Eighty percent of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products. Think about this: For customers, the experience is just as important as the product. It’s not about what product has better features or a slicker UI. It’s about which company is easier to do business with, which company makes them feel more valued, and which company appreciates them as people — not just as contributions to the bottom line.
A lot of people equate “customer experience” with “customer service.” And that’s not really correct. Customer service is a part of quality customer experience, but that’s not all it is. Customer experience is about everything that impacts how your customers feel when they interact with you: the culture at your organization and the attitudes of your staff; the products and services you provide; the information you offer; how and when you offer that information; and the technology you use.
Customer experience is about inspiring your customers to interact with you and engaging them when they do so they enjoy the experience. It requires you to know your customers — and for your organization to value that knowledge. If you’re looking at other companies and wondering why your customers aren’t raving about you, let’s take a look at a few reasons why.
Make It Easy for Customers to Do Business With You
Customer experience is all about people understanding what they expect, understanding what they need, and often giving them what they didn’t even realize they needed. Creating a good customer experience is less about those big “wow” moments and more about the small things: being dependable and making things easy for your customers.
Think about Apple. Did any of us realize we needed an iPod before we had one? No! But once we had one, wasn’t it the greatest thing ever? Trust me. I ran my first marathon in 2002, and it was a game changer to go from portable CD players to an iPod. But if you had asked me if I needed something better than a Discman, I would have said, no way, it works well enough.
Customers need someone thinking about their experience running a marathon with a skipping CD player that runs out of batteries and forces them to listen to the same CD for three hours straight. (Trust me, I still can’t listen to “Save Tonight” by Eagle-Eye Cherry.) If you focus on proactively identifying and resolving customer issues, rather than waiting for customers to come to you, you’ll help turn your customers into brand advocates who increase satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.
A good customer experience leaves people feeling heard and appreciated. It minimizes friction, maximizes efficiency and maintains a human element. Make sure you’re making it easy for your customers, and not just for you.
Related Article: The Customer Experience Hierarchy
Understand Your Customers and What They Need From You
With any customer experience initiative, but particularly with digital transformation initiatives, you need to understand the impact on customers. Where are there silos? Where do you lose insight into the customer’s journey? Where are there gaps in data sharing between systems?
We’ve already talked about journey maps, but there’s another tool that can help you improve the customer experience: customer personas. When you’re building a customer-centric organization, personas and journey maps are important strategic tools that help provide an in-depth understanding of who your customers are, what they need, and how they interact with your organization across all touch points. But more importantly, for sharing customer insights across the organization, these tools can be critical for building buy-in and helping teams take targeted action to improve the customer experience.
Particularly when we talk about generations, it’s easy to point out the differences in how Boomers or the Silent Generation interact with services, versus millennials or Gen Z. Personas are one way to help you better understand your customers and build empathy with them. What are their needs and goals? What motivates them? Why do they behave in certain ways — that may or may not aggravate you?
Personas also help you describe to others in your organization what a better experience should look like. Many times, we think that there’s just this monolith of “the customer,” but every customer is different. The more we understand their interests and drives, the better off we’ll be.
Related Article: Is It Time to Rethink Your Customer Personas?
Build a Customer-Obsessed Culture
Now, let’s talk about the final piece in the puzzle: driving cultural change. It’s easy to say we’re customer-obsessed but building in the right strategies and mechanisms to consistently reinforce and strengthen that customer focus is a different story entirely.
At the heart of a customer-obsessed culture is building deep, long-lasting relationships with our customers so we create raving fans who believe in and advocate for our company. But how do we do that?
- Commit to it. It’s easy to say we’re making decisions with customers in mind, but do our budgets and staffing decisions reflect that? Are you investing in technology to help you become more customer-centric? Is your leadership team modeling customer-centric behavior? Are you rewarding customer-focused employees for their dedication? Without leadership from the top, no initiative is likely to succeed.
- Move from “I” and “me” to “we” and “you.” It’s easy to fall into an us vs. them mentality, but, if you’re customer-obsessed, you and the customer are on the same side. Make sure you’re modeling that in your language in all your interactions, from one-on-one conversations to marketing emails. Are you sending out emails and only talking about yourself? Or are you aligning with your customers’ concerns? Don’t be the bad date who won’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. Make sure your customer conversation is just that: a conversation.
- Stay personal at scale. Having data and insights to enrich each touchpoint is invaluable, but what really matters is hiring people who care about customers and will work together to deliver a consistent experience. The right people are the key to a customer-obsessed culture, because they approach every interaction with the customer in mind.
A sustained focus on CX is transforming the business landscape and everything about work — the systems we use, our customer relationships, technology and more. Realigning and mobilizing your company around CX is no small feat, especially if everything seems to be working well enough. But if you do it right, investing in customer engagement will pay off handsomely in the long run.
Melissa Henley is Director of Customer Experience at Laserfiche, an enterprise software company that has served the public and private sectors for over 30 years. As a marketer, customers are at the heart of all Melissa does, and her passion is around connecting people to content that can have a genuine positive impact on their lives.