Contrary to popular belief, customer experience is not a new phenomenon. Remember those childhood visits to the neighbourhood store where the friendly shopkeeper brought out your favourite brand of chocolate or chips without you even needing to say anything? It was one of the earliest (and most effective) examples of a good customer experience. You get a quick, personalised recommendation, which makes you feel valued and turns you and your entire family into loyal customers.
This is the power of a great customer experience.
Customer experience (CX) is a customer’s perception of your brand because of the interactions they have had with the company at any given point in the buyer journey. In other words, it is everything a business does to provide a customer with an ‘end-to-end experience’. Customer experience is based on several touchpoints, of which the most crucial ones are:
- Product, and
For example, a product can provide a great customer experience if it gives extraordinary performance or solves a critical need. When it comes to people, positive interactions with people associated with the brand – from the person who greets you to the seller and the customer service representative – contribute to a positive customer experience. Both these factors can potentially improve or diminish a customer’s experience.
Why is customer experience important?
A positive customer experience promotes both customer loyalty and retention, which are essential for a business’s growth. Customers who are happy with a business need very little convincing in the form of marketing efforts. That is, they have shorter sales funnels, and it costs less to serve till they have made their buying decision. These customers are also more likely to be advocates for your brand.
In the digital age, customers have more power than ever before – in the form of multiple brand options to choose from and easy access to knowledge that can help them make decisions on their own. A positive customer experience is critical in ensuring your business can stand out and grow in a competitive environment.
How can businesses deliver a positive customer experience?
Businesses can deliver a positive customer experience by encouraging a relationship management culture that nurtures customer-centricity throughout the organisation. It involves a series of steps:
- Track customer behaviour
- Anticipate their needs at various stages of the buying journey
- Develop personalised packages of products, services, support, education, and consulting that plug the most urgent gap in their needs
- Resolve their queries and concerns promptly and efficiently
A good CRM software helps in customer-centric decision-making, keeping all the relevant information about customers in one place and seamlessly integrating the decision-making processes related to the product as well as customers at all stages of the buying cycle.
How can customer experience be enhanced using CRM?
CRM, as a concept, aims to put the customer first and satisfy their needs throughout their journey.
To understand how CRMs impact the customer experience, businesses first need to understand what CRM is and what it can do. A trusted CRM software tracks leads, stores account information, manages communication channels, and helps analyse customer behaviour to predict future trends. Using this information, you can create targeted products, services, or content or put in place relevant processes to improve customer experience.
With an effective CRM software, businesses can strategise across the three stages of a customer’s journey:
Acquisition: Knowing your customers will help you create personalised content and reach a wider look-alike audience, increasing brand awareness and aiding conversions.
Conversion: Effective CRM software can help you respond quickly to customer queries and anticipate their needs, leading to quicker conversions.
Retention: By tracking customer behaviour and changing needs, you can proactively manage customer relationships and deliver relevant interventions to increase retention. Retention requires effective post-sales support extended to the customer by the brand. Retention further increases brand advocacy, which aids in improving the bottom line.
Additionally, effective CRM software enables companies to:
- Simplify and streamline onboarding
- Free up employee time for more personalised customer interaction
- Provide a consistent experience across sales and service channels
- Predict future trends
Clearly, CRM platforms are a single source of customer truth and can serve as a foundational database that is empowering, insightful, and technologically enabling. This helps businesses get in-depth understanding of their customer base and enables employees to deliver the right experiences at the right time.
A modern CRM software such as Salesforce Customer 360 (with Slack, its digital HQ) gives businesses a set of tools designed to unify processes and teams, all to deliver better customer experiences.
Difference between customer experience and customer service
While customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a business throughout their buying journey, customer service is simply one type of interaction – mainly problem resolution. That makes customer service a reactionary process, while customer experience is proactive.
Customer service usually involves talking to a person (or chatbots), with the customer looking for an answer to a particular query. As a result, customer service is measured by metrics such as average response time, ticket volume, average handle time, ticket backlog, etc., that focus on how quickly these queries were resolved.
Customer experience metrics focus on the sentiment of the customer. These include Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), customer retention rate, monthly active users, etc.
Clearly, a customer whose queries have been resolved promptly and easily is likely to feel more positive about the organisation. Thus, it’s fair to say that customer service is a small part of the larger customer experience.
Measuring customer experience
Customer experience metrics are designed to understand the ease and pleasantness of interacting with your organisation or using your product/service. Key metrics can be broadly classified into the following buckets:
1. Customer satisfaction
- Customer Effort Score (CES) – Customers who find interacting with your business effortless are more likely to buy again and share their experiences with others.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) – On a scale of 1-10, how likely are your customers to recommend you to others?
- Customer Referral Rate – Similar to NPS, this measures whether the customer has actually recommended you to someone else.
2. Customer churn
- Customer Churn Rate – This tells you how many customers no longer purchase from you. Stemming the churn is generally more cost-effective than acquiring new customers.
- Monthly Active Users (MAU) – Regardless of the overall user base, it’s the active users in a given timeframe that are crucial for generating revenue and product enhancement.
- Customer Retention Rate (CRR) – These customers stay for a given period, much like your average monthly users.
3. Customer engagement
- Engagement rate – Delivering the content the customer wants on the channel of their choice strengthens their bond with you. Engaged customers are more responsive to marketing efforts, allowing you to provide them with an enhanced customer experience.
- Social sentiment – Catching up with how customers talk about you on social media channels helps you make the necessary interventions to retain or convert customers.
4. Customer service
- Average Resolution Time (ART) – Customers are more likely to report a positive experience if the time taken to resolve an issue is lesser than expected.
- First Contact Resolution (FCR) – Instead of moving the customer from one touchpoint to another, a more positive experience can be achieved if a resolution is found in the very first interaction.
Making customer experience great again
Customer centricity is at the heart of customer experience. A great customer experience starts with a company-wide mindset of ‘customer-first’. Placing the customer first in all internal discussions, including at the C-suite level, will inculcate the right culture and environment for related policies to be implemented. An excellent starting point can be clearly defining good and bad experiences for your customers, depending on the business and industry you are in.
For example, what is a good customer experience in the hospitality industry?
A frequent traveller checks into their hotel room and is greeted by their favourite music in the background, with the thermostat set to their preferred level, and a call from room service asking if they would like their salad without croutons (like the last time). This can only be made possible if the right data on the person is collected and then used to deliver a more personalised experience.
What is a bad customer experience in the retail pharmaceutical industry?
A customer walks into a store looking for medicines for their sick child but is inundated with offers on other products and coupons. This will surely sour their experience and can end up alienating them.
Based on their search history and recorded interactions with your brand, a good CRM software would suggest the medicine they’re looking for, alternatives, or any supplementary medicines that may be on sale.
Also, equip yourself with the best that technology offers, such as the powerful Salesforce CRM platform that supports the complete customer lifecycle. Salesforce enables you to provide millions of customers with a delightful experience at the individual level.
Ways to improve your customer experience strategy
So, what can you do to improve your customer experience strategy? Here are a few steps you can start with.
Create feedback loops
If you want to succeed in your business, simply listen to your customers. Tools such as Natural Language Processing and AI can be deployed to read feedback surveys, emailers, and answers to open-ended questions to identify key language phrases that indicate brand sentiment.
Build a seamless omnichannel experience
A frictionless omnichannel experience – where different touchpoints and teams function as an integrated unit – can provide the customer with a consistent experience while enabling a holistic view of the customer’s journey.
Create an effective content management strategy
A multichannel approach also requires consistent content flow. With Salesforce CMS, aspiring content creators can quickly become masters of the craft by using a feature-rich user interface to create immersive, relevant content. Connecting it with CRM software allows you to create and distribute personalised content to improve customer experience.
Empower customers through AI
AI and Machine Learning are poised to transform the consumer world by offering better predictive capabilities and personalised customer experiences across sales, service, and marketing. For example, AI enables businesses to grow customer service across voice, chat, messaging, SMS, and email platforms. As a result, clients can access the support they require via their preferred channels.
Deliver proactive experiences
Customers are happier when they know what to expect and when. When the business makes the first move of informing the customer about delivery timelines, potential problems, and solutions for any issue that may come up, the customer feels that they will be taken care of.
Use data and analytics
In the digital age, data is the new oil. With AI and Machine Learning-based tools and systems, businesses can analyse large data volumes to identify key patterns to understand their customers better. Understanding your customers paves the way for providing better experiences.
It would be ideal for brands to invest in customer experience management to combine these various steps to achieve the overarching goal of improving customer experience.
What is customer experience management?
Customer experience management is all about managing your customers’ experience, from the moment they are approached (creating awareness) to the final step where they purchase from you. It also includes any post-sales service that keeps them engaged and encourages further sales and brand loyalty.
Customer experience management lets brands control customer interactions across all physical and digital touchpoints to provide individualised experiences.
For this, brands need a 360-degree view of the customer, including their needs, intent, sources of information, preferred modes of communication, buying patterns, and how they like to engage with brands. The brands can then optimise each touchpoint in the customer journey to provide what customers need when they actually need it.
How does customer experience drive business growth?
The fifth edition of the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report revealed that almost 92% of the Indian respondents agreed that the experience a company offers is just as important as its goods or services.
Similarly, research by PwC suggests that 43% of all consumers would pay more for greater convenience, while 42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience.
Forbes research suggests an 80% increase in revenue for businesses that improve customer experiences. Also, brands that provide a better customer experience are likely to bring in more than five times the revenue of competitors with a poorer customer experience.
Additionally, firms with customer experience at the forefront of their philosophy have more engaged employees. And companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by nearly 150%.
How are customer experience and CRM related?
Customer experience requires tracking and improving clients’ overall interaction with your business. With the help of a CRM, teams can manage customer interactions throughout the buyer journey from a single, integrated workspace. It enables employees to easily switch between channels of contact, access customer data from any outside source, and keep track of the customer context necessary to deliver dependable, consistent service.
From segmentation and automation to personalisation and tracking, the software should also provide easy-to-use functions that can be integrated at various touchpoints.
An effective CRM such as Salesforce Customer 360 provides an easy-to-use, feature-rich platform to help you plan, personalise, and optimise customer experiences. Customer 360 offers different departments a shared view of your customers and their journey with your brand. This helps the right department deliver the right service to the customer at the right time, helping move the customer journey forward.
Is there an ROI on customer experience?
Customer experience programmes will only succeed if there’s an investment in that capability. And to foster investment, there needs to be a tangible effect on the bottom line. Research shows that customer-centric companies generate 60% more profit than companies that do not focus on customers.
Also, as discussed before, it costs much more to acquire a customer than to retain one. This is why it makes sense for companies to focus on delivering experiences that retain customers and foster loyalty and brand advocacy rather than spending on acquisition.
It proves that customer experience affects the organisation’s bottom line. The key to measuring this return on investment is focusing on the metrics that matter most to your business.
Customer Experience – FAQs
What is a great customer experience?
When the customer feels heard, appreciated, and valued, they can be said to have had a great customer experience. Interactions marked by speed, efficiency, consistency, and friendliness, along with a good mix of human touch and cutting-edge technology, help provide such experiences.
To create delightful customer experiences, it is also essential to regularly seek your customers’ feedback, actively listen to them and implement their feedback. Additionally, a great customer experience always involves personalisation to a certain degree.
What can cause a bad customer experience?
Any sub-par interaction with your brand or product could leave the customer with a bad customer experience. Wherever your business fails to meet their expectations, customers will feel let down and disappointed while experiencing your product or service. There are several triggers for bad customer experience: long wait times, unresolved queries, unprofessional behaviour, lack of personalised treatment or a substandard product.
What is the role of customer experience?
The role of customer experience is to assist both the buyer and the brand in creating a lasting affiliation with each other, resulting in a favourable outcome. Today, products and services across various segments are mostly similar, and the only differentiator is the quality of customer experience that helps separate the good brands from the rest. If you want to drive consistent growth across business KPIs, make sure your customer experience meets expectations.
What is an example of customer experience?
Any personalised service that leaves the customer desiring more engagement with your brand or product could be an example of a good customer experience. Very simply, a restaurant can proactively make the tweaks that the customer had previously suggested the next time they walk in. For example, if Anish likes his salad with more lettuce, less dressing, and no croutons, he can be served the salad he likes without having to ask for these modifications again. It means the restaurant is listening to him and is willing to go the extra mile of personalising his meal without him having to ask it. He is very likely to visit again.
Similarly, large corporations can build deep customer profiles and equip the right agent with the right knowledge at the right time to deliver a personalised experience for high-value, high-intent customers.
Great customer experience – CRM is the key
A remarkable customer experience involves data, analytics, personalisation, and most importantly, a company-wide adherence to the philosophy of ‘customer first’. C-suite executives must buy into the idea of investing in customer experience and integrating all departments and systems to deliver a positive experience – both outward and inward.
A feature-rich, modern CRM platform underpins an organisation’s efforts at delivering positive customer experiences. As the world’s #1 CRM solution, Salesforce is ideally placed to transform your organisation’s efforts to improve CX with an easy-to-use, customisable, and feature-rich platform.
With Salesforce’s extensive list of tools and resources at your disposal, delivering positive customer experiences that drive consistent business growth is not just an idea but an attainable goal.