At the heart of every successful business is a great customer experience. This applies across industries, regardless of the time or technologies involved. Without customer experience, the soul of the business is lost, soon with everything else.
As customer experience connoisseurs, we were curious to hear what today’s business leaders had to say about their CX strategies in the modern landscape – they had plenty to share, so stay tuned.
Chance to Try
Giving a sample or trial of your offerings is a great way to kick off any customer experience, especially if you’re an online brand with compelling physical products to sell. Even if they don’t fall in love with your brand, they had a positive experience that will stay with them.
“We strive to show our customers that we want what’s best for them and their skin,” said Ming Zhao, CEO and Co-Founder of Proven Skincare. “This is why we offer the chance for them to try another formula for our moisturizer and night cream within 28 days of purchasing the initial ones, if needed. We want to assure our customers that we are willing to be patient and flexible by working with them to help them obtain the absolute best option for their skin.”
There’s nobody on earth who doesn’t appreciate a test run before they buy, so this is a no-brainer if your brand can manage the resources.
Make the Connection
On a human level, everyone wants connection, and this is truer than ever in a fragmented digital world. You have the chance to provide these valued resources to customers and earn life-long loyalty as a result.
“Increasing efficiency of customer service all comes down to making connections and bonds with your customers,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “If your employees treat customer service as a chore or something that needs to get done rapidly then the results will not be very good. However, if they take their time and just create casual conversation with your customer throughout the process of helping them, then a connection and bond is created that makes the customer feel more close to the business, which increases the chance that employees come back again.”
The company that truly appreciates and connects with customers is bound to win.
Take a Pulse
Years ago, customer experience was basically a game of trial and error. Customer feedback was rare, and had to be gathered through select channels which weren’t always reliable.
Now, you’ve got the chance to hear exactly what customers are talking about all the time. Why wouldn’t you leverage that opportunity to the fullest?
“No other time in history has allowed business owners to tap in directly to the pulse of the culture and the market to see where customers are at,” said Dr. Blake Livingood, Founder and CEO of Livingood Daily. “You need to be combing social media, reading comments, following discussions, and capitalizing on opportunities to deliver what people really want. That’s how great customer service starts – anticipating needs ahead of time.”
Listen closely to what customers tell you and your CX strategy will occur organically over time.
Train for Excellence
Your customer service team is making or breaking your brand reputation with every call, email, message, and social media interaction – it’s a harsh truth you need to accept sooner than later!
Knowing this, how will you train your service staff moving forward? It might be time for a change.
“Improving customer service comes down to how well your employees know what they are talking about,” said Steve O’Dell, CEO and Co-Founder of Tenzo Tea. “Think about all the times you’ve called a customer service representative and they didn’t really know what they were talking about. They have to take large amounts of time to figure out what they want to say. If you can get enough training to make sure that your employees are experts on your company then the amount of time they take with each customer will decrease. The less time your employees spend on the phone then the more satisfied customers will be with the service.”
Remember that quality beats quantity when it comes to training, and experience is king.
Gain an Edge
For all the talk about customer experience in the business and marketing arena, it’s still shocking how few great experiences we have as customers year in and out. There are always opportunities to step up your game, even at the top of your industry.
“Great customer experiences are exceedingly rare in the internet age, despite having so many tools at our disposal to make things better for customers,” said Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer at Genexa. “You can put your business so far ahead of the competition by doubling down on customer service and creating memorable experiences that they will share with their family, friends, and acquaintances.”
Never become arrogant about your customer experience prowess after some good reviews – there is certainly more work to be done.
When customer experience is lacking, it’s typically a symptom of something gone wrong within your own organization. Work to solve the problem from inside by improving culture and promoting values you wish to share with customers.
“Good customer service is bred from a positive company culture,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “If everyone on your team values customers and their time, then the connection made in their short conversation will go a long way. Customer service calls really are not supposed to last long, but if your employee can show that they have true interest in making the customer’s experience enhanced then that leads to more quality customer service that improves customer satisfaction.”
It’s not easy to pinpoint or track the progress of company culture, but it’s a worthy pursuit.
No more giving customers the runaround and avoiding direct interaction – that’s the old-school method of online service, and it never works out.
Connect with customers on a personal level, meet them where they are, and communicate like real human beings! That’s how everyone wins and your business thrives.
“Engaging directly with our customers is what has made Topicals so successful. Instagram has been huge for our brand,” said Olamide Olowe, CEO and Co-Founder of Topicals. “Our base is a direct reflection of who we are as a company, so sharing photos sent to us and chatting with our customers is our favorite.”
This new approach to customer service might take time to adjust, but the rewards are tremendous, so keep at it.
Support is Essential
Business owners and marketers often skim over customer experience, thinking that their product and reputation will carry them past the competition.
The smartest business leaders know that customers need all the support they can get, and these types of investments will pay for themselves many times over.
“The customer success industry is becoming increasingly relevant and important as the years go by,” said William Schumacher, CEO of Uprising Foods. “Companies are looking to personalize their customer’s experiences, and one way we’re going to continue to see this through is customer support live chats, or chatbots. Live chat is great because it gives consumers accessibility straight from your website without having to abandon to seek support elsewhere. Comfort and ease are what helps create good relationships with your clients, as the nature of assistance and the speed at which this assistance is provided are also the two most cited reasons that consumers feel they have had a pleasant company experience.”
Customers that feel heard and supported are always more likely to return, so make CX a non-negotiable part of your business plan moving forward.
Perfect the Product
You may have a great product idea bubbling in the back of your mind, but until you’ve spent years experimenting and getting it just right, you can’t expect customers to line up.
“I am strong in my belief that what keeps our customers coming back for more is our complete dedication and love for Sichuanese food,” said Jing Gao, CEO of Fly By Jing. “When you create something that has so much heart in it, people always notice. I spent years perfecting every detail of my product and researching the perfect flavors to make it all come together. Fly By Jing started as a pop-up dining experience where I shared my flavors in person with those who choose to attend. All the effort and care I put into what I do resonates with our consumers, and always keeps them coming back for more.”
When your product is undeniably great, customer experience becomes infinitely easier.
Set Yourself Apart
Some industries are far more competitive than others in the area of customer experience, so every bit of effort and strategy counts for so much more.
Take note of how competitors and allies approach the customer interactions and bring them to the next stage in a seamless, enjoyable manner with minimal pressure.
“When it comes to an industry like real estate, customer service is arguably the biggest factor that differentiates you from the competition,” said Tyler Forte, Founder and CEO of Felix Homes. “For the most part, the product is well-understood and transparent. It’s up to you and your team to make everything go smoothly and stress-free for the customers, and that’s how you stand out in a competitive field.”
A great customer experience feels natural and agreeable, never forced or awkward.
Have you ever been to a venue or shop that combined fun, excitement, and great service all into one experience? That’s how to stand out from the crowd in a competitive field.
“I am a huge fan of creating a personal experience for my consumers,” said Chris Vaughn, CEO of Saucey. “The best way we do it is by engaging in creative marketing. The reason we’ve reached our level of success is because we like to deliver experiences along with our products. One of our opening activations was, if a customer spent enough money on alcohol in-app, we sent a bartender out to their home to make drinks for them for an hour. Marketing is the best investment you can make when starting a business, and the more inventive you are with it, you’ll see a customer base come in fast.”
Don’t try anything too flashy at first – the fundamentals will lead you there in time.
You can’t expect to deliver a stellar customer experience if your employees and their surroundings are not up to par. When you create an outstanding environment, customer experience is simply a byproduct of those high standards.
“We are superior to the competition because we hire employees who work in an environment of belonging and purpose,” said Horst Schulze, Former President of Ritz Carlton. “We foster a climate where the employee can deliver what the customer wants. You cannot deliver what the customer wants by controlling the employee.”
After all, if anyone knows about customer experience, it’s the folks at the Ritz Carlton.
It’s not a question of if something is going to go wrong in the customer experience, but when. How will you deal with new problems when they burst up out of nowhere?
A wise approach is to frame problems as opportunities, flipping the script and salvaging unfortunate situations.
“While dealing with customers may seem like an insignificant, routine activity at the moment, it’s important to remember that your customers are actually helping to sustain your business,” said Matt Seaburn, President and Partner of Rent-a-Wheel. “Try to maintain this perspective and, in turn, you will feel more motivated to really value each and every one of your customers. Also keep in mind that a happy customer may refer others to your business.”
Whenever a customer has a complaint, consider how you can turn things around and make their day.
How do you envision your customer service strategy – a last line of defense, or a core part of your business mission? This is an important distinction, and the answer will help you find the way forward.
“Customer service is so much more than putting out fires and managing complaints after the transaction is complete,” said Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT. “It begins the first moment a customer visits your site, clicks on an ad, or interacts with a representative from your company. Start seeing customer service as an essential aspect of your business, rather than an afterthought.”
When you really zoom out, everything in your business has some relation to customer experience, since customers ultimately dictate every decision you make.
Engaging with customers has always been a touchy subject, bringing up questions of timeliness, etiquette, and other points of debate. Now, with the internet, it’s the wild west of customer service once again, so we’re all trying new things and seeing what sticks.
“Being interactive and engaging with your customers is exactly what it takes to keep them coming back, even during a time of uncertainty,” said Kaz Amor, Founder of VoCe Haircare. “We do a lot of chatting with our customers via Instagram. It’s been a great way to hear out any requests or answer any questions regarding our products. Customer service deserves a seat at the executive’s table. Without outstanding customer service, businesses simply can’t survive.”
A bit of trial and error is fine, but once you discover what works for your brand, why mess with the winning formula?
Many of today’s customers are very self-sufficient and don’t need a lot of hand-holding to get what they want. However, when they do have a question or concern, you better be ready with a response, because they’ll quickly depart if you don’t.
“A customer experience begins the moment an existing or potential customer is in contact with any member of your team, where they will form opinions about the level of service that they are receiving,” said Travis Killian, Owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort. “Therefore, it’s imperative that every employee is trained to offer support to your customers, and that they are knowledgeable about your offerings and how they can benefit them on an individual basis. Providing that support through in-depth training can often mean the difference between a positive customer experience and one that could be, in the least, described as negative.”
Run employees through scenarios, toughen them up mentally, and prepare them for anything that comes their way.
Show Customers Respect
We know that customers might not always show respect to you or your employees, but this is never an excuse to let your guard down. Always stay professional and cool, because that’s the only way to reach the outcome you want.
“To earn the respect (and eventually love) of your customers, you first have to respect those customers,” said Colleen Barrett, President Emerita of Southwest Airlines. “That is why Golden Rule behavior is embraced by most of the winning companies.”
It takes time to master this aspect of customer service, but you’ll be unbeatable once you do.
Speed Things Up
Everything about your customer experience should be fast, from the load time on your website to the product selection process, checkout, shipping, and support. Speed is the key in the internet age, so don’t waste a single second.
“One of the best ways to deliver unparalleled customer experiences is to save them time,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “In reality, it’s one thing that we never seem to have enough of, so making your site organized and user-friendly can save consumers hours when looking for the perfect product. Additionally, handling customer questions and requests in a timely manner will not only be valued, but it might just help you gain a customer for life.”
Some customers will want to take their sweet time, but for the speed demons out there, give them the opportunity to blaze through the experience and move along.
When workers feel burnt out, disconnected, or just fed up with tough customers, it’s easy to understand how service and experience can fall to the wayside.
Give your employees the tools and support they need to navigate hard times, manage their energy levels, and stay ahead of the curve.
“As we’ve learned so much during this pandemic, understanding exactly how to inspire productivity may be one of the most important things to deliver positive customer experiences,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO and Founder of 6 Ice. “Truly productive employees, in general, are always looking for ways to be more efficient and to deliver a higher level of service. If an app can save your team members 10 minutes a day, then it’s worth the price! And to be even more productive, encouraging innovative collaborations can send the customer experience through the roof!”
Challenges in customer experience are inevitable – how you handle them is what matters.
Open and Authentic
What is one way to ensure a customer is left with a bad taste and no interest in returning for repeat business? Lead them on a wild goose chase and keep them in the dark!
Honesty is always the best policy of course, and in times like these, customers want an extra level of transparency to make them feel comfortable doing business with you.
“Transparency is key in connecting and creating a more personal experience for your consumers,” said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. “2020 was a year of great loss in many ways, and incredible growth in other ways. It is important that we never forget this year and continue to remember the effects of it when running our businesses. As we are going into the second year of the coronavirus, we need to keep all those same marketing tactics that we formulated this year into the following year.”
The art and science of customer experience will only progress as technology advances and expectations rise over time. Is your company ready to handle the future of customer demands, or is it time for an overhaul from the ground up?