Creating a great customer experience for your business requires more than just good customer service.
You have to get to know your customers and invest in longer-term relationships so you can provide personalized experiences across the customer journey — from beginning to end.
Improving customer experience has been proven to increase retention, satisfaction, and revenue, so follow this guide to help you get started.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience (CX) is how your customers perceive your brand. That perception is the outcome of every engagement a customer has with your business — from reading your marketing materials pre-purchase to using your product or requesting support.
Two types of interactions make up customer experience:
- Direct interactions are initiated by the customer during the customer journey and include things like using your product or speaking to your sales or support teams.
- Indirect interactions occur when a prospect interacts with your brand without your direct input, such as getting a word-of-mouth referral or viewing your social media posts, ads, reviews, etc.
Think about a time when you felt blown away by a product’s performance or empowered to use new software after going through a company’s onboarding process. These are good examples of how creating a positive customer experience can build trust with your customers and keep them around longer.
The importance of customer experience
According to recent research by The XM Institute:
- 95% of consumers who rate a company’s CX as “very good” are likely to recommend the company.
- 94% of consumers who gave a company’s CX a “very good” rating were “very likely” to repurchase from that company.
- 90% of consumers reported that they are more likely to trust a company with “very good” CX.
- While 75% of consumers are “very likely” to forgive a company for a mistake if they think it delivers “very good” CX, only 14% of consumers will forgive a company if they deliver poor CX.
- 64% of people who gave a company a “very good” CX rating said they’d be “very likely” to try a company’s new product or service immediately after launch.
The report also showed that even small changes in customer experience, such as tweaking onboarding or real-time support, can improve customer loyalty.
Habib continues: “Does the customer hear and feel a consistent culture from everyone and everything they interact with? Research shows that the companies with the best CX tend to win their category — ingrain that into your company from the first days.”
How to improve customer experience: 6 strategies
Now that you understand the fundamentals, let’s look at six strategies you can use to start improving your customer experience today.
1. Open the door to customer feedback
Creating a customer-centric business begins with knowing what your customers need from you.
Customer feedback is made up of the insights, issues, and input shared by your customers about their experiences with your company and its offerings. This information guides customer experience improvements and can drive impactful change in any business — especially when it’s negative.
Some key customer feedback methods are:
- Email contact forms
- Usability tests
- Exploratory interviews
- Social media
- Instant feedback on your website
Customer feedback is important because it guides the improvements of your customers’ experience at every touchpoint — whether it’s through an ad, interacting with your website, or during a purchase.
With positive and negative feedback, you can continually adapt the customer experience over time and keep your community at the center of everything you do.
2. Remove high-effort tasks
While “good enough” won’t cut it, keep in mind that most customers don’t need to be wowed — they simply want their issues to be addressed as painlessly as possible. It’s more impactful to reduce customer effort than it is to engage in “delightful” tactics (that don’t necessarily scale well, anyway).
As Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman, and Nicholas Toman argued in Harvard Business Review, true customer satisfaction and brand loyalty come from reducing the amount of effort a customer has to expend to get their issue resolved.
That’s not to say you should stop trying to delight your customers, but it’s a better use of your energy to make it easy for your customers to get help (and to reduce their need to seek help in the first place!).
3. Don’t rely too much on automation
It’s important to remember that customers are people, too. It’s easy to get lost in data and think of them as stats and goals rather than as humans.
A great customer experience is still reliant on memorable employee-to-customer interactions. In other words, it’s still about the people.
Why, then, do so many companies rely on automation as the crutch for delivering their service? Keep in mind that new technologies alone aren’t the culprit here; the issue is using technology without considering the needs of your customers (technology for technology’s sake), which can end in disaster.
An example: A multinational auto insurance company invested heavily in a new mobile app that would connect customers to a call center agent in an emergency.
The idea looked good on paper, but it failed to account for the fact that drivers wouldn’t preemptively download the app in anticipation of getting into a car crash… and they had more pressing things on their minds than browsing an app store once an accident occurred.
The result: another so-called innovation that failed to produce business results.
The lesson here is that new ways to improve the overall customer experience must be founded in differentiation and in their ability to generate long-term value for the business.
Simply being innovative or on-trend won’t result in real improvements in doing business with your company. Remember why this app fell flat, and be sure that you understand the customer journey so that the improvements you make are geared toward resolving the issues that actually plague your customers.
4. Show customer appreciation
Customer appreciation is the art of showing gratitude to customers. It’s a consistent, generous approach to customer engagement that shows you care about each person’s time, effort, and money.
It’s not only the right thing to do, but expressing gratitude can improve employee satisfaction and create a more fulfilling work environment, which your customers will notice.
Some founders think they need to wait for enough budget or resources to consider ways to thank customers. But you can start by carrying out a few initiatives in your organization today:
- Send a handwritten thank-you note.
- Take time for face-to-face conversations.
- Give customers unexpected upgrades or discounts.
- Bend the rules.
Some of the most important effects of customer appreciation aren’t necessarily measurable with metrics, though. Thanking customers can make them feel seen, heard, and valued. When you appreciate these people from day one, you build positive momentum that will carry you and them forward.
5. Improve Time to Resolution
According to Hotjar’s customer experience survey, the number one frustration customers experience is long wait and response times. Second to that is unresolved issues after trying to get help.
From the moment a customer reaches out for help, the clock is ticking until they consider their interaction a bad experience.
This is why you want to focus on improving Time to Resolution in your business. Time to Resolution is a metric that measures the average amount of time between when a customer interaction is created and when that interaction is marked “resolved.”
Time to Resolution is important because your customer’s time is valuable to them. If they receive a quick response when they need help, they are likely to be much more satisfied with your company and with your support team.
6. Measure your success and adapt to change
There are a lot of indicators to help you determine whether your customer experience is working for your business or not.
In the case of customer experience metrics, the following KPIs are telling:
- Net Promoter Score measures how likely a customer is to recommend your business. It’s used as a way to gauge customer satisfaction: If your score is low, it suggests your CX strategy isn’t working.
- Customer Satisfaction commonly tracks customer satisfaction on a scale of 1-5 — think Google or Facebook review ratings. Paired with NPS, a CSAT score can signal whether your CX is good or not.
- Customer Effort Score is a newer method of measuring CX. It asks customers how much effort they put into solving their problems.
- Churn rate is the percentage of customers who stop paying for your products or services over time.
- Customer lifetime value is the net profit you make off of each customer.
Qualitative information goes a long way in customer experience management, too. Look closely at the reasons customers stop doing business with you. Conduct live interviews with recently churned customers to see where you can improve your CX strategy to meet future customers’ needs.
3 ways to grow your bottom line with positive customer experience
Once you have the fundamentals of providing stellar customer experience down, you can use the following tactics to acquire new business and grow your bottom line.
1. Generate new leads with a referral system
A self-sufficient referral engine is one of the most beneficial marketing tactics available to a business. Once it’s up and running, a referral marketing system capitalizes on your ability to make customers happy and continuously churns out new leads for you to chase.
Here’s how you can set up a referral engine:
- Assess your current referral business. Set up a simple, one-question survey for new customers to find out how they heard about you. You’ll be able to see where new business is coming from and find the brand advocates who are already chatting you up.
- Build a foundation. Once you can see the current landscape of your referral machine, it’s time to build a foundation around it. Choose a solution like Influitive or Referral Rock that makes it radically simple for you and your brand’s cheerleaders — they’ll take care of the back end and incentives so everything runs smoothly with minimal involvement from you.
- Offer incentives. Some customers will naturally talk about your business; others need a little nudge. That’s why it’s a good idea to offer something — a discount on a future purchase, a small gift, etc. — in exchange for referrals.
- Set up triggered emails. These can go out a certain amount of time after someone makes a purchase (you can do this with any email automation tool or directly through some referral solutions). Thank the customer for working with you and let them know about the referral program and the incentives available.
Once you’ve built out the engine, referrals will automatically roll in following great customer experiences — that’s as hands-off as it gets.
2. Collect customer reviews
Online reviews and testimonials hold a lot of power when it comes to swaying purchase decisions. According to Nielsen research, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t know.
You can use customer reviews in the following ways:
- Depending on the industry you’re in, a robust portfolio of reviews can help you establish a presence on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, G2 and so on. That means you can capture the attention of consumers you wouldn’t otherwise reach — so when someone searches for a solution like yours, you can be there with bells on.
- One of the most powerful places for customer reviews is right on your website. Consumers are already aware of and interested in what you have to offer — positive reviews can tip them over the edge and into a purchase. Include them on your home page and product pages, and you can even create a specific testimonials page for potential customers to check out what others have to say.
- Another way to use customer reviews is to turn them into case studies. There’s no better way to say “Hey, this product will work for you!” than by crafting stories around how other people have used your product. If a positive reviewer matches a key buyer persona, reach out and ask for more information about their use case. Then write up a detailed study of how they use the product and post it on your website or blog.
So how do you get people to review your business?
- Provide a great customer experience.
- Ask for a review.
You can even build reviewing into your referral engine and offer incentives to customers who leave one. If you want to build up your reviews on a particular site, drive customers there by mentioning it specifically in your triggered emails.
3. Maintain loyal customers
The most important thing exceptional customer experience will do is keep existing customers around for the long term. Converting new customers costs a lot more than keeping current ones around — you spend as much as 7x more to acquire a new customer. What’s more, customers who stay with your business long term end up spending up to 10x more than their first purchase. So let’s talk about using stellar CX to improve customer relationship management.
You’re focused on providing a great customer experience, but does that usually survive past the first sale? CX has a big impact on customer retention when it lives on, making a customer’s life easier every time they deal with your company — not just when there’s money on the line.
Two ways to maintain loyal customers:
- Offer follow-up training. Say a customer has a problem with your product six months after they buy it, or they can’t figure out how to use it a week after the sale — your customer service should be just as good then as it was when they were considering the purchase. Offer follow-up service like training on how to use the product, warranties, etc.
- Stay in touch, even between sales. A robust email campaign can help you let customers know about new products or updates, remind them when it’s time to replace a product, and re-engage customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while. You can reaffirm your commitment to them and drive incremental revenue for your business, which is a win-win.
Reap the benefits of investing in customer experience
It’s always good practice to meet customers’ expectations and ensure they are satisfied and happy with your business — but if your strategy ends there, you’re missing out on all the value you can drive back into your business.
Make an effort to leverage that superior customer experience into new and repeat business, and pretty soon, you’ll reap all the rewards of satisfied, long-term customers.