Customer experience is the sum of every interaction a customer has with your company, products, and services. It can be a defining competitive advantage, as found in one study, where 86% of customers said they were willing to pay more for a product or service if they get a better customer experience. As a result, improving the customer experience is becoming an increasingly important priority for many organizations as they seek to succeed.
While some ways of improving customer experience are obvious, like implementing formalized customer service standards and providing customer service training, though there are plenty of considerations that are not so obvious. Here are six things you can do that will improve customer experience in unexpected ways and help you become a more customer-centric organization.
1. Hire the Right People
Making sure you have the right people in the right roles is critical to creating a better customer experience. When people care about the industry, the role they are in, and the organizational mission, it shows. This is not just true for customer-facing roles, but for every function in the company.
For example, if you employ people who are not only skilled, but also passionate about web design, you won’t just have a functioning website. You will have a site that considers user experience from every angle, including look and feel, flow of information, how fast it loads, how well it works on various mobile devices, whether it is fully accessible, and whether it is secure. Your web team may never see or speak to a customer, but they provide a critical component of the customer experience. The same is true for every department in your organization. Having the right people in the right roles will provide an immediate advantage to your customer experience initiatives, so make sure you get this right.
2. Empower Employees
Once you have the right people in the right roles, you must be sure to provide them with the tools, training, and resources they need to take a customer-centric approach. Empowering employees also involves communicating clear boundaries around the types of decisions they can make to improve the customer experience, and providing the freedom for them to work within those boundaries knowing they will have their leaders’ support for decisions they make.
For decisions that fall outside of those boundaries, put a mechanism in place to initiate the process for review. If employees only have informal channels and their ideas always slip through the cracks, they will eventually stop bringing them forward.
3. Know Your Customers
Another absolutely critical component to providing the right customer experience is to know your customers, both generally, and personally. Customer experience is not about what you believe customers want – it is about knowing what they want. This begins with uncovering in-depth knowledge of your ideal customers and ensuring that all of the company’s processes, products, and services are in sync with that knowledge. Customer-facing employees play a critical role in this process by capturing feedback and information that others within the company might not otherwise have access to. Then, you need to be able to listen to and act on individual customer needs, and personalize their experience with your company.
4. Be the Expert
There is an old adage: the customer is always right. Everyone knows this isn’t true – even your customers. If a customer has asked for something specific, and having explored their needs fully, you agree that what are asking for will help them, that’s a straightforward situation. But often, they come to you with a problem they need to solve. When you fully understand their need or problem, it is time to step up and be the expert they are looking for. Present some options, but don’t be afraid to let them know which one you think will make them the most successful and why. They will know they are in good hands when you are able to demonstrate you understand their needs and have the right solution.
In addition, if you don’t think you have the right solution for them, be honest. While it may mean turning business down in the moment, selling something to a customer that will not solve their problem is not a good customer experience, and will destroy their trust. On the other hand, being honest will build trust, and they may return to you when they have another problem, or refer others to you based on that trust.
5. Manage Customer Expectations
How a customer judges their experience with your company is not just a function of what you do, but it is also about their expectations. That may seem obvious, but companies often make assumptions about the customer’s level of knowledge – about the industry, how your solution addresses their problem, how long things should take, and so on – that can inadvertently result in a gap between the customer’s expectations and what they receive. By being clear from the start, you set an accurate expectation so the customer knows what to expect and will be satisfied with the process.
6. Adopt a Customer-Centric Culture
The biggest thing you can do to improve the end-to-end customer experience at an organization is to ensure you have a customer-centric culture. For most companies, this is a major culture transformation initiative, as it encompasses all of the items above and many more. A culture of customer centricity means that the customer is the primary focus of every leader, employee, product, service, process, and initiative at the company. Every individual accepts accountability for their role in influencing the customer experience and how their decisions will affect the customer journey.
Customer Experience is A Process
Improving the customer experience at your organization involves looking at various aspects of the company in unexpected ways. Hiring the right people, empowering employees, truly understanding your customers, being the expert they need, and managing their expectations will all have a significant impact. To turn customer experience into a major differentiator for your company, though, takes nothing short of becoming a customer-centric organization. Adopting a culture of customer centricity is a major initiative, but it will make the process of looking at every aspect of your organization through the eyes of the customer into a company-wide habit.