In an increasingly digital world, customer experience is still the ultimate difference-maker. Competitors can offer similar products and services, but the way that customers engage and interact with these companies can be like night and day.
Actionable tips for improving customer experience are hard to come by, so we asked business leaders about their thoughts on the topic. Keep reading to get their insights.
Way back when, a company might have had one or two customer interactions and the deal was sealed. Now, there are so many points of contact along the way, and it takes far more planning to succeed.
“The customer experience is important to ensuring all interactions customers have with a company is a pleasant one,” said Andrew Bernstein, Co-Founder CEO of Kinder Beauty. “Delivering an excellent customer experience could be achieved by effectively listening to customer feedback and using that feedback to continuously enhance products, services, and the customer experience as a whole.”
If you notice customers losing interest or getting frustrated at certain points in the experience, stop everything and focus on those weak points first.
Follow the Feedback
Legendary brands are always evolving and improving, and customers will often point you in the right direction. This goes for CX, product development, marketing – everything!
“Your customers hold the key to what needs to happen next in your organization,” said Aidan Cole, Co-Founder and CMO at Hide. “Listen to what they say and you’ll know which products to create and how to market them. Let customers do the market research for you.”
The constant flow of feedback can be overwhelming for today’s CX strategists, but that feedback represents the roadmap forward.
Show You Care
When customers feel like they’re part of a family or trusted friend group with your brand, the hard part is over. They are happy to do business, but you still need to uphold your end of the bargain.
“The number one reason a customer stops doing business with a company is because they feel like you don’t care about them, so showing them that you care can go a long way in the customer experience,” said Shana Hall, Creative Director at Aurelle. “Delivering great customer service is actually quite simple. Know your customers, listen to them, respond as quickly as possible, fix any mistakes, and always think long-term when dealing with customers.”
Simply being positive and transparent with customers is a great way to build trust – try it!
If you need some inspiration for your next CX strategy, look around you – every time you buy something, it’s an opportunity to learn.
“Think back to your most recent customer experience at a restaurant, clothing store, or an online brand – what worked and what didn’t?” said Jeff Brown, President of Big Fig Mattress. “It’s easy to criticize other companies, but not so easy to point out problems with your own.”
Be creative with your customer experience and apply lessons from real life. That’s how you gain an edge.
It’s good to take pride in your products and the brand you have built, but when it comes to customer experience, being stubborn or ego-driven can be a detriment to success.
“The hardest thing is being able to put your ego aside so that you can learn,” said David Cancel, CEO and Founder of Drift. “We all want to create what’s in our head, but you need to be able to put your own ideas to the side and really listen to your customers to solve their problems.”
Tune into what customers are saying and respond appropriately, even if you don’t agree.
Every product you ship, every email you answer – these are small promises we make to customers every day. Keep those promises and the experience will go smoothly.
“Delivering an excellent customer experience is rather simple,” said Jeff Henretig, President of Apothecanna. “If you provide your employees with the resources and authority to deliver on the promise of excellence, then your customers will certainly be satisfied.”
Never let customers down, even on the most minor part of experience.
Building a customer base is difficult enough, so don’t start losing momentum when your company gets that first taste of success. Customer experience needs to remain a priority every step of the way.
“The more your company grows, the more effort and resources you’ll need to put into customer support and other aspects of the customer experience,” said Jordan Smyth, Founder and CEO of Gleamin. “You need to scale infrastructure and personnel just as you would any other department.”
It can be tough to maintain top-notch CX when growing rapidly, so don’t get ahead of yourself for the sake of quick profit.
Nowadays, customer experience is closely connected to marketing, public relations, and brand management. Keep this in mind when making adjustments to your CX plan.
“Tune into media and publications in your industry to gauge the perception of your brand and what people are saying,” said Peter Horvath, CEO of High Times. “Your stock is either rising or falling, and customer experience is usually the main driver of that.”
Not all press is good press when it comes to CX, so avoid negativity at all costs.
When you drill down, you see that every aspect of the customer experience comes down to managing expectations. Set them high, and go above and beyond.
“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not just to meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways,” said Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group.
Customers online always expect a bit more, so give them what they want, and then some.
Today’s customers want everything fast. Research, checkout, delivery, support – speed it up and you’ll find that the experience is much more pleasant for everyone involved.
“Companies might not get it right all the time and customers don’t necessarily expect perfection, but what they do expect is responsiveness,” said Patrick Crane, CEO of Love Sew. “And that is the first step to delivering an excellent customer experience.”
Some of these issues are tech-focused, while others require strategy and training. Do your best to expedite every part of the experience and reap the rewards.
Powered by Tech
Customer experience technology is the next big thing, so don’t get caught behind the curve. These tools help your staff anticipate customer needs and solve problems faster. What’s not to like?
“Your support staff can only do so much with patience and charm, so give them the technology and insights they need to provide a great customer experience,” said Anthony Puopolo, CMO of Rex MD. “There are so many great CX tools out there that are intuitive and quick to implement.”
Try out a few apps to see what delivers most ROI, then stick with the plan.
There are dozens of ways for customers to make their voices heard, whether on social media, in real life, or on your very own website.
“Allowing customers to have a voice is very important in delivering an excellent customer experience,” said Jordan Nathan, Founder and CEO of Caraway. “When customers feel they are being heard, their expectations will be met because they know that they are being listened to and their feedback is valued.”
Giving customers a platform is one thing, but implementing feedback is most important.
Set Key Metrics
If you don’t have a way of quantifying your customer experience with numbers and trends, it will be hard to push things forward in a positive direction.
“Every brand needs a unique set of metrics that will determine the quality of customer experience,” said Darren Litt, Co-Founder of MarketerHire. “Be clear about how you’re measuring success, or else you won’t make any meaningful progress.”
Metrics may change over time with priorities and short-term goals, so recalibrate now and then if necessary.
Matter of Loyalty
Customer loyalty might be the most vital metric for business success in the 21st century. With so much competition online, a loyal customer is worth more than ever.
“Companies simply cannot exist without their customers, which is why an excellent customer experience is vital for retaining business,” said Bill Yates, Executive Vice President at Velociteach. “Being courteous and focusing on consistent customer responsiveness will help set the right expectations with your customers and enable them to build trust in and loyalty to your brand.”
While customer loyalty is never guaranteed, a strong CX strategy can greatly boost your chances.
Complete Game Plan
Gone are the days when a few phones and a mailroom was considered a valid customer service strategy. It’s time to broaden the scope of customer experience and strategize from every angle.
“Recognize that the customer experience is not just service and support, but rather every point of contact and interaction that you have with your customers,” said Bing Howenstein, Founder of All33. “Marketing, sales, social media – it’s all part of the customer experience now.”
Where are the gaps in your customer experience right now? There may be more than you think.
Lend an Ear
Anyone who has ever worked in customer service knows from experience – some customers just want to vent. This is a part of the game, so learn how to manage the toughest customers.
“Be prepared to deal with irrational complaints and concerns, and don’t try to ‘reason’ your way out of an issue,” said Artie Baxter, CEO and Co-Founder of Paperclip. “Instead, be patient and listen to what the customer is saying, even if it doesn’t make sense. They just want to be heard.”
It’s not always a matter of logic when dealing with customers, so learn to navigate any situation.
For up-and-coming companies, word-of-mouth and referrals are big drivers of business. Make sure your customer experience is consistent so that everyone has something positive to talk about.
“Ensuring all customers have a great customer experience with your company every time they reach out for help will put the customer experience at the top of the game in your industry,” said Maegan Griffin, Founder, CEO and Nurse Practitioner at Skin Pharm. “Therefore, it is important to continually maintain a pleasant attitude, be knowledgeable and resourceful, and value your customers’ time. But it’s just as important to always take things a step further in order to exceed your customers’ expectations.”
Perfect consistency isn’t always possible, but strive for excellence and things will even out.
Customers behave quite differently depending on what they want, when they’re buying, and which channels they use to make a purchase. Consider all these factors when crafting a customer experience.
“Depending on what industry you’re in, customers will have different expectations and follow certain patterns of behavior they’ve learned over time,” said Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity. “Emulate the best brands in your space and one-up them in every way.”
Keep an eye on the competition, but remember to always make the customer experience your own.
Turn the Tables
Even the top brands in the world receive negative feedback from time to time. But rather than sweeping it under the rug, they look at the problem under a microscope and pick it apart, piece by piece.
“In every negative review or complaint is a kernel of truth that you need to unlock and use to your advantage,” said Eric Wu, Co-Founder and COO of Gainful. “Even if you don’t agree with the customer, try to see things from their perspective and make a change for the better.”
The lesson? There is always an opportunity to improve your CX efforts with the right approach.
The Human Element
So much of the customer experience is automated or digitized to make things easier on support staff. This is great news for the bottom line, but sometimes there is no substitute for human interactions.
“Find the balance between automating customer experience and having real people to facilitate interactions via message, email, or phone,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Ca
nvas Cultures. “It’s often better to resolve issues quickly and accurately with the help of support staff.”
The next generation of successful businesses will not only have strong products, but a seamless and memorable customer experience to back them up as well.
Don’t forget these words of wisdom from today’s entrepreneurs because they’ll be the ones setting the bar for years to come.