As a small business owner, it is an understatement to say you have a lot on your plate. You have to hire the right people, help steer the company as far as branding and marketing, select the right vendors and partners, and be the face of your organization. Within all of this, you have to find time to develop a strategy to ensure your most powerful constituents —customers—have a worthwhile experience when interacting with your company. Here is how vital customer experience (CX) has become across all industries:
- 86 percent of buyers will pay more for favorable customer experience.
- By 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
If you are not already in the process of creating a CX strategy, it should be at the forethought of your mind. Here are five factors that should be a part of your CX strategy.
Understand the Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Service
It is easy to get the concepts confused as they both touch on the same thing, but both address very different aspects of working with customers. This is one of the first steps to creating an effective CX strategy. When a service representative is friendly, polite, and helpful during a phone-call or in-person interaction with customers, this is exemplary customer service. However, when customers enter the organization’s place of business and are offered coffee, quick and fast service, a discount for being a first-time customer, and a thank you card for giving their business…this is excellent customer experience. The concept of CX encompasses the total interaction customers have with the organization before, during, and after contact.
Create a Customer Experience Vision
This step should complement your company’s overall vision. Whatever your company’s core values are, the CX vision should discuss how these values will contribute to a favorable experience for customers. These values and the overall concept should be embedded in everything the company does: from how reps interact with customers to how engineers develop products that serve them best. The CX vision should drive the overall efforts of the organization.
See Where You Are Coming Up Short
One of the best ways to start addressing CX is to see where you can improve. Business owners should meet with frontline employees who interact with customers, the marketing team, and customers themselves (through surveys or social media dialogue) to understand where the company can do better. Are products getting lost in the mail? Is service slow? Is there any friction in the purchasing process? Can customers easily reach out to someone if they have a problem with a product or service? This is where business owners need to start when understanding why customers may not be coming back.
How Will You Reach Out to Customers?
While you should not bombard customers with emails and social media postings, you need to be visible as much as appropriately possible. Where are your customers? Are they on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest? How many email newsletter should you send out to inform customers of new products or discounts? This step should be a part of the CX strategy. When customers know that organizations will go out of their way to have a dialogue with them, answer their questions, or discuss new products that they can use it enhances their view of the company.
Differentiate Yourself from Competitors
You may feel that “it has all been done before,” but this could not be further from the truth. Take some time to see where your company shines, and then see how you can bring that same excitement and fervor to customers. Do you highlight certain employees on company blogs? Take time to acknowledge long-term customers in a special way. Do you have a referral program for employees in the company? Do the same for customers who refer their friends and family. Take a look at your brand and see how you can differentiate it from others. For example, all staff at Trader Joes, a “fresh format” grocery store based in California, take a moment to welcome new customers at the check-out counter. It matches the company’s friendly brand approach and sets them apart from larger stores.
The focus on CX will continue to rise in the next few years. Companies who make it a point to walk through what customers are experiencing to develop favorable interactions will experience success. Take time to speak with your customer representatives and other staff members who are working with customers directly to understand what steps the organization needs to take to help them.
If you need some help crafting a customer experience strategy here are some additional resources to get you started:
7 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience Strategy, www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-strategy/
8 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience Strategy, www.helpscout.net/blog/customer-experience-strategy/
How to Design a Customer Experience Strategy, blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-experience-strategy
Top Customer Experience Strategy Resources: 50 Articles, Guides, Presentations, and More to Help You Refine and Execute Your Customer Experience Strategy, www.ngdata.com/customer-experience-strategy-resources/