Flawless customer service is necessary in a constantly connected world. But, businesses today are more concerned with the overall customer experience (CX), not just the service provided.
The customer experience deals with how the consumer perceives the brand. It’s about every single interaction the customer has with the company, whether in person or online. The ability to collect and process data on customers allows a company to better tailor its services to its core demographic. Marketing strategies should gear themselves toward improving that experience, turning customers into brand evangelists.
Fifteen associates of Forbes Communications Council offer advice on what businesses that want to focus on enhancing their customer experience should implement or improve.
1. Go Straight To The Source
Too often, marketers guess at what the customer wants. While intuition shouldn’t be downplayed, an easier way to understand what the customer wants is asking them. Spending resources and energy on interviewing customers always pays off because your company will learn the pain points of their customer and how to better cater to their needs, leading to a business model that’s viable in the long run. – Patrick Ward, High Speed Experts
2. Use Data To Understand Customer Preferences
Every customer is a snowflake. Not just young people or millennials — all of them. People want it made the way they want it, delivered when asked for it, and you should anticipate both as a marketer. The customer wants to buy when they want to, not when you want to sell. The best way to achieve this is by using data to be there when that happens — ideally before the customer “arrives.” – Patrick Reynolds, SessionM
3. Give Customers A Voice
Enhance the customer experience by giving customers a voice at each touch point. Customer feedback is gold and should shape your marketing strategy. On surveys, don’t limit responses. Provide an “other” option with a text box for multiple choice questions and include at least one open-ended question. Failing to allow customers to express themselves will frustrate them and hinder innovation. – Kay Midthun, Wisconsin Reinsurance Corporation
4. Know The CX Before You Market
Understanding the customer journey is the key to developing an effective marketing plan. The client experience should be thoroughly understood by marketers in order to build a timely and contextual marketing and communications plan. The more personalized you can make the messaging, the more likely you will be to make a connection with your intended audience. – Jeff Fleischman, Altimetrik
5. Get As Close As Possible
Have you lived your own customer experience? If not, try it on today. If you can’t live it, do an ethnography and observe your person where they typically use your product. Learn firsthand what works and what doesn’t work for them. Can’t get in home or on-site? Do a video ethnography. Have them screen-share their experience or set the laptop where you can see them interacting with your product. – Kim Evenson, MAXDigital LLC
6. Automate Where You Can
Automation can reduce cognitive load. We can automate the steps in the customer journey that are least dependent on human involvement — checkout, reminders, scheduling, feedback requests, etc. If you can automate the basics, you’ll reduce the workload for all parties involved. Your staff will then have more bandwidth to make a personal connection with the customer, greatly improving the overall customer experience. – Devin Henry, Nomadic Real Estate Investments, LLC
7. Be A Better Listener Than You Are A Marketer
The best marketers are the best listeners. The more I talk to customers, the more I learn. I’ve spent way too many days behind a computer when I could have been meeting with customers learning how we can best help them. Don’t assume that you have all the answers. Build feedback loops internally from your colleagues that are on the front lines servicing your clients to find areas to improve. – Holly Tate, Vanderbloemen Search Group
8. Create A CX Catalyst Network
Launch a CX catalyst network of leaders with a passion for customers. We asked each department director to identify the best candidates for the network based on a profile we developed. We asked each CX catalyst to contribute 20% of their time to CX activities, and they are held accountable for these activities in their annual performance reviews. – Ryan Hollenbeck, Verint
9. Offer Behind-The-Scenes Value
Customer service should be a focus for your customer’s experience. Addressing their concerns and answering emails in a timely manner lets the customer know they are your top priority. In time, the valuable relationship you build by offering quality service will lay a foundation of trust where people know they can count on your company to listen. They will come back and send others your way. – Shannon Bex, Vooks
10. Create ‘Moments Of Delight’
Once you’ve completed a comprehensive customer journey map, create intentional “moments of delight” for the customer. The best companies leverage the creative thinking of their employees to generate high-impact ideas that can shape a very positive customer experience. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a hand-written thank you note. – Jon Perera, Highspot
11. Spotlight Your Customers As Stars
Shine some light on the great things your customers are doing. Client champions don’t always get the recognition they deserve. We ask our clients to sit on expert panels and feature their stories on our socials/website as a company getting it right. It gives our champion well-deserved exposure and improves the company’s employer branding. – Lori McKnight, CSI STARS
12. Review All Of Your Customer Touch Points
A common annoyance for customers is when a brand’s messaging is out of sync. This can happen if a company becomes too siloed and different teams that communicate with clients aren’t coordinating their initiatives internally. This can lead to issues like current customers receiving prospect-only offers or just receiving too many messages in a short period. Make sure all customer communications are aligned. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC
13. Respond In Real-Time
When a customer contacts you, either they are frustrated, need help or they are ready to buy and have a question or need clarification. Don’t keep them waiting. In today’s digital era, customers expect responses in real-time. If you don’t respond fast, the customer will move on and purchase the item from your competitor. So don’t procrastinate. Respond now. – Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC.
14. Link Marketing Analytics With Product Analytics
We make sure that we’re bringing in data on how our customers interact with our software product into our CRM. That way we can tailor our customer communications based on behavior. If someone stops logging in frequently after a period of heavy use, we can ask them whether their business circumstances have changed and perhaps offer help to ensure they continue to get value. – Jon Falker, GLIDR
15. Start With Employees First
Customer experience can be a brand differentiator. In order to achieve CX goals, start with employees, especially the front-line employees who interact with customers daily. It requires an executive champion to create a customer-obsessed culture where everyone owns customer excellence and feels valued. Best-in-class brands have an executive champion (top-down) and engaged workforce (bottom-up) approach. – Stacy Sherman, Schindler Elevator Corporation