How to Improve Customer Experience (and Why It's Important)

/ 15 min read
Savan Kharod

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.

What is a customer experience strategy?

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.

Important: It's important to note that customer experience is an innately fluid concept. Why? Because, crucially, it's about how a customer feels about their interactions with your business rather than the reality.

What is the difference between customer experience and customer service?

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. The point is, CX encompasses all interactions a customer has with your business, rather than just a single part of the wider process.

This table breaks down some key touchpoints for both customer service and customer experience.

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 separate things. Having a great customer service experience is a crucial element to your business's overall customer experience, and plays a leading role in any CX strategy.

Why does improving customer experience matter for your business?

As the sheer number of businesses around the world grows (meaning more competition), customer experience is only becoming more important for businesses and customers.

Improving your customer experience doesn't just help your reputation, it can actually bring in more cash. According to Oracle, 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience.

The benefits of a great CX strategy are vast. Here are a few you won't want to overlook:

  • It increases customer retention. Customer satisfaction is directly linked to customer loyalty. In other words, happy customers tend to stay with your business for the long hall. Repeat customers bring steady income, are easier to sell to, give free word-of-mouth referrals and spend more at important times (e.g. holidays).
  • It boosts customer lifetime value. Research conducted by Bain & Co. (the creators of the NPS survey) found that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% increases profitability by more than 25%. The longer customers stay with your business, the more money they spend.
  • It builds brand loyalty. Loyal customers tend to make more purchases over time and become brand promoters, sharing the word about your business with family and friends. Brand loyalists are more than customers. They're evangelists for your brand, aligning themselves with your business as you evolve.
  • It makes your brand more reputable. Bad experiences with your customer service team (or failing to meet customers' needs) can lead to bad word of mouth and poor reviews on social media and comparison sites. This impacts your brand's reputation. Effective customer experience has the opposite effect—CX becomes a selling point for your brand that draws new customers and helps retain existing ones.
  • It gives your business a competitive advantage. What does the Apple Store have that other tech retailers don't? A remarkable customer experience. This sets a certain level of expectations that customers grow accustomed to, so when they experience subpar CX elsewhere they get frustrated. Customer experience is a relatively low-investment way to set your business apart  from the competition.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around”
— Steve Jobs

What makes a good customer experience?

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.

On the other side of the spectrum, a bad customer experience can roughly be defined as any time a business fails to live up to customer standards. This could be anything from an unintuitive product to slow customer service or a frustrating sales process.

"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.

What are some key features of a good customer experience?

A good customer experience can mean different things for different businesses. But many happy customers will credit the following features as signs of a positive customer experience:

  • A library of self-help resources
  • Proactive communication about issues
  • Transparency in marketing and sales
  • A consistent experience across all channels
  • A customer-centric attitude
  • Quality customer support available anytime

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.

A business with a more positive customer experience will tend to be more proactive with their messaging. They might send emails to customers notifying them of the issue in real-time, or share transparent updates on social media. They might also prompt customer support agents to set realistic expectations about when the problem may be solved.

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.

Important: 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.

How to measure customer experience

Before you can improve your customer experience strategy you've got to know where your business stands, and what your customer expectations are. Trying to blindly improve something without a baseline (thus giving yourself no metric to work off) is not an effective strategy.

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:

Use customer satisfaction surveys: What better way to find out what your customers think about your customer experience than by asking them directly? With a tool like Paperform, you can build a beautiful survey that asks customers how they feel, and automatically integrates that data with the CRM or marketing tools of your choosing.

Find your customer effort score: Customer effort score (CES) is a variant of customer satisfaction surveys that measures the ease of a service experience with your business. It asks customers how much "effort" interactions take. These interactions include anything from your in-product experience to how a customer service agent dealt with a query.

customer effort score survey

Calculate churn rate and customer lifetime value: Look at churn (the rate at which customers leave your business) and customer lifetime value (CLV) among your customers to learn more about your customer retention. If your churn rate is low and CLV is high, then you can be confident your customer experience is in a good place. By searching online you can find common statistics for your industry and compare your findings to competitors.

Create and maintain a community forum: Having a forum on your website can be a great way to generate discussion among your customers. You'll be able to see how your audience uses your product or service, as well as identify common complaints and feature requests. If you can't quite justify this for your business (or your audience is small), consider monitoring social media instead.

Consider customer service data: Average first response time, average reply time and contact resolution rate are important ways to monitor how often customers need support, and how quickly your team finds the solution. These are built into most help desk services and help evaluate the quality of your customer support.

Talk to support staff: Don't just stop with the numbers. Your customer support team deals with customers every day. What common roadblocks do customers encounter? What pain points continue to pop up? Some of this will be covered in surveys and other data, but having a face-to-face conversation can result in insights you might not have gathered otherwise.

7 strategies to improve your customer experience

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.

1. Build an omnichannel strategy

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 best customer experiences 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:

  • How your business is represented
  • How customers are treated

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 is 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 where they're most active is Instagram. Why? Because they understand that is where their audience spends a large portion of their time.

2. Personalize your service

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 pronouns. Keeping tabs of these contextual details empowers your team to provide a memorable customer experience with minimal extra effort.

Important: With Paperform's answer piping and conditional logic, you can personalise your customer interactions automatically by sending emails that address people by the name they provided, or referencing specific instances mentioned in their form.

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3. Create a library of relevant content

Many customers would  prefer to solve their own problems via self-service solutions rather than reach out to customer support, especially when the response time is slow. And while automation can be helpful for keeping your customer service team available for more complicated issues, not every customer wants to play roulette with an artificial intelligence powered chatbot.

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 user experience.

4. Encourage feedback

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 you're listening, and also eases the burden on you as a business owner, by highlighting areas for improvement.

customer feedback form

5. Emphasise customer service

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.

When trying to improve your customer service experience, try to complete these practices:

  • Know your product inside and out
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Respond quickly
  • Personalise communications
  • Empower customers to help themselves
  • Follow up on your promises

In order to keep everyone on the same page, 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.

6. Take advantage of data

Use any data and insights you've gathered on your customers to make 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 the data behind them) can help you to refine your processes and better support customers.

7. Celebrate 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.

Over to you

Like many important processes, improving your customer experience won't happen overnight. 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.

Why not get the ball rolling with a customer satisfaction survey, or a NPS question? With Paperform's 650+ templates you can build all that and way, way more. You could try it on a 14-day free trial today, no credit card required, and start collecting insights today.

This post was written by a guest author named Savan Kharod. Savan Kharod is a growth marketer, content rate optimizer, and tech enthusiast with an engineering background.

About the author
Savan Kharod
Savan Kharod is a Digital Marketing Professional at Acquire. He loves to share his knowledge and experience in digital marketing, social media marketing, customer service, and growth marketing.

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