Consumers interact with brands across a multitude of touch points through the buyer’s journey. Every interaction makes an impact on your prospects that will set the stage for the relationship, making it crucial to ensure that every touch point comes with a positive experience, but above all, companies must monitor the big picture: the total experience customers have from end-to-end in doing business with your company.
So, what does it take to create an incredible customer experience from end-to-end? Experts make a variety of recommendations from taking a top-down approach to continuously monitoring customer feedback across touch points, going the extra mile when it’s least expected, and more. There are myriad ways to influence the customer experience, so to help companies identify the most impactful strategies, we asked a panel of CX professionals and business leaders to weigh in on this question:
“What’s the single most effective way companies can improve customer experience?”
To find out what you can do to make a big impact on customer experience within your organization, read on to learn what our experts had to say.
Meet Our Panel of Customer Experience Pros and Business Leaders:
Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur and owner of GMR Web Team, GMR Transcription and RepuGen. He specializes in digital marketing and online reputation management, and strives to assist small businesses in maximizing their internet revenue.
“The best way to improve the customer experience is to…”
Listen and respond to customers immediately. Whether online or in private, you need to ensure that personal interaction is there. If you find out that they had a bad experience, give them a call. If you find out they had a great experience, let them know they are always welcome back. Also, respond online to ALL reviews: both positive and negative. Let customers know that their voice has been/will be heard.
David Adams is the CEO and Founder of HomeSuite, an online marketplace dedicated to furnished housing.
“The most effective way for companies to improve the customer experience is to…”
Respond to every comment and review. Whenever it’s possible, my company responds to any question or comment our customers share on Facebook and Twitter. Creating a successful company requires customers who love and trust our product, and answering their questions on social media will show that your company is reliable and trustworthy.
Anne Miner, President and Founder of The Dunvegan Group, is a certified trainer of The Platinum Rule(r). She has helped companies of all sizes to adopt this practice and improve customer experience, customer retention, and employee retention.
“The best way to improve customer experience is…”
To teach your employees to practice the Platinum Rule(r): Treat others the way they would like to be treated! This requires training of your employees, developing and mastering fundamentals of emotional intelligence, and rewarding them for practicing their mastery with customers.
Everybody wins! Your employees will be more collaborative and compassionate with one another and with your customers! When employees are skilled at the Platinum Rule(r), you will see your customers enjoying their experience.
Peter Schroeder is the Digital Marketing / Social Media / Customer Success Manager at RendrFX.
“The most effective way a company can improve customer experience is simply by…”
Listening. Your audience will tell you exactly what they want over time. If not, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see improved. Often times, companies get stuck looking at the same things with the same people. This creates tunnel vision and results in companies ignoring customer experience. Always be looking for outside perspectives and always take those perspectives into consideration.
John Turner is CEO/Founder of QuietKit, which provides guided meditation for beginners for free.
“The best way to improve customer experience is…”
To use customer feedback as your north star on what to improve.
It’s not always as simple as saying whatever gets complained about most you should change first, but use your customer service feedback, problems reported, and thoughts from your customer service team as ways to quickly
and easily learn what’s not working or what’s frustrating customers the most.
You might have some intuition into what you should improve, but this feedback will help focus you much better than any other method out there, and if you use that feedback in a tight feedback loop, making improvements based on feedback on a regular, scheduled basis, your customer experience will improve drastically.
Chip Bell is a noted customer service expert. He is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service that Sparkles.
“The key to improving customer experience is to…”
Listen deeply to what customers need and expect, but stay keenly attuned to what they hope and desire. Smart organizations are not just responsive, they are proactive and anticipatory. Disruptors (like Uber, Netflix or Google) are successful because they are leading the customer, not just following the customer.
Sophie Knowles is a web developer and co-founder of PDF Pro, an online software for editing and converting PDF files.
“One effective way companies can improve the customer experience is to…”
Include a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website. This helps your customers quickly research answers to questions they may have with your product or service. It also helps you save time having to respond to the same inquires repeatedly. An effective FAQ list on a website is a critical component of improving the customer experience.
Bryan Robertson is the Chief Revenue Officer at Mindyra, a healthcare technology company that has created a tool to help primary care physicians diagnose and treat mental health disorders.
“To improve the customer experience, companies can…”
Provide customers with a demo of your product. Before deciding to make a purchase, prospective customers want see see your product in action. This is especially true for technology firms or companies that have built something new and innovative. Ideally a product demo is given in person. However, an online video can also work. Improving the customer experience starts with helping customers better understand what you have to offer.
Robin Graham is the founder of Q Canvas Prints, an online store for ordering customize customized canvas artwork.
“The best way companies can improve the customer experience is to…”
Respond to online customer reviews. Your customer feedback is a reflection of the status of your company. It’s critical to engage with your customers online, regardless of whether they leave a positive or negative comment. They will appreciate your acknowledgement of their opinion. This strategy also allows you to discover areas in which you can improve your business.
Sabrina Hartel is the Business Development Director & CEO of Social Media Marker.
“The single most effective way companies can improve customer experience is through…”
Active listening and showing empathy.
Zondra is the Founder of Blu Skin Care.
“The most effective way for companies to improve the customer experience is…”
As soon as a customer purchases a product or use your service, immediately acknowledge them with an email, phone call or thank you note. Be sure not to offend a customer by bombarding them with phone calls or emails. One contact is enough. Be sure to leave your contact information if they have any questions. Treat all customers equally. The only time you should give one special treatment over another is when you want to demonstrate to a potential or new customer how you treat your existing ones.
As Pole Position Marketing’s Social Content Liaison, Julie Graff is in charge of content and social media strategy for the company and its clients. She has been working in marketing since 2004 and was previously a journalist.
“In today’s online environment…”
It’s important that all companies monitor the internet, particularly social networking sites and review sites, for mentions. Specifically, they need to be on the look out for any complaints or problems and be sure to address those quickly. Customers are increasingly turning to social media when they are unsatisfied rather than contacting the company through traditional avenues. To keep customer happy and protect your company’s reputation, companies need to be on top of these mentions.
For more than 25 years, Robyn has developed marketing communications, social media, advertising, promotion, and public relation programs that drive new business. An award-winning copywriter, she brings to Catalyst years of direct and digital marketing experience, both client-side and agency-side, working on major accounts such as American Express, Columbia House, Intuit, Xerox, IBM, Pitney Bowes, and Ziff-Davis. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Chicago and a Master’s Degree in Journalism with a concentration in Advertising from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.
“The single most effective way to improve the customer experience is to…”
Develop a customer journey map to discover what customers are thinking, feeling and doing at each stage of their relationship with you.
By cataloging key customer touch points and talking to customers about their experiences during key touch points, it’s possible to create a customer experience map that provides a concise picture of what customers are thinking, feeling and doing. The map not only identifies gaps in customers’ experiences, it also delivers an actionable framework to improve them.
Customers interact with your brand across multiple channels. They expect a holistic, integrated experience in and across all of them. Although marketers recognize the need to adopt an omnichannel strategy, many are struggling to successfully connect consistently with customers across all available outlets. Most organizations are structured to focus on individual channels, touch points, technologies or features, rather than the overall brand. A customer experience map bridges this gap and examines how customers interact with your brand during each stage of the customer life cycle.
A customer experience map is a strategic tool for presenting your customers’ points of view. It includes four key components:
- Guiding principles-these emerge as you begin to understand the journey
- Customer journey-shows what customers have actually done
- Qualitative online and offline research-conversations with customers to gain insights about what they are thinking and feeling
- Opportunities-gaps in the customer experience that can be closed by improved marketing and customer service
For more information on how to create one – and why you should – take a look at this white paper.
Derric Haynie is CEO of SplashOPM, a social media marketing agency. He’s regularly seen speaking and blogging about startups and growth marketing in San Diego, San Francisco, and across the universe.
“If you’re in an existing business looking to improve the customer experience, you really have to start with…”
A top-down realignment of the company goals and values.
You can’t just tell your employees to treat your customers better, you have to instill them with the power to treat your customers better, and even incentivize them to do so. Some quick ideas to spark this: Make everyone in the company actually talk to one or more customers some point in the next 30 days. Create a contest to see who can get the best review or feedback from a customer. Ask your customers what they want in a survey and theorize on how you can make that happen. Do things for your customers that fall outside of your typical business. If you run a local services company, maybe this means hosting an event or charity.
The key to a great customer experience is that you are whole-heartedly selfless, patient, and present with each person your company interacts with. Empower your employees to see the value behind going the extra mile, and your customers (and your revenue) will be sure to notice.
Boothman is a best-selling author of business books including How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less. He is a top-rated speaker on connecting, convincing and leadership.
“In terms of improving the customer experience…”
Giving a damn is the new benchmark.
When you give a damn, you give energy – good quality energy. When you don’t, you zap energy. My butcher, hardware store, and car dealership are all 20 minutes farther away than their competition, but they really give a damn about their staff, their products, services and clients – and it shows. They flourish and grow while their imitators come and go. Why? Because human beings are energy systems. We thrive on the quality and the quantity of the energy we get from other people.
Companies like WestJet, Four Seasons Hotels, and Tim Horton’s give a damn – and it shows. They energize their staff and customers. Trip Advisor rates thousands of vacation spots that give a damn. There are online reviews for everything, because giving a damn is becoming the new benchmark – and it comes from the gut, so it’s easy to spot a fake.
- WestJet employees are owners. They share the wealth, listen to their customers and staff, and celebrate successes.
- Four Seasons golden rule is: “If you treat people well, the way you would like to be treated, they will do the same to you.”
- Tim Horton’s mandate is to find ways to give back to their guests and to the communities in which they operate.
Here are three ways to show you give damn:
- Listen with your eyes and give physical (nods and smiles) and spoken feedback.
- Create empathy by assuming rapport ( treat people as if you already know them).
- Get permission and buy-in by combining people, projects, and purpose.
Sure, you must deliver the goods, but increasingly consumers are making their purchase decisions based on:
- “Does the chef who prepared this meal look like she gives a damn about my food?”
- “Does this mechanic give a damn about my car?”
- “Does this realtor/bank/airline give a damn about the impact they have on my life?”
It’s easy to spot and relatively easy to fix.
Jennifer Martin is a five-time business owner, a Business Coach, the Founder of Zest Business Consulting, and author of the upcoming book, Loving Your Business to Wealth. She helps Small Business Owners, Leaders, and Managers understand how to build a thriving, profitable businesses and meaningful personal lives while spreading more love in the world.
“The best way to improve the customer experience is by…”
Getting to know what your customers want and need uniquely and creating a system to deliver that (rather than what you think they want) is the key to a happy customer.
So, what’s the best way to find out what they need from you so that you can stay relevant to them?
Here are some questions that can be used in surveys, through social media, on follow up questionnaires, and by your staff – before, during, and after they buy.
NOTE: just make sure you limit the number of questions you ask or you may alienate your customers. Also, rewarding your customers for their time and input will always be appreciated.
- What do you love about our Product/Service?
- What do you wish would happen more often when you work with us?
- If we were going to do something to make working with us (or buying from us) nicer or better for you, what would that be?
- If you were going to tell someone about our business what would you say?
- We are committed to delighting and amazing our customers. What could we do to make that happen for you?
- When you do business with us how would you rank the following? Rate them in the order of important from 5 being the most important to 1 least important. (Note: use each number only once.)
Easy to work with _______
Product or Service Variety ______
NOTE: add anything specific to your business and what you want to learn about.
- What would be the best way we could let you know that your business is appreciated?
- When you are purchasing the product/service we sell do you also buy from other businesses too?
If you chose Yes or Sometimes – why motivates your purchase?
- What other products or services do you wish we offered?
- We are constantly striving for excellence. What can we do to improve? (We welcome your honest feedback.)
Anna Johnson works on the marketing team for The Edge Prep and focuses on marketing, branding, and delivering the best customer service possible.
“To improve the customer experience…”
Customer loyalty and the willingness to be a return customer is born out of how well a company delivers what their customers want.
Enhance customer experience by hiring the right people who are willing to invest in your brand and make it great. Then give them the tools and training they will need to gain knowledge of the customers and their previous engagements with your business. This all helps to deliver what your customers want faster and seamlessly. Make your customers feel valued and it will improve their overall experience with your brand.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author of The Amazement Revolution.
“One of the most important ways to improve the customer service is…”
To make sure that everyone in an organization (company) is in alignment with the customer service/experience vision. The first step is to define that vision in simple and memorable terms. The Ritz-Carlton has one of the best service vision statements: We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Everyone who comes to work at the Ritz gets it and understands it. And, of course they are trained to the standards needed to deliver on the vision.
So, once the vision is set, the next step is to prove how everyone impacts that vision – and I mean everyone. Start with the basic customer journey map that plots out the typical interactions the customer has with the organization. Then show underneath each touchpoint how different departments and roles within those departments impact that touchpoint. At the end of the journey map (sometimes more than one map depending on different customer interactions), you should have been able to include every department within the company. Customer service isn’t just for the customer service department or the front line. It’s everyone’s job.
Yuliya is a recent addition to the marketing team at Enplug, a cutting-edge SaaS that interactively blends technology, entertainment, and information into any TV display. Yuliya has a background in entertainment management, audio visual advertising, and politics, having spent her last quarter of UCLA in Washington D.C., completing her degrees in Communication Studies and Political Science (Go Bruins!).
“For any retail location, public venue, or dining establishment, the easiest way to improve the customer experience is through…”
Engaging digital signage. Any business owner can take advantage of under-utilized TV screens to display an engaging array of rotating content including, but not limited to digital directories or menus, live social media and news feeds, real-time calendars, customized graphics or videos, and more.
As our collective attention span wanes, our brains become programmed at better processing digitized content.
Interactive digital displays can serve a welcome distraction for alleviating wait times, offering directions, or informing customers about the latest specials and promotions in a modern, innovative way. Not only does digital signage serve your customers, it can help expand your business’ social media presence and build recognition for your brand outside just your physical spaces. For more tips on how to engage customers, check out Enplug’s latest blog post on Brick-and-Mortar Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.
Sam Boothroyd is a Chartered Management Accountant with 15 years’ experience within accounting and Founder of Rymer Associates Online Accountant.
“I think the simple most effective way to improve customer experience is…”
To make the process as simple as possible for the customer. Modern technology is so advanced that companies should be looking at how this can be utilized to save their customers time. Most people are busy with work or looking after children so they don’t want purchases to take lots of time. With ourselves, they’re paying for a service so that service should be as simple for them as possible. They should leave thinking, “That was easier than I thought!” At no point should our customers feel like they’re having to put too much effort into working with us, as that is what would cause customers to move to a competitor. We introduced a feature recently where a customer could take a picture of a receipt on their phone and upload it via their phone to their client area. It was really well received as it made a process easier for them. Instead of filing receipts and then sending them in, they could just take a picture on their phone.
Lee Fisher is the Senior Manager at Wooden Blinds Direct.
“The best way for companies to improve the customer experience is to…”
Make your website as simple to shop on as possible.
When your customers place an order with you, ensure that their checkout procedure is as simple as it can be, without the need to click through endless pages of verifying details and making changes. It is also important that, if they decide to order at a different time or day, they are able to find the product they were interested in buying with a minimal amount of searching. To achieve this, set up an appropriate variety of category pages.
Carrie Seibert is the Owner/Founder of Soap Commander, LLC.
“The most effective way businesses can improve the customer experience is to…”
Make your customers feel like they count, and they will remember how you made them feel rather than what they purchased from you. Include a hand-written thank you card with their order, pay attention to their buying habits, learn about their family, address them by name, share yourself with them…these all require minimum effort, but provide a strong, lasting connection with your customer and let them know that you care. When they feel truly valued, they’ll be back for more.
Gene is a co founder of GreenPal which has been described as Uber for lawn care.
“The best way to improve customer experience is to…”
Listen to your customers. We do this by using a tool called Intercom.io. This in-app tool incorporates customer acquisition, marketing automation, customer feedback, customer support, and more importantly, chat. It costs us around $100 per month.
It allows us to live chat in our onboarding process and get real-time customer feedback. With these practices in place, we have seen over a 40% uplift in conversion after implementation.
It’s a great all-in-one tool that allows us to be more efficient and pragmatic in our future product decisions.
Sam Hawkins is the social Media Manager at Foodee, a corporate meal delivery service that makes it easy for companies to order food to the office. Established in 10 North American cities, Foodee’s mission is to bring your city’s food culture into every company boardroom.
“The easy answer is for any company to…”
Provide an accessible touchpoint during client troubleshooting.
As soon as someone has issues, it’s imperative that they can have their questions answered in a timely – if not immediate – manner. If a company can’t react to client issues, your value, as far as clients are concerned, lowers dramatically.
Companies such as Tesla and Apple all possess a high Net Promoter Score because, besides their products, their customer service warrants intense loyalty. As the benchmarks for how companies should operate, everyone should be following their lead as to how to handle customer relations. We here at Foodee have identified this early on, and as such, put any and all technical support as our number one priority.
Alex Novkov is Marketing Expert at Kanbanize, where he specializes in content marketing and social media.
“To improve the customer experience…”
Provide your customers with world-class support.
If you are in the software business, problems may appear at any time. The support your company provides must be top-notch, and you should respond as soon as possible. The team must take the time necessary to understand the problem in depth and yet uncover the issue in the fastest possible manner by asking closed questions to gather precise information. They need to be comforting and mitigating. Providing a solution is important, and explaining it in a non-technical way – crucial. Making sure you meet your customers’ expectations that the response is immediate will keep your customers happy and loyal, because they will be sure that whatever trouble may arise, you will always have them covered.
Swapnil Bhagwat is Senior Manager – design & digital media and implementing social, digital, marketing, design and web strategies for the group companies at Orchestrate. He is an MBA graduate with work experience in the US, UK, and Europe. Swapnil has worked for more than a decade across a range of businesses for the global markets.
“While being able to understand the core need of the customer during an interaction is the key to improve the experience, companies should also be able to…”
Understand the broader context of the communication. This helps them manage the end-to-end journey of the customer in a much better way. It also would help them build a robust platform to handle cumulative customer experience across a range of channels and touch points. Emphasizing on the entire life-cycle, right from the on-boarding process to post-sales acknowledgement of gratitude, is perhaps the only way to maximize customer experience.
Alex is the CEO at Kind Locksmith Vancouver. He is an entrepreneur and a technological advancement expert. Alex is always looking for a new ways to connect trades, digital marketing, and modern technologies in one business solution. Alex focuses on marketing analytics and on ways data can help to develop business.
“One thing to remember when looking for ways to improve customer experience is…”
Somewhere around two-thirds of American adults use their phones to check for products or services online more than four times every month. Because of that, it is a very good idea to keep your company’s website well-optimized for mobile phone use. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, 90% of customer experience problems for mobile phone users comes from websites that are either difficult to navigate or lack information. Another good technique is to install mobile customer support with the Q&A option where the most common concerns will be addressed. Some two-thirds of customers report that self-service through Q&A is their favorite method of solving problems when they experience a difficulty while navigating a website or trying to buy a product/order a service.
Stefanie Parks is the founder of DermWarehouse, a leading e-commerce site offering dermatological and skin care products. Stefanie’s digital marketing background and extensive knowledge of skincare products drove her to launch DermWarehouse.
“The best way to improve customer experience is to…”
Listen to your customers. Don’t think about how you would use your service or product; think about how your customers will. So many business owners get caught up in the way they see and envision their business, and they forget to take a step back and listen to/think about the people who really matter – the customers.
Rebecca Klemm, PhD, a.k.a The Numbers Lady, is a statistician, world traveler, and teacher. She has specialized in explaining mathematical concepts via everyday language. Reaction to her musical, Cookin’ Up Numbers, encouraged her to establish NumbersAlive! to make math meaningful with creative and fun learning tools for all ages.
“To improve the customer experience…”
I teach teachers, parents and students of all ages. I invent, create, and make learning tools for all ages. I teach in the language of the learner which keeps them engaged and makes them see the value. That is the key to customer experience – make it meaningful to the customer, NOT meaningful to the sender/creator. This is a lesson that I teach to teachers and executives.
When we ship items from our shop, we add a private note thanking them for their interest in our learning tools or a small surprise for purchases of a larger amount. Giving thanks and providing more than is expected tends to foster positive messages and repeat business.
If the customer is engaged and feels they are part of the experience, they will come back again and again for more. We are all human, so we fail sometimes. But we can try to make it up by saying we are sorry and offering an olive branch that is also meaningful to the customer.
Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is a lesson to learn in kindergarten. Now, there are greedy, bullying people who will try to take, take, and take. Another lesson to learn is that they are not really customers. They are often engaged only for their ego and to see how far they can push you and for how long. I learned that from colleagues who purchased lots of items with the intention of returning most of them after wearing the clothes to events by tacking the hang tags inside, using towels and other household items, etc. I then refused to purchase at the stores they bought from knowing that often the items were used. Eventually the return policies changed at these retailers, but I still refuse to support them as the good, real customers paid a higher price for the goods.
Jim is the Vice President of Marketing at Influitive. As a veteran marketer for early and growth stage technology companies, Jim is passionate about bringing transformative concepts to market. Before joining the Influitive team, he spent seven years in a variety of marketing leadership roles at Eloqua. Before that, he also directed marketing efforts at Unveil Solutions, Lernout & Hauspie, and several PR agencies. Even though he loves the challenge of building revenue engines at exciting companies, he directs most of his energy toward ensuring that his two kids have fantastic and memorable childhoods.
“From a marketing perspective, the single most effective way to improve customer experience is…”
To continually surprise and delight customers. This means continually brainstorming ways to make joy deliverable –through rewards, recognition, and a level of human connection that customers don’t expect. Exceptional customer experience happens when you offer your customers a level of personal value that extends beyond their interaction with your product, in the form of a real relationship with you. Taking the time to send them birthday wishes, congratulations on their personal accomplishments, and tokens of your appreciation shows how much you care about their experience with you, and that can take their customer experience to the next level.
Ramonica is a trained professional with over 20 years of hands-on experience in customer service, leadership development, and sales. She is the author of the book, Is Bad Customer Service Killing your Cash Flow?
“Customers are looking for one of two things…”
Effective automation/omni-channel processes that work or excellent in-person service/communication skills. Consumers have so many choices and are less forgiving when service fails. It is imperative to make sure that your service shines each time there is any customer interaction. With over $64 billion lost in poor customer service, companies must be willing to invest in doing what is necessary to retain customers. This simply means investing in hands-on training!
Rachel Stephens is an SEO & Customer Behavior Analyst at TotallyPromotional.com with a background in merchandising.
“The single best way to improve customer experience is to…”
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Take the time to experience your site as a customer. Sometimes we get so involved in operations that the details get lost in the customer experience. It is important that your site is easy to use for your seasoned customers, as well as first-time visitors.
I suggest regularly visiting your site and placing a full conversion as a customer to make sure there are no errors. Additionally, ask a friend who is not involved in your business to complete a task on your website while you look over their shoulder. This simple task really helps identify areas of confusion that you may ordinarily miss. Lastly, utilize heat maps and session recordings to analyze customer behavior and determine where your site can be improved.
Lou Altman’s entrepreneurial spirit had him selling cold sodas to motorists on hot summer days during the 1974 gas shortages. That entrepreneurial vision has helped Lou’s company GlobaFone become a top satellite Service Providers in the US.
Lou has been the driving force behind GlobaFone’s unique approach to delivering MSS solutions to the government marketplace for over 18 years.
“To improve the customer experience…”
Make exceptional client care your market differentiator. When you adopt a mentality of excellent client care being at the center of everything you do as a company, you will naturally create processes and policies that:
A) Serve customers best
B) Focus on their goals
C) Create a customer retention mentality
These three strategic initiatives when combined will make your company the customer service leader in your industry.
“A lot of times people will say business is business…”
Don’t take it personal; however, I believe the complete opposite. I take my business very personal. Clients should be catered to as more than profit margins. Truly caring about customers’ needs is what builds long-lasting relationships and improves the company’s reputation. This is the reason clients will refer you to others, which is the highest compliment of all. It’s important that they view you as a part of their team.
Martin Stowe is the EVP and Chief Service Officer at PrimePay. Focusing on client retention, Marty is able to use his 25+ year expertise in the industry to lead the national service department.
“Traditionally, most companies approach the customer experience from an inside-out mentality…”
By this I mean they often design their processes, organizational structure, and even who they hire based on the needs of the company, not the needs of the customer. This is classic inside-out. They create the service model based on what they need (inside) then force the customers to adapt to that service model (out).
If companies want to dramatically change the customer experience, they must switch from an inside-out to an outside-in mentality. Every decision, process, and change must first be approached from how a customer will benefit from a proposed change. I like to say that at every meeting we should invite an imaginary virtual customer. Think how decisions would change immediately if a virtual customer sat in the corner of the room and listened to how a service organization decides. They would either be very happy that changes will have a positive impact on their service experience or could be equally frustrated listening to a company make decisions based upon their own dysfunction and issues. I am not saying that we actually invite a customer to meetings, but service companies need to start to imagine what would change if that virtual customer were present.
If companies want to quickly change the experience for their customers, they need to think outside-in and begin to ask the single question over and over (how will this benefit the customer experience?) with every decision they make.
Brandon Carter is the Marketing Communications Manager at Access Development.
“In my view, a great customer experience begins with…”
Great employees. The entire organization, from executives to product management to customer service, is going to have the biggest impact on how a customer perceives a business and whether or not they choose to remain a customer on an ongoing basis.
We know that customer engagement and loyalty is centered around so much more than just the product (user experience). Consumers make a lot of purchasing and loyalty decisions based on emotion – for example, nothing chases people away faster than bad customer service interactions. Things like a company’s environmental policies, or how they engage through social media – those are shaped by employees, and they matter tremendously to customers.
The customer experience includes the user experience but also encompasses every other interaction a person has with a brand. Behind every brand is people who are paid to live and breathe it and shape it – employees.
Look internally first. Great customer experiences begin with great employees. When you have a team that’s focused and engaged, great customer experiences will naturally follow. They’ll care about the company and therefore the customers who sustain it.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation, which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs and trademark and copyright filing services.
“One of the best ways companies can improve the customer experience is…”
To employ a ‘yes’ approach. Encourage your team to assist customers with a can-do, positive attitude and offer a wide variety of options to cater to the customer’s needs. So often customers are told ‘no’ which makes it hard to expect them to be returning customers. When a business works to fulfill the needs of customers and help them out, they truly appreciate the effort made just for them.
Victor Clarke has been the owner of Clarke, Inc. for 20+ years. Clarke, Inc. serves up epic marketing truth for small businesses daily. If you want the pretty marketing boys, they’re not it.
“The best way to improve the customer experience is to…”
Educate the staff. Does your staff know what’s happening prior to your company launching a new product or promotion?
In most cases, a small business team is aware of pending marketing campaigns, mostly because they helped create them. However, assuming everyone is on the same page is unwise. Each person needs details pertinent to their responsibilities when the opportunities come in.
For team members that interface with the customer, advance knowledge of the product or promotion helps them accurately answer questions and quickly recognize up-sell opportunities. When your staff believes in the value of
what they represent – be it a product, subscription, or service – they are naturally equipped to sell it.
Set aside time, at least a day or so ahead of the expected traffic, and review the campaign with your staff. Explain the type of traffic you expect, the sales goals in mind, and how you are supporting them to accomplish it. Make sure everyone is comfortable with their role and clear on what to do if they get stuck.
Micah is a website manager for Obrella who has over 6 years of digital marketing and search engine optimization experience.
“To improve the customer experience, companies should…”
Listen to your customers, because they will tell you exactly what they want.
Having a website makes this easy, because you can run an endless amount of A/B tests (as long as you run them one at a time) that will tell you your customer’s preferences. For example, you can test to see if changing the color of your email newsletter button increases your signups or test a different sidebar to see which version keeps a customer on your site longer. By conducting A/B tests, you can have scientific certainty which your customers prefer, and thus deliver them a better overall experience.
Antoinette Forth is the co-founder and President of Walkabout Collaborative LLC offering Walkabout Office, a three dimensional online workplace – a virtual office – where people on remote teams can come every day to work and be a part of the team.
“The single most effective way for companies to improve the customer experience is to…”
Be present. You know what that means for you: no multi-tasking, make eye contact, listen carefully, acknowledge, be authentic. But, what does being present mean for a company? First and foremost, your employees need to be fully present when they are with a customer. Everything else should come to a stop when your employee is engaged with your customer.
Next, your company needs to be authentic. This means do what you say you are going to do, always. And, when you don’t do what you say, you better make it right. This is essential in order for your employees to have the confidence to represent the company in an honest and direct manner. This is the only way you will gain the customer’s trust. Ultimately the level of trust your customer has in your company has a direct impact on the customer experience. No one likes to be taken advantage of. The next time you are the customer, pay close attention to see if you feel the company is present. Is their representative believable? Do you feel the employee is empowered to take care of you? Does the company treat you like a widget on the assembly line or do they pay attention to you? Do you feel like you are appreciated? Does the company listen to what you have to say? You’ll be surprised by the lack of presence that surrounds you. Pay attention and don’t make the same mistake with your customers. Just by the simple act of being present you will improve the customer experience for your customers.
Ankit Runwal is a marketing specialist at Social Annex. They are dedicated to helping e-commerce websites and retailers acquire, convert, and retain their customers with our fully managed unified Customer Loyalty and Advocate Marketing solutions.
“The most effective way to improve customer experience is to…”
Provide an omni-channel customer experience with advocate loyalty: In today’s connected world, customers expect a seamless user experience across all touchpoints (online, in-app, on social, and in-store).Therefore, brands need a holistic approach. Implementing a loyalty and advocate marketing platform into their marketing efforts will help them take charge of their customer’s journey at every stage and give their shoppers a memorable brand experience across all channels.
The combination of loyalty and advocate marketing give marketers the power to identify their highest-potential customers, and reward them not only for purchases but also taking advocate marketing actions – such as referring
friends, writing reviews, submitting photos, and liking or following a brand on social media and so on. Advocate loyalty will not only keep customers entertained and engaged but will also enrich customer relationships and transform them into brand advocates.
So, there are several ways advocate marketing and customer solutions can help brands improve the customer experience, but It is important for companies to find out the best social networks and solutions that fit their brand and customers’ needs. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Different rewards and outreach strategies work better or worse for various businesses.
Karen Williams is a Customer Experience Expert determined to help business owners create Exceptional Customer Experiences that build customer loyalty and help increase revenue and customer referrals. With her background in customer service and human resources she has a passion for building suitable businesses within her community and believes it is a true value to understand your customer, and employees wants and needs to be successful.
“The single most effective way to improve the customer experience is to…”
Build a relationship outside of selling, and here’s why: As a millennial consumer, what we expect is totally different from what our parents expected. Now there is such a tug of war for our attention and money that the old way of doing things no longer are as effective.
Consumers want more than to be sold to all the time, they want to build relationships with you and feel like they are apart of something special or exclusive. That’s why influencers are doing so well because they’re not trying to sell you anything. They are building a relationship with their audience and making them feel apart of whatever they have going on. For instance, when someone like @makeupshayla teams up with Tart Cosmetics and releases a palette people run out and get it because of the connection they have with her.
Same is true with people like myself who use Periscope to give out free content without selling, and eventually, when I do release a product or new service they are willing to buy without regret. Because now we have built a relationship, I know their names and what’s going on with them, and they know the same about me. Building that relationship is priceless. Right now when you make a purchase you never hear back from the company until they are ready for you to buy again; there is no connection being made.
So, my advice for companies is to communicate with your potential and current customers without selling every single time. Build a relationship with them, build trust, and stay connected to the customer after the purchase.
Danny Steppling is a Multi-Unit Subway Franchisee in S. FL Subway.
“The single most effective way to improve customer experience is…”
Simply to provide “WOW” experiences for your customers. All this means is that you fully commit to going above and beyond your customers expectations. Basically, you’re trying to be as friendly and accommodating as you possibly can – even if it won’t lead to a sale.
And no, I’m not referring to “customer service” as we all have heard of and know. In today’s day of age, all businesses have decent “customer service” where they practice the bare minimum of being amiable and do a fantastic job of “understanding your issue” without resolving it. To “WOW” someone, there has to be shock factor. They have to be thrown off a little bit. You see, people want to feel good. If you go above and beyond and pleasantly surprise/amaze you customers, their neurological system gets impacted in a huge way. They then associate these gratifying feelings with your business, which will lead to a potential sale, repeat sales, and positive word of mouth – all of the things we want for our business! To consistently meet and vibrantly exceed customers expectations makes you a block of gold in a coal mine.
The best part about this is that you can do it for free, and it doesn’t have to be some extravagant show. In fact, the smallest gestures can be the most successful. Simple things go a long way. Examples include providing excellent service post-sale, helping the customer get exactly what they want (even if you’re sending them somewhere else to buy), and acknowledging regular customers with a free order every now and then. At our sandwich shops, we do something called “table touching.” We go around the restaurant, ask customers how their meal is, and if we can get them a refill/bring them more napkins, etc. I also empower my managers to give away 3-5 meals a week. The only requirements are they must go to people who either (1) frequent the shop or (2) are having a bad day or are in a rough spot. The other day a lady came in to our store and told our manager her mother was direly ill and in the hospital. My manager gave her the order for free (and it was a hefty order mind you) and told her, “I hope this is the first of many positive experiences that start to make things better for you.” The woman teared up, hugged our manager, and posted about how wonderful our store was on social media. The message is that most people are delighted by “WOW” service because their simply not used to getting this treatment in fast food businesses.
However, this is not a quick fix. It has to be something you embed into your company’s culture. It has to become a core value. And a core value is simply a philosophy that you hire and fire by – nothing more and nothing less.
Easily described as a creative disruptor, award-winning innovator Debora Balardini is the co-founder of PUNTO Space (an event venue in Midtown West), Nettles Artists Collective (NAC) who received international recognition earlier this year for a play she directed and co-produced, and also is the founder of Group .BR.
“The single most effective way that companies can improve customer experience is with…”
Clear communication. Having the right polite vocabulary and optimistic tone, clear email exchanges, pleasant and objective phone call conversations with your clients ensure they feel valued (and will give everyone less of a headache in the long run). Clients are humans and humans like to be understood. Having a clear understanding of what service is being provided and what they should expect creates a sense of security. That way they feel taken care of.
Kris Fannin is CEO and Founder of Intelivate and has 21 years experience in the consulting industry. His specialties are corporate strategy, business process and career and leadership development. Kris began his career in IT consulting. Into its 14th year, Intelivate is his third startup and the professional manifestation of his boundless unconventionality.
“The customer experience must connect through all parts of an organization…”
ALL. Even the back office that never speaks with a customer. It amazes me that so many organizations have several CE initiatives going at once, and none of them are connected. The result? Inconsistent customer experiences that lower overall brand loyalty and trust – and blown budgets that did not realize the CE potential.
Instead, there should be one CE transformation connected to several CE change initiatives that flow throughout the organization.
Organizations must lay the foundation by getting the data, organizing a real CE transformation and allocating their budgets accordingly. Ultimately, it will cost them less.
“To immediately improve your customer experience…”
Charge based on the value delivered to the customer after they received the value. For example, we charge a percentage of the ad revenues we increase for our clients. If we do not increase their ad revenues, we charge nothing. We truly believe that if our clients do not receive measurable value, we should not charge. As a result, the customer experience stays consistently strong.
Matthew Odgers is the owner of Odgers Law Group, a business law and estate planning firm with offices in San Diego and Los Angeles.
“The single best way companies can improve the customer experience is to…”
Take time to fully understand who your customers are. Create an avatar for the different types of customers that you service. Have your team understand the avatars so that they can identify the the avatar that each customer comes closest to resembling, and then set up a list of service guidelines for that avatar. For example, you will want provide different communication techniques for a 72 year old retiree than you would for a 26 year old recent college graduate. Understand your customer and tailor your product and services accordingly.
Amy is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at ReadyCap Commercial, LLC.
“To improve the customer experience…”
Be customer-centric and thoughtful in all of your interactions and communication touch points; in person, on your website, social media, email marketing, etc.
The best way to achieve this is to understand your target market and segment it into like-minded groups. Target your message accordingly to the age, gender, interests and motivations of your audience. Don’t ramble off your products or services like a food label, no one cares. Everyone wants to know, what is in it for me – what is the value to me? what problem do you solve? How will you make my life or business easier? In the multi-polarized and increasing personalized digital landscape, consumers/business have many options and will quickly move on to the next if they cannot immediately understand the unique value proposition that is relevant to them.
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