According to Gartner, customer experience is the practice of designing for and reacting to customer interactions to meet and exceed customer expectations, to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. So, why, exactly, is customer service the ultimate marketing tool? Let’s explore just that.
As technology evolves, the bar is being pushed higher for more intuitive user interactions and usability. Achieving a customer experience (CX) that exceeds the customers’ expectations is becoming increasingly challenging. But know that, in general, ease, speed, and accuracy are the 1-2-3 punch that will keep your customers loyal over the long haul. And that customer experience is more than just customer service or quickly answered queries. It encapsulates the entire lifecycle of your customers.
So, Whose Responsibility Is Customer Experience?
In the past, the responsibility of the customer experience has typically been divvied up between customer support, product, and other departments. Rarely has the responsibility rested squarely on one department, which means the authority to ensure top notch CX throughout every phase of the funnel or customer journey has been spread too thin.
A top-level view on CX reveals that it best fits under the umbrella of your marketing department (which is why marketing typically controls the majority of the customer experience budget).
A Shift in Importance
So why the sudden focus on the customer experience? Offering great service has always been important, but is that what is really going to make a difference for your brand? Yes, the answer is an emphatic YES!
Your competition is growing and gaining more accessibility to your customers, learning where they hang out and how to ease their pain points. Meanwhile, there has been a customer-facing shift—they are now self-empowered, educating themselves thoroughly before each purchase decision, engaging your brand via whichever channel they deem fit and expecting the kind of service that is always there. This has disarmed the product battlefield and opened up a new realm for you to conquer in order to win and keep customers—the customer experience.
Branded, personalized moments at each and every point of customer engagement is what market leaders are seeking. The gap must be closed between customer demand and what brands are actually delivering.
With that being said, here are five checkpoints that your company should focus on in order to get your customer experience strategy up to snuff:
1. Sport a User-Centered Design
This is the first checkpoint you put your entire customer experience through. You can erase the need for other fixes along the journey by ensuring that your website/product/service is intuitively built to cater to your users’ expectations and needs.
You definitely need to hire some talent to stay abreast on the ever-changing reality of user behavior—having a smart design is only one fraction of this equation. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to test like crazy, analyze, adapt, and then test again. A/B testing is a brilliant approach for configuring the best marketing strategies for your business and it is also an incredibly intuitive method for testing your CX. User-centered design is crucial for learning about your customers’ needs and wants, enabling you to cater to the consumer through marketing strategies and, of course, providing optimal customer experience.
2. Offer Personalized Engagements
It’s true that sometimes, personalization isn’t crucial. Some engagements are general and don’t require the extra finesse of personalized content. However, when personalization matters, it really matters. This is important throughout the entire funnel or customer journey. If your visitors have to dig and search to find relevant information on your website, you are creating more effort and, in essence, driving a huge wedge of inconvenience between you and them. This is especially true if you consider the fact that your competition is likely investing in these top-funnel, personalized experiences.
By the same token, once your prospects have become paying customers, any query they present to you must be personalized. Don’t neglect your valued customers by displaying information that is geographically and contextually irrelevant to their account, needs, or past experiences with you. Seek out an automated solution that easily enables you to create a personalized experience for your customers.
3. Provide Clear Paths to Resolution
Not every customer engagement with your brand will be cut and dried. Sometimes technology cannot satisfy your customers and the human touch is required for more urgent issues. When the path to resolution is anything but a seamless straight line, it adds effort to the customer journey and puts a damper on the customer experience.
Re-channeling should be intelligent and immediate. If the first engagement is with a dynamic contact center or other self-service platform, then escalation to phone, chat, or email should be easily accessible and targeted to the right agent, with the right skill set. Having a clear mind on your customer’s needs is a positive side effect of knowing your target audience. Naturally, the course of your customer intel will evolve as your company tests and grows. However, your initial target audience will tell a lot about the type of queries you may receive, and it’s wise to cater the design and CX accordingly. This is a customer’s dream—but it unfortunately does not occur often enough. Be the change!
4. Retain What Your Customer Says
As I eluded to in point #3, if you want to knock your customers’ socks off, then make them tell their story only once. Throughout the escalation process, each point of contact, or agent, should have the full customer story from every previous customer engagement. They also must show a high regard for customers’ time by referencing this information to speed up resolution. (As a consumer myself, I’m thinking YESYESYES when I read this!).
Remembering your customers is a process that harkens back to gathering and analyzing the details of your target audience through market research. Assuming that your company is not the first service they’ve used within your industry, learn the drawbacks of the previous companies they worked with and use these shortcomings to better your own service and hone your strengths in a highly saturated marketplace.
By the time your customers engage with you because of a problem, question, wrong service, or faulty product, they are probably not in a particularly chipper mood. Having to revisit and explain the issue over and over can, and likely will, exacerbate any frustration they may feel. It also is proven to decrease confidence in your brand as it shows a lack of care and indicates antiquated technology where your CRM is concerned. Show up for your customers and know what they want before they have to ask…again.
5. Properly Sync Social
Mobile customer service is in the spotlight lately and your customers often defer to social channels when seeking resolution via mobile devices. According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans spend an average of 37 minutes daily on social media, which is more time spent than on any other internet activity, including email. It’s almost impossible to offer the kind of always-by-your-side support, across all social media platforms, that is necessary in order to pacify and even delight your customers.
If you have noticed unresolved questions, comments, and tweets on your social channels, or if your CRM is not syncing and recording these highly valuable customer engagements on social, it’s time to invest in a real solution.
Social customer service platforms, like Conversocial, can help put your mind and customer experience at ease. It’s the era of the customer, and they’re calling the shots. When they pull the trigger on social, you need to be there with the answers they need.
What Have We Learned?
Your CX needs a health check to be sure that you are putting the necessary focus on this growing value. One winning ingredient to the never-ending challenge of keeping customers happy is knowing the ins and outs of your consumers’ behaviors. In customer service and, more importantly, in marketing, communicating with your customer means anticipating their wants, needs, and problems even before they arise. In 2016 and beyond, the battle will not be won on the price page or over product features, but rather on the entirety of your customer experience.