Have you ever thought about the journey a customer goes on when they do business with you?
According to business experts, customer experience (sometimes known as CX ‘for short’) is set to overtake price, product and even branding as the main arena where the battle for top spot in the marketplace will be won.
Studies have shown that while 80% of businesses believe they offer a great experience, only 8% of customers agree. More than just the latest buzzword, the success and ongoing growth of your business depends on closing that gap.
That’s why, as a business coach, I mentor business owners to shift their focus from just ‘customer service’ to take a wider view of the entire customer journey.
Why customer experience is more than just customer service
Customer experience refers to any contact your customers may have with your business or brand, before, during and after a sale. Sure, customer service can be a critical part of that experience, but it’s only one element.
For example, no one can deny that McDonalds has rather good (read consistent, fast and friendly) customer service. They pride themselves on it; for many customers it’s the main selling point. Need food fast? Maccas is likely one of the top three places that immediately comes to mind. BUT, consider that a customer’s most common experience of the brand is seeing their food wrappers flowing out of bins and into the street. This is definitely not a great customer experience. This association has no doubt contributed significantly to the widely held belief that McDonalds’ food (however consistent) is ‘rubbish’.
So, what is Customer Experience, then?
Customer experience (or CX) describes the online and offline interactions (or touchpoints) that a customer has with your business or brand; the whole ‘soup to nuts’ journey your customer goes on when they do business with you.
The customer’s contact with you may be direct (eg making a purchase or talking to a sales rep) or indirect (eg seeing your logo on a branded company car or talking to someone who has used your business).
At a basic level, CX design seeks to understand and leverage what a customer wants, does, sees, thinks, feels and likes about your business.
Contact points might include:
- Advertising and Marketing
- Brand reputation
- Sales process
- Customer service
- Fairness of pricing
- Product delivery
- Each individual product or service’s user experience (or UX)
- Post-sale customer care
Why customer experience is so important
As a business mentor, I coach business owners that customer experience is one of the key ways to differentiate themselves in the market and take their business to the next level.
There are two main ways customer experience contributes to your business’ growth:
CX promotes positive reviews
Throughout our recent series on small business marketing essentials, the importance of gathering and managing online reviews came up again and again. A good or bad review (whether online or via ‘word of mouth’) can make a tangible impact on the success of your business. It makes sense to find ways to give customers a great reason to leave a positive online review or make a referral.
CX allows you to compete in the market on something other than price
Entering into a price war will have you running in a ‘race to the bottom’ that nobody wins.
A far better strategy is to offer superior value to your customers. There are limitless ways to do this and it doesn’t have to be some expensive, grand gesture.
In a recent LinkedIn post, customer experience expert (and author of The Grid), Matt Watkinson, relayed a couple of examples of how a CX focus had made some of his recent experiences with small businesses more memorable.
He visited a Barber in Copenhagen, who took the time to remove his glasses prior to cutting his hair. Once he’d completed his hair-cutting duties, the barber polished Matt’s glasses and handed them back to him with smile. It cost the barber nothing to deliver that experience, yet Matt walked away moved enough to post about it.
Matt’s example demonstrates how it’s often a small, seemingly insignificant thing that could turn a single transaction into repeat business.
How do you figure out what this one small thing might be?
My business advice on CX for business owners is to start with these four strategies:
CX Strategy one: Map out the entire customer journey
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Mentally (or even physically if possible) walk yourself through a typical end-to-end experience with your business. While you are having this virtual experience, look out for the ‘buts’.
For example, “our website looks good… but… it takes ages to load on a mobile, so lots of customer might give up and click away.”
“We offer fast and reliable car servicing… but… we’re in a remote industrial area and customers have to make complex arrangements to drop off and pick up their car.”
If you can drill down to identify and solve the “buts”, your CX will definitely benefit.
CX Strategy two: proactively seek out customer feedback
Simply asking customers how you can improve their experience with your business is often the fastest route to improving your overall CX. That said, it’s often not enough. Customers don’t always know what they want, so you’ll also need to play detective.
CX Strategy three: watch customers closely to observe their frustrations
Business owners who have direct contact with their customer have a clear advantage; they can see and hear their customers up close. During personal interactions, look for body language and tone of voice that indicates happiness, surprise, disappointment or hesitation. If you notice a sticking point, look for the opportunity to turn what may have been a negative experience into a positive one. CX gold!
CX Strategy four: think about what the customer is trying to achieve
Different types of customers will be coming to your business for different reasons. For each group of customers, use the following template to work out their end-goal:
As a [type of customer/user], I want a [feature], so that I can [complete the goal].
Can you think of new ways to help your customer achieve that goal? There might be a CX opportunity waiting to be uncovered.
Four more tips for taking your customers’ experience of your business to the next level
- Treat your staff well – it goes without saying, but happy and engaged team members make the best ambassadors for your business. They are more likely to deliver exceptional customer service, provide feedback and ideas to management about how CX can be improved and generally spread the (positive) word about your business.
- Get your data in one place – a customer relationship management system (CRM) is the key to ensuring you can keep track of data relating to your customers and their experiences with your business.
- Build personal relationships – as previously stated, direct personal contact with your customers may offer you a clear advantage over big corporates. You’ll often have the client directly on the phone or standing in front of you, so use that opportunity to find out how you can improve their experience.
- Add a feedback loop to all of your communications – whether it’s a single pop-up question as people leave your website, a helpline, an email survey, or a suggestion box on your reception desk, be sure to put some mechanism in place that enables customers to talk back to you. The next step is, of course, to listen.
Take The Tenfold Business Coaching CX challenge
In my role as a business coach, I’ll regularly mentor my clients to find and implement one thing they could be doing differently from their competitors that would make a positive impact on a customer’s experience of their business. Challenge yourself to do this in your own business. Today – don’t put it off. Remember: it doesn’t have to be big, just meaningful. When we live the promise to be customer-centric, it results in a kind of good business karma; everybody wins.