What customers think of your brand, products and services creates an emotional connection that builds customer loyalty. Central to this is customer experience – the sum of all interactions a customer has with your business and what they feel about that experience.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience – often referred to as ‘CX’ – covers the relationship your business has with its customers. It covers any aspect of your business that the customer experiences, such as communication, marketing, product or service quality, the transaction process and after-sales support.
Customer experience is different from customer service. The latter is when your staff provide useful advice and polite service. Customer experience goes further, such as delighting customers by ensuring their order arrives early or offering them a free upgrade to create a positive, memorable experience.
Delivering a great customer experience can have a dramatic impact on the fortunes of your business. Ensure a positive experience and you could see improved customer loyalty, increased customer spend, and happy customers keen to spread the word to their friends and family.
Customer experience is personal to every individual and it happens over time. One customer might appreciate quick, uncomplicated ordering and delivery with minimal staff contact. Another customer may prefer talking through options with staff and require lots of support with their purchase.
Because each customer experience is unique, it can be difficult to deliver a positive experience to all customers. It requires listening to customer feedback, personalising their experience with your business, and investing in customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience management (CEM) systems to deliver the best customer experience possible.
Customer experience business impact
Good customer experience covers all aspects of your business that a customer interacts with. That means you need to polish each stage of your customer journey, from marketing materials and your website to the order process and after-sales support.
The result is worth it. People who receive a good customer experience are willing to pay up to 18% more for luxury experiences, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, with 67% of consumers and 74% of businesses willing to pay more for a better customer experience according to research by Salesforce.
Businesses with strong customer experience strategies retain on average 89% of customers, compared to just 33% of retained customers for businesses with a weak customer experience strategy. If customers forge a strong emotional connection with a brand they have a 306% greater lifetime value and remain as customers for an average of five years, compared to 3.4 years for non-emotionally engaged customers according to research by Motista.
If the customer experience is poor, you risk of losing hard-won customers. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 1 in 3 customers will leave a business that they love after just one bad experience. Worse, 95% of customers are quick to share bad customer experiences with others, compared to 74% telling others about a positive customer experience according to a study by Zendesk.
Customer experience management
Great customer experience shouldn’t be left to chance. Companies use a range of tools to track, measure and influence customer interactions. The trick is to bridge the gap between the experience you want the customer to have, and the experience they actually have.
Customer experience management is a combination of analytics, data, customer feedback and CRM and CEM tools that make tracking and improving the entire customer journey easier.
- Customer experience feedback – customer experience is personal to each customer. You’ll need to encourage customer feedback to find out about their experience. These can be low-tech – such as customer comments and reviews – to more involved feedback such as hosting customer focus groups or running customer surveys.
- CRM and customer experience software – dedicated software can make it easier to manage your relationship with a customer and improve their experience. CRM and CEM software include tools to maintain positive contact with customers and clients, as well as measure performance such as repeat purchases and loyalty. There are many free CRM tools, including HubSpot, Zoho, Insightly and Freshsales.
- Single customer view – customers can experience your company across a number of channels, from email and social media to telephone and post. A fundamental ingredient in managing the customer experience is to have a joined-up view of your customer. This means being able to identify them when they call or visit your website, and is the first step in tailoring their experience to their needs.
- Marketing automation and personalisation – marketing automation systems have unlocked the potential to improve the customer experience using rules and triggers based on the customer profile and their activity. For example, a new customer visiting your webpage may receive follow-up emails based on what they were looking at, along with new customer incentives and special offers. The more you can personalise things, the better the individual customer experience.
- Measurement – put in place recognised ways of measuring the customer experience so you can track any improvements. Popular measurement methods include Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer effort score (CES), customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and time to resolution (TTR).
What causes bad customer experiences
While each customer is different, there are universal frustrations that contribute to a poor customer experience. These include delays or being made to wait, such as trying to contact your business by phone or waiting for an order confirmation for an online transaction. Slow responses to customer enquiries or issues remaining unresolved over a long period of time also harm the customer experience.
Unclear communications and a lack of personalisation and human interaction are also no-nos. Being forced into a set way of doing something, such as getting stuck using automatic self-checkouts in supermarkets can leave customers cold. But even human interaction needs to be carefully considered. Rude or angry employees can distance customers from a business.
Not meeting customer expectations and not tailoring your service to individual needs can contribute to an overall negative experience.
How to create a positive customer experience
While all customers are different, your business should aim to personalise customer experience as much as possible. Creating a customer journey, acting on feedback and using automation systems can have an impact.
- Customer journey map – create a customer journey that shows every stage of the buying cycle from the customer’s perspective. This may involve posing as a customer and researching available products, comparing companies, signing up to newsletters, placing an order and contacting your staff for support. For each stage, identify any issues and decide how you want the customer to feel and what you want them to do at each stage.
- Customer journey touchpoints – using the customer journey map, identify all the ways a customer can interact with your business. For example, a customer may visit your website to find out product information, but then call a contact centre to place an order. For each type of interaction, decide how you can offer the best experience possible. This may include improving your website navigation so customers can find information more easily, or answering the phone to customers within a few seconds to avoid them waiting.
- Brand personality – decide your brand values and ensure these are clearly communicated to customers. This can be how your business does things, such as making it easier and quicker to place an order compared to competitors. Bring this to life in marketing, showing how your values help improve the lives of customers, building a more emotional connection with them.
- Surprise and delight – everyone loves to be surprised, so aim to go above and beyond in every engagement with a customer. Rather than send them a product newsletter, include an exclusive offer just for them. Ensure call centre staff have access to customer information, and train them to be positive and helpful. Consider sending the occasional ‘thank you’ with any orders – these could range from hand-written notes, a free gift or money-off voucher for a subsequent purchase.
- Act on customer feedback – the customer should be at the heart of the experience. Don’t simply capture customer information. Instead, use surveys, comments and customer reviews as a way to identify problems and put together a programme of work to improve them. Letting customers know you’re aware of a common problem and updating them on improvements goes a long way to building trust.
How to measure customer experience
Knowing the steps you’re taking are making a difference is important. Customer experience management measurement tools eliminate the guesswork so you can keep improving the overall experience. There are lots of online tools and services that include these various methods of measuring customer experience and providing insights into what’s working.
- Net Promoter Score – Known as an NPS score, it uses a scale ranging from -100 to +100. Any score higher than +1 is deemed as good, and reflects the propensity for customers to recommend your business, primarily based on their customer experience.
- Customer Effort Score – Known as the CES score, it’s usually a seven-point score that reflects how easy or difficult a customer found something, such as contacting you to using a product. Scores range from ‘very difficult’ to ‘very easy’.
- Customer Satisfaction Score – Referred to as the CSAT score, it uses an odd-number scale (such as 1-7) and asks customers a question such as satisfaction with the delivery of an order. The lower the score, the less satisfied they are.
- Time To Resolution – Known as TTR, this is usually deployed by businesses with customer service teams and measures how long – in hours or days – it takes for a customer issue to be resolved. The aim is to keep reducing the time it takes.