Attracting and retaining customers is a core focus for every business, although this can often be quite difficult. While a robust sales and marketing strategy will often bring in a significant amount, many business owners will crave more.
This is where customer experience comes in, although many entrepreneurs may not be familiar with the term. Others may believe that this is the same as customer service. While the two will be related, there are a variety of key differences between the two.
This is largely because customer experience, or CX, can encapsulate much more than just service, and can bring a variety of benefits to every consumer-facing business.
What Is Customer Experience Strategy?
Customer experience is a term used to define all of the interactions a consumer has with a business, both pre- and post-sale. A customer experience strategy, therefore, encapsulates the plan that’s put in place to ensure that a consumer has a meaningful, and positive, time throughout these interactions.
While much of this is focused on customer-facing roles, it should also be used across all departments. By doing so, you can ensure that the entire business is geared toward the same goals; namely, increase customer engagement, experience, and retention.
Benefits Of Great Customer Experience & Why CX Is Important
The majority of businesses will understand what the benefits of high-quality customer service, although they may not do so with customer experience. While many of these will overlap between the two, there can be a few additional benefits with ensuring that your customer experience strategy is optimized.
The most notable of these is that a business should see much better customer conversions over time. This is because existing buyers are much more likely to purchase than prospects. However, this wouldn’t be the case if a customer has an unsatisfying experience.
While they may have a positive encounter when they initially purchase a product, offering a low-quality post-sale experience will sour a brand’s reputation. This is especially true for repairs and returns, as well as the overall product life-cycle.
Alongside this is an increased amount of customer retention and loyalty, which a positive customer experience helps build. Consumers are more likely to buy from brands they know and like.
Much of this is driven through their perceived brand value. Customers always look for high-quality products at the best prices. However, if they believe that more value is added through the engagement they have with a company, then they shouldn’t have issues paying a slightly higher price than they would with other businesses.
One of the benefits of customer experience that many entrepreneurs may be surprised by is that they should see a reduction in marketing expenses. This is primarily driven by the fact that they can better understand their customer’s requirements and desires. This can allow for much of the guesswork that’s often involved in marketing to be reduced.
Furthermore, word-of-mouth marketing can be a significant benefit alongside this. People are more likely to recommend businesses that they have a high opinion about. This could mean that many of their friends and family will consider purchasing from you instead of your competition.
The flip side of this is true if customers have a negative opinion of a business. This means that you could see much higher customer acquisitions as a result of an optimized customer experience strategy. Failure to do so may mean that some potential buyers may avoid the company based on their reputation.
Customer Experience Vs Customer Service
Many entrepreneurs will, mistakenly, believe that customer experience and customer service are the same thing. This isn’t the case, as customer service plays only one role in the overall experience, albeit a large one.
The differences can best be highlighted by defining each aspect. As we mentioned above, customer experience is a person’s perception of the overall brand as a result of their experience during the buyer’s journey with them.
Customer service, however, can be defined as the support a company gives the buyer while they’re on the journey. This includes buying the product, although it also includes any support work an employee does during this process. In this way, customer service is reactive to a person’s needs and desires.
This means that a business will react to products breaking or whatever else a consumer needs. Customer experience is proactive and is an approach used to optimize a buyer’s journey so that they don’t become dissatisfied.
This means that customer service looks at individual interactions, while a customer experience strategy takes a more holistic approach and looks at the bigger picture. This results in better long-term relationships with consumers, which is one of the core benefits of the strategy.
Characteristics Of A Great Customer Experience Strategy
Creating a compelling customer experience strategy may seem daunting. While it can be complex to do, there are several characteristics that every high-quality plan has in common.
- The first of these is to create a company culture that focuses on the customer.
- Secondly is to create products that meet current customer demands while also predicting future requirements. Focusing on the present and future is one of the defining traits of any forward-thinking strategy, especially when it comes to driving sales and revenue.
- Thirdly, you should ensure that easing the customer journey is of prime importance. This should be the primary focus behind every business decision.
- Lastly, you should also look to personalize the experience for every consumer.
This should be spread across the buying cycle, from the initial purchase to installation – if necessary – through to product support and use.
The 4 Customer Experience Core Competencies
While there are a variety of competencies that can make up effective customer service, there are four in particular that focus on customer experience.
The first of these is purposeful leadership. This means making decisions based on an overarching vision. This is often the opposite of what many businesses do, which is to make choices based on isolated factors. Instead, working toward a vision will prove much more effective.
Compelling Brand Values
Secondly is to have compelling brand values. To do so, a company must make and embrace promises to customers, which also means sticking to those promises. This is more than just a marketing strategy. Instead, they should be something that employees and management strive for.
Employee engagement is the third core competency, which is when they strive for better customer service and improved results across the business.
Lastly is customer connectedness. Many companies make decisions with little thought put into their consumers.
This is something that you should avoid at all costs and base each decision on customer needs and feedback. This results in buyers becoming much more connected to a company, which drives sales and revenue.
7 Ways To Improve The Customer Experience
There are a variety of ways that you can improve the customer experience, although there are some that are more effective than others. While this doesn’t mean that you should ignore other tips, it does mean that you should focus on a few areas when you first start creating your strategy.
Have A Clear Vision
This is the first step every business will need to take when creating a customer experience strategy and is an essential component. There can be a few simple ways that a company can do so, with the first being to create a set of statements that define the strategy as a whole and what you aim for.
These will then act as guiding principles that help to drive the organization forward. The policies should be something that all employees are aware of and that are embedded into training and development.
By doing so, you’ll be able to ensure that all employees are geared toward these interactions in their daily work.
Know Your Customers
To create any strategy that brings in new customers effectively, you’ll first need to understand who your current customer base is. This means that you should know their needs and desires, as well as why they purchase from your company.
By doing so, you’ll be able to create a customer profile which will help you connect with consumers. This will also allow you to base any future decisions on what your customers and potential buyers face.
Create An Emotional Connection
Creating an emotional connection with a customer can be one of the most effective parts of driving sales. This is predominantly because consumers who feel positive when they think about a particular brand are more likely to buy from them.
This means that emotional connections should be factored into your customer experience. There can be several ways to do so, although aiming to go above-and-beyond for your consumers is an effective strategy.
Capture Real-Time Feedback
The easiest, and often most effective, way of determining what kind of experience a customer has with your company is to ask. While this doesn’t mean that you should do so constantly, asking for their feedback in a follow-up email can be helpful.
This could include a rating system and the ability for customers to tell you how, and where, you may be able to improve. Doing so quickly after an interaction can be beneficial.
Use A Quality Framework
Knowing how your customers feel about your brand and where they believe it can improve is just one part of the process. Addressing these areas is the next step, although you’ll need a quality framework to do so.
Much of this should be geared toward your employee’s potential training needs if any. You should also be able to track this training over time, as well as include any scheduling and learning tools alongside this.
Use Employee Feedback Regularly
While customer feedback is essential to every business, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to your employees either. Though many companies have annual surveys and feedback processes, these can often not be enough.
Implementing regular employee feedback sessions into your framework can be an effective way of improving a business. This is because your employees will be the ones interacting with customers, so they may be in the best position to note how they can better meet their needs.
Measure & Act On ROI
Measuring your return on investment (ROI) is vital to many strategies. This is predominantly because every business owner will want to ensure that they’re getting positive results for their money. This means that they’ll want to make sure that the investment is making a positive impact.
There can be a variety of ways to measure the effectiveness of your investment in a customer experience strategy. One way is to survey customers before the approach is introduced and then do so regularly afterward.
By doing so, you should make sure that the investment is paying off. If not, then you may need to readjust your strategy accordingly.
How Do You Measure Customer Experience?
Measuring customer experience may seem as though it can be quite a difficult task. This is primarily because many companies will not know how to. There are a few ways that you’ll be able to do so, with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) being one of the more common.
This is where you ask a customer how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend. This feedback can help inform your future strategies while telling you where you need to improve.
Alongside this is customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, which asks consumers how happy they are with your product or service. Regardless of which way you choose to do so, the most effective way to measure your customer experience strategy and its results are to stay in contact with consumers over time and listen to them.