Customer experience has become one of the top drivers of conversion and brand loyalty – essentially serving as a powerful marketing tool in itself. This article discusses customer experience, why you need to align your brand with it, and provides tips on how you can use it to boost you brand.
Customer Experience Defined
Customer Experience (CX) refers to the interactions between a customer and an organization through the course of their business relationship. This spans multiple touchpoints from awareness and discovery, to cultivation, purchase, and advocacy.
In this highly-competitive economic landscape, developing excellent CX has become integral to business success for a number of reasons. One of them is that a customer who has a positive experience with a brand is more likely to become a loyal customer and brand advocate.
CX has become such an important aspect of marketing that a Walker study found that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Customer experience vs. Customer service
Before we go further, it’s important to note that customer service is only one aspect of the entire customer experience. For example, when you book a room on Airbnb and the host is friendly and helpful – that’s good customer service. When the host meets you at your workplace to deliver the keys, and the room exceeds all your expectations, that’s great CX.
And because of technology and the evolution of different communication channels, there are now multiple touchpoints for customer interaction. Brands need to ensure that every step of the way, they’re able to provide good customer service to be able to build up to great customer experiences.
Why you need to align your brand and customer experience
As social marketing strategist Ted Rubin puts it, “Customer service is marketing.” Every touchpoint, whether it’s in your physical store, or through email support – are golden opportunities to solve one of your customers’ challenges directly. People remember these types of pleasant experiences. This is why it’s important for your brand to be associated with good customer experiences.
How to utilize customer experience to boost your brand
A carefully crafted CX strategy helps companies maximize their customer’s lifetime value by increasing customer satisfaction, reducing churn, and ultimately increasing revenue. This is why in 2019, 81% of companies expect to compete on the basis of CX.
Here are nine tips to help you achieve this:
1. Understand your customers
This is always key when starting any marketing strategy. To be able to provide ideal CX, you need to understand your customers—who they are, their challenges, and motivations. One way to do this is by creating buyer personas. For example, if you’re a financial services company, one persona could be 32-year-old Chad, married for two years with a one-year-old kid, who’s looking to buy a car.
For this kind of persona, you could then derive that this person is going through a few life-changing experiences—married life and parenthood. You can assume that money can be a bit tight at this point for Chad. This can help you identify financial products with low upfront cash requirements that you can offer him.
Put yourself in his position: When you’re approached by a business who seems to understand you well, you feel at ease with doing business with them. This is why it’s important to understand your customers.
2. Create a culture of customer-centricity
It used to be that improving CX meant making the buying process more seamless and reducing friction.
But with the rising importance of CX, thinking of how to sell products faster and more efficiently has become a limited view of what customer experience truly means. To fully embrace a dedication to CX, CMOs must create a culture of customer-centricity where everyone’s involved by hiring people with service at their core.
For example, a customer makes a birthday dinner reservation over the phone. The person who answers the phone must be trained to take note of such special occasions. That person will then relay that to the kitchen staff who’ll, in turn, prepare glasses of champagne and a special birthday dessert. Before serving the first course, the manager on duty could then visit the table and extend wishes to exactly the right person.
All those little things add up to great CX—something customers definitely won’t forget.
3. Improve all UX design
For smaller businesses, websites and other digital channels serve a chance to make a good first impression. And because digital interactions can come from multiple channels, you need to ensure that your UX design is solid on all fronts. As well, you need to plan every stage of the CX – from discovery to purchase and advocacy – so you can control how it appears to your customers.
Here are some tips:
- Create consistent brand experience across channels. Websites, apps, social channels, emails—all of these should have the same look, tone, and messaging.
- Eliminate hurdles. For example, if you’re a service-oriented company, make sure your contact information is displayed clearly. You should also provide multiple options to cater to customers’ preferences. As well, make sure all information is regularly updated.
4. Pay attention to customer needs and use feedback loops
You really won’t know exactly how customers feel if you don’t ask them. You might think that you have the perfect product and excellent service, but until you ask your customers directly, you won’t know how to further improve them.
Here’s how you can create feedback loops:
- Post-interaction / after-sales surveys. A simple email asking for customer feedback after they purchase from your online store, or following up after an exchange on Facebook Messenger can go a long way towards providing excellent CX.
- Social listening. Pay attention to what’s being said about you on social media. Often, instead of getting in touch with brands, this is where customers let their real emotions be known.
5. Conduct competitor analysis
In line with finding ways to improve, you should always keep your finger on the pulse of what your competitors are doing. In doing so, ask yourself the following:
- What are they doing better than you?
- How are customers responding?
- Are there market opportunities/threats?
Answering these can help you come up with new ways to serve your customers, eventually improving your CX down the line.
6. Build systems for quick resolutions
It’s important to give your customers control of the channels that can resolve their concerns. This way, you can give them space and not force your resolution systems upon them.
Some of the ways you can do this include:
- Chat platforms. Having live chat on your website would be ideal, as you want support to be available where most organic searches lead. But if you don’t have the resources for that, being readily available on platforms like Messenger go a long way towards bolstering your CX. Make sure you include all links to available communication channels everywhere you are, so they know exactly what their options are and where to go.
- Feedback forms. Of course, these still work. But you can spice it up with a bit of humor as you can see below.
7. Incorporate a memorable brand personality
While not every brand can imbue exclusivity like Rolex and (to a certain extent) Apple can, there are still ways to make your customers remember your brand personality. Airbnb does so by inspiring travelers to “Belong Anywhere.” Red Bull does it by defying limits.
It may not come to you right away if you’re just starting, but as you start to grow and learn from your customers, you can develop a solid brand personality. And once you do, it’s important to commit to it and make it a central figure in your marketing efforts.
8. Utilize AI to deliver better experiences
Six out of 10 US customers say they prefer a self-service portal over a call or video chat. This is where AI can come in and help through the following ways:
- AI-assisted messaging systems. Chatbots allow you to address rudimentary customer queries and even educate your customers by directing them to relevant content. As well, AI systems can gather customer data (browsing data and past interactions), which can then auto-send personalized messages.
- Help with context. Similarly, AI can show you a customer’s journey with their past interactions with your brand. This allows you to be contextual when interacting with them across various touchpoints.
9. Understand CX metrics
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This holds true with every marketing strategy. This is why you need to install systems that allow you to measure your CX.
Here are some metrics that can provide you quantitative CX insights:
- Net Promoter Score. NPS represents the percentage of your customers who would (or wouldn’t) recommend your company to friends, family, and colleagues.
- Customer Satisfaction Score. CSAT lets you know how satisfied a customer was with their recent interaction (a customer service call, for example).
- Customer Effort Score. How much effort is required from customers to accomplish a task? CES helps you determine how easy/difficult it was for your customers to, for example, find a product, or get ample support.
Fostering and delivering great customer experience has become a premier catalyst to capturing prospects’ interests, convert them, and convince them to stay as brand loyalists. And when done right, it can even be a self-sustaining cycle, with brand loyalists doing the marketing leg work for your brand.
Look at your current customer service processes and find out directly from your customers what you can do to improve it.
What’s one memorable CX one of your customers has had? Share it in the comments below.