Most businesses recognise the importance of good customer service, but how many consider the overall customer experience? Great customer experience is vital, so read on to find out what it is, why it’s important and how you can wow your customers.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is the perception that people have of your brand throughout every single interaction with you. It covers how they feel about your products and services, plus their interaction with the staff you employ. The start of the customer experience is right at the very first encounter when people become aware of your company, maybe through a search on Google. It then includes every aspect of their journey with you through to purchasing and after-sales. Customer service is therefore just one element of the overall customer experience.
Why is customer experience so important?
To understand the importance of customer experience, it’s helpful to look back at some of your own purchases over the years and recognise what a great experience feels like versus a poor one. It’s highly likely that the latter prevented you from using that company or product again, creating disappointment or possibly even anger.
Conversely, the great experience is likely to have generated positive feelings and maybe led you to purchase again or pass on a referral to the people around you.
When considering your own business, it’s important to recognise that customers these days have the power. With easy access to the internet, they can look at online reviews or social media and search for alternatives (ie. your competitors) as a comparison. If you give people a great experience at every stage of their journey, they’re more likely to turn into a loyal customer and refer you to other people, both face to face and online.
How can you measure customer experience?
Without analysing what your customers are experiencing when buying from you, there’s no way of knowing what you’re getting right and where you need to improve. There are a few different ways you can measure this:
- Customer satisfaction surveys
Surveying your current customers can give tons of useful information. Asking a few questions about their experience of your product or service, their impression of buying from you and how likely they are to purchase again will highlight the things you’re doing well and those which need a little extra attention.
As a bonus, satisfaction surveys demonstrate that you care about your customers’ opinions and reminds them that your business is still there. You could contract a company specialising in customer satisfaction surveys to do the hard work for you or, alternatively, use one of the free software apps such as Survey Monkey or Google Docs.
- The rate of customer churn
Losing customers happens and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, just that a contract for services has come to a mutually satisfactory end. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that it generally costs more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer.
Analysing how often you’re losing customers and the reasons behind those figures will identify trends or problems which you can then do something about. For example, do you lose the majority of customers right at the point of clicking to purchase from your online shop and, if so, could it be something to do with user experience or website issues.
- Asking your customers about new products or features
As a business owner, it can sometimes be difficult to step back from day to day operations and come up with innovative ways which keep things fresh and develop your products or services. Added to that, if you’re too far removed from your customers, you may not know what they’re actually looking for.
Social media channels, newsletters and surveys are great ways to poll your customers and ask what they would like to see from you. It also helps them to feel valued and involved in your business, plus puts your company at the forefront of their mind. Recurring ideas give a good indication that further development would be useful.
- Analyse customer support enquiries
Your customer service team can be a font of knowledge when it comes to understanding how customers view your organisation. They’ll have a general feel for how satisfied people are when they call and their list of top complaints will indicate where you need to do some work.
Uncovering persistent issues at any stage of the customer journey are a red flag and highlight the need for closer investigation. Check whether people have difficulties navigating your website or have issues with delivery. Also look at their feedback on customer service and product or service quality.
Tips to help you create a great customer experience
If you want to work on customer experience in your business, mapping the customer journey and becoming clear on the touch points with you is a good place to start. Once you fully understand this, you can begin creating great experiences for each stage.
Every business will have different things to work on, but there are some generic things to consider:
- What do your customers want?
- Do you provide a personal service (eg. local boutiques often get to know their customers by name and clothes size)?
- Can you be flexible with requests (eg. cafes catering for special diets)?
- Do people find it easy to get more information on your products and services?
- How simple is your purchasing process?
- Are your products or services easy to use?
- Do you provide training to help users get the most out of your products and services?
- Is your website mobile responsive or do you have an app which does as much as you can on a desktop computer?
- Is your website easy to navigate?
- How often do you email your customers/prospective customers (too often that you become annoying, not enough that they forget about you)?
- How difficult is it to speak with a person in your organisation when problems happen?
Creating great products and services is crucial, but how you deliver those to your customers is almost as important. Businesses creating first-rate experiences will set themselves apart from the competition.
If you put yourself into the mind of your customer and then design process which consider their needs first, you’ll be well on the way to creating an outstanding service which they will want to use again and again.
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