We live in the Age of Consumers who have a greater say in the buying process than before.
Traditionally, businesses had a monopoly on what consumers knew about them. People relied on marketing content to get informed about a brand.
The rise of social media suddenly connected consumers from all over the world and allowed them to share their experiences with different companies for all to see. This gave consumers significant leverage over businesses.
Customers who’ve had a poor customer experience can now voice their criticism to their friends on social media who in turn retweet to their followers. Before you know it, a single tweet goes viral. This puts businesses in a difficult position where a single bad experience can be amplified to thousands of customers almost instantaneously.
Today’s empowered consumers place a great emphasis on their overall experience with a business, also referred to as customer experience. Businesses that prioritize customer experience enjoy higher retention rates, stronger customer loyalty, and increased revenue.
Customer expectations have changed and a product-centric approach that prioritizes the need of the company to sell its products isn’t a winning business strategy.
Businesses can’t survive if they don’t cater to the needs of their audience.
To create a customer experience that speaks directly to your audience, the customer must be at the forefront of company strategy.
Why Customer Experience Is Important: Stats
The most recent studies show why customer experience is important for growth:
- Poor customer service affects purchasing decisions for 97% of consumers.
- 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that offer personalized experiences.
- 84% of businesses that improved their customer experience reported an increase in revenue.
- $1.6 trillion is lost every year in the United States alone due to poor customer service.
- Businesses that focus on customer experience are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t customer-centric.
Customer experience is especially important in industries where consumers can easily switch brands.
Customer experience is not some silly idea, and companies that are not giving it the attention it deserves are seeing their market share decrease.
The importance of customer experience is underscored by the unsettling decline in consumer trust in brands across industries. Therefore, businesses need to optimize their customer experience so they can strengthen relationships with customers.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience (CX) describes the overall impression a customer has of a business.
This impression is based on the entirety of their interactions with a company — from looking at the website to talking with customer service reps and ultimately purchasing and recommending the product/service.
Businesses that deliver a great customer experience are the ones that offer a positive experience at every stage of this journey.
Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
Customer experience and customer service are not interchangeable concepts. Customer service is one important piece of the customer experience puzzle. While still critically important, customer service is not the only component of customer experience.
Consumers want more than just service from businesses — they expect engagement.
Let’s say that you want to choose a new cell phone plan. If you call the provider on the phone, and the customer service representative is helpful and friendly, then that’s an example of great customer service.
However, an example of excellent customer experience is when the customer service rep quickly sets you up with your desired plan, includes high-resolution video streaming at no additional cost because you like to binge-watch Netflix. Also, the one time that you forgot to pay your phone bill on time, you were gently reminded via email without being charged any fees or penalties.
All of these interactions make up a positive relationship that you have with the business.
That’s the goal of customer experience management.
Examples of Bad Customer Experiences
There are many obvious factors that contribute to a bad customer experience: rude staff, slow response time, sending customers to the website, or unresolved problems. However, an experience that doesn't feel personalized with the overuse of automation will certainly lead to frustration.
Basically, any strategy that doesn't have the customer at the center will lead to a bad experience.
Benefits of A Great Customer Experience
Customers expect to be understood and connected to companies at every point of interaction.
How do you feel about the company that engaged you to learn your needs as opposed to just offering a service?
Would you be more willing to upgrade your cell phone plan if offered? How likely are you to recommend the carrier to family and friends? Would you be actively looking for better deals from competitors?
Think about how a positive customer experience would influence your business decisions. So, to sum up, businesses that deliver customer experiences are able to:
- Improve brand loyalty by offering personalized customer experiences
- Increase revenue from customers with upsell offers
- Create brand ambassadors who generate new sales using word-of-mouth advertising
- Increase their customer retention rate
The reason why customer experience is important is that it is today's critical differentiator.
All industries benefit from improving the customer experience — prioritizing customers is a successful business strategy.
How to Build a Strong Customer Experience Management Plan
In order to create a standout customer experience, companies need customer data that goes beyond knowing what their favorite brands are and what music they listen to.
A company that successfully delivers a memorable customer experience knows its audience so thoroughly that it offers personalized experiences that build brand loyalty.
The best way to do this is by starting a dialogue with your customers. Remember, consumers want engagement from brands.
Obtaining this kind of customer insight requires a well-thought-out plan. Basically, all the touchpoints in the organization are a source of valuable customer data that needs to be analyzed quickly and accurately.
Create An Emotional Connection
Companies that empathize with their customers while solving their problems or friction points have a better chance of building brand loyalty. Most consumers use emotions rather than facts when evaluating companies— a major bank saw a 40% new account growth when it introduced a credit card that was meant to create an emotional connection.
Emotionally loyal customers are not only willing to spend more but are likely to recommend the brand to others. This type of word-of-mouth advertising is priceless.
Build Customer Avatars
A necessary part of customer experience management is segmenting your audience and building customer avatars.
By building profiles of your customers you'll be able to understand and empathize with their needs and challenges.
It's a good idea to give each segment character traits.
For instance, a brand could have a customer segment made up of young Millennials. Your customers in this group resemble Jane, a hypothetical customer. Jane is 28 years old, is tech-savvy, and likes to use messenger apps.
Another customer segment could contain retirees like John. John is a hypothetical 66-year-old who prefers to find answers on his own.
Detailed customer avatars help you understand the needs and motivations of your audience. This enables you to provide a personalized customer experience.
Collect Customer Feedback
Just ask your customers about their experience with your business. A great way to do this is with surveys. You can use the feedback you gather from surveys to remove places of friction and improve the customer experience.
Customer surveys will give you the necessary information at every touchpoint — after a call with a customer rep, after a sale is made, or when potential customers abandon their carts.
For example, when a user makes a purchase you can ask them to rate their buying experience with your business. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is great for measuring customer loyalty. The NPS shows how likely your customers are to recommend your products and services.
If you receive a poor rating on the customer satisfaction survey, you can follow up with simple questions to get to the root of the problem.
Focus on Critical Touchpoints
While it makes sense to gather as much feedback as you can about your product or service, you should identify several sensitive touchpoints on which to focus:
- Customer acquisition/Right after the sale
- First-time website visits/ First contact on social media
- Prospects who don't convert
These touchpoints sometimes vary across industries. However, getting feedback at these key touchpoints will help your company deliver a better customer experience.
Ask For Recommendations
Build channels that your prospects and customers can use to make suggestions on how to improve your products and services. What do customers like and dislike about your offer? What features would they like to see? These types of questions will give you a better idea of the types of experience your customers have with your company.
Email surveys, social media, community pages, comment sections, and even live chat are all great channels to glean this type of information.
Customers will appreciate that a company is actively looking for ways to help them achieve their goals. Obviously, that's not to say that you should carry out every suggestion you get. Rather, keep an eye out for frequent suggestions, which may be merit a closer look.
Another great way to get insight into your product or service and improve customer experience is by hiring actual consumers. Online companies like User Testing give you real-time feedback from actual customers.
This is one of the fastest ways to get actionable data about your products and services that translates into more loyal customers.
Customer Experience Management On Social Media
Social media channels are in large part responsible for the emphasis that brands place on customer interactions. A whopping 48% of today's consumers expect a response within 24 hours to social media questions and complaints. While these channels are an amazing marketing opportunity, brands need to act quickly to make this strategy work.
The way your company responds to questions and criticism shows how you view your audience. Even though negative feedback is unpleasant, it is, however, necessary to take it seriously and try to eliminate these pain points.
By professionally engaging with customers who've had a poor experience, your company is showing that it values its audience.
In many cases, organizations can use it as an opportunity to build their reputation by letting customers know that they are aware of their needs. It also helps foster a genuine relationship with customers.
Deliver an Omni-Channel Experience
There's more to omni-channel than merely going where your customers hang out. Rather, it's about delivering a consistent experience throughout the entire customer journey. People sometimes make the mistake of conflating omni-channel and multichannel.
So, what's the difference?
While multichannel marketing uses many different channels to talk to customers, each channel is isolated from the rest. So even though customers can enjoy all the services on their channel of choice, they can't have the same "conversation" across different channels. The entire customer journey — from the first contact with the brand to the point of purchase — takes place on one channel.
Although customers can enjoy the flexibility of choosing their preferred channel, they are still expected to communicate in that space.
Therefore, the main drawback is the lack of consistency and integration between channels.
This is the preferred option because it has a stronger focus on customers' expectations. Using this approach, a company places the customer front and center.
Omni-channel boosts customer satisfaction by providing a unified experience between channels. As a result, customers can get all the information they need as they hop from one channel to the next.
All the different channels —social, physical, website, email, live chat, and mobile —come together to form one seamless whole. So, the conversations customers have with a brand are immediately updated across channels.
This kind of personalization boosts customer satisfaction in a way that multichannel marketing can never hope to attain.
Not only does omnichannel offer a better customer experience, but this level of consistency and attentiveness builds a loyal customer base.
Omni-Channel vs. Multichannel
Multichannel places a stronger emphasis on the brand than it does on the customer. And for this reason, companies opt for omni-channel strategies to deliver a positive customer experience.
Data and Insights
Your company's customer experience management strategy is based on constant data mining. The research you carry out will help you improve customer satisfaction. Social media users are always giving their opinions on various topics.
So, take advantage of this opportunity by listening to what your audience is saying not only about you but your competitors as well.
Anticipate Problems & Take Measures
Hardware failure, software bugs, and human error are par for the course for any company. However, even these unfortunate events can be integrated into your customer experience strategy. One of the ways of providing a positive experience for customers is by informing them of issues ahead of time.
This way customers are aware of potential issues and can necessary steps to prepare.
Dealing with issues in this manner helps create a more personalized experience.
A simple example is a company emailing their customers about a scheduled downtime and server maintenance.
Create a Seamless Customer Journey
The customer journey is a blueprint for creating a superb customer experience. It starts at the first point of contact and goes all the way to the point of sale.
It is made up of a series of interactions that make up the overall customer experience. Therefore, every interaction must be positive in order to have a great customer experience.
Mapping a customer journey involves designing a detailed path for each customer segment.
Remember, different segments have different journeys. Let’s go back to our hypothetical customer segments.
The right way to engage Jane, at least initially, would be with a live chat feature.
On the other hand, a web page with a detailed FAQ section is a better option for John. Engaging prospects and customers on their terms will make them feel cared for.
As they continue to interact with your business, customer avatars will show you the best ways to engage them along their journey.
The Path to Customer Experience Excellence
Now that we've gone over why customer experience is important for growth, let's take a look at how companies can deliver a great customer experience.
Collaboration is key to successfully delivering a positive customer experience — it’s not just up to a single team to manage customer experience. Rather, it’s a cross-departmental undertaking that needs input from each stakeholder and team member to be effective.
Teams that don't work together are setting themselves up for failure.
Creating a customer experience management strategy that sells is an ongoing process that requires constant attention.
Managing customer experience also means finding new ways to build relationships with customers using innovative solutions. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the obvious choice.
CRMs play an instrumental role in delivering an excellent customer experience because of their many powerful features.
For instance, companies can make relevant offers based on their purchase history, create targeted marketing campaigns, and enjoy a 360-degree view of their customers.
With customer management software, companies become more proactive and considerate, which helps them to optimize the customer experience.
What to Look For in a Customer Experience Management Tool
While many out-of-the-box CRMs offer strong support for managing customer data, real-world situations require complex business rules.
Some common examples include call center upselling, claims, lead & ticket routing, and data validation. Very often these issues rely on hundreds of various data points and rules, which work together using conditional logic.
Many customer experience management services are unequipped to handle large amounts of rules efficiently, which presents a problem for businesses looking to improve customer experience.
Are you able to immediately meet the growing demand for a certain type of experience? Can you make your existing customer experience more relevant on the fly?
Businesses need to offer customers the experiences they want today, not those they wanted months ago. That’s why companies use powerful business rules engines to enhance the functionality of CRMs and streamline automation.
Higson is a hyper-efficient business rules engine that can be configured in real-time.
This low-code tool empowers organizations to make immediate improvements to their customer experience without waiting for help from IT, which boosts performance and reduces costs.
Higson is as easy to use as it is powerful.
As companies navigate the pandemic, a streamlined customer experience strategy is one of the key differentiators across industries. Higson is the tool that helps you create a customer experience that sells.