To understand the importance of delivering a great customer experience, just think back to the last time you had a good experience.
Chances are it left you feeling valued, happy you’d chosen the company you did.
It likely wouldn’t have even bothered you if you were paying more for the product you wanted because the experience made you feel like it was worth it.
If the idea that your customers would pay more with you for simply providing a better experience sounds far-fetched, consider this research from PwC.
They found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.
Not only that, the more expensive the item they’re buying, the more they’re willing to pay for the better experience.
Today the customer experience is right at the top of customer priorities along with price and product when choosing who to buy from.
Many businesses understand this too.
It’s why so many are investing in improving the customer experience and in technology that can enhance the way customers contact them.
But, what can you do to improve your customer experience and what should you be focussing on in the next 12 months?
Personalisation is a big issue for customers today.
Whether it’s customising sales and marketing messages to tackle specific problems, or adapting services to meet the needs of an individual customer, being personal in business is critical.
When it comes to online, dynamic content is a great way to personalise what your customers see when they land on your website. It essentially changes the content a person sees based on their searches and how they’ve come to your website in the first place.
Livechat is another great online service because customers can engage with them directly and find what they need, rather than scouring through generic content on a website that may not be relevant to them.
Offline, the best way to be personal is to have real people dealing with customer enquiries.
Especially when someone calls you on the phone.
When a customer calls there’s nothing worse than being ‘greeted’ by a series of automated messages asking you to dial numbers to get where you need to.
Or, worse, being met by a generic voicemail message asking you to leave a message.
Three quarters (75%) of customers say fast response times are the most important part of the customer experience.
Nearly half (46%) of customers expect a business to respond within 4 hours and 12% expect a response in 15 minutes or less.
Even if you can’t resolve a customer’s problem on the first touchpoint, they’d still prefer to know they’ve left an enquiry with a real person and your company is looking into it.
The worst thing you can do is leave a customer in limbo wondering not only if you’re working on resolving their problem, but if you’ve seen their initial enquiry in the first place.
Let customers help themselves
Nearly seven in 10 customers will try to resolve an issue on their own before getting in touch with a company.
It’s why the most popular search phrase on Google is “How to”.
For many customers it’s simply more convenient to self-solve a problem, especially if it’s something deemed relatively basic.
But not enough businesses provide the resources to help customers solve problems, and it’s hurting that customer experience.
More than half of customers say the main reason they can’t resolve issues on their own when they want to, is because they can’t find enough information online – according to Microsoft
Focus on after sales
It would be wrong to think that the customer experience ends once someone has become a paying customer.
Whether they’re buying a car, B2B software or a suit, the customer experience should continue long after that initial purchase.
This focus on after sale support can be hugely beneficial.
For one, it makes it much more likely that the customer will buy from you again in the future.
Having an after sales strategy – whether it’s scheduling follow ups or offering ongoing support and service – can generate more brand loyalty and keep more customers satisfied for longer.
Be customer focussed
Every business likes to say they’re customer focussed.
In reality, many businesses offer good levels of support, as long as the customer connects with them how the company wants them to.
But being really customer focussed means adapting your business to fit the wants and preferences of your customers.
Communication is a prime example of where businesses fall down on customer focus.
Many businesses prefer to use ‘digital’ communication channels like emails, contact forms and – increasingly – chatbots.
When it comes to calls, many use automated paths where customers are forced to navigate various options to find an answer to their query.
All these options are very impersonal, don’t treat customers like individuals, and often leave them frustrated when enquiries aren’t responded to quickly or they get lost in an automated sequence.
From a customer standpoint, these digital channels are useful in some circumstances.
For example, 57% of customers prefer to use channels like email or social media for general enquiries.
But 40% of customers do prefer to call a business when they’ve got an enquiry, particularly if it’s of a complex nature or needs some explanation.
The point here is, businesses need to be flexible in how they deal with customers.
They need to work out what their customers’ preferences are, and adapt how they work around those.
The problem with asking for feedback is you might not like the answers you get back.
But when it comes to delivering and improving a great customer experience, getting feedback is essential.
Just asking for feedback can be enough to improve the image of your brand in the eyes of some customers.
More than three quarters (77%) of customers view brands more favourably if they proactively invite and accept customer feedback.
This feedback can be invaluable for figuring out where the gaps in your service are.
But you also need to act on the feedback you get.
That’s something customers think could be improved.
More than half (52%) of customers believe companies need to take action on feedback provided, according to Microsoft.
The simplest way to instantly improve the customer experience is to just be there when customers have a question or need help.
That’s easier said than done when you’re a small business or sole trader.
When you’re busy working to complete projects so you can get paid and move onto the next one, it’s easy to miss calls or forget to respond to emails.
This is when making the right investments can make the difference.
Investing in telephone answering can – for example – make sure you never miss a call from a customer or prospect and ensure all your calls are dealt with in a personal, professional way.
These kinds of services are particularly useful today when more businesses are working remotely and don’t need the services of a full-time receptionist to sit behind a desk.
You only pay for the service you use, and with all your calls being dealt with you can free up more of your time to complete projects to generate revenue, and dedicate more time to following up with leads who are likely to become customers, rather than spending all day dealing with basic enquiries.
If you have a website, installing a live chat function can be an effective way of either collecting customer information, or helping visitors navigate your website to find the content they need.
And if you’re going to invest in social media, make sure you have resources ready to quickly respond to any customer who gets in touch through one of your channels.
Nothing screams poor customer service like a customer’s questions left hanging on social media because you haven’t been able to respond.
Creating a successful customer experience for a growth focussed company
Having the right product at the right price is still vitally important when it comes to customers.
But more so than ever you can get yourself ahead of the competition simply by offering a better experience than anyone else.
If you follow the examples given here, you’ll be on your way to providing an experience that will keep bringing customers back again and again.