Over the past few years, marketing directors have been concentrating on one key area to stand out from their competition and drive more sales: improving customer experience. Focusing instead on the way you sell rather than what you sell can have a huge impact on your business: for example, research from Corporate Executive Board shows that the majority of buyers (53%) will go with the supplier who was the first to offer them some valuable insight or useful information.
The next logical questions to ask are: where do you fit in? How can you revamp your business’s customer experience? What can you do to tap into the buyer’s emotional journey, all the way from research to purchase? This guide will take you through the common challenges (so you’ll know what not to do), the right questions you should be asking to make your strategy work harder, and a few tips to help you improve your overall customer experience.
The common challenges with customer experience
Before you set out to try and improve your own customer experience, it’s important to understand what makes a ‘bad customer experience.’ In very general terms, what are the main grievances or annoyances from the customer’s perspective?
- Leveraging technology effectively
From email to social media to chat windows to telephone queries, there are many different customer service channels available these days, and some companies think that they need to activate all of them to satisfy their customer’s needs. But there’s no point in being reachable through a variety of channels unless you can constantly manage each of those channels equally and efficiently. The last thing you want is a disgruntled customer having to repeat their story to ten different people within your business as they try to resolve an issue.
- Having a clear path from problem to solution
There are few things more frustrating than having a problem and not knowing what to do about it – or not knowing where to go to get start getting it solved. Seemingly little things – like not prominently displaying your business’s customer service number on your website, not hearing the option you need on a lengthy phone menu or taking more than a day to respond to a complaint on Twitter – can create a negative experience. And once your customer is unhappy with your service, research shows that 91% of them won’t do business with you again.
- Truly understanding what your customers need (as opposed to what you think they need)
In the Citrix webinar ‘Achieve Breathtaking Customer Experience to Accelerate Growth’, presenter Tony Hughes, Sales Leadership Management Consultant at RSVPselling, tells the perfect anecdote to highlight this dichotomy:
It’s so easy for marketers to fall in love with their product; we’re all like Narcissus staring into the pool of water, sending ourselves crazy with how beautiful we think the thing is that we’re selling…Look at Heinz: they’re the oldest manufacturer of ketchup (or tomato sauce), they’ve got a high-quality product, they put it in a beautiful glass bottle, they have nice packaging and they’re thinking it’s job done. But…the reality is that the customer doesn’t care about the nice-looking glass bottle: they get frustrated by the fact they can never get the last of the product out of the bottle.
Although in this instance Hughes is talking specifically about product design, his example illustrates the need for companies to start treating their customers like clients and understanding not only what they find valuable, but how they define value in the first place.
The questions you should be asking
So now that we’ve gone through a few of the factors that can contribute to a negative customer experience, what creates a positive customer experience? Ultimately, that depends on your business: a SaaS provider’s customers and target audience are going to have different wants and needs than that of an insurance firm. But here are a few questions all businesses can ask themselves to start to better their customer experience:
- Rather than trying to differentiate your product or service from competitors by focusing on features, pricing plans, etc., how can you differentiate the way you support your market?
- In the same Citrix webinar, Hughes shares a key takeaway point: ‘It’s a big mistake in business to just think about how we work with clients at the moment that they become a contracted customer or a paying customer…today we need to think about how we act strategically by engaging as early as possible.’ In other words, how can your business attract and engage with potential customers early on during their ‘research phase’ – that time when the customer is looking for information, not a hard sell?
- How can you engage with people in a delightful, personal, unique way? What are the little touches that you can use to improve the experience of potential customers and connect with them in a real way?
Five ways to improve your customer experience
- Make sure your website and mobile apps are user-friendly. As many people’s first point of contact with your company will be your site, you want to ensure it doesn’t put users off. This means thoroughly checking your site’s user experience – things like improving page speed, catching any 404s, clearly displaying your contact details (including your social profiles) and using white space on the page effectively (i.e. not trying to cram too much text or imagery into too little a space on the page). For more tips on how to improve your site’s user experience, this article from HubSpot will give you some great advice to get started.
- Always stay up to date and consistent. Although it kind of goes without saying, this should be applied to all aspects of your business, from making sure that your customer support staff and sales reps are delivering the same information to maintaining a clear tone of voice in all your messaging to publishing content that’s useful to your target audience.
- Help your customers help themselves. If you’ll briefly revisit the first paragraph of this guide, you’ll remember that stat: 53% of buyers choose the supplier who was the first to provide them with valuable insights or useful information. This means you should be producing content that informs rather than sells. For example, here at Citrix we produce frequent webinars on relevant industry topics like productivity, lead generation, virtual collaboration and customer service, all designed to empower our audience with information they will find helpful, instructive or thought-provoking.
- Focus less on selling a product, more on ‘selling a solution’. This ties in directly with the previous bullet point, but it is an important part of emotionally connecting with potential customers. Rather than trumpeting your product’s superior features or specifications, Hughes suggests trying to answer this question: ‘What do my buyers or clients look for online before they even know to come to look for me?’ In other words, how can your product or service help them achieve their desired solution? Listening is one of the most vital aspects of creating a good customer experience, so use what you hear – what your target audience is looking for – and answer those questions in your content.
- Treat your employees as well as your best customers. Richard Branson once said: ‘Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen—so long as their needs are being met.’ Your employees are the face of your business, and you want happy, positive, helpful faces interacting with your customers. Not only do happy employees generally mean increased productivity, less sick days and a better staff retention rate, happy employees are likely to champion their workplace, which will attract the best job seekers, who will deliver a higher quality of service to your customers.
Here are a few quick ways you can create a ‘good people culture’ within your business:
- Educate: Employees want to work for people that truly care about helping them achieve their career goals, so it’s important to offer opportunities for them to learn. Encourage workers to attend conferences, networking events, short courses, or anything else they feel would help them do their job – and offer training sessions (either in person or remotely via GoToTraining) to teach new skills. Show that you are committed to helping your employees succeed, with both their daily work and their long-term career goals.
- Empower: Show that you care about them outside of work as well, and help them achieve work-life balance. From allowing your employees to take time off to deal with personal issues to hosting a healthy team breakfast every Monday morning to implementing a remote working policy, these will all help build a positive company culture.
- Empathise: Just as you would talk to customers about what does and doesn’t work in the product or service in order to improve upon it, do the same for your employees. Listen to their concerns or suggestions about the organisation or their team, and show that you’ve listened by taking action. Foster a community of transparency, honesty and respect: you want your employees to feel comfortable enough to speak up if something’s on their mind.
Improving your customer experience means constantly evaluating your current practices. To read more on this subject, check out these resources:
- Citrix’s webinar ‘Achieve Breathtaking Customer Experience to Accelerate Growth’ (presented by Tony Hughes)
- Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk ‘Lead with Why’
- Sage CRM’s blog post ’12 experts on the biggest customer service challenges faced by businesses today’
- Entrepreneur’s article ‘6 Steps for Creating a Strong Company Culture’ (written by Jeremy Bloom)
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