Building an effective customer experience management strategy means going the extra mile to make sure customers feel their money was well spent. Research shows that’s a smart approach because excellent customer experiences can give companies a competitive edge and boost revenue. After all, a happy customer who has an amazing experience often becomes a loyal customer, often also telling people about their experiences, which can help drive sales.
In Salesforce’s 2022 survey of 17,000 customers, 88% said the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. In addition, 96% said excellent customer service builds trust.
On the flip side, all it takes is one bad experience with a company for turned-off customers to take their business elsewhere.
Acquiring new customers is always an important goal, but keeping the ones you have may boost the business’s bottom line even more.
Clearly, orchestrating a positive customer experience is key for business leaders. Yet pulling off an exceptional experience consistently isn’t always easy.
“Businesses need to think about all the ways they’re supporting a relationship with the customer,” said Michael Ruby, president and chief creative officer at Park & Battery, a Calif.-based branding, marketing, and content agency. “Not just when they’re buying your product or using your service.”
Managing the customer experience takes careful planning, measurement, and constant reiteration to refine every customer touch point, from online transactions to in-store interactions and beyond. Here are five tips to help business leaders develop and continually improve their customer experience management strategies.
1. Anticipate Customers’ Needs
A company can’t deliver excellent customer experiences without first tuning in to exactly what the customer wants and needs.
The Salesforce survey found that 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
“It doesn’t make sense to keep sending me emails about women’s yoga pants if I’m not a woman and I don’t do yoga,” Ruby said. “But if you recognize that I buy flowers at a certain time of year for an anniversary or birthday, you can send me offers I’m actually interested in.”
Businesses may want to research their ideal customer by looking at current customers. Companies can analyze customer data to create buyer “personas,” which describe the types of people who find the business appealing, including by age, gender, geographic location, income, and interests. Once you understand your ideal buyer, you can make sure your company’s customer experience meets their expectations.
Business owners may also want to analyze competitors’ offerings. For instance, if a competing hotel is delighting customers with the simple and inexpensive placement of a chocolate on a pillow, perhaps yours could take the customer experience a step further by providing vouchers for a free drink at the bar.
2. Make Emotional Connections
Emotions drive people’s behaviors. So it’s worth asking how customers feel after interacting with your business. The answer could make the difference between a one-time purchase and a lifelong customer.
The three emotions tied most strongly to customer loyalty are feeling appreciated, valued, and respected, according to a 2021 Forrester survey. Additionally, Forrester found that when a company makes customers feel appreciated, 76% will keep their business with the brand, and 87% will recommend the brand to friends and family members.
How far are some companies willing to accommodate evolving consumer preferences? Companies that can find creative ways to exceed expectations during every interaction are bound to give customers that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes them return to the brand again and again.
3. Empower Employees to Fix Problems Quickly
Customer service problems are bound to arise – it’s how the company responds that can make the difference between a bad and great customer experience.
When a company doesn’t follow through on its promises to customers or keeps them waiting too long, customers are bound to feel frustrated, annoyed, and disappointed.
Many companies use artificial intelligence to provide real-time customer support to answer customer questions promptly, but a self-service chatbot may not cut it when customers crave a conversation with a live representative. Still, if that live representative can’t or won’t fix a problem because they lack authority to take action, that conversation may also feel like a waste of time.
Empowering employees to act makes a business more proactive from the customer’s point of view. Companies can encourage employees to be polite, graciously accept returns, provide upgrades, and offer discounts, since taking immediate action to help can smooth over a rocky customer experience.
4. Measure Customer Satisfaction
What’s the best way for a business to find out whether customers had a pleasant experience? Ask!
Focus groups and customer surveys can yield key insights into aspects of your products and services that people like and don’t like, as well as whether customer experiences are meeting, exceeding, or falling short of expectations. To encourage participation, consider offering incentives, such as future discounts.
Make it simple for customers to respond, for example, by seeking a quick response to a text immediately following a transaction. In general, you may want to keep your request for feedback brief.
You might boil your query down to the one classic Net Promoter Score question: On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague? This simple question can allow business leaders to get a pulse on how customers feel, allowing them to utilize the data to create memorable marketing campaigns.
To gather other feedback from customers, listen to conversations happening about the brand on social media and review websites. Managers can weigh in by thanking people who praise the company for an excellent experience and follow up with unhappy customers to help resolve their issues. Not only will the customer who took the time to write about your business appreciate the attention, other people browsing these reviews will notice that you're being responsive.
“It’s just as important to find out what works as what doesn’t work, so you can adjust the things that have a negative effect and double down on the things you’re doing right,” Ruby said.
5. Reward Loyalty to Increase Retention
Acquiring new customers is always an important goal, but keeping the ones you have may boost the business’ bottom line even more. Many businesses find that their loyal customers are their best customers; in some cases, 80% of company profits can come from just 20% of customers.
So once you reel a customer in, it’s important to focus on retention. Sending personalized messages can make customers feel valued and foster brand loyalty. A company that remembers a person’s birthday and sends a greeting and discount is bound to make that customer feel special. A 2022 Merkle study found that nearly nine out of 10 customers enjoy receiving personalized offers based on their interests, browsing habits, or purchase history.
Loyalty programs can also nurture long-term relationships with established customers. Develop a point program that rewards customers with discounts for their repeat business. Arrange for members-only preview sales and discounts. Building on any positive connections with existing customers can be one of the best investments a company makes.
It’s important for businesses to proactively manage customer experiences, making sure people feel positive when interacting with the company at every turn. Developing clear customer experience management strategies, including creating an emotional connection with customers, empowering employees to correct mistakes, and rewarding loyal customers, can go a long way toward leaving customers feeling satisfied – and returning for more.
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