What is Customer Experience?
To some, the term “customer experience” has become little more than a buzzword. It’s something thrown around in meetings but seldom truly understood. In short, the customer experience is the sum total of each of your customer’s interactions with your company in any form and their perception of each of those interactions. It is literally what your customer experiences when dealing with your company.This experience can start with an advertisement and continue through their use of your product and service. Hopefully, it continues on through multiple purchases as they become a repeat, loyal customer.
Unfortunately, you can’t control everything. Because so much of the customer experience relies on each customer’s perception, which is out of your hands, there will always be a bit of an untouchable “x” factor. However, you can exert a significant amount of control over the points where a customer interacts with your company. These touch points are each an opportunity for you to shape your customer experience strategy.
Why Customer Experience Matters?
As the marketplace grows more crowded with increasingly similar merchandise, gone are the days where simply offering a high-quality product or service was enough to sustain a business. With so many tempting options set at the feet (and fingertips) of consumers, they are less likely to put up with any failings in their experience with your company.
Basically, because there are so many options on the table, your potential customers can afford to be picky. Buying and selling are about more than just the transfer of goods; it’s about the overall consumer experience.
If a customer thinks your website is too hard to use, they can go to someone else, and you could lose a sale. If the customer service agent someone talks to on the phone or at one of your locations is in a bad mood and comes off as rude, or even just unapproachable, you could lose a sale. Broken links, lack of parking, hard-to-find locations—all of these things are a part of the customer experience, and each of these things can lead to lost sales.
Of course, the opposite is true as well. A positive interaction with a customer service representative can save a sale or create a lifelong customer. An easy-to-use website with well-placed upsells can lead to more purchases.
When you learn how to improve and capitalize on customer experience management, you can take advantage of key touchpoints with your customers to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
How to Use Customer Experience to Improve Your Business
1. Gather & Analyze Data
This is the necessary first step to using customer service to improve your company strategy. Before you can make changes, you need to know where you stand. You need to understand what’s working and what is hurting your bottom line and your company’s relationship with its customers. This will require more than hunches and anecdotes—you need data.
Some of the data you’ll want to gather (though you should not consider this to be an exhaustive list) includes the following:
- Sales records separated by location, time of year, etc.
- Product return rates
- Common customer complaints
- Social media interactions
- Focus group/survey data and results
- Customer reviews
- Customer analytics from your website
The next step is analysis. Hidden within your data are the secrets to understanding the customer experience through the eyes of your customers. You can discover which touchpoints are succeeding and which are failing. You can identify your strengths and weaknesses and use that information to improve your company.
You might discover that customers really enjoy your products and think they are worth the price, but they have negative experiences with your in-store staff. Or maybe they find product instructions confusing. This data can give you actionable ways to make useful changes to your business practices.
If you tackle these steps on your own, it can be exhausting (and expensive). It’s also easy to miss important insights. You may want to work with a customer experience management company to gather and analyze all of your data.
2. Quickly Identify & Resolve Customer Concerns
If a customer reaches out to your company with a concern or issue, there are generally two possible outcomes: at the end of the interaction, they will either like your company more or less. While you can’t control your customer’s reactions, you can tip the scales in your favor by resolving problems quickly and pleasantly.
When you are able to actively monitor the important touch points between your company and your customers, you can more quickly identify and resolve customer concerns.
How many stories have you heard about a company who waited too long to address a customer’s problem and ended up dealing with a crisis on social media? When you have a plan within your customer experience strategy, you can start to close the loop between you and your customers which gives you the opportunity to solve problems before they become catastrophes.
3. Identify Company Weaknesses & Pivot
Do visitors find your website easy to use? Is your store layout intuitive, or does it frustrate your customers? Is the training you provide your employees sufficient, or do you need to reevaluate?
One customer complaining about customer service might be cranky, but a statistically significant portion of your customers complaining about it is indicative of a larger problem. Comprehensive analysis of customer reviews and comments can help you identify precisely where you need to improve. Perhaps you need to offer more training to new hires or more regular training refreshers to your long-term employees.
Whether or not you choose to take an active role, the consumer experience is impacting your company. Take control of your company’s future and invest in active customer experience management.
Related: 5 Reasons You Need Customer Feedback
About the Author: Brooke Cade is a freelance writer who’s committed to helping businesses and sales professionals build stronger connections with their customers. She writes for multiple publications including InMoment. In her spare time, she enjoys learning more about CX, reading, and engaging on Twitter.