In a world where people can buy pretty much anything they want at the click of a button—whether it's yoga pants or the latest bestseller—providing a great customer experience is a key way to differentiate your brand.
Providing excellent products is no longer enough. Of course, it's a start, but people expect to have more than a transactional relationship with the brands they do their business with. They want a connection.
That's why improving your customer experience is so important. But even with the best intentions, quality customer experience doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort and careful planning to understand your audience and offer them exactly what they need.
Customer experience (CX) is the relationship between a business and its customers, and is directly related to the anything that has an effect on how customers perceive your business.
"Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with your business. Say you run a restaurant, for example. CX covers everything from the time the customer sees a poster for your restaurant through to booking a reservation, eating dinner and beyond.
It covers every single interaction, no matter how fleeting. Whether it's a message to your online support team, an ad they see on Instagram, or their actual experience using your product or service. Each one of these exchanges—and limitless others—along the customer journey, positively or negatively effects the relationship.
The difference, in a nutshell, between customer service and customer experience is that customer service is just a single part of the customer journey. It's just one slice of the pizza.
Customer experience, on the other hand, is the whole thing. Every delicious piece of cheese, every slice of tomato and juicy olive. Now we want pizza. Yum. The point is, CX encompasses all interactions a customer has with your business, rather than just a single part of the wider process.
|Customer Service (CS)||Customer Experience (CX)|
|Part of CX: It refers to the 'support' function of a business whose end goal is to improve a customer's relationship with the company. It is a part of the CX.||Entire user journey: It refers to the entire customer journey and involves participation from multiple teams within the company such as Sales, Marketing, CX, etc., to improve the overall experience of the customer.|
|Reactive: It is reactive in approach where the customer makes the first move to get their queries addressed.||Proactive: It is proactive in approach where the brand listens to the customers, preempts their needs, and voluntarily works towards improving the customer's journey with the brand.|
|Event-specific and Isolated: Not every customer needs customer service--except the ones who have a specific complaint/issue with the product/service. Hence, it is event-driven.||Holistic: Every customer has a relationship/journey with the brand, which CX aims to improve holistically. So CX is independent of events and is vital for every customer who comes in contact with the brand.|
|Quantifiable: CS can be quantified and measured for efficacy.||Quality-driven: CX is more tangible in nature and focuses on improving the qualitative aspects of a customer's relationship with the brand.|
Keep in mind that they're not completely seperate things. Great customer service is a crucial element to your business's overall customer experience, and plays a leading role in any CX strategy.
It's difficult to overestimate just how important customer experience is, and as the sheer number of businesses around the world grows (meaning more competition), it's only becoming more important for businesses and customers.
It seems obvious that happy customers are good for business. But what specifically, can you expect when you implement a successful CX strategy? Here are a few of the key benefits:
“You’ve got to start with the Customer Experience and work back toward the Technology, not the other way around”
— Steve Jobs
A good customer experience isn't achieved with a single lightbulb moment. On the contrary, it happens through a combination of multiple "mini experiences" across your business.
At its core, customer experience is about making it as easy and pleasant as humanly possible for people to do business with you. That starts at setting honest expectations about what your product or service does, and continues through product design, help resources, the sales process and post-purchase support.
"Customer experience stretches across multiple teams within your business, from marketing and sales to customer support and design. Customers have a lot of smaller interactions. While these departments may operate separately to each other, it's crucial that they work together to create a seamless, reliable experience for your customer."
A lot of poor customer experiences come down to the disconnected nature of most businesses. Ever been on the phone to a customer support agent for hours, only to have the call cut out and have to start your story all over again? Or had to fill in yet another online form because your original got lost?
Situations like these are caused by poor communication and teams that aren't on the same page (e.g. siloed), leading to an inconsistent customer journey and a frustrating customer experience. Concentrating on combatting these two areas is a surefire way to improve your customer experience.
For example, say you run an online bakery and there's a supply issue. In a business with poor customer experience, customer service agents will just notify customers when they message to enquire as to why they can't put their order through. This is reactionary and unintuitive.
"When it comes to customer experience there's one simple truth: a customer-centric frame of mind will put you ahead of much of your competition."
On the other hand, a business with a more positive customer experience will tend to be more proactive. They might send emails to customers notifying them of the issue, share transparent updates on social media, and prompt customer support agents to set realistic expectations about when the problem may be solved.
Doesn't sound overly complicated does it? You can get bogged down in all sorts of complex customer journey mapping and flowcharts, but a major part of delivering a positive customer experience comes down to awareness. Awareness of customers as people; awareness of the end-to-end nature of their needs.
This is where surveys come in handy to uncover how customers see your business, and, more importantly, see how you can better serve them. Use simple NPS and customer satisfaction surveys to gain insights and look for areas of improvement.
Before you can improve your customer experience strategy you've got to know where your business stands. Trying to blindly improve something without a baseline (thus giving yourself no metric to work off) is as effective as battle before figuring out who your enemy is.
"When it comes to customer experience there's no specific number you can hit and say 'my work here is done'. Sure, you can collect a variety of metrics and data points, but at the end of the day you have to define your own idea of what success looks like through a combination of qualitative and quantitative data."
There are a few different ways to get started:
Whether you're happy with your existing customer experience strategy or feel that there's room for improvement (spoiler: there usually is), the positive news is with some simple customer-centric initiatives you can make huge improvements.
Customers engage with your brand in a number of ways—whether it's through social media, your website, a comparison site or in person. And businesses with the most effective customer experience don't restrict themselves to one channel.
Omnichannel communication is about providing a consistent experience across each channel. You need to ensure your customer's experience is seamless, frictionless and consistent however they interact with your company. It's about having synergy across your business in terms of:
This means delving into who your customer is. What interactions have they had with your business before? How long have they been a customer? What have they bought from you in the past? By understanding the customer you can discover what matters to them and use this data to improve customer satisfaction.
"Companies must understand customers by their digital behavior and offer the right channels that best align with the interests of each segment. Not all customers are the same."
— McKinsey: 'How to Capture What the Customer Wants'
Beauty brand Sephora are an excellent example of this principle at work. They have a mobile app, an ecommerce website and are active across all social media platforms, but the avenue they're most active is Instagram. Why? Because they understand that is where their audience spends a large portion of their time.
From Google searches and Spotify playlists to Netflix recommendations and Twitter feeds, we live in a world of algorithms and personalisation. It's no longer enough to be a one-size-fits-all solution—customers expect you to personalise your experience to them.
How? By using data to tailor the experience to each customer. This doesn't have to be anything drastic. It could be as simple as remembering their mailing address, giving recommendations based on previous purchases or mentioning specifics about their account or history with your business.
Small details go a long way. Maybe a certain customer likes being spoken to a certain way, or prefers a certain pronoun. Keeping tabs of these contextual details empowers your team to provide a memorable custom experiences with minimal extra effort.
More often than not, customers would prefer to solve their own problems then reach out to customer support or play roulette with a chatbot. To paraphrase the old idiom: give someone a fish and they'll eat for a day, teach someone to fish and they'll eat for a lifetime.
Empower customers to help themselves by building resources they can refer to. Most often this takes the form of a combination of a blog, a YouTube Channel and an up-to-date help center with answers to commonly asked questions.
The important thing is to ensure these resources don't just exist to look good—they must be updated regularly and full of relevant, actionable information. An article or video that isn't helpful will only add to the negative experience.
Customer feedback gives valuable insights into customer perception of your business, and is an often overlooked avenue for improving your business. It's one of the best ways to identify common pain points, while also showing what seems to be working.
There's just one hurdle to overcome: feedback is difficult to hear, especially when it's negative feedback. This is why so many businesses avoid it like the plague. If you can avoid this kind of narrow thinking and acknowledge the utility of feedback, you'll be on the fast track to a better customer experience.
The most successful businesses encourage an open feedback culture both within the company (via employee feedback) and externally from their customers. Showing that you care what people think builds trust and shows your listening, and also eases the burden on you as a business owner, by highlighting areas for improvement.
Customer experience is about more than customer service, but it's a big slice of the pie. 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. In other words: better service equates to a better overall experience, boosting satisfaction and retention.
What makes great customer service? Mostly it comes down to valuing the customer's time, maintaining a positive attitude and providing the resources and assistance they need to achieve whatever it is they're trying to. It's about being proactive and looking to surpass expectations, rather than settling for the "easy" solution.
You need a clear customer service philosophy. When you have a philosophy, rather than relying on motivation or individual initiative, your team can rely on a set of values and principles that drive the way they approach customer interaction. To aid your team, consider working an actionable employee development plan.
"It’s about giving your support team a system that influences their entire approach to customer service. From there you can ensure that your tools and resources are always being used in the most economic and suitable way for each situation."
Use any data and insights you've gathered on your customers to build a memorable experience tailored to your customers. Don't rely solely on your gut—see what the numbers are telling you and look at ways to adapt your business in response.
Do your customers tend to find your business a certain way? What do they think of your customer service? Do they find your website easy to navigate? Do they prefer to use mobile or desktop devices? All these questions and more can help you to refine your processes and better support customers.
A cost-efficient way to improve customer experience is by showing customers you appreciate them. By doing so you show customers that you value them, which can solidify customer relationships and keep satisfaction levels high.
“Customer appreciation isn’t gauged by monetary value or who can give the coolest rewards. It’s spotting an opportunity for a ‘wow’ moment or identifying customer needs and going above and beyond to add additional benefits."
—Jo Roque, Customer Success Lead at Paperform
Customer appreciation comes in many forms. How you manifest it will depend on your business. Examples include: sending out personalised thank you cards and swag, shoutouts on social media, creating a loyalty program, offering discounts or even something as an email on their birthdays.
Improving your customer experience won't happen overnight, but guess what? Very few things that are worthwhile do. Start by honestly assessing the current state of your experience, set goals and then implement those changes.
A seamless customer experience will pay dividends well into the future, impacting retention, boosting profitability and sending customer satisfaction sky high. There isn't a part of your business that it won't touch and drastically improve.
Why not get the ball rolling with a customer satisfaction survey? With Paperform's 600+ templates you can build forms and start collecting insights in minutes. Try our 14-day free trial today, no credit card required.
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