Your customers are the heart of your brand. Focusing on how to improve customer experience is critical to business strategy. The problems you solve, the services you provide, and the products you create all take into account your customer’s goals, needs, and desires.
Data shows that customers see their experience with a brand as one of the most important aspects of their purchasing decisions.
- Almost 60% of customers say that a good customer experience is necessary for them to feel loyal to a brand.
- 73% of customers say customer experience is an important part of their purchasing decisions
- 54% of US consumers say most companies need to improve their customer experience
And yet, far too many brands neglect the customer experience as a core component of their business strategy.
In today’s world, brands are competing more and more on the basis of customer experience. But figuring out what customers want – and how to provide it – can be a challenge.
In this article, we’ll explore seven of the best strategies to improve customer experience, why they’re important, and why they work.
What Is Customer Experience and Why Does It Matter?
Before you can develop a strategy for improving your customer experiences, it’s important to understand exactly what customer service entails (hint: it’s probably more than you think) and to recognize what’s at stake.
While customer experience may feel like one small part of the customer journey, a customer’s experience with your brand covers many touchpoints and impacts a variety of aspects in the acquisition and retention process. For example, customer experience covers:
- an interaction with an agent on a phone call or web chat
- your customer’s experience with your website and online checkout process
- your email communications
- your customer’s experiences with your products and services
- a conversation a customer has with an in-store employee
- …and more
Any interaction your customer has with your brand, large or small, factors into their overall customer experience. The good news—or the bad news, depending—is that all of these interactions add up. Excellent customer service drives brand loyalty, trust, retention, and recommendations:
- 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized customer experience, such as personalized recommendations.
- Companies with excellent customer experiences drive revenues 4% to 8% higher than their competitors.
While poor customer experiences even more quickly drive the opposite:
- In the US, 59% of customers will walk away from a brand they love after several bad experiences, and 17% will move on after just one bad experience.
- 89% of customers have switched to a competitor after a poor customer experience.
Without a solid customer experience, you’re likely to find yourself losing customers, revenue, and trust to your competitors. And when you keep in mind that acquiring new customers can cost five times as much as retaining your current customers, it quickly becomes obvious that excellent customer experiences are essential for good business.
7 Tips To Improve Your Customer Experience
Since the customer experience is so widespread and touches so many areas of your brand, it can be difficult to know where to begin when considering how to improve it.
However, both established and new brands can benefit from keeping in mind a few key elements of exceptional customer experiences: strong foundations, detailed customer data, streamlined customer journeys, and ongoing customer service training and development. How should brands think about understanding and implementing these essential customer experience elements?
Prioritize the basics
Meeting—and exceeding!—modern-day consumers’ high expectations can feel like it requires superhuman abilities. However, for many customers, the basics of customer service are still foundational for a great experience.
For example, nearly 80% of American consumers say that “speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service” are the most important elements of a positive customer experience. Too many brands and companies jump to adopt the “latest and greatest” technologies in hopes of gaining an edge on the competition at the expense of these foundational customer expectations.
Rather than trying to do everything when it comes to customer experiences, aim to do the most important things best—or at least, better than your competitors.
Prioritize and track relevant KPIs, provide continuous training and feedback for agents, and ensure that all channels are optimized for the customer. These essential foundations will improve speed, ease, and convenience for the customer while ensuring they have access to knowledgeable help and friendly service every step of the way.
Provide consistent and ongoing agent training
Speaking of knowledgeable help and friendly service, remember that your customer service representatives are—in many cases—your customer’s most memorable interactions with your brand. As a result, prioritizing consistent and ongoing agent training is essential. After all, the more knowledgeable and confident agents are about your brand and offerings, the more they can:
- reduce average handle time
- increase first-call resolution
- provide helpful and friendly service
- reduce hold and wait times
Additionally, ongoing training for agents provides necessary and valuable career development and growth for customer service experts, which will reduce agent turnover and create more dedicated experts for your brand.
Yet, it’s an area that many teams shortcut. Companies who can’t afford the bandwidth to hire, train and maintain a team in-house should consider outsourcing their customer service teams to a trusted partner. Partners like Global Response can match you with a customer service team that will meet your goals and provide an expert skill set while managing ongoing hiring and training as needed to keep your team providing the best customer service.
Understand what your customers want
Ultimately, in order to meaningfully improve the customer experience, you need to understand what exactly the customer wants. Thankfully, you can find lots of general data to help you gain insight into consumer needs and desires. For example:
- 43% of consumers are willing to pay more for more convenient shopping experiences
- 42% of consumers are willing to pay more for friendly, welcoming experiences
- 65% of consumers say that a positive brand experience is more influential than great advertising
As mentioned above, positive customer experiences, friendly and welcoming customer service and convenience are key for consumers.
However, beyond general metrics, it’s essential to understand what your customers want. You’ll need to factor in specifics such as:
- your industry and products or services
- the key pain points you’re solving
- your audience demographics
- data from your own customer communications and surveys
For example, Gen Z consumers have come to expect instant service and a seamless mobile experience as bare-minimum requirements for a good customer experience. But Generation X or older generations value mobile experience less and in-person and online experiences more.
Outline the customer journey
Understanding your customers and what they want also includes understanding the customer journey. In mapping the customer journey, you should seek to understand:
- How do customers typically find your brand?
- At what point in the buyer journey do customers tend to find your brand?
- Where are customers encountering your brand? Where do they encounter other brands in your industry?
- What are the relevant pain points of your audience?
- How do customers discover new products or services from your brand?
- What communications do customers receive from your brand at each stage of the journey? When do they need the most support?
Understanding this journey and sharing it widely with your team can not only provide important business insights but can also provide opportunities for you to strengthen the customer experience through a more seamless and personalized experience throughout their journey.
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Meet your customers where they are
In order to have an exceptional customer experience, your Customer Effort Score (CES)—the effort it takes for a customer to find your brand and reach out—should be low. One important method of lowering your CES is adopting an omnichannel approach—not just to marketing but to customer service and customer experience as well.
This is something that younger consumers are coming to expect: a recent study found that 58% of millennials expect to be able to engage with a brand whenever they choose. This means having a presence on the channels your audience regularly uses, offering live chat support, and—ideally—having at least one 24/7 communication option, is critically important to improving your customer experience.
Remember: developing an omnichannel approach doesn’t mean that you have to be on every channel that exists. Rather, you should have an active presence and be approachable on the ones that are relevant for your customers.
In addition, omnichannel customer experiences should ensure that customer data gets collected from each channel into a central CRM for future reference and personalization. If a customer contacts you via chat about an issue and then calls the next day, the agent on the phone should have access to the customer’s live chat from the day before, so the customer doesn’t have to waste time re-explaining the problem.
Track—and use!—customer data
Following best practices is a good starting place, but eventually, you will need to track and analyze your own customer data to improve your customer experience beyond the basics.
Data to track and measure can include things like:
- customer satisfaction and call center KPIs
- conversation analytics
- survey responses
- brand listening on social media
- in-store or post-purchase feedback
This data is useful for both process improvement and personalization. If you’ve already adopted an omnichannel approach, customer data should already be a part of your strategy. However, you can use conversation analytics and customer service data for process improvements as well, from reducing handle times to improving communications and knowledge bases.
Use digital technology to transform customer experiences
As much as customer service basics are essential for a great customer experience, transformational customer experiences go beyond what is expected and into truly delightful or memorable customer experiences.
But how do you create those?
In today’s world, there’s a variety of digital technologies that can help you transform customer experiences and create possibilities that simply didn’t exist 5, 10, or 20 years ago. For example:
- AI chatbots allow you to be accessible at all times for your customers
- Machine Learning can provide personalized recommendations for customers based on past purchases
- New data technology can aggregate customer data to create personalized browsing experiences, product recommendations, or promotions and deals.
And while we all know personalization is a great way to transform the customer experience, research suggests most brands aren’t doing as well as they think. In 2021, 85% of brands surveyed say they offer personalized experiences, but only 60% of customers agree.
This is why using customer data and feedback is so essential when creating positive customer experiences. While many brands will continue to ignore the gap between brands and consumers, exceptional brands will learn from their customers and implement new tools and strategies to close the gap.
Creating a Customer Experience Strategy That Works
Of course, all of this is easier said than done—which is why it’s essential to create an implementable customer experience strategy to drive results. Keeping in mind the tips listed above, when you’re ready to develop and implement an actionable customer experience strategy, follow these four tips to ensure your strategy supports your business growth and goals.
Get everyone on board
For maximum success, your customer experience strategy should incorporate your entire team. After all, the customer experience isn’t just limited to their experiences on your website or when chatting with your customer service agents—it encompasses almost all of their touchpoints with your brand!
Incorporating your entire team into the customer experience strategy and action plan ensures that:
- all teams understand the plan and are empowered to implement it in their department
- team members understand the importance of customer experience and how crucial it is to overall company goals and metrics
- everyone is on the same page when it comes to improving the customer experience
Ultimately, getting everyone on board is a way to ensure that a holistic plan can be successfully implemented, rather than working with a siloed, disjointed strategy.
Create a streamlined buyer journey
As mentioned above, creating a streamlined buyer journey is an essential quality for excellent customer experiences. Of course, you can hardly execute this without buy-in from many teams across your company. However, once you do have everyone on board, you can execute customer experience and personalization at all brand touchpoints, streamlining and connecting your buyer journey in a way that feels seamless and personal to each customer.
Implementing an omnichannel customer experience strategy is a great way to begin building a streamlined buyer journey. Not only does an omnichannel experience feel effortless for the customer, but it can also improve sales and brand loyalty, benefitting your brand in the short and long term.
Prioritize, organize and implement
All of the planning and data in the world won’t create a better experience without a prioritized and implemented plan.
Your own business goals and data should give you insight into the areas of customer experience that need development for your own brand. From there, you can create a strategy that:
- Prioritizes the most urgent needs. Remember: focus on the basics and the highest-value additions first before opting for shiny technology to provide a customer service solution.
- Organizes the steps you need to take and the teams responsible for them. If you don’t have the resources and experience needed in-house, you can outsource some or all of your customer experience efforts to external experts.
- Implements your ideas with actionable plans. Tracking KPIs like CSAT, NPS, FCR, CES, and other customer service metrics can give you ongoing data to understand how your implemented strategy is performing and where you might need to adjust.
Get expert support
Customer experience is an essential competitive advantage for today’s brands.
However, it can be difficult to manage all of your customer experience strategy—and execution—in-house. This is why more and more companies are outsourcing their customer experience to trusted partners who can provide strategy, best-in-class technology, and expert leaders and customer service agents. A customer experience partner can also provide additional call center or omnichannel support so your internal team can focus on developing and implementing high-level strategy.
Either way, when you’re ready to focus on improving your customer experience, reach out to a consultant at Global Response to see how our services can help you supercharge your CX.