The customer experience is everything. Every interaction that a customer has with your organisation — from the first time they become aware of your product or service to their first purchase and beyond — is an opportunity for you to create a positive, lasting impression. And if you’re not focusing on how to make the customer experience better, you’re risking more than just a repeat buyer.
Think about the last time you had a great experience as a customer.
Did it make you think more favorably about the business as a whole? Did you tell other people about it? Satisfied customers make some of the best brand advocates, sharing their experiences with others while maintaining more loyalty over the long term.
When it comes to your customers, a great experience and a not-so-great experience are just as memorable. Make it your mission to figure out how to improve customer experience across the board, and ensure that every touchpoint with your brand is a positive one.
It’s Worth Investing in a Customer Experience Strategy
A lot of companies have gone all in on their customer experience (CX) efforts. But you don’t need to have a customer experience expert on the payroll to protect your brand’s reputation — and, by default, your bottom line.
In a benchmarking report of CX, marketing and analytics professionals, 87% say it’s either very or extremely important to provide an exceptional customer experience, with 79% saying that their top priority with CX is to improve customer retention.
And it makes sense: a mere 5% increase in customer retention correlates with a 25% increase in profit.
Of course, it’s not just revenue that stands to benefit from working out how to enhance customer experience metrics (though it’s probably worth noting that client-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that don’t put their customers first). Companies that invest in a CX strategy report a wide range of competitive advantages, including:
- Increased brand advocacy
- More value to customers
- Staying top of mind
- Increased data-driven marketing capabilities
- Improved brand trustworthiness and likeability
If you’re not already talking how to elevate customer experience metrics, then the time to start is right now. Below, we’ll share six ways to amp up your CX strategy for the better, with real-world tips that can help guide the way to a more satisfied customer base.
Putting CX Into Action
From retail to restaurants and everything in between, the experience that you provide your customers matters. Here’s how to make sure you’re acing the game.
Make the customer experience part of your overall vision
Customer experience should be inherently linked with your company mission and values, and should be a mainstay of the larger service that you’re trying to promote.
For an example of a company that’s made the customer experience front and center to their operations, look no further than retailer L.L. Bean, which became notorious for a return policy that allowed customers to bring back items for a full refund after any period of time and for whatever reason. While the company recently rolled this policy back a bit, it hasn’t erased the company’s ubiquity as a customer-driven brand.
From the top down, L.L. Bean’s commitment to their customers is not an offshoot of their CX strategy but a distinct part of it. So much so in fact that it’s pretty much impossible to separate the brand from the experience, even for those who have never made a purchase from them.
The takeaway: If your approach to CX is written into your policy and reinforced throughout all levels of your corporate hierarchy, then customers will take note. When done right, a positive customer experience is simply part and parcel of what people expect from your organisation, even before they buy anything.
Assess your employee engagement levels
Unhappy employees equal unhappy customers. So while it might seem antithetical to funnel resources into a non-customer-facing effort like employee engagement as part of your CX strategy, it’s actually essential.
If your team is stressed or disengaged, they’re bound to deliver a less-than-stellar customer experience. A customer who’s served great food is still going to leave a restaurant with a bad taste in their mouth if their server fails to provide them with enough attention. Likewise, a gym goer who feels ignored by their instructor probably isn’t going to recommend the class to a friend, even if they’ve gotten results.
At Culture Amp, all employees are paired with a personal coach who helps them navigate personal and professional matters for the betterment of the entire company. By ensuring employees feel heard and like their needs are important, Culture Amp also ensures that they’re able to offer their clients an experience that begets their needs. Not too surprising for a company that helps other organisations improve their employer brands.
The takeaway: Take better care of your employees and your employees will take better care of your customers. Further, figure out ways to reward team members who go above and beyond when it comes to CX, and incentivize all of your employees to put their best foot forward.
Gather customer feedback
What you don’t know can — and undoubtedly will — hurt you. For that reason, we always recommend that companies do regular customer experience audits, using social listening, surveys, GMB reviews, and other useful tools to cut through the noise and learn firsthand what customers are taking away from their interactions.
At Hyatt Hotels, developers have set up two channels through which to funnel consistent customer feedback: a hashtag-based social media campaign designed just for customers to share their experiences at a Hyatt hotel, and a feedback form that is accessible from most of their main landing pages. Through these avenues, Hyatt is able to access key information around how customers feel about their experience, not just asking for feedback but encouraging it through multiple formats.
The takeaway: Make it easy for customers to provide you with feedback! Lofty CX goals don’t count for much if customers aren’t having the experience you intend for them to have. Take advantage of various tools for collecting feedback, and offer them at key touchpoints to reach your customers when they’re most likely to share.
Keep your team educated
Everything that you learn about the experience your customers are having should be shared with your team. All employees have a role to play in providing a top-notch experience, and you never know where the next great idea might come from. By keeping your team up to date on what’s going on, you increase your chances of coming up with new CX solutions. You also give everyone a chance to do better.
Are you familiar with the term “Dell Hell”? This unfortunate turn of phrase was once used to describe the customer experience with Dell computers, which, if you’re Dell itself, has got to hurt. To change the conversation, Dell decided to implement a coordinated CX strategy across its departments, focusing not just on whether their product worked or not but whether their customers had a good experience beyond the initial set-up. Among other things, this meant roping upper management into the CX process, as well as providing more resources to tech support — including those based on lessons learned from customer feedback.
The takeaway: Improving customer experience isn’t a one-person or one-department job. It takes a coordinated effort to provide real and lasting value, which means everyone in an organisation has to be apprised of what’s working and what’s not.
Make training a priority
Help your team help you. Effective training and formalised onboarding means that your team fully understands your business and your product or service, and that makes them better able to handle customer queries and maximize the customer experience.
Too often, CX initiatives fail because employees don’t have enough training to put their best foot forward. Be flexible, cultivate interest, and train your employees to see the value in your product or service in the same way that you do. These initiatives are at the heart of productive CX, which helps explain why a company like Salesforce — itself in the business of improving the customer experience — invests so heavily in training programs. The company even offers its free Pathfinder training program to students so if they decide to pursue a job at Salesforce they already have the foundation to succeed.
The takeaway: What goes around comes around. Set your employees up for success and you’ll reap the CX benefits in spades. To make it easy, use the Planday scheduling tool, which will help you coordinate onboarding to leave plenty of time for thorough training to take place.
Ask customers why they leave
You have just as much to learn from a dissatisfied customer as you do a satisfied one. There are lots of reasons that a customer might choose to leave, and most of them tell you something key about the customer experience. What you learn could help you bring that customer back around — or prevent the loss of another customer for the same reason.
When Birchbox, a beauty subscription box service, wants to know why a customer is cancelling their subscription, they just ask. During the cancellation process, exiting customers are provided with a form with a list of reasons that might be behind their decision to leave. Filling out this form is a mandatory part of the cancellation process, which means that every time a customer cancels, Birchbox learns something valuable about where they might be falling short.
The takeaway: Learn from the churn. A simple form, survey, or email can clear up confusion and point you toward necessary improvements in CX. Look at trends and patterns, and dig up as many clues as you can about where the customer experience is lacking and might be able to do to fix it.
Gauge what your competitors are doing right
Great customer experiences don’t happen in a vacuum. At the end of the day, the objective is to offer an experience that’s better than what your competitors are offering. And to do it, you need to know exactly what you’re competing against.
One way to benchmark your CX is to look at what you’re doing that your competitors aren’t. Just as helpful though is to look at what your competitors are doing right. Where are they succeeding with the customer experience, and what can you apply to your own efforts?
In 2019, Pizza Hut changed the one thing that had been pretty stagnant in their 70+ year history: their pizza itself. As the company saw the competition closing in from other big name pizza companies, they decided the answer wasn’t to double down on the things that made them different but to simply take a slice of humble [pizza] pie and give the people what they wanted — a better tasting product. Sure it meant admitting that they didn’t have the best pizza out there to begin with, but it was a smart move based on market insights, and showed customers that the brand was willing to admit faults for the sake of an improved experience.
The takeaway: When we’re talking about how to enhance customer experience in retail and other industries, it’s impossible to do so without looking to the competition. Be open to acknowledging what your industry competitors are doing better than you, and then take that info and use it to create actionable change.
Invest in customer service
Why spend big money to acquire new customers if you’re not going to invest in the services that keep them around? If you’re more focused on marketing than customer service, you’re neglecting a major variable in successful CX and wasting money in the process. Remember: there’s a lot more to be gained from customer retention than acquisition. Literally and figuratively, it pays to prioritize customer service.
Consider Aldi, which in 2017 was awarded top supermarket for customer service in the UK. How does a company offering their customers fewer products and a lack of frills take on the coveted top spot? It’s easy: by investing in service provisions designed to create more loyal customers. The company (which sometimes doesn’t even advertise the opening of their new stores), focuses on a few things that they can do really well — in this case, frugal prices and fast checkouts. In turn, these customer service mainstays have become ads in and of themselves, with the Aldi value proposition ingrained in every piece of advertising they do (or don’t) put out.
The takeaway: Excellent customer service speaks volumes. Focus on what you’re best at, and be consistent across the board. Your customers will take note, and so will your prospects.
Any organisation with any budget can invest time and resources into a CX strategy that’s optimized for continual satisfaction — and there are plenty of benefits to doing so. But a great customer experience doesn’t happen by accident. Put in the effort, and make the customer experience a priority. There’s always more to learn and there are always opportunities for growth. If you’re serious about CX (and you definitely should be) then take the time to ingrain it into everything that you do, including those behind-the-scenes efforts that your customers never see.
Want to learn more about how good customer experiences can grow your business? Get the complete guide here.