Think about a time when you had a remarkable experience with a business. You may not remember every detail, but you probably remember the positive feelings around the product you got, the customer service received, or your expectations being exceeded. Now, think back to a negative experience you had. Perhaps you felt frustrated or as if you were treated unfairly.
Did you write a review or tell someone about the experience? In both scenarios, these emotions often drive people to share their experience with others, whether virtually or through word of mouth. They fuel us to advise others to share in our joy or avoid our mistakes. If you’re a business leader in any industry, you know that creating helpful, engaging, and frictionless experiences for your customers can positively impact perceptions of your brand, increase purchases, and make loyal fans for life.
The following are several ways to improve your customer’s experience, and why business leaders need to focus on the customer experience to ensure continued growth and engagement.
What Is Customer Experience?
Customer experience (or CX) is how a customer interacts with and feels about your brand. Any time a customer has some kind of touchpoint with your brand, it’s added to the collection of experiences that makes up their perception of your brand. Essentially, enough positive interactions and they’ll be happy to remain a loyal customer; enough negative experiences and they may never consider you ever again.
Below are some of the types of experiences a customer can have with a business:
- A customer steps into a retail store and is greeted by a friendly worker offering to help them find a product.
- A customer follows a business on social media, and likes a post that teaches them something new.
- A customer wants to pay for a product, yet stands in line for 15 minutes because only one cashier is working while the others chat among themselves.
- A customer visits a business’ website and is able to easily learn about the services the business offers.
- A customer calls a business’ service line but is treated rudely and doesn’t get their question resolved.
- A customer returns to a favorite business because they love the ambiance and atmosphere.
Experiences typically are not neutral. Customers will feel either positively or negatively about a touchpoint, and that feeling and emotion can impact how much they’ll spend with you or how loyal they’ll be, today and into the future. The good news is that business leaders can control what types of experiences their customers have. But why is focusing on experiences so necessary?
Why Do Customer Experiences Matter?
Customer experience can make or break your business. It’s not just about whether or not they get the products and services they’re seeking; it’s also about reinforcing the value your brand brings and securing future customers.
Here are just a few reasons why investing in customer experience is important.
Experiences matter as much as products and services: Customers place a high value on their experiences, and 80% of customers say that “the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.”
There’s higher retention for satisfied customers: Positive experiences make satisfied customers, and 90% of customers who are highly satisfied with a brand say they are highly likely to return to that brand to make more purchases.
Experiences impact revenue: Brands who prioritize offering great experiences to their customers will see the positive impact to the bottom line, as 84% of companies who improved their customer experiences saw increased revenue.
Focusing on experiences makes businesses more resilient: Businesses that provide great experiences for their customers are more resistant to market changes and recessions, and see “a shallower downturn, rebounded more rapidly, and achieved three times the total shareholder returns in the long run.”
Customers will pay a premium for experience: If you offer your customers great experiences, they’re more willing to pay more for your products and services—upwards of 18% more.
Negative experiences have an impact, too: Brands looking to attract and retain customers need to focus on getting the experiences they provide right consistently, since it would only take one bad experience for 32% of customers to stop interacting with a brand.
How can businesses get increased revenue and higher retention rates? By focusing on how experiences drive the customer journey.
How Experiences Impact the Customer Journey
The experiences that you create for your customers directly impact their customer journey, or the path they take from finding out about your brand to becoming a life-long fan. You can use experiences to further enhance and drive their journey in the following ways.
Awareness: The first step on the customer journey is gaining awareness of your products, services, and brand, such as hearing about the brand from friends, or reading a positive review. This means that they hear about your brand from the positive experiences others have already had.
Consideration: Once a customer has had some touchpoints with your brand, they hopefully start to feel positive enough about their experiences that they would consider purchasing from you. However, if a customer has a negative experience—the website is too hard to navigate, they can’t find someone in a store to answer their questions—they’re likely to abandon their consideration of your brand altogether.
Purchase: Enough positive experiences with a brand will increase their confidence that you’re the one they want to give their money to and will make a purchase.
Retention: After the first purchase, brands have the opportunity to continue providing positive experiences to their customers by reengaging them in new ways that provide value and increase their willingness to continue buying.
Loyalty: The final destination is long-term customer loyalty and retention. At this stage, customers feel positively enough about your brand to be a fan and evangelist, but this can only happen if you continue to provide positive experiences that reinforce their positive feelings about you.
Four Steps to Creating Great Customer Experiences
Business leaders who want to create great experiences for their customers need to be deliberate about doing so. If you’re embarking upon creating a customer experience strategy or want to improve your current approach, here’s where to start.
1. Conceptualize Your Customer Experience Strategy
Start developing or improving your customer experiences by first creating a strategy or vision for how you want to impact the customer journey. For example, if your website has a high bounce rate or abandoned cart rate, overhaul your website experience. If your in-store purchases have dropped off, look at ways to increase foot traffic by improving customer service, offering more in-store technology, or streamlining the checkout process.
As you plan your strategy, ask yourself what experiences you could create that:
- align with and further your brand
- serve your target audience or customer base
- make the customer journey more efficient and frictionless
- create more convenience
- provide more friendly and knowledge service
- make paying for products quick and painless
Be sure to include in your strategy what success looks like for you, and how you’ll go about measuring success after rollout. Create clear objectives of what you want to accomplish, like more purchases, higher dollar amount per purchase, or more time spent on the website. Then, identify Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, that you can track so you can determine if you hit your goals.
Finally, as you evaluate your overall customer experience approach, consider creating an executive role like a Customer Experience Officer (CXO) who could lead the creation, implementation, delivery, and measurement of your customer experiences.
2. Implement Your New or Improved Customer Experiences
Now that you’ve determined the types of experiences that will serve your customers and add value to their journey, implement them.
First, start small. If you want to implement augmented reality in your in-store locations, don’t roll it out across all locations at once, but pilot it in one location to learn how it will work and if customers are responsive.
Educate customers on new experiences as well. If you’re implementing new self-service ordering screens, have associates invite customers over to the screens and teach them how to use it.
Don’t forget to promote your new experiences across your marketing channels so that customers can get excited about the experience before they try it.
Finally, have a system in place for tracking data and customer feedback around your new experiences so that you can gauge their impact, and use Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software to track customer touch points.
3. Measure Those Experiences with Data
Now, it’s time to measure how your experiences impact your business by gathering data from your KPIs and analyzing the results. Perhaps you revamped your website for a better customer experience, and found that your abandoned cart rate went down and purchases went up—achieving one of your goals. Or, if your data shows no change after your website revamp, you know that you need to investigate what else needs to be changed in order to hit your goal.
There are a number of different metrics you can use to track the success of the experiences you create for your customers, which can include:
- NPS: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) only asks one question: “How likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend?” Positive experiences lead to happy customers who want to tell others, and businesses can track that through their NPS.
- Customer retention rate: This metric tells you at what rate you’re keeping customers, and who is continuing to engage with your brand. A high retention rate means that customers are continuing to find value in the products, services, and experiences you offer.
- Customer churn rate: This metric tells you at what rate you’re losing customers. This can help you determine how and where engagement is dropping off, and whether it’s your experiences that are causing customers to leave.
- LTV: The customer lifetime value (LTV or CLV) can tell you how much a customer has purchased over the course of their relationship with your business. If LTV increases, you know you have a loyal customer willing to continue purchasing with you.
- Metrics specific to your experiences: Finally, track metrics that will be impacted by your experiences. For example, if you roll out an in-store experience that drives traffic to your website, track website visits, bounce rate, time on page, and daily visitors. If your experiences revolve around increasing the amount per purchase, turn to your POS data to track those numbers.
4. Optimize Your Experiences
Finally, use the insights you’ve gathered from your data to inform your strategy going forward. You can collect all the data you like, but if you never analyze that data for insights that can help improve your customer experience strategy, then what’s the point? Review your new initiatives and use the insights gathered to either keep up what you’re already doing, tweak your strategy, or go back to the drawing board.
Leveraging Design Thinking to Improve Customer Experiences
If you’d like to learn more about how to create and drive great customer experiences for your business, “Design Thinking: Creating Better Customer Experiences” can help you get there. During this four-day training, you will learn the fundamentals of design thinking, including user research, journey mapping, and rapid prototyping. You will practice how to apply design thinking to your customer experience strategy to better recognize your customers’ pain points, better understand their journey, and create more impactful and engaging experiences that will make them fans for life.
Learn more about the course here and register today.