It takes an in-depth knowledge of your customer and prospective client profiles to plan and forge great customer experiences effectively. Creating these experiences requires an understanding of how, when and where your customers interacted with your organisation. It also requires an overarching strategy to deliver exceptional outcomes each time.
To better understand and grasp the concept of best practice customer experience (CX), we have broken these strategies down into several key areas to better help you effectively plan for CX needs in your business.
So, what is CX or customer experience?
Customer experience can easily be related back to great customer service. But it is more than that and often businesses who purely focus on customer service in general, don’t necessarily provide great customer experiences.
Customer service is a single interaction between your customer who has a need and your organisation who has a possible resolution. Customer experience, on the other hand, "is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company". It covers everything from the customer’s awareness of you and the purchasing process to their ongoing relationship with your products and services.
Why is customer experience important and why do businesses need to get it right?
Businesses shouldn’t want just to meet customer needs. They should be aiming to exceed them. By doing so, you build brand loyalty, a positive market reputation and become a trusted expert in your chosen industry - all backed by a community of customers who advocate and support your brand.
From a financial perspective, a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times as much revenue as a somewhat satisfied customer and 14 times as much revenue as a somewhat dissatisfied customer.
It’s also crucial to establish an overall customer experience across all touchpoints. While focusing on areas that may be lacking or generating poor performance or reviews, you should, at the same time, be looking to improve your overall customer experience.
Customers follow a journey. From seeing an advertisement, or scrolling through social media platforms, to reaching the site and then purchasing items. It only takes one bad experience at any of these touchpoints for a customer to disengage with a brand.
Poor practice in CX can lead to significant consequences, with 51% of customers stating they will never do business with a company again if they have experienced just one negative experience. 93% of consumers said they are more likely to be repeat customers with companies with remarkable service. A further 77% of consumers shared positive experiences with their friends or on social media and review sites. Consumers essentially have the power to make or break an organisation’s reputation based on their customer experience.
Leveraging big data
Quality data makes all the difference in customer experience. Data-driven businesses are, in fact, 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain customers and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result. Without knowing who your customers are, where they come from, what their expectations are and how they want to interact with you, there is no point in developing strategies to better their customer experience. In that case, you’d be going into it blindly.
It’s easy to get tangled in big data, so collect and analyse data with a purpose - know what information you need and how you’re going to use it. Big data provides a qualitative and quantitative view of your business and allows you to identify trends in your market that can be translated into creating better products and services for your consumers, improving their customer experience indirectly.
Data will inform decisions around almost any business problem, such as where to direct marketing budgets, what customer service channels you should invest resources into, where issues lie in the customer journey and how your customers will respond to new products. And to avoid the issue of analysis paralysis, focus on solving no more than three business problems initially so that your team remains on track.
Map the customer journey
You need to put yourself into your customer’s shoes. With every new touchpoint you create for a customer, whether that be a new webpage, social post, or even a blog, try and understand how it will be viewed by your target audience and understand what interacting with this new engagement will mean for them. Once you understand this, you can then start to combine, adjust and incorporate your CX strategy into your customer journey.
When a potential customer clicks an online ad, where does it direct them? When they get there, what’s their pathway to purchase? These are just the first of many questions you should be asking about your organisation.
The journey continues after they’ve purchased, downloaded or subscribed - how do they reach out for technical support? How quickly is their issue resolved and how satisfied are they with the handling? Are they now a loyal lifetime customer who will be a brand advocate? And are you able to recognise and reward that customer?
We know how huge these questions are, and many businesses would be in no position to answer all of them, but it’s all part of mapping the customer journey. It becomes especially difficult when each step is the responsibility of a different department, but the important thing is to apply the customer journey filter over every process in your business. In other words, ensure your organisation is customer centric and understands the importance of all interactions.
Adopt an omnichannel approach
An omnichannel approach is a multichannel approach to developing your customer experience strategy, all while keeping the customers at the forefront of all decisions. When you take on an omnichannel approach to customer experience, you are hoping to provide your target audience with a seamless experience, whether that be online, via telephone or in a traditional brick-and-mortar store sense. Essentially, it’s a ‘no distraction, get what they want when and where they want it’ shopping experience that’s elevated. An omnichannel approach involves going the extra mile for customer experience.
For instance, if they call your customer service team, your agents should be able to source information about how long they’ve been a customer, what they’ve purchased in the past and any previous interactions you’ve had with them - all in real time. And your agent has to know how to use this information to ensure they have an exceptional experience this time around too.
Omnichannel also means developing your product and your online presence in such a way that the customer’s experience is seamless across every digital device. In the age of the connected customer, expectations have been set that your organisation will need to meet. This entails accommodating the customer in terms of where, when and how they want to interact with you.
To facilitate an omnichannel approach and introduce a seamless shopping experience, consider:
- Understanding your customer’s preferred communication or engagement channels
- Ways in which you can improve your customer response time for queries, concerns and questions across the business
- Tools, systems and applications that legally allow you to harvest target audience data and provide insight on purchasing habits and website analytics
- Self-service options for customers who prefer to be more independent with their shopping experience such as chatbots
- Re-assessing your customer-facing teams to ensure they are representing your brand in line with your CX strategies.
Consumer behaviour has changed drastically over the past year due to the pandemic, with many brick-and-mortar sore forced closures. With this came the need to embrace eCommerce and organisations that understood the importance of an omnichannel approach were able to sustain great customer experiences.
Identify automation options
Needing to be constantly available across all channels can be difficult to fulfil, but customers aren’t opposed to digital or automated options. Automation within CX is any technology that assists customers with tasks, often replacing human interactions to improve customer interactions. Depending on your target audience, automation might actually be preferred within your consumer base.
Identify where automation can be appropriately implemented, keeping in mind once again, that it must add value to the customer experience. Automation uses systems and technology to improve certain aspects of customer service, including faster response times or more targeted value-adding features. CX automation can be implemented at any one point of your customer’s journey with the end goal of increasing engagement or boosting their overall customer experience.
Artificial intelligence or AI is playing an increasing role in automation. Examples of customer experience automation tools include:
- Customer-telephony integration (CTI) which automates the routing of calls to the right department
- Chatbots that use artificial intelligence (AI) to engage with customers or sales leads
- Self-checkout systems as seen most commonly in large retail brands
- Banking applications that allow customers to deposit cheques or transfer money from one account to the next without having to visit a physical bank branch
- Booking applications that allow customers to change or adjust their reservations or booking preferences.
Machine learning and natural voice recognition technology is also playing a role in providing seamless contact centre experiences, replacing IVRs which have traditionally been a major source of customer frustration.
Foster employee engagement
One of the most important aspects of your CX strategy is engaging your employees in the delivery of your objectives. It’s the difference between merely servicing the customer and providing an exceptional customer experience. You need to employ the right attributes, train your management to reinforce the right behaviours and provide the tools and empowerment needed to deliver on your customer experience goals.
The correlation between employee engagement and satisfaction and customer experience is simple. The happier or more satisfied your employees are with your organisation, the more likely they are going to believe in the products and services you provide. This in turn, will flow into how they provide customer service and they will be more inclined to exceed your customers’ needs. In fact, 79% of companies with engaged employees had a significantly better customer experience than companies who didn't.
How can your organisation deliver a first class customer experience?
Best practice CX is directly affected by best practice in customer service. Customer service is just one component of the overall customer experience, but is still as important as others to get right.
As your business continues to grow, customer service becomes a key component to your success. In the age of the connected consumer, service expectations are at an all time high. Understanding your customers' expectations and how you can successfully meet their needs before, during and after purchasing your product or service will ensure you can meet your brand’s customer promise.