Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool to date. A customer’s opinion of your business can make or break a business over time. What your customers say about your business is based on their personal experiences while dealing with your organisation. Unfortunately, while most companies invest heavily in marketing and advertising to create a perfect image of themselves, not many will close the loop between customer acquisition and customer retention. Maybe it is due to a fear of criticism, but burying our heads in the sand and not acknowledging the shortfalls of our customer service processes is not a sound business strategy.
Understanding how you can improve customer experience is becoming increasingly valuable for organisations today. So much so that we see more Chief Experience Offers (CXO) taking the lead in ensuring positive customer interactions and satisfaction. Customer service or experience strategies are the only way to maintain sustainable business growth and stop the leaky bucket phenomenon occurring in your organisation. There are five key ways to improve customer experience.
1. Understanding your main customer touchpoints
Doing an internal audit of your all-customer touchpoint is the roadmap of your customer experience strategy. Start by asking yourself where the customer is interacting with various aspects of your organisation and brand. From the first time, they see your brand; to talking to the delivery driver dropping the products. Every customer touchpoint is a chance for your team to exceed customer expectations or lose a customer. Once you have identified the key touchpoints, design a plan to understand, improve and measure the level of satisfaction for each of them. Examples of customer touchpoints are website pages where customers have to take action, phone calls to the receptionist or customer service team, delivery driver effectiveness, automated emails or SMS flow, product packaging, and quality assurance.
2. Set clear customer experience goals
The main goal of your customer experience strategy is to make the customer happy at every touchpoint with the business. Although happiness is subjective, some factors can help predict and manage customer satisfaction levels. For example, if a customer is at a restaurant and has to wait 1 hour for a waiter to take their order, you can guarantee that they won’t be happy. In the same way, we can derive a list of critical expectations for a particular product or service. Some standard criteria that impact customer satisfaction are:
- Speed to attend to the customer or delivery of goods and services.
In a fast-paced world, customers want instant gratification.
- Clarity and quality of communication with the customer.
Customers are looking for the correct information to be delivered to them efficiently and with compassion.
- Quality and user-friendliness of products or services.
With little difference between products today, experience seems to be the decisive factor for repeat purchase and recommendation.
Setting clear KPIs around these main criteria will ensure that your team pays more attention to customer satisfaction.
3. Measure and rate your customer experience monthly
A net-promoter score (NPS) is a matrix widely used by organizations to measure the level of customer satisfaction to predict repeat purchases and referrals from existing customers. These surveys can be as simple as three faces happy, neutral, sad, or rating specific customer satisfaction questions. Most NPS surveys will use a score from 1 to 10 to ascertain how likely a customer will promote your services to their network. A score of 9-10 means they are active promoters and loyal customers helping your business grow. A score of 7 to 8 means they are satisfied customers but not loyal yet. These customers can easily be swayed by a competitor’s offer. A score of 0-6 means that those customers are detractors and are not likely to engage in repeat purchases and contribute to negative word-of-mouth. Regular NPS tracking gives a great indication of a business’s growth trend and helps your team identify the gaps in their customer service processes.
4. Create a culture where failing is seen as room for improvement
Culture is such a big part of your customer success strategy. A positive employee culture will reward improvements and ideas instead of punishing mistakes and failures. Employees need to embrace a growth mindset to help them accept customer feedback and not take any complaints personally. Often this responsibility will fall on the owner or manager of the business as they have to lead by example. By focusing on the core problem and looking for constructive solutions as a team, there is no blame game. Reviewing and improving internal processes creates long-term growth opportunities for organisations. Ongoing customer service training and support also helps to improve the internal culture as people tend to be more forgiving while in a training phase. Customer service is first and foremost about soft skills and emotional intelligence. Outstanding customer service teams follow the 3R Rules: Responsibility, Resolution, and Respect. Therefore, areas of training and development for your internal team should be around communication skills, listening skills, self-awareness, positive attitude, assertiveness, conflict resolution, empathy, depersonalisation, and accountability practices. Most organisations reserve these emotional intelligence skills development to top management; however, having such training across the business is fundamental to ensuring every customer experience touchpoint exceeds customer expectations.
5. Blind test your team.
Blind tests are the most unbiased form of feedback. When it comes to customer experience, it is a bit more complex as the situation will vary depending on specific problems and personalities of customers. In a perfect world, companies aim to prepare their customer-facing team for any case. A great way to give your team more practice and get objective customer feedback is to work closely with customer experience groups, most commonly known as mystery shoppers. These groups will send “fake” customers to interact with your team to test their skills in dealing with difficult situations. For a good overview of your customer service team’s performance, it is essential to test each customer touchpoint with at least three different customer scenarios. These blind tests can be done over a more extended period to gather some areas of improvement in the customer experience process and ascertain what special training is needed to improve customer experience.
An unhappy customer can be costing you more than you realise. Customer retention strategies are a critical element of every business strategy. Customer experience strategies are always going to be a work in progress. To stay competitive in the market, you need to exceed customers’ expectations all the time. If businesses spend time on pre-emptive customer satisfaction brainstorming sessions around how can we make things better, faster, cheaper, more efficient, be more compassionate, or listen more to their customers, they will push themselves to challenge the status quo and exceed customer expectations time and time again. So remember that a happy customer is free publicity and retaining a customer costs less than winning a new one!