In the age of the customer, providing experiences that match customer expectations is a business imperative. With that in mind, here are 13 tried-and-tested ways to improve customer experience.
1. Revisit your customer journey and empathy mapping
When is the last time you entered your business, or navigated your website as a customer?
Seeing your business from the customer’s point of view can help you to elevate your customer service, and the customer experience in general. By getting into the mindset of your typical customer and following their typical journey, you can identify weak links along the way and then implement solutions.
Even Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has done this in the past. He called Amazon’s customer support after his VP of Customer Service assured him that call waiting times were less than a minute. Bezos and his VP of Customer Service, anxiously watching on, were made to wait for almost 5 minutes. This then sparked them to make immediate changes to the business.
It also helps to think about the customer’s journey before they even come into contact with anyone at your business. After all, research by Gartner suggests that 57% of buyer journey will be completed before customers even speak to anyone at your business.
Take time out to map the different ways in which customers discover your business, such as via social media or through online ads, and ensure that you are giving a consistent experience across each touch-point.
2. Ensure a consistent experience across channels
Did you know that 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across all channels?
Not only do customers want to be able to connect with your business on a variety of different channels, they also expect the experience to be consistent across each one. In order to prevent confusing interactions, and to maintain a smooth user experience across all channels, uniformity is crucial.
Just compare this image from the Kate Spade website:
…with this email from them:
The branding and messaging are exactly the same. This consistency helps customers to identify with the brand, and this improves their loyalty.
But creating a consistent experience goes deeper than that. Customers want you to keep your promises. If you promote excellent 24/7 service with a wait-time of less than 3 minutes for calls when you are wooing new prospects, then make sure you deliver on that when they finally become customers. In other words, put your money where your mouth is. Customers will respect that about your brand and this will improve their experience.
Customers don’t just want personalization anymore, they expect it. In fact, 48% of people said they would be willing to wait longer for a personalized product or service, and 77% have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provided a personalized service or experience.
Ensure your communications are always personalized to the customer you are contacting. This goes beyond simply calling them by the correct name. You need to collect data based on their previous transactions with your business and use that to really personalize your messages.
Digital agency, Denamico did this by creating hyper-personalized email newsletters that could be customized with different CTAs based on customer segments, and the result was a 43% increase in open rates and an 89% increase in click-through rates!
It also helps to remember your customers’ previous purchases. According to a Salesforce study, 28% of millennials agree that receiving personalized offers based on their purchasing history is appealing.
4. Adopt an omnichannel strategy
Fifteen years ago, the average customer typically used two touch-points when purchasing an item. Today, customers use an average of almost six touch-points!
People are constantly switching between devices and communication channels, so in order to give customers the best experience you can, you need to be available everywhere. Think: live chat, email, call centers, SMS, in-store, chat apps…and more! In fact, the more channels customers can find you on, the better.
There’s no doubt that customer expectations are increasing, and one of those expectations is that businesses should be contactable at all times, across all channels. So by not fulfilling this one criterion, you could upset a lot of customers and send them off to one of your competitors.
One way to remain constantly available is to implement a live chat function on your website. 79% of customers say that they love live chat because of the immediacy it offers, and 77% said they wouldn’t make a purchase on a site with no live chat option.
It all comes down to convenience. If you want customers to have a great experience with your company, and come back to you time and time again, then you need to make it easy and enjoyable for them.
5. Be transparent and authentic
Being transparent with your customers, and authentic in your communications, can go a long way. To do this, ensure that you manage your customers’ expectations by displaying all important information clearly.
You should also be authentic and honest in all of your communications. Chatbots have revolutionized customer communications, but they aren’t yet advanced enough to handle all messages. When things don’t go as planned, or when empathy is needed, it is important to have real support reps available to talk to your customers. Whenever a customer responds to a message in an unexpected way, like this:
You should activate your customer service program to generate a ticket that alerts a live agent who can directly respond. This way, the conversation continues fluidly for the customer and they can get their request answered in a timely manner:
Instead of replacing live operators completely, automation should simply be there to support and enhance their efficiency.
6. Innovate and iterate the customer service
The customer experience is constantly evolving, but usually most companies will wait until a trend has already happened before they jump on it. This is fine, but getting ahead of trends is much better. When you innovate customer service, you can bring new customers to your company in droves, and (hopefully!) they will tell all of their friends about you.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. You can simply take an existing trend, like chat apps, and make it better. Chat apps are now one of the primary functions of smartphones, with time spent inside the apps increasing by 69% year-on-year.
Be available to your customers via chat apps is one thing, but offering amazing service via chat apps is what’s really going to help you stand out. Don’t forget to show your personality and speak in your brand voice when talking to customers via chat apps:
Also, be sure to offer them timely, relevant information:
7. Use customer experience analytics
Analytics can provide you with insights and intel that will help you understand your customers better and highlight any areas where you need to add more value.
Research suggests that 90% of business managers believe analytics have the ability to improve sales and even increase sales by more than 20%! This is because you can use analytics to make more informed decisions.
Most channels used within conversational marketing make it easy to collate data on the customer’s experience, for example, when they are most active, the messages they are most responsive to, and the channels they are most responsive on.
8. Add value at every touchpoint
When customers give you their contact information, they expect you to use it only when necessary. Don’t abuse this trust by constantly bombarding them with ads and sales messages. Instead, make sure that every time you contact your customers you have something helpful and relevant to say.
Use automation to set up timely and contextual notifications and alerts. If you run an airline company, this could be information about flight changes. Other examples include:
- Delivery information (“Your parcel will be delivered between the hours of 9 a.m.-11 a.m.”)
- Appointment reminders (“Your appointment is booked for 1:30 p.m.”)
- Stock updates (“XL Mens Game of Thrones t-shirt is back in stock!”)
By sending your customers helpful messages, you make their lives easier and this can increase the amount of trust they have in your company.
9. Go above and beyond
When a company goes above and beyond for a customer, they remember it for a long time. Not only that, they also tell their friends about it. According to a Marketing Charts survey, 44% of people would tell friends about a very good experience (and, just so you know, 46% would tell people about a very bad experience!)
One company that is known for going above and beyond for customers regularly is JetBlue. An example being a traveler who casually tweeted at JetBlue that he wouldn’t be able to grab a coffee before catching his flight. The social media team saw this tweet and sent a message to the airport customer service team. Much to the customer’s surprise, as he took his seat on the plane a rep handed him a fresh coffee!
These amazing experiences don’t need to be rocket science. Simply acknowledging and valuing your customers can go a long way, such as a personalized ‘thank you’ message whenever a customer purchases from you. Incentives, like discounts and special offers, can also lead to positive customer experiences, particularly when they are timely.
When creating amazing experiences, remember that you shouldn’t focus all of your efforts on the customers you are acquiring. Your existing customers need a little love, too! After all, the customers that have long-lasting relationships with you are likely going to be the ones spreading the word about your amazing customer experience.
10. Be conversational and listen to your customers
Conversational marketing–the process of having personal conversations with your customers across multiple channels–is a game-changer for customer experience. It makes for better customer-company relationships by facilitating conversations to happen in real-time on any channel that the customer chooses.
Not only that, it can help you learn about your customers in order to improve interactions in the future. Make-up brand, Sephora used Kik Messenger to find out more about their customers through conversational messaging:
This intelligent chatbot found out more about customers’ wants and needs, and then used this to send them tailored content.
According to TechCrunch, people spend an average of 5 hours per day on their phones, and conversational channels, like chat apps, email, and RCS are all mobile-friendly–making it easy for you to delight your customers!
Conversation marketing also makes it easier to receive and collate feedback from your customers, and react to specific requests in a timely manner.
It may sound obvious, but listening to your customers and gaining insight directly from them about what does and doesn’t work is one of the best ways to improve your business.
11. Engage with customers beyond owned media
Engaging with customers directly is one thing, but you should also make an effort to find your customers in other places.
Social media is ingrained into everyone’s daily routine–with many people checking their accounts before they go to sleep at night and then again before they get out of bed in the morning. So, having a presence and engaging with customers on social media is a no-brainer.
Social media is a great place to find out what customers really think of you, as it is here that people share their thoughts, opinions, and problems.
By reacting to these posts in a timely manner, you can keep customers satisfied:
Many brands, like PayPal, are already doing this, and, as such, 42% of customers now expect a response via social media in under one hour.
If you can offer customers this and also use the feedback that you gather from social media to improve your offering, then you’ll benefit from improved customer satisfaction.
Other places to connect with your customers include review sites, forums, and in blog comments. The more places you have a presence, the better. This will improve your brand awareness and also allow you to communicate with your customers in the places that they spend their time.
12. Simplify your process
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, all customers have something in common–they are busy!
By simplifying your processes, you can make it easier for your customers to get what they need from you and this will help them benefit from a more improved customer experience overall. A great example of this is the ‘Order & Pay’ function in the Starbucks app. This feature allows people to order and pay for their coffee all from their phone. Then, when they get to their local Starbucks, they can simply walk to the pickup area, grab their freshly made coffee, and continue with the rest of their day.
A similar example is the personal loan calculator by Barclay’s bank. Without talking to an advisor, customers can use sliding bars to select the best loan amount and payback term for them:
13. Develop a customer-centric work culture
Speaking of Starbucks, did you know that 87% of customers’ affinity towards the company is driven by the way employees are treated? In fact, in general, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by an incredible 147%.
So it all starts with your team and your company culture. If you develop a customer-centric work culture, then your employees will be more focused on making sure your customers feel cared for.
This shift can be implemented in small steps, such as introducing a ‘respond to all queries in 2 hours or less’ policy. You can also make sweeping changes that give your employees more control and ownership over the customer experience. This is something that the hotel company, Ritz-Carlton does very well. Their employees are independently authorized to spend up to $2,000 on improving customer satisfaction!
Try these ways to improve customer experience
When it comes to improving the customer experience, the key is to practice, not preach. According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, a business that optimizes for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth!
By implementing the practical steps outlined in this article and striving to go the extra mile and build a connection with your customers, you can be sure that you’re set to become a part of someone’s best (ever) customer experience story.
For more on how to create an amazing customer experience, from start to finish, take a look at our free eBook: The Ultimate Guide on Messaging.