According to the Harvard Business Review, “organisations (sic) able to skilfully managed the entire [customer] experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.” The report goes on to say that further to this, enterprises that get it right also find more effective ways to enable collaboration and deliver gains throughout the whole of the company.
Reaching the nirvana that is providing the perfect service is never easy however, especially in the modern climate in which consumers hold much of the power. Where once it was acceptable to keep customers hanging on a phone for up to an hour in a queue, now consumers hit social media to gain instant answers. In some industries, having the reputation of a brand tarnished on social media and review sites can be fatal. Consumers expect great customer service, and they expect to receive it on their preferred platform, whether that’s social media, live chat, email, SMS or phone.
Customer Experience is a Sum of its Parts
Many points of the customer experience can fail; it could be that consumers don’t like the marketing message, or feel that it’s being inappropriately shoved down their throat. Some will bemoan the usability of a website, whilst others will report that contact wasn’t fast enough or effective. Customer experience (CX) is a sum of its parts and all of these must be looked at both individually and as a part of a whole.
Generally speaking, we can break down customer experience thus:
- Website UX
- Customer communications (including multi-channel, multi-device)
- Brand strength and perception
- Understanding the customer journey
Providing an excellent customer experience requires that these parts work in harmony to give the consumer a level of service that they find to be exceptional. Technology researchers at Gartner, Inc., describe customer experience management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
Whilst the consumer-business power balance has shifted in recent years leading to several new customer experience trends, some organisations have yet to catch up. A quick look for this year’s most cringe-worthy social media gaffs will return plenty of results to prove that point. Technology, whilst being a great enabler for many business processes, does seem to bring out the worst in some who don’t particularly understand the power that it has to propel a business into the stratosphere. As a case in point, the recent story of an entrepreneur who started a business which promised to send glitter to your enemies received such a large volume of orders following being featured on social media that he was forced to close the budding business down – he couldn’t keep up with customer demand, nor cope with the sudden limelight.
Likewise, social media also has the power to destroy a business that treats its customers badly and reputation management is now becoming an established service in itself. The point is though that whilst some organisations have really bought into the idea of customer experience, many haven’t and don’t yet understand why they should.
Providing a Great CX
CX is not just about ensuring that there’s always someone on hand to answer a query or complaint though and there are plenty of subtleties that the average visitor to your website would barely notice unless they had been done badly. For example, a field which has seen a resurgence of interest in the past few years has been in user experience (UX). Changes made to a site to ensure that the customer is taken logically to where they want to go, where a search function performs well, where clickable areas on a mobile don’t send the user to a completely different page, all of these things and more are a part of UX that the consumer might very well ignore when they’re functioning well.
Get them wrong however and it’s likely that the site will be quickly abandoned and a potential sale lost.
Business analytics too are highly useful for studying how a visitor uses a site. It can tell you which pages commonly see the most departures from the site, which content visitors are engaging with the most and much, much more.
Start with Strategy
As with most things in business the key to delivering good CX is in strategizing and planning. This starts with a clear vision of who your customer is and what they want to experience when visiting your site, calling your company and so on. The approach should take into account all departments – from the customer service front line staff to the marketing manager to sales – if it’s to be successful. Everyone, enterprise-wide, should be aware of the goals of the company and how it intends to reach them through various strategies.
So the UX designer will concentrate efforts on ensuring that the visitor has a great experience whilst using the site, and the development team will ensure that the back end of the site works flawlessly. Those on the front line will be given the tools to do their job effectively, without leaving customers hanging on the line, and the marketing department will work with the development team to pull together a more personalised experience for the user.
For more information on the key considerations to drive satisfaction and create a winning customer experience, read our guide.