Many of the most successful companies in the world are known for how well they treat their customers: Take Zappos, Apple, and Disney, just to name a few. Following customer experience best practices is the best way to ascend to greatness.
But even on your way to the very top, a great customer experience (CX) offers a number of benefits for growing your business. Customers are overwhelmingly more likely to recommend you, more likely to become repeat customers, and more forgiving of mistakes.
7 foundational customer experience best practices
Delivering a great customer experience is crucial, regardless of the size of your business or the number of customers you serve. Below, we share seven customer experience best practices you can put into place to stand out from the crowd and impress your customers.
1. Have a customer experience vision or mission
Before diving into setting up your CX, you need to define what you want your customers to feel when they interact with you. Do you want them to feel calm, challenged, inspired, supported?
Defining your mission — or CX vision — will help you make choices as you develop your customer journey. Without a compelling, unifying vision, the various teams involved in executing your CX strategy will be stuck in reaction mode rather than working together.
“Quick fix solutions for executing a customer experience vision will not be as beneficial as a holistic view,” says Accenture Interactive's Jeannie Falcone. “Align your leadership team, incentives, metrics, and operations to a customer-obsessed agenda.”
Need examples? The USS Midway Museum customer experience vision is to "Preserve the historic USS Midway and the legacy of those who serve; Inspire and Educate future generations; and Entertain our museum guests." This vision played out has made them the top-rated tourist attraction in San Diego.
Southwest Airlines’ mission defines its customer service style: “Southwest delivers quality customer service via a sense of warmth, friendliness, and individual pride.”
Use these examples to define your own customer experience mission statement to rally your organization around.
2. Build a good foundation
Creating a best-in-class customer experience is only possible if you build a very solid foundation. If customers continually run into issues, they won’t notice the delightful experience you’ve built around them.
It would be like welcoming friends into your house and pointing out the beautiful curtains and afternoon light but ignoring the large hole in your floor and the infestation of bees in the attic. When the house isn’t structurally sound, it’s not the time to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls.
A few tips:
Start small and make sure you get the basics right. The best customer service is often boring.
Implement systems that help you organize your customer communications so you never miss an email.
Hire a customer service lead with experience. They’ll know what needs to be done to make things run smoothly.
3. Understand your customers
Without knowing who you’re designing an experience for, you’ll likely miss the mark. Every company has a different audience. Understanding who your customers are, what they want, and what they already know will aid in the creation of an experience that’s perfectly suited for them.
How can you know what your customers want? Ask them, and then listen to what they say.
One of the most important best practices for a great customer experience is to constantly be sourcing and absorbing customer feedback.
Creating an open net to catch every insight that customers share — whether it’s through surveys, customer support conversations, or on social media — will provide a wealth of information. These insights can be used to create better products and find opportunities to provide better customer service.
4. Invest in your front-line teams
Customers will spend more time interacting with your customer support team than anyone else in the company. And yet, these jobs are often entry-level, assigned minimal training, and provided even more minimal compensation. This results in high employee turnover and disengaged employees.
That poor experience is directly passed on to your customers. In fact, 92% of customers will say that an agent’s mood directly impacts their experience.
On the flip-side, investing in employee happiness and retention will create a better customer experience:
Pay your support team members a wage that's appropriate for professionals.
Offer professional development opportunities. Whether it’s the chance to learn new skills or to apply existing ones outside of queue work, providing front-line agents the opportunity to grow improves employee retention.
Listen to them. All employees want to feel valued at work, and your front-line teams have a lot of value. By finding ways to capture their insights and put those gems to good use, you’ll show your team how much you appreciate them.
As agents and sales reps gain experience, they become more prepared for any situation. They’ll feel empowered to advocate for the customer and will have the tools and skills necessary to provide a great experience.
5. Improve your self-service options
Self-service support is practical, a better experience, and what customers want. Continually improving your self-service options is a no-brainer if you’re looking for ways to improve your customer experience.
If you offer self-service options, your customers will be happy using them. In fact, 81% of customers try to resolve issues themselves before contacting a company. That’s probably because self-service doesn’t require waiting to speak to a human and can be done 24/7, on their own time.
But self-service isn’t just a better experience for customers. It also reduces the workload on your front-line teams. This gives them more time to spend on high-value activities, like proactive support, onboarding, and relationship building.
6. Make unified data available for front-line agents
Customers consistently rate repeating themselves as one of the most irritating parts of getting help, so getting omnichannel customer support right is one of the best things you can do to provide a good experience.
No matter where customers interact with you — whether it’s over the phone, through email support, or on social media — their experience should feel the same. Your customers should be welcomed in the same way a coffee shop welcomes its regulars: You know their name, their favorite order, and if they can be tempted with a particular breakfast pastry.
All of this familiarity comes from having unified data available for front-line reps to pull on when needed.
7. Measure balanced CX metrics
Measuring your customers’ experiences helps you understand if you’re moving in the right direction. It can also help measure your return on investment by showing the impact CX improvements have on business metrics like churn, revenue, and costs. But what should you be measuring?
It’s wise to choose a number of balanced metrics, including metrics calculated from customer input and ones that are measured internally.
For example, survey customers about their experiences using well-recognized metrics such as Net Promoter Score, CSAT, and Customer Effort Score. Then balance those metrics with quantitative data such as churn rate, average reply time, and product usage statistics.
To decide what metrics best represent your ideal customer experience, take a look back at your customer experience vision. What qualities or attributes did you list in your vision? These are what you should include in your set of balanced metrics.
Delivering a best-in-class customer experience
Customer experience isn’t a one-time project. But if you start here, you’ll be on the right track to building a customer-focused company that continually improves.
With the right team, foundations, and vision, the sky's the limit when it comes to your CX dreams.