How to improve the customer experience: Small business edition

Great customer experience is key to fostering customer loyalty. If customers have a pleasant experience with your company, they’ll be more likely to come back for more business and recommend your goods or services to others. 

But how do you plan for and execute effective customer experience improvement? Read on to find everything you need to know on how to improve customer experience.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience involves everything your customers feel and go through throughout the buying process. While many factors contribute to customer experience, the primary touch points are people and products.

Have you ever been impressed by how helpful a product is, or delighted at just how invested a customer support rep is in solving your issues? These are examples of how people and products deliver a great customer experience. 

Improving the customer experience is a company-wide effort. Everyone from your customer service team to your web development team has to prioritize your customers’ needs. If a customer’s entire buying journey is enjoyable, then you have a good customer experience.

There are many reasons to improve customer experience. Most importantly, good customer experience:

  • Creates loyal customers, increasing the likelihood of repeat business.
  • Increases customer satisfaction, earning your products or services more positive reviews.
  • Leads to better word of mouth, attracting new customers to your business.

Several types of businesses benefit from improving customer experience. To give you an idea, here are just a few examples of results that come from improving customer experience:

  • Marketplaces boost their sales and reduce customer complaints.
  • Service businesses get more appointments.
  • Subscription businesses improve subscriber retention.

Is customer experience the same as customer service?

To fully learn how to improve customer experience, you need to understand the role customer service plays in the process.

As mentioned, customer experience involves your entire buying process, so it also naturally includes customer service. Generally, customer service falls under the “people” touch point of customer experience because it’s primarily the responsibiilty of operators and sales reps.

Three main factors set customer service apart from customer experience:

  • Control: You have more control over customer service because you can choose what services to provide. However, you may have less control over customer experience because it involves many outside factors.
  • Measures: Customer experience and customer service use different metrics to measure performance. Customer experience uses metrics like churn and retention rate, while customer service uses metrics like response times and ticket volume.
  • Responsibilities: Your entire company is responsible for delivering a good customer experience. Meanwhile, customer service is usually the domain of your customer support team.

What impacts customer experience improvement? 

Effective customer experience improvement can’t happen overnight, so you should prioritize the factors that you can control right now 

Here are the nine main factors that contribute to the customer experience.

  1. Accessibility: Accessibility means customers can find your product or service, make a purchase, and get customer support easily. If customers have to spend a long time digging through your website to find a customer service number or contact point, your accessibility needs improvement.
  2. Empathy: Even if the customer isn’t always right, they still need to be kept happy. Good empathy demonstrates to customers that you’ll hear them out and do what you can to fix their issues.
  3. Language: Insider terms and company lingo won’t mean anything to customers. Your team needs to communicate in clear, unambiguous language so they can easily understand what you’re talking about.
  4. Response time: These days, customers expect everything to be done quickly, including communication with your company. Your team needs to be ready to take complaints and questions as they come in.
  5. Choice: People love having options. Products with more color, style, and feature variations tend to be more liked than the ones that don’t.
  6. Simplicity: While people like having options, too many options can be dizzying. Review your product lineup and strike a good balance.
  7. Quality: World-class customer service only goes so far. Always strive to make great products or services so customers come back.
  8. Pricing: Pricing isn’t about offering the lowest price. Find the sweet spot so you don’t turn away customers or lose profits.
  9. Loyalty programs: Customers love to be appreciated. Implementing loyalty programs like stamps or discounts can boost the likelihood of customers coming back.

Why a positive customer experience is key for your growth 

Why do you need to improve customer experience? There are more moving parts to this answer than you think.

Hera are the four core reasons why improving customer experience is essential when running a business.

Improve customer retention

Outstanding customer experience leads to satisfied customers. In turn, satisfied customers will trust your company more and be much more likely to come back for more business. 

Retaining customers is also a great way to secure more cross-selling and upselling opportunities since you already have an idea of what they want or need.

Attract more customers

Getting a larger customer base is one of the main reasons to improve customer experience. 

Especially happy customers will recommend your company to their friends and family, bringing more people to your business. What’s more, if these new customers are happy with your business, they’ll spread the word even further.

Get better customer feedback

If you want to know how to improve the customer experience, you have to listen to customers. 

By actively listening to comments and reviews, you can make strategic improvements and changes according to what your customers want.

Now let’s discuss how to improve the customer experience. 

How to improve customer experience: 6 proven techniques 

We’ve covered the what’s and the why’s, so it’s time for you to learn the how’s. Here are six great techniques to deliver an excellent customer experience!

1. Understand who your customers are

Happy customers lead to a thriving business. However, it’s hard to make customers happy if you don’t know who they are and what they want. 

One of the best ways to form a customer experience strategy is through data. Use analytics tools to find information on your customer base’s demographics, interests, and behaviors.

Using your data, you can create a buyer persona. Imagine this buyer persona as a real person and tailor your customer experience according to their needs. 

If your customer insights are accurate and your persona is well-made, you should see improved customer feedback after you implement changes.

2. Listen to employee ideas

You don’t run a company by yourself, and your employees may have some ideas on how to improve customer experience. Employees who work in customer-facing teams like customer service are especially in touch with what customers need and may have valuable insights.

If your employees have the initiative to speak up and deliver their ideas, hear them out and see if you can implement their suggestions. If your team is less inclined to speak up, be proactive and ask them for suggestions. Either way, hearing employees out is a good way for business owners to show that their employees’ opinions are valued.

3. Reward customer loyalty

Implementing loyalty programs is one of the best ways to improve customer experience. A loyalty program makes repeat customers feel like they’re an important part of the business and your company is committed to fulfilling their needs. This way, they’ll be less likely to buy from your competitor.

Customer loyalty programs come in many forms,  including:

  • Points reward system.
  • Periodic discounts and promotions.
  • Special birthday offers.
  • Free product samples.
  • Personalized email messages.

Whatever the form your customer loyalty program takes, make sure that you demonstrate that you’re grateful for their continued support.

4. Use technology to improve your customer experience

People expect a lot from businesses these days, and technology helps satisfy those high customer expectations. Some great ways to improve the customer experience through technology include:

  • Use a CRM platform to facilitate better customer communications.
  • Send discounts and offers through automated email services.
  • Examine past purchases and shopping history to deliver a personalized experience.
  • Handle payments faster through online payment gateways.
  • Provide proactive customer support through live chats on your website.

5. Embrace an omnichannel mindset

An omnichannel mindset means that, despite their individual approaches, your team is focused on one job and one job only: delivering great customer experience. 

An omnichannel presence means your business has many ways of communicating with customers, whether through text, chat, email, social media, traditional advertising, or other channels. 

Most importantly, customers should have the same positive experience, no matter what device they use or what places they frequent — giving the impression of a uniform marketing effort.

Embracing an omnichannel mindset involves integrating all your company’s channels and making sure all these touchpoints deliver the same messages.

6. Use customer journey mapping

You may know that there are issues in your customer experience but don’t know where in the journey these chokepoints happen. This is where customer journey mapping comes in. A good customer journey map details everything that customers go through when purchasing something from you.

An accurate customer journey map empowers your employees to pinpoint places where the customer experience is lacking. From there, you can address the issues and implement a new customer journey. If customer satisfaction scores improve, that means you have a customer experience improvement.

Be wary: The impact of bad customer experiences 

As important as it is to improve customer experience, it’s also crucial to recognize what a bad customer experience looks like.

Bad customer experience management is bound to hurt your brand. Here are four examples of how poor customer experience negatively impacts you.

Ruin your reputation

Unhappy customers are much more likely to write reviews. Unfortunately, with the social media landscape today, just about anyone can read about their bad experience. 

If there are too many bad reviews about your business, your reputation is sure to take a hit.

Lose out on sales

One of the hallmarks of a bad customer experience is a lack of responsiveness. If someone contacts your company and it takes them days to receive an answer, they may decide against buying from you and go to a more responsive competitor instead.

Decrease employee morale

Sometimes, a bad customer experience comes from employees not pulling their weight. When this happens, hardworking employees tend to be resentful of the slackers because they have to take on extra responsibilities. This can sometimes lead to these hard workers burning out and leaving your company.

Drive away potential customers

If people see that your page is filled with one-star and two-star online reviews from angry customers, they likely won’t even bother looking at your company website because they think they’ll have a bad customer experience. Your customer base won’t just dwindle, but it’ll also be harder to find new customers.

Recap: The value of investing in customer experience improvement 

To improve customer experience means to invest in your company’s success. The results may not be instant, but as more people get drawn in by your company’s excellent reputation, you’ll eventually reap the rewards.

Fortunately, you don’t have to improve your customer experience alone. CRM software like Method:CRM is built to empower you to deliver the best customer experience possible. .

Schedule a free 30-day trial of Method:CRM today!

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

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