customer experience. Creating an effective, convenient sales process is about more than just clicking publish on your online checkout page. You need to use this as an opportunity to nurture your connections and make your customers’ lives easier.
Brands leave a reported $260 billion on the table due to a poor sales process. How can you optimize this final step in the transaction? Here are some key things to consider:
- Navigation: Firstly, your website should be easy, with clear navigation every step of the way. Purchase portals should always be a click away.
- Pricing: Your pricing needs to be clear and straightforward. Nobody likes extra fees or last-minute surprises. In fact, the leading reason for abandoned carts is unexpected costs.
- Quick: Your sales process shouldn’t be a waste of your customers’ time. Only ask for essential information to avoid any tension prior to checkout.
- Incentives: Of course, everyone likes discounts and offers. Use these to your advantage, like if a product is sold out and you want your customer to shop again later.
- Personalized recommendations: Last but not least, don’t be afraid to personalize your recommendations based on trends, user profiles, and past sales.
Sales Process Case Study: Nordstrom
To see all of the above in action, look at Nordstrom. This leading retailer optimized its checkout process to a simple two pages. Not only is the design minimal and easy to understand, but customers are only required to fill in essential information.
Nordstrom is a prime example of a brand that simplifies the sales process. It’s easy for customers to make a purchase quickly, and there are no unexpected fees or steps. Your customers value their time—and you should too.
As a brand, you need a convenient communication strategy that’s created with your audience in mind. This means not only do you need a strong brand voice but you also need to choose the right communication channels for your audience.
To start, personalization is always key. Your customers don’t want to feel like a random number on a sales screen. They want to feel heard, valued, and understood. This means throwing out the copy-pasted service scripts and paying close attention to your customer’s real needs.
Next, understand how your customers like to receive their communications. All of the following are strong communication channels, and you’ll likely use a combination approach:
- Email: Email is a trusted, tried-and-true method, and it’s effective with a wide demographic. However, keep a close eye on your response times to keep this efficient.
- Social media: More and more companies are using social media to respond to customers and deliver exceptional service, just make sure you have a team member monitoring these accounts frequently.
- Chat: 79% of consumers prefer live chats because they get an instant response. These are great for delivering answers to simple concerns.
- Phone: Lastly, some like this traditional option, and it can be a great addition to any existing communication strategy.
There is no right or wrong choice as long as you do it well. Not sure where to begin? Ask your audience what methods they prefer to use to communicate with brands. Each audience is unique, and what works for one brand might not work for the next.
Communication Case Study: Betterment
To strengthen this point, let’s examine a company that’s nailing communications. Betterment is a money management platform to help everyday users take control of their financial futures with saving and budgeting tools. Aside from having a clear, helpful onboarding process to familiarize customers with their tools, they also have a variety of support communication options.
First and foremost, getting help from a financial advisor is only a click away from any page. Yet, for those who would rather handle their affairs themselves, their support page has simple and informative guides for all skill levels. Covering topics like taxes, IRA, and investments, they help customers better understand their needs and goals. If they still need help, they can access a service agent via phone or email at any time.
Transparency From Company Leadership
Next, companies need to make a commitment to transparency at all levels—especially from the highest leadership. In fact, 86% of Americans believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before. What does this mean? It means leadership isn’t afraid to take responsibility when mistakes are made, and leadership isn’t afraid to change direction when needed.
Leadership is tasked with setting a strong example for all other employees. By vowing to stay transparent both online and offline, all levels of employees are empowered to advocate authentically for the brand.
How do you create a brand focused on transparency? Pay attention to these 5 steps:
- Set core values: Your core values are what guide your decision-making, especially from a leadership level.
- Communicate: Communication with your team has never been more important. You need to not only be transparent with your customers but also with your employees.
- Clarity: In all things, practice clarity. This should be true of your prices, language, and support. Don’t mask anything about your brand. Being upfront and clear is always best.
- Get to the point: Your customers and your employees value their time. Don’t beat around the bush when sharing announcements, changes, or updates. People trust businesses that don’t hesitate.
- Take responsibility: Last but not least, always take responsibility when things go wrong. Never play the blame game or hide your head in the sand.
Transparency Case Study: Buffer
An example of a brand that does all of the above is Buffer. This social media planning platform helps brands manage their own social pages and customer messages in one place, but they also build trust through transparency.
Not only does Buffer make their core values clear, but they take action to back them up. In fact, they take transparency so seriously that they have an entire blog dedicated to their workplace culture, finances, business decisions, and strategies called “Open Culture Blog.”
Their posts share a behind-the-curtain glimpse into daily life at Buffer, from their experiment with a 4-day workweek to shareholder updates. When paired with their Transparent Salary Calculator and Diversity Dashboard, they truly redefine what it means to lead with transparency. This kind of company-wide commitment to clarity sets Buffer apart from the competition. This is why they have 73k customers, many of which are some of the biggest brands in the world.
Attention To Customer Feedback
Last but not least, if companies want a good customer experience, they need to pay close attention to customer feedback. Too often, brands interpret this as only asking for feedback without taking any real action. Whether you send surveys, request email reviews, or ask for a star rating, you need to actually invest in these insights.
Your customers are your biggest asset. They want to feel heard, especially when they take their own time to share their feedback about their personal experience. How can you put your feedback to good use to improve your customer experience? Here are some unique ideas:
- New products: You might identify a gap in your current offerings from your feedback. This new opportunity for a product, service, or feature could help you stand out.
- Identify superfans: When you ask for feedback, you learn more about your superfans. Not only can you nurture these budding relationships, but you can encourage referrals.
- Improve retention: Customer retention is one of the most important metrics to track for your overall brand success. With the help of feedback, you know where to improve to keep your customers coming back.
Feedback Case Study: Amazon
The largest online retailer in the world understands the importance of customer feedback, and they used this to tackle one of their biggest problems. Amazon reviews, while helpful, can get overwhelming quickly. For popular products, it isn’t always easy to determine which reviews are more trustworthy than others.
What did Amazon do to solve this? It’s simple—they asked their customers. On each individual review, there’s a button for users to click to vote whether a review is helpful. If so, the review is boosted so the most “helpful” and relevant reviews appear at the top of each product page.
This might sound minor, but it’s incredibly powerful when it comes to highlighting the most useful information to boost sales. Not only does this mean customers have clearer expectations about the products before making a purchase, but it boosts the overall customer experience by showing that Amazon values each review.
Optimize Your Customer Experience
Ultimately, these things above might sound simple, but they have an impressive impact on your brand’s overall experience. No matter your goals, paying close attention to your customer experience has never been more essential. There is simply too much competition in today’s world to turn a blind eye to things like service, transparency, feedback, and so on.
How will you boost your customer experience? Converting happy customers isn’t rocket science. It’s about understanding what it means to create superfans with a customer-first foundation. If you take nothing else from this guide, recognize the importance of placing customers at the heart of every decision.