Brands are finally considering customer experience as a key competitive differentiator. And any lag on that aspect can break reputations. Take some recent examples:
- Uber lost 200,000 users in the wake of #DeleteUber when riders deleted the app after the company continued operating its service at John F. Kennedy International Airport, undermining a taxi strike intended to protest President Trump’s immigration ban.
- United Continental lost about $800 million in total value in just a few hours after a video of a man being dragged off a flight became a major news story.
With customer experience management (CXM) becoming the next stage of the customer-centric business transformation, it’s imperative for the entire C-suite—CIOs, CMOs, chief digital officers, or other customer-facing functions to own the brand customer experience.
A PwC research says 86% of buyers will pay more for a great customer experience, while 32% will walk away from a brand they love after a single bad experience. A Gartner survey further predicts that 81% of brands expect to be competing mostly or completely based on customer experience in two years’ time. And it’s not just this. Customer experience also influences on-the-spot purchasing as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience.
So, what is this fuss all about?
As customer experience becomes more commonplace in our lexicon, let’s see what it is. It’s essentially how your customers feel you are treating them – their perception and such perceptions affect and guide their behaviors and feelings, ultimately driving their loyalty.
In simple words, if they continue to like you, they are going to do business with you for a long time and recommend you to others. This puts things in perspective as to why it’s important for so many companies to focus on customer experience.
To understand why customers’ choose a specific brand, it’s important to know the factors influencing them to say yes or no. Typically, there are three categories of factors that influence consumer behavior:
1. Personal factors: an individual’s interests and opinions, mostly informed by demographics such as age, gender, culture, etc.
2. Psychological factors: an individual’s response to a marketing message, mostly informed by their perceptions and attitudes.
3. Social factors: an individual’s family, friends, education, social media, income.
What can brands do about customer experience?
Now that you know why a customer chooses a brand, it’s time to dive deep and analyze their buying behavior and patterns. There are so many of them; we list a few:
Place or purchase location: The location of the store is very important for a customer, so the brands should always give a lot of thought to it. Some customers prefer not to visit a beauty salon, if located next to a mechanic garage. Some can be put off by the unavailability of their favorite products or even parking. Additionally, a lot of customers prefer to shop by comparing prices across stores in different locations. So, it’s not necessary that a customer will remain loyal to a single store for a very long period.
Product type and quantity: To deliver on customer experience, brands must analyze the type of product the customer wants to purchase and its quantity. This will again depend on various factors:
- Customer’s purchasing power
- Product Perishability or durability
- Product availability
- Product storage
Purchase frequency and time: Various factors affect a product’s purchase frequency:
- Festivals or life events
- The product type
- Customer Lifestyle
- Product’s perceived need – is it essential or can-do-without-it
- The influence of the individual who accompanies the buyer
Customers’ response towards the promotional techniques: Sales promotion methods are a known factor to aid in the impulsive buying behavior of a customer. Commonly used techniques customer prefer can be classified as:
- Special discount schemes and pricing on products, offers during festivals, and others like coupons, contests, etc.
- Product displays
- Social or print/TV ads
- Product demos and free samples
- Direct conversation with a sales rep
So, what’s the secret ingredient to getting customer experience right? Believe it or not, the magic word is consistency.
Bruce Springsteen famously said, “Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” Of course, he was talking about his music stardom, but his words are just as applicable to the world of customer experience.
It’s not enough to make customers happy with each individual interaction. Brands need to get it right every time and across channels to derive the maximum customer satisfaction.
How to measure customer experience?
Customer experience as a concept can look subjective but in reality, it’s quite objective to measure. Here are four top metrics used to track customer experience over time:
Net Promoter Score (NPS): A simple closed-ended question can get you the answer to what’s basically a customer loyalty score: “On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this product/company to a friend or colleague?” From the set of answers, you can derive a simple numerical score on a scale from 0 to 100 that represents customer experience.
Customer Effort Score (CES): It measures a customer’s experience with a product or service in terms of how ‘difficult’ or ‘easy’ it is for them to complete an action. Usually, brands send them out after a customer interaction, such as a talk with customer service. It mostly includes questions such as ‘How easy was your issue resolution?’ and a rating scale going from ‘1: very difficult’ to ‘8: very easy’. These are also sent out after customers reach important milestones in their journey; for example, signing up for a free product trial or successful completion of a transaction.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): CSAT surveys typically measure customers’ satisfaction with your product or service. You can assign a 5- or 7-point scale with 1: very unsatisfied and 7: very satisfied or give yes/no answers. But this is different from NPS in the sense that this score focuses on the customer’s attention on specific touchpoints they were satisfied or dissatisfied with. In contrast, NPS is more focused on the customers’ overall feeling towards the brand.
Time to resolution (TTR): TTR is the average length of time it takes customer service teams to resolve an issue after a customer complaint. It’s a hard-core statistic and can be measured in days or business hours. Typically, the leading cause of customer frustration is a long wait/response time. So, the shorter your TTR, the higher would be your customer experience score.
How can brands get the customer experience right?
1. Reviewing your current customer service strategy
The first step to getting the customer experience right is reviewing your company’s existing approach to customer support. Analyze the interactions using your company’s call center data or ticket stats, NPS and CSAT scores, as well as customer churn. You need to understand what’s working well for your business and where you can stand to improve.
Another way you can do this is by mapping out all interactions a customer has with your brand through a customer journey map. This map will invariably point out all the major pain points as well, helping you identify friction within your customer experience.
2. Training your staff
Once you know where you need to improve, the next step is to train your staff on new protocols. Communicate openly and transparently so your employees will get on board with your decisions, reducing pushback against your new policies.
3. Solving problems for the customer
A superior customer service strategy focuses on solving problems for the customer. A brand can’t just account for the anticipated problems. It needs to include unexpected problems as well. These days, most brands have customer success teams whose job is to anticipate potential problems and intercept them before they affect the customer. These teams also check-in with customers routinely, post-purchase. This proactive customer service reduces churn and strengthens your relationship with your customer base.
4. Providing Self-Service Solutions
With today’s technology, customers are more aware and self-reliant than ever. As a customer-focused brand, it should be your goal to reduce friction at every interaction by introducing self-service support options to your customers. Rather than requiring people to call your business whenever they need help, customers can find answers to questions on their own through tools like live chat, chatbots, knowledgebases, FAQs. This will also help your customer service team to focus on the more complex issues that require more time to troubleshoot.
5. Routinely collecting feedback
Listening to customers and asking for their feedback is very important for you to understand your customers. You must consider genuine feedback and apply it to your strategy. Adding an automated tool that can help you collect feedback after each customer experience is your best bet.
6. Tracking Your Team’s Performance
If you want your customer service strategy to be continuously effective, you must consistently track its performance. You must pay attention to the latest trends and incorporate them into your kitty to capitalize on them. And you can do this only if you keep gathering and tracking recent customer feedback.
As a brand, you might put out the fanciest brand promise, but it is the customer who decides whether or not you have delivered on that promise. There’s a lot riding on delivering a positive customer experience – business growth, continuity, reputation. Don’t take it lightly!