Understanding what your customers expect from you and then delivering on those expectations is central to the customer experience (CX) and, ultimately, the success of your business.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience, or CX, is your customers’ holistic perception of their experience with your company or brand.
CX is the result of every customer’s interaction with your business, from navigating your website to interacting with your customer service reps to receiving the product/service they purchased from you. Everything you do—or fail to do—impacts their perception of your brand and their decision to keep coming back or not.
Are customer experience and customer service the same?
There’s a difference between CX and customer service. Customer service is essentially one aspect of the overarching customer experience. Here’s an example: Say a customer lands on your website and opens an online chat with an associate who helps them find the product that best fits their specific needs. That’s great customer service.
Now let’s say that after their product is shipped, the customer receives a prompt follow-up text and shipping notification email. And then, when the package arrives, a hand-written thank you note is included in the box with a bonus product sample and coupon for their next purchase. That’s a great customer experience.
While customer service is always essential, consumers today expect more. They want to feel connected to the brands they support—and creating an experience makes those connections happen.
Here’s why prioritizing customer experience matters.
Today’s customers value the customer experience: 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience (PWC). And according to Harvard Business Review, customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more than those who had the worst past experiences, reinforcing that the CX has a significant impact on business outcomes.
Implementing a solid customer experience strategy can also help you retain your existing customers and build revenue.
There’s good reason to work hard to keep your customers around: Companies lose $1.6 trillion per year due to customer churn (Accenture). And what’s more, according to Forrester, it costs five times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep an existing one.
Companies that keep their existing customers spend less to make more:
Gartner reports that a staggering 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of its current customers.
For these reasons and more, it makes sense to focus on CX. But what does that actually look like? Simply satisfying customer expectations doesn’t cut it anymore. Today’s customers want an authentic connection with the brands that they support. They expect responsive, personal service and demand not only quality but transparency.
Beyond those basics, customers want to be delighted. Yet, according to an Acquia study, 66% of customers can’t remember the last time a brand exceeded their expectations. So how can you make sure that your brand’s CX hits the mark?
Follow these tips for developing a solid customer experience strategy.
1. Define your customer experience vision.
The first step to creating an exceptional CX is to start with your “why”: Identify your business’s most critical and essential elements. Then, articulate them through your guiding principles and reiterate them through training and everyday processes or programs.
At Shamrock, our charge (and vision) is to provide Raving Fan customer service and create success for our clients, partners, colleagues, and community. One way we make that happen is through our 40 Ways to Develop Awesomeness program. Specific initiatives like these, foster and reinforce the fundamental values that define who we are and how we operate, shaping the CX we deliver.
2. Understand who your customers are.
Before you can deliver a great CX—providing quality, service, value, and benefits to your customers while making a personal, memorable connection—you need first to understand who they are and what they need from you. What are their pain points? What drives their purchase decisions?
Developing customer personas can help you learn more about the needs and preferences of your core customers—and then shape your product or service offerings to create a better CX that meets them right where they are.
3. Make an emotional connection with your customers.
Moving well beyond offering new products or upgrading existing services, the key to a memorable CX lies in the emotional connection your customers feel to your brand. Research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion, as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions.
Harvard Business Review offer more: “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs (for details, see our HBR article “The New Science of Customer Emotions”). That means appealing to any of dozens of “emotional motivators” such as a desire to feel a sense of belonging, to succeed in life, or to feel secure.”
4. Gather customer feedback.
Finding out what your clients think is key to helping you give them the best CX: How do you know what your customers want from you if you don’t ask?
The information you gather is essential to your business marketing. Their input can help you align products, services, and delivery, adjust how you manage your business, and satisfy their needs more effectively. Plus, by asking your customers for feedback, you let them know that their opinion is important to you.
To gather that data, use online and offline surveys, engage them on social media, follow up their purchase with an email asking for input, make a follow-up phone call, or invite them to leave reviews.
5. Respond promptly to customer inquiries and comments.
Digital media feeds our instant-access culture and the lofty expectations we now have regarding customer service. While it may not be practical for you to assemble a dedicated 24/7 call center, consider using live chat software or chatbots to provide prompt customer responses.
Monitor and respond promptly to social media comments. According to a Gartner study: “Businesses that do not respond to social media messages encounter a 15% increase in customer churn.”
6. Use customer feedback data.
To get the information you need from your customers about their experience, get specific about the questions you’re asking: Identify the touchpoints along the customer journey where you’d like to focus and shape your queries accordingly.
Finally, after collecting that valuable customer feedback, take the next step: Put the systems in place to help you analyze it and then, act on it regularly by reviewing the data and responding with appropriate next steps such as delivery adjustments, product alignments, etc.
Dive into Hotjar’s tips from 100+ CX experts for more CX inspiration and guidance.
Remember that creating an excellent CX takes more than gathering customer feedback and responding quickly to inquiries. It all starts with a customer-centric business model embraced by your entire team. Identifying your “why” and then implementing actionable programs and practices that support that charge—and promoting buy-in from your team—can help you deliver on those expectations.
When those expectations are met and even exceeded, it can help your business perform better and create happy customers.