It costs money to develop products and services. It costs money to market them. It costs money to acquire each and every customer that buys them. With all those expenses, Canadian small and medium-sized businesses may wonder where they’re supposed to find any budget left over to invest in what’s known as customer experience design.
In large organizations, there are entire teams dedicated to boosting or transforming the customer experience (CX), and some have even created dedicated roles such as “chief customer officer” to spearhead the improvements. In SMBs, the president or owner of the company is usually the de facto chief customer experience officer — but that’s only one of many hats she or he may wear during the course of a given day or week.
While there can be great value in establishing a specific budget allocated towards CX design, there’s also a lot that organizations of any size can do today, using many of the resources they’ve already put towards other activities, that can accomplish the same thing. It’s not a case of pulling off CX on a shoestring budget, but cultivating a culture and an approach that puts CX at the heart of everything you do:
CX tends to fall flat, or at least decline, when companies get so busy that they fail to notice the areas of “friction” or difficulties that customers will face when they seek to find out information about the organization, its products and services. Among large retailers, this problem has been tackled with what are known as “mystery shoppers” who are asked to walk into a store and take note of everything from the assortment on the shelves to the way those running the cash registers conduct themselves.
Even if you’re running a B2B firm that markets itself primarily online, there are ways to make the concept of mystery shopping work for you. It starts with putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and running through the following checklist:
Based on the need or pain point, what keywords were the best fit to conduct an online search, and how quickly did the company’s site, social media channels or other online properties come up? Was it easy or difficult to find the company?
Whether you land on the home page or a specific product page, how well does the information presented lead those arriving there to the next stage of the buyer journey. Are you being asked for relevant information? Are you being enticed through compelling content to learn more? If you decided to connect directly is the route to a subject matter expert simple and obvious?
If you are downloading an asset, entering a question on a form or conducting an e-commerce transactions, how many click-throughs or other steps are involved? How much time does each customer need to budget in order to complete the process? How long does it feel?
The “mystery” here doesn’t have to be the shopper -- in other words, it doesn’t have to be an anonymous employee. It’s about discovering the barriers to growth that would otherwise be mysterious if you didn’t regularly audit your own firm’s digital presence.
Sometimes SMBs aren’t taken seriously because, unlike large organizations that have a long digital trial, there isn’t enough information about their people, their track record and the way they work. Make transparency a key facet of your approach to greeting customers. Consider this:
Next to your case studies of flawless execution, consider a blog post, video or other content marketing asset about how you’ve solved critical issues — and what you’ve learned along the way.
If you’re getting tough questions on social media, create a video about how you answered the critics — and invite further dialogue through the same channels and some additional ones through your site or directly via the phone
The last thing any customer wants is to wonder what’s going on behind the curtain at their vendor or supplier. Making your CX more visible is a lightning-fast way to improve it.
Even in an online environment, the people on your team are the most vital link in the CX chain. Those human interactions will matter more to customers than almost anything they receive electronically. Yet companies chronically under-invest in employee engagement, assuming they can wait until they’ve achieved a certain level of growth. Transcend that thinking by moving beyond the use of information to merely market or sell but to inspire your workforce:
Leverage internal social networking tools to talk about how you’re using tools like marketing automation to personalize and contextualize what customers and prospects perceive. When they see that one-to-one marketing is an organizational value, they’ll strive to uphold it too.
Use CRM data to not only encourage cross-selling or upselling but a friendly follow-up to customers who may appreciate a more casual interaction that’s based on learning about (and caring about) their business rather than pitching.
If your company gets positive mentions across social media channels, make sure everyone can see the positive feedback at a glance — perhaps through an internal newsletter that shows the true impact of first-class CX.
The ROI of CX can be calculated in many ways, but at the end of the day the best litmus test might be “Does the customer experience inform our strategy from beginning to end?” If the answer is yes, the efforts have already started paying off.
Check out our ebook, "5 Ways to Make Service Easy for Today’s Customers," with more ways you can make the service experience easy for your customers.