“By 2020 Customer Experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator”. Walker, 2013.
You will most likely have seen this statement by now and it might even have prompted you to read this article as part of your own journey into customer experience. It certainly did that for us at Tharstern, a software house that already thought we were pretty good at customer service, but who wanted to do more. In fact, this statement prompted an 18 month (and counting) CX programme that has already seen many of our touchpoints removed, consolidated or improved.
In an effort to help others on their own journey, we’ve taken some of the key pieces of advice that we’ve read over the past year and a half and put them all together in bite size chunks.
1. Make sure your product or service measures up first
While this won’t be an issue for most of you (and wasn’t for us), we thought it worth pointing out that a great customer experience needs a great product or service behind it. Yes, there are many other factors involved in providing a good experience, but it means nothing if what you’re offering is not up to the expectations of the customer. A harmony between the two will provide an opportunity to shift the focus away from price.
2. Realise the importance of customer experience
Before the rise of customer experience, businesses believed they could win and maintain customers on price or product alone. Times have changed, and it’s now all about perception of the brand – are you trusted, likeable and credible? Do you deliver a good experience? That’s what counts these days. In most cases, having the cheapest product on the market simply isn’t enough.
People will pay more for a good customer experience and so it is worth the effect. And once you’ve started making headway and started to deliver a customer experience that’s better than your competition can deliver, you should capitalise on it. It should be used as a key differentiator between you and your competitors. Delivering a great customer experience is a powerful USP that’s difficult to replicate. Adopting this strategy should pay dividends in both the retention of valuable existing customers and attracting new ones.
3. Invest in technology
Technology is key here. It improves communication, reduces errors and provides consistency – 3 things that are vital to a good customer experience. CRM systems are very affordable these days (and in some cases, even free) and they allow companies to easily record and monitor communication with their customers. Having an automated customer service system in place will also save you a lot of time and will give every member of the customer services team access to the same information. Embrace new technology, it will make your customer experience journey much easier.
4. Make it easy for the customer
When all else is equal, the customer is going to buy based on the company who made the process easier for them. This is crucial as customers don’t want the buying process to be hard work. Make the process easy for them, remove as many touchpoints as possible.
5. Be consistent with your communications
Social media, websites, adverts and emails are all ways that people research a product or company so it’s extremely important that they’re consistent. You also need to make sure they’re user friendly, so you don’t cause your customers any confusion. If a customer has to work hard to find the information they’re looking for, they will lose interest.
6. Get regular feedback
Getting feedback is key to improvement, so it needs to be easy for the customer to pass on their opinion about how you’re doing, even if it’s a complaint. If you never get feedback, you can never know how to improve, and the business will remain static.
7. Be proactive
You need to be proactive and deliver timely updates to your customers before they have to pick up the phone and ask you themselves. When a customer places an order, they want to be updated with confirmation, despatch information, delivery updates and feedback forms. You should be the one to reach out to them - don’t make them chase you up.
8. Share success stories
If you have received good feedback, and a customer is happy with the product and service, share it. Show off to your other customers and to prospects too – demonstrate what you do well and why they should use you.
Take this one step further and be proactive - ask your customers for feedback on their experience with you and then share it. Using services such as Trustpilot or Feefo could help encourage more people to buy from you or sign up to your service.
9. Share feedback with employees
Feedback should be shared with the team. If it’s negative, share it in a constructive way, with tips on how to improve. Try not to single people out as it can be demotivating. If it’s positive, shout about it, raise motivation and engagement. Happy employees = happy customers.
10. Move quickly
In an era of social media hype, it’s important to react quickly to any issues. Mainly to keep the customer happy of course, but also because any complaints can spread like wildfire on social media. Social media is such a huge part of our lives that any negative experiences will be broadcast instantly to family, friends and more. Negative online reviews WILL affect you – people trust their peers more than they trust brands, so it’s important to act fast and keep negative reviews to a minimum.
Responding quickly on social media can also be used to your advantage. By dealing with customer issues straight away, you can offer a more personal brand experience.
From a personal perspective, the best advice we have is to take everything you’ve read about and learnt and make it personal. Start off your journey by mapping out your customer journey, including all the touchpoints a potential customer may have with your company, right up to their aftercare and repeat purchase. Look at how you can improve each of these touchpoints using all you’ve learned, then start doing it! Make sure you take a baseline measurement of how happy they are with the experience they currently get from you, then you can track your progress and see how awesome you’re doing!
Amanda Newman, Marketing Manager, Tharstern
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock