How to Improve Customer Experience Beyond the Buzzwords
By Alexandra Tachalova
Have you ever wondered what distinguishes your company from its competitors in the eyes of your customers? The truth is that it’s not the products you provide or the level of service you guarantee — it’s the overall customer experience that you deliver.
Today, 81 percent of marketers believe their company competes mainly on the basis of customer experience. Studies show that an improved customer experience leads not only to revenue growth, but also increases customer loyalty. In light of this research, more and more companies are realizing the importance of delivering a great customer experience and are improving how they interact with their clients and prospects.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is often muddled with user experience, customer service, and customer experience, so in order to avoid any confusion, let’s clarify the definitions.
User experience comprises how people interact with your product after purchase. For online businesses, such as SaaS products, that means the experience users get from interacting with their website. This can be measured by a variety of website analytics metrics.
Customer service is the level of service you provide to your customers at a certain point in time. Let’s say a customer enters your store and asks your rep for advice. When your rep is friendly and tactful, and recommends exactly what the customer is looking for, that’s good service.
However, customers interact with your company at many stages of their customer journey, from awareness, when they first hear about your brand, to maintenance, when they contact support. The sum of these interactions is what comprises their customer experience.
Customer Experience is a Vital Part of a Company’s Existence
- According to the 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey, more than two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.
- By 2019, 81% expected to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience.
- 52% of marketers who focus on customer experience expected their budgets to remain the same or decrease in 2018.
- While expectations for the importance of CX are rising, CX budgets are not necessarily increasing.
What should you focus on: KPIs or emotion?
How to improve customer experience
1. Know your customers
Many companies claim that their most precious capital is the relationship they have with their customers. In order to create a long-lasting, strong relationship with your customer base and provide them with the best customer experience, you first need to have a clear understanding of who they are.
Create your buyer personas
A persona is a behavioural portrait of your ideal customer, a hypothetical person for whom you create your products and services. Using personas allows brands to better identify the audience that is interested in their products and deliver the service that best fits their needs.
Create the customer journey map
Since customer experience entails all touchpoints with your brand, it also encompasses all the stages of their customer journey. In order to create a successful customer experience management strategy, you need to know when, how, and why customers — and prospects — interact with your company.
A customer journey map helps you visualize the customer journey and create a list of all the possible interactions at each stage.
For example, at the awareness stage, people may hear about your brand from a colleague or see an online ad. At the consideration stage, customers can interact with your sales staff, read online reviews, and look for product comparisons. For each stage, you need to identify the touchpoints and analyze the experience your customers are having.
Analyze pain points
Once you have a customer journey map, research and review the experiences your customers have throughout. One way to do that is to get insights from your colleagues, who are likely better aware of specific touchpoints.
Marketing specialists are usually focused on customer acquisition, so they have the best insights about brand awareness and expectations of your customers.
Sales interacts with customers in the early stages of their journeys, so they can give you information about the challenges that users face and how they expect your product to help them. For leads that do not convert, sales can help you understand why.
As the first line of communication with your customers, the support team knows what difficulties your users face interacting with your product. By talking to them, you can reveal how well your marketing and sales promises align with your customers’ actual experiences.
Learn from churn
You could do everything right and still experience churn. It’s easier than ever for clients to switch services, so it’s important to learn how to deliver the best customer experience you can in order to keep churn as limited as possible. Identify the stages where you’re losing customers and find ways to improve the experiences your clients are having there first.
The First Step to Improving Customer Experience: Getting to Know the Customer
- Some companies have a customer experience strategy that is embedded in everything they do.
- Customer feedback forms the core of their strategy and decision-making.
- They continuously iterate their customer experience practices to meet customer demand.
- The top methods these companies rely on to better understand their customers:
- 17% - Customer surveys
- 12% - Customer calls
- 12% - Website analytics
- 10% - Online reviews
- 9% - Social media
- 4% - Live chat
- 4% - Website heatmaps and session recordings
- 6% - User testing
- 5% - Interviews and focus groups
- 9% - Internal feedback
- 4% - Usability audits
- 5% - Competitor analysis
- 4% - Support tickets
2. Deliver flawless communication
The ways you communicate with your customers both online and offline directly impact the image of your company in their eyes. One poorly timed comment from a tired assistant or an unanswered call to the support centre can turn a customer away. Unfortunately, customers tend to spread the word about their unpleasant experiences, so improvements to your communication channels are a solid investment..
Improve response times
Waiting for a response from a company frustrates users the most in their overall experience. Your priority should be to minimize response times and quickly provide customers with the answers and help they are looking for.
Launch a self-help centre
When clients have any — even minor — issues with your products or services, their customer experience is at risk. When they can’t get the help they need, the risk is even higher. The first thing you can do to address this problem is to help users solve these issues themselves. Today, it’s natural for people to look for answers online. Seize this opportunity and launch a self-help centre where customers can find answers to the most common questions.
Provide support on social media
It’s vital to communicate with your customers on their terms and on their preferred channels. That means you have to be where your customers are, and not the other way around.
Social media provides a great opportunity for brands to engage with their customers, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to provide support. The level of support consumers get on social media impacts their overall perception of the brand. Moreover, it shows potential customers how you interact with your current customers and may influence their purchase decisions.
The bottom line is that providing help on social media is a great way to improve your customer experience.
Launch a live chat
A live chat option on your website or app can significantly shrink your response times. Even if it’s not actually “live,” it may be less frustrating for some customers than having to be on the phone.
Improve the efficiency of your call centre
Currently, there are many options for Tier-1 support, including chatbots and self-help portals. However, some clients still prefer to talk to a real person.
Therefore, your call centre employees must be professionals who are trained to deliver the best service possible. When people contact the support team, it’s usually to provide feedback and find a solution to a challenge they face using the product. Your agents must be helpful and trained well, and the call centre has to be equipped to process calls with a minimum waiting time, be accessible, and provide convenient operating hours.
No company can operate without its employees. They are the drivers of the company’s progress, and they represent the brand and transfer its values to the customers. In addition to other important factors, the way your staff is trained is crucial for giving customers the best experience.
Provide training and education
Lack of employee training and education may be the biggest obstacle in delivering the best customer experience. From the way your social media manager communicates on Twitter to the proficiency of your customer success agents in solving technological riddles, you need to make sure your employees are trained to provide the best level of service. This includes a range of topics, from profound knowledge of your products and service standards to the code of conduct and dress code for store employees.
Enable your staff with the ability to deliver great service
When you have a diverse workforce of in-house and field specialists, it’s vital to enable them with the necessary means to deliver great service. Regardless of their role, your employees should not struggle to do their jobs and need to be equipped the necessary resources and tools.
4. Focus on the right metrics
Customer experience is not tangible and measuring it is complicated, as is measuring your success in improving it. Companies often confuse customer experience improvement with reaching certain KPIs, which is understandable: The world of business speaks the language of numbers. However, when it comes to customer experience, what needs to be “measured” is the customer’s satisfaction with their relationship with the company. Here are a few ways to learn what your customers think.
Reviews are a Major Part of Customer Experience — and Your Reputation
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.
- Including 95% of people aged 18-34
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
- 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
- 80% of 18–34-year-olds have written online reviews, compared to 41% of consumers over 55.
- 91% of 18–34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews.
The perception of online reviews is clear: 91 percent of 18- to 34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews are of great importance for a company’s reputation. Moreover, they broadcast current customers’ perception of the company and give invaluable insights about their customer experience.
A company should encourage customers to leave reviews; however, a customer has to see the value in leaving a review or providing feedback. Companies can offer customers something in exchange or as a “thank you,” such as discounts, gift vouchers, or swag.
Even if the review is negative, it gives the company’s reps a chance to help the customer and change their customer experience for the better. Additionally, it publicly demonstrates the care with which the company resolves their customers’ problems.
Customer satisfaction score and NPS
Customer satisfaction score, or CSAT, is a metric indicating how successful the company is in its customer relations. Usually, it is measured on a scale from one to five, and essentially answers a variation of the question, “How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the service you received?” To measure CSAT, you can run surveys among your customers.
Another important metric is Net Promoter Score, or NPS. It indicates how probable it is that the customer will recommend your product or a service to their acquaintances. This metric can also be collected through surveys, and technically indicates customer loyalty, which is a great example of a metric to focus on in your customer experience improvement campaign.