Brands live or die based on their customer experience strategy. A winning approach converts casual customers into diehard fans who rave about their experience to friends and family, driving organic growth through word of mouth. But in today’s highly competitive markets, a single negative experience can devastate a brand’s reputation and even the most loyal customer will churn if they feel unappreciated.
“Be it customer service, product quality or just the way the customers feel about the companies they do business with,” CX legend Shep Hyken notes, “customer experience rises to the top of whether or not the customer will decide to keep doing business with a brand.” But as he points out, although 80% of business leaders think their companies already deliver amazing customer experiences, just 8% of their customers think so too.
In other words, it’s more important than ever that companies improve customer experiences to remain competitive.
But deciding where to invest resources as you improve customer experience can be a daunting task. Many companies over-invest in just one or two tactics, a strategy that risks missing critical customer experience pain points.
The best approach is to build a multi-layered strategy. Here are six tips to guide your efforts as you improve customer experience at your brand.
Improve Customer Experience With 6 Critical Steps
An impactful CX strategy is holistic, spreading across the organization to touch every area that has an impact on customer-facing processes. With the right approach, you can upgrade critical areas and processes to deliver a great customer experience.
Focusing on the following six steps will help you improve your customer experience strategy:
- Put Your Employees First
- Leverage Omnichannel Tools For Customer Service Success
- Optimize Platforms for Mobile Customers
- Mine Customer Feedback Data for Actionable Insights
- Focus on Customer Effort, Not Just Customer Satisfaction
- Break Down Leadership Silos to Unlock CX Innovation
1. Put Your Employees First
The first step to improving customer experience is to focus on customer number one: your employees. These are the people who develop, build and support your products and services. When they are happy and engaged, your buyers reap the rewards, and so does your bottom line.
Employees who feel they are valued and supported will become your fiercest brand advocates, driving everything from improved retention rates on the sales front to knock-your-socks-off, absolutely delightful customer service.
To really show employees how much they matter, treat them similar to any other customer group — build a journey map that lays out clear mileposts, from initial recruiting through potential growth paths and even external transition possibilities. Employees who feel their company genuinely puts employees first are highly engaged and ready to pass their excitement on to customers.
2. Leverage Omnichannel Tools for Customer Service Success
The notion that customers are best served by a single, focused customer service channel is a complete myth and one that’s harmful to businesses. Growing a customer base while minimizing costs requires processes that can scale effectively, and placing bets on just one or two service channels will harm scalability in the long run.
And when unexpected events hit, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic, companies with minimal channels quickly find themselves overwhelmed, with backlogs that grow exponentially. Before long, customers are waiting days or even weeks for basic responses.
Consider the banking industry, where many institutions have long relied on in-person support at branch offices or traditional phone support, for security reasons. As offices were forced to close, phone lines became backed up and customer frustration rose quickly.
Many customers who were previously resistant to digital banking services suddenly needed them — and many were looking for support around those services, only to be met with long wait times and inconvenient call-backs.
The better move is to be proactive and build out an omnichannel support strategy that offers customers multiple channels for connecting with service. As a general rule, your goal should be to meet your customers in their preferred channels, so take time to research where your customers are attempting to contact you.
Next, implement a robust customer support toolset that can incorporate those channels. For example, if customers are reaching out on social media but being redirected to email, then adding social media support tools is a must.
Look for opportunities to leverage specific channels for deflection strategies as well. Live chat features can also be used to redirect customers to knowledge base articles in real time, where they can find their own solutions quickly and get back to enjoying your product.
3. Optimize Platforms for Mobile Customers
It’s hardly a well-kept secret that most purchases are conducted online, particularly in the retail space. But many companies are still catching up with the fact that nearly half of those customers shop primarily through mobile devices.
While some businesses are working to optimize their mCommerce platforms to create smoother buying processes, customer service is often left out of the equation. That can be a costly mistake, however.
Buyers who purchase on mobile devices expect the service experience to be just as streamlined and efficient as the purchase process. When they have to switch devices or interact with un-optimized mobile solutions to resolve a customer service concern, they’re less likely to return for another purchase.
The best approach is to include robust mobile channel offerings in your broader omnichannel strategy. Integrating desktop chat features with SMS and text interfaces will provide mobile customers with easy and efficient tools while ensuring your service team can stay aligned around solving customer concerns.
4. Mine Customer Feedback Data for Actionable Insights
Your customers are already telling you how to improve their experience — all you have to do is listen. But even if you have created a comprehensive customer feedback program, using the Net Promoter Score®️ or NPS®️ developed by Bain Company, it can be difficult to identify actionable insights. For example, an NPS score may help you identify whether a particular customer is a Promoter, a Passive, or a Detractor — but not necessarily why they fit that category.
The solution is to dig deep on verbatim analysis — reviewing, categorizing and tracking the insights found in the open text comments in your feedback surveys. Not only will this approach help you understand the full story behind a survey score, it will also help you set up a system to translate those stories into quantifiable metrics.
For example, when you can cross-reference an NPS score with a coded system that shows how many Detractors were looking for mobile-optimized support options, it’s easy to calculate the value of investing in upgraded support tools.
Armed with actionable feedback, you can begin building a customer journey map that will show you where to invest resources to boost customer retention and increase customer loyalty.
5. Focus on Customer Effort, Not Just Customer Satisfaction
While customer satisfaction or CSAT scores will help you understand how a particular interaction went, it’s not the most reliable indicator of overall customer experiences. For that, it’s wise to implement a customer effort score or CES metric into your overall CX strategy.
A CES survey will surface the main reason why customers purchased your product in the first place, and highlight the goals they want to accomplish through your business. Any friction along the way increases their effort and, with it, the likelihood that they will churn. This is a particularly powerful way to highlight very specific CX pain points, enabling efficient cost/benefit analysis around critical product developments and marketing strategies.
For maximum impact, try running a focused CES survey cycle in tandem with your NPS or CSAT strategies, then cross-reference the results. Better still — segment it by specific product lines or subscription levels.
You may be very surprised to find clusters of Promoters who report consistently high satisfaction with individual interactions, yet who admit to finding specific processes frustrating. Armed with this information, you’ll be better prepared to target resources around high-stakes process improvements with big impacts on CX overall.
6. Break Down Leadership Silos to Unlock CX Innovation
The best customer experience is a personalized experience, and that process should start from the moment a potential customer first visits your site. This isn’t exactly major news on its own — targeted marketing and customized shopping experiences have been cornerstones of CX strategies for a long time. It’s no secret why, either — personalized shopping experiences drive retention through brand loyalty and increase revenue through high-satisfaction impulse purchases.
However, customers often have highly fragmented experiences, particularly when transitioning between desktop and mobile platforms or visiting a brick-and-mortar location as opposed to an ecommerce portal. This is because many companies are unable to close the technology gap and innovate fast enough to deploy solutions at a scale that matches customer expectations. The issue is exacerbated by segmented leadership strategies, where internal silos prohibit key data points from being shared.
If the goal is for a customer to transition seamlessly between purchasing online, visiting a retail location for pickup and following up with a service concern via a mobile device, then CX improvements will require timely collaboration. Digital marketers, distribution managers, and support leaders should be working towards the same goal, relying on the same data sets and measuring progress by the same method. To ensure this, company leadership has to drive innovation across departments, setting up cross-functional teams that are able to pivot quickly and adapt to evolutions in technology.
Develop a Winning Customer Experience Strategy
Upgrading your customer experience strategy is not a small project — and it shouldn’t be. developing a winning CX strategy requires significant investments in time and resources. Your brand will succeed or fail based on how efficient, memorable and impactful the experience is for customers.
Start by checking in with each department in your business, setting your sights on delivering a seamless, frustration-free experience for every customer. Ask whether team or department initiatives are serving the goal of improving customer experience, and align objectives accordingly.
With clear and focused leadership, your company can become a CX leader with an unshakeable reputation for creating lasting customer relationships.