There are very few businesses who don’t have competitors; and so many businesses charge similar prices for similar products and services. So why would a customer choose you over a rival? It’s the experience that buying from ‘you’ brings.
The more positive that experience; the more likely they will be, to buy from you again. And in a world where social proof and reviews are featuring more in purchasing decisions, delivering a good customer experience (as reported by your customers) can help influence others to come your way.
But what exactly are the pieces that make up your customer experience?
A journey of interactions
Think of the experience as the journey your customer goes on with you. The starting point may be noticing your products or services, having you recommended to them, checking you out on the web and reading through the reviews about you.
They may then enter into dialogue with you as they decide whether to buy. All the time they are subtly forming opinions about your business and evaluating whether their experience of it feels positive or not. These feelings will strengthen further as they progress along the purchasing process and also afterwards on receipt of your product/service. They’ll also evolve beyond the purchase with whatever post-sale communications or activities you undertake.
Each step or interaction of the journey builds to an overall experience – one which, at the end, they’ll be either happy to repeat … or not.
And at each step the values and quality of your business approach are put through their paces. People will be looking to experience the benefits and strengths you promise. They will have expectations about what value you deliver for the price you charge and will be disappointed if those expectations aren’t met.
The challenge of consistency
Customer experience is also at the mercy of the people in your business. Irrespective of whether your product is excellent, the service you wrap round it and the way you market, sell and provide after sales care, will no doubt involve human interaction – and humans aren’t always well known for being repeatedly consistent in their delivery.
Which is why it’s important to periodically test your customer experience to make sure it’s what you think and hope it is. As teams grow and expand, core values and key strengths risk being diluted as different approaches are adopted across the business.
In recognition of this, some businesses are very clear about their values, and regularly re-affirm them to their people to ensure they continue to demonstrate them in all they do.
Sometimes little changes can make a big difference
Another way to assess if your customer experience still delivers what it should, is to take the journey yourself – or get a mystery shopper in to test it for you. Go through all the different journey stages your customers do and question if the experience is as you’d want it to be.
Recently a client of mine did just that. They were a firm of financial advisers and offered a range of high value services to high net worth individuals. One thing that became evident from evaluating their customer experience, was that a small number of components didn’t reflect that high value/high quality ethos.
For example, the meeting rooms were in need of decoration, the team served instant coffee to customers when they came in, and their customer documentation had a look and feel of being produced relatively cheaply. These may sound like irrelevant issues but they jarred with the overall strengths and qualities the firm was well known for.
The team soon set about making small changes – the meeting areas were redecorated and customer areas were made more welcoming, customers were served fresh coffee and biscuits in meetings. The firm added little personal touches like sending cards to customers on their birthday and generally became more visible and active in their local community where target customers resided. On top of this their branded materials were redesigned to have a higher quality look and feel.
Fairly quickly it became apparent that their customers really enjoyed all the subtle changes. Over time these small fine- touches have in turn led to greater customer referrals, lots of positive comments and new business enquiries.
Put your customer experience to the test
It’s getting harder and harder to motivate customers to give their feedback, as we’re all continually bombarded with requests to do customer surveys. If you are able to get your customers to tell you what they think about your experience, then you are doing very well and should ensure you act on the feedback they give, so they feel their time has been well spent.
But do also take a proactive stance and put simple measures in place to check your customer experience is delivering what it should be. Periodically take stock and evaluate (as objectively as you can) that as a business you are:
- Communicating clearly and effectively with customers
- Being responsive and timely to their enquiries, requests and questions
- Offering good quality for the price you charge
- Meeting, if not exceeding, their expectations
With the competitive landscape for most businesses only set to intensify, differentiating on product quality and price will become harder. It will be the experience people gain when they buy from us, that will help us to influence whether they return. To be successful we need to really grasp the expectations customers have when buying our products and services and deliver on these. We need to be clear what challenges or aspirations they’re looking to resolve.
The more we can create an experience which is positive, ticks all the elements on their list and gives them a good sense of well-being by the end; the more we’ll foster customer loyalty and encourage customers to send others our way.
Find ways to look at the different pieces which make up your customer experience jigsaw and see if you can strengthen them in any way. Draw on the ideas of your team so everyone can buy-in to the concept of creating an experience that gets your business offering noticed for all the right reasons.
For more customer retention and experience tips contact me at Extended Thinking. And don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!
photo credit: deathtothestockphoto