Every business wants to offer a great customer experience — but what exactly does "customer experience refer to? And why is it so important?
Many businesses think that if you offer a good product at a reasonable price, you've done enough to please the customer. But that's not the case. A business must consider many elements of the overall customer experience in order to ensure customer satisfaction.
The key to customer retention is the customer experience, so let’s dive into what that means and how to make it work for you.
Overview: What is the customer experience?
The term "customer experience" refers to the entire journey a customer has with your company, from interacting with your sales team to experiencing the product to working out issues with customer support — and, hopefully, buying from you again.
A complete customer experience is vital for a business, as even if a company succeeds at one element — i.e., a great product — the customer may still end up dissatisfied if, say, they have a negative experience with customer support.
In order for a company to be successful, leadership must work on the totality of the customer experience rather than focus on individual elements.
Customer experience vs. customer service: What's the difference?
Customer experience differs from customer service in that the former covers a much broader part of a company's interaction with the customer, whereas customer service only deals with one aspect of it — the human-to-human interaction between the customer and customer service professionals.
Customer service is an important part of the customer experience, but it is only one element, and you need all elements working together to create a satisfying customer experience.
3 benefits of delivering a great customer experience
Improving your customer’s experience will provide many benefits to your company, but three benefits in particular will have a significant impact.
1. More sales
The first benefit is obvious: Create a great customer experience, and your customers will reward you by buying more products and referring you to their friends and family. A great customer experience results in good word of mouth, which is one of the most powerful marketing forces — and arguably the hardest to master.
2. Lower marketing costs
When customers love you, they do a lot of your marketing work for you. Some companies rely entirely on word of mouth for sales, and that saves a lot of money in the marketing budget.
You won't have to blanket media with expensive advertising campaigns if customers are flocking to you because of the great experience you offer.
3. A loyal customer base
Companies with a loyal customer base have a more stable income stream and aren't as beholden to the roller coaster of the market, fluctuating ad rates, and other outside forces that impact your bottom line.
A company with a great customer experience has a steady, reliable business model that can weather just about any storm thanks to customers that have their backs.
6 strategies to improve the customer experience
But how do you go about improving the customer experience? It’s not just about working on your team’s customer service skills — it’s an involved process, and one that takes time if you do it right. However, the results are well worth it. Implement these six strategies to maximize your results.
1. Create customer profiles
You can't create a good customer experience unless you know your customers' needs. And the best way to understand your customers is to meet with your team and brainstorm some customer profiles.
A customer profile is essentially how you would describe a certain type of customer. Draw up a description of the customer, describing qualities such as typical age, job title, income, interests, and anything else you find relevant.
Give the customer profile a name, like "Joe" or "Maria." That way, you can easily refer to the customer type in meetings by simply mentioning their name. Your customer experience strategy should include at least two or three customer profiles.
Tip: Keep your customer profiles narrowly focused. Customer profiles that are too broad have little value and won’t allow you to create the tailored experience your customers crave. And if that means you have to create a dozen customer profiles, maybe your business has too broad of a focus overall.
2. Draw up a customer journey
Ask yourself, "If I were this customer, what would my ideal customer experience be like from start to finish?" Then draw up this journey for each of your customer profiles. Outline each step in the customer journey, from encountering an ad to purchasing to enjoying the product. Describe how each step ideally plays out.
How you visualize this customer journey is up to you. It could be a spreadsheet that describes what the customer is thinking and what action they might take — and how you want to change it — or it could be a flowchart of some sort.
Tip: Crowdsource the customer journey with your staff. Get all stakeholders to weigh in. They may notice things you do not, such as a desired customer interaction with the sales team you weren’t aware of.
3. Reward loyalty
A loyalty or rewards program may seem expensive, but it's a lot cheaper than a marketing program to find new leads and convert them into paying customers. And it doesn't always have to be a discount — you can reward customers in other ways, like offering extra features or exclusives.
It all comes down to understanding your customer and what they value — this is where your customer profiles come in handy. What kind of extra value could you offer to your customers that they would appreciate? If you know the answer, you'll keep your customers coming back.
Tip: Narrowly tailor your rewards program to your best customers rather than showering your entire customer base with goodies. The point is to encourage loyalty rather than try to bribe everyone.
4. Start a dialogue with customers
If you're unsure about what your customers want, then just ask. Start talking to your customers proactively, rather than just waiting for them to have an issue and call customer service.
A rewards program is one way to do that, but you can also send them customer service email surveys asking what they enjoy about the customer experience and what you can do better.
You can offer rewards for completing these surveys to encourage participation. Do this on a regular basis to ensure you always have your finger on the pulse of changing customer needs.
Tip: Schedule personal consultations with your most loyal customers to talk about what they value. This provides you with important information while making them feel valued.
5. Talk to your employees
But don't just rely on customer feedback — talk to your employees as well. Your sales, marketing, and customer service teams are on the front lines, interacting with customers on a regular basis.
They can tell you probably better than anyone — maybe even better than the customers themselves — what customers ask the most about, what they value the most, and what your company can do better.
Tip: Encourage and reward innovation from employees who come up with creative ways to improve the customer experience.
6. Use software
One thing will take your company to the next level when it comes to customer experience — data. Data provides the hard figures that tell you the truth about customer buying habits. You must tap into data if you want to perfect the customer experience.
That's where software comes in. Customer service software will track your interactions with customers and conduct the detailed analytics that will be necessary as you continue to refine and improve the customer experience.
It will also provide other customer experience tools you can use to improve your relationship with customers.
Tip: Check out The Blueprint’s customer service software reviews, which describe in detail what features these platforms offer so you can make an informed decision about which option to choose.
It’s time to ask the hard questions
Boosting the customer experience is hard work, but it’s something that can totally revolutionize your company for the better. So do your homework. Review examples of good customer service. Talk to your customer base. Dive into the data. Discuss customer satisfaction with your team.
Draft new customer retention strategies. Conduct a detailed customer experience analysis that will guide you as you map out new customer journeys. You will be pleasantly surprised by your growth as a company.