Delivering the best possible customer experience has become a top priority for companies today, with many considering “CX” as their most important business benchmark.
And for good reason: customer experience has consistently proven to be a key growth driver and competitive differentiator.
Finally making CX an integral part of your strategy this 2017? Here are 5 simple steps to go “above and beyond” to delight your customers — and effectively improve customer experience across all touchpoints.
Step 1: Strive for brand consistency across all channels.
Brand consistency involves more than just placing your logo and tagline on your online profiles and marketing materials.
It’s also about maintaining the quality of any brand-related content and providing the right information to customers across all channels and touchpoints, in times when they need it and in ways that match their needs and expectations.
Wrong information drives customers away: According to a report by the Local Search Association:
- 37 percent will not consider a business with inconsistent information;
- 37 percent will go elsewhere if a business or brand website is plagued with inconsistent information;
- And 32 percent will not buy from a business with wrong contact information listed online.
The concept seems simple enough, but a lot of companies don’t even keep tabs on the information that’s out there about their brand or business, making it extra difficult for them to deliver experiences that customers love.
Think about these points of frustration:
- Example: A guest uses car navigation to find a downtown hotel based on its indicated location on Google Maps — only to learn that the location information published online isn’t correct (or hasn’t been updated in years).
- Example: A homeowner checks HomeAdvisor reviews to find a local plumber, but as soon as she tries to call one of the highest-rated plumbers on the site, the listed phone number doesn’t even work.
- Example: A diner decides to visit a restaurant based on its mouth-watering photos of kumara fries on its website — only to find that the restaurant has since changed its menu and now offers totally different choices of sides.
These examples may not seem all that noteworthy, but make no mistake: missing, incorrect, outdated, or inconsistent information is one of the biggest turnoffs for today’s smart, resourceful, and research-intensive consumers.
And it’s bound to have a negative impact on customer experience — even before the customer reaches the purchase or consideration stage.
The solution: strive for brand consistency.
Create and claim your business listings. Conduct an audit of all the websites, platforms, and pages where your company is listed. And make sure you always enter the correct information.
Also, it helps to develop a strategy for building citations (“citations” are mentions of your business name on the Web, along with other key information, with or without a link back to your website), and to ensure clear and consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone) signals across all digital properties where you plant your flags. Follow best practices in local SEO. Don’t hide your contact info; make it easy to find. And make the commitment to establishing a strong, memorable, and consistent brand presence for your customers — no matter when or where they may find information about you.
Step 2: Activate your promoters and brand advocates.
The customer who wrote a 5-star review of your business on Google, the local blogger who recommended your products and services to her subscribers, the respondent who gave you a score of 10 in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey: these customers are all potential brand advocates, and they represent a tremendous opportunity that your business should harness in order to improve customer experience.
- According to research firm Nielsen, 77 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service when it comes with an endorsement from a peer via word of mouth.
Not only does engaging with promoters and brand advocates inspire customer loyalty, drive positive word of mouth, and promote a sense of community; it also gives you the chance to demonstrate that you’re running a customer-first organization.
And this isn’t to mention the obvious: businesses that are able to activate brand advocates grow faster.
How exactly do you reach out to these promoters and brand advocates? Here are some ideas:
Develop a loyalty program. Keep it simple and make it easy for your customers to be active members and stay loyal to you.
Make them famous. Share their best reviews. Talk about them on social media. Publish their testimonials on your website. Give them a special shout-out. Show your appreciation in a public way.
Deepen the connection. Remember the birthdays, anniversaries, and special dates of your best customers or the members of your loyalty program. Send them handwritten Thank You notes and cards on Christmas. You may even want to offer free (personalized) stuff, upgrades, advanced releases, or exclusive samples to deepen the connection and reinforce the value of the relationships and experiences these customers have with your business.
Empower them to recommend your business. Hand out referral cards or brochures, create tiered rewards and bonus prizes, and offer incentives for referrals. The key is to motivate your advocates to take action and leverage incentives to create a sense of urgency.
Step 3: Increase personalization.
In a world where more than 80 percent of e-mail traffic is spam and where the average consumer is bombarded by thousands of banner ads every month, personalization holds the key to standing out and cutting through all the noise.
There’s a wide range of personalization tactics and techniques, both online and offline, that you can apply to improve customer experience — from adding personalized messages to your product packaging and segmenting customers by purchase behavior to creating customer-specific content and implementing responsive design on your website.
Customers are not account numbers
New York Times best-selling author Susan Solovic explains:
We live in a high-tech world, yet consumers crave high-touch. They are tired of their calls being answered by Silicon Sally, and they want to be recognized as human beings, not a username and password or account number. Personalized marketing gives customers a sense of identity. They cease to be one of the masses, and instead become an individual with unique wants and needs. Consumers tune out mass marketing because they are bombarded by it everywhere. A personalized message that is relevant is much more likely to attract their attention and to seem more credible.
Personalization across channels has been a challenge for many businesses, and it’s crucial to develop your ability to understand customers better — by capturing, managing, and analyzing customer feedback.
Let feedback — whatever form it takes — guide the ways you increase personalization and improve customer experience. Monitor your online reviews, read social media comments, analyze customer survey responses, identify patterns in your Voice-of-the-Customer data, dig deeper into your database, and provide customers with mechanisms for leaving feedback across different touchpoints. (You can download this free cheat sheet to help you get started.)
These practices in customer feedback management can help you achieve a more complete understanding of — and respond more effectively to — the needs, wants, and expectations of your individual customers.
Step 4: Respond to online reviews and customer feedback.
As Solovic suggests, customers want to be acknowledged individually and addressed personally. So when they take the time to share with you their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and feedback, the least you can do is respond. (And the worst thing you can do is ignore them.)
Here are some numbers that further highlight the importance of staying responsive to online reviews and customer feedback:
- 78 percent of consumers say that seeing management publicly respond to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them.
- 52 percent of customers who post online reviews expect a response from the reviewed business in 7 days or less.
- Cornell University research found evidence that responding to reviews leads to improved sales and revenue — while failure to respond at all is costly.
A crucial part of improving customer experience is your ability to respond when customers share feedback. If a customer wrote a 5-star review or paid your business a nice compliment via e-mail, take the time to say thank you. If the feedback is negative or the review came with a low rating score, acknowledge the customer and work on resolving any issues related to their experience.
Step 5: Add a self-service component to customer experience.
Not all customers who have a negative experience will take the trouble of letting you know. That’s why it’s important to have the ability to anticipate issues and problems before they happen — as well as add a self-service or self-support component to customer experience.
According to Forrester, as much as 67 percent of consumers already use online self-service knowledge to actively and immediately find answers to their questions.
Start with small tweaks that empower your customers to help themselves instead of run in the opposite direction. On your website, for example, you might want to think about adding features like FAQ sheets, a knowledge base, virtual agents, live chat, and click-to-call buttons. You definitely want to fix ineffective contact or signup forms, too. And to reiterate: have a mechanism in place for those who would like to share their feedback.
Even if they don’t utilize every self-service or self-support resource you offer, customers will appreciate your interest in helping them handle problems (and do so without wasting time). This results in increased satisfaction and improved customer experience.
Hopefully, these 5 simple steps can put you on the right track to successfully managing all the interactions between your business and the customer. With the right attitude — and a serious commitment to putting customers first — you can improve CX and inspire more moments of customer delight.