Salesforce tells us that customer expectations have hit an all-time high. Today, customers don’t just expect politeness, responsiveness, and some level of helpfulness — they expect products, services, and partners that intuitively meet their current and future needs, connected service across their buyer’s journey, and an experience personalized to them.
The bad news? No company is an exception to this trend. Research shows that 80% of customers consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. Additionally, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
The good news? You have the chance to enhance your brand, customer relationships, and competitive advantage through the customer experience you offer.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience refers to the impression your brand leaves on customers throughout their entire buying journey.
Why Does Customer Experience Matter?
It’s just one factor — in addition to your product or service – that attracts new business and maintains growth. But a negative customer experience can detract growth, despite how good your customer service may be.
Customer experience is a reflection of your brand.
Every interaction and touchpoint with the market leaves a mark in their mind of who you are. Many components together create your brand — your vision, mission, values, purpose, etc. — but customer experience is the most interactive part of your brand. The experience you create for customers shows them that you do what you say you do, that you stand for what you say you stand for, that you value what you say you value, and so on.
It’s a lagging indicator of how you’re delivering on your brand, and a leading indicator of how to enhance your brand and reputation.
Customer experience manages expectations.
Human nature thrives off of predictability — no one likes to be surprised or sit in the unknown. Quality customer experience communicates your core processes — what’s happening, what will happen, and how it will happen. This both sets and manages expectations by creating predictability in experience and, hopefully, consistency in results.
And, if your core processes aren’t yet defined or you’re still working on delivering consistent results, customer experience serves as the ally to the customer — readily available, open to feedback, and flexible to improvement.
Customer experience affects your bottom line.
How you show up in serving your customers doesn’t just affect your relationships, it affects your success. Eighty-nine percent of companies with “significantly above average” customer experiences perform better financially than their competitors.
If you are delivering on what you said you were going to do, and showing up as who you said you were going to be — a trusted advisor, helpful partner, an innovative service, an enhanced product — customers will be satisfied.
How Can Customer Experience be a Differentiator?
If done well, customer experience can be a way to differentiate yourself from competitors and stand out in the marketplace. It can be an area of business to capitalize on your brand with actions, successfully set and manage customer expectations and journeys, and give customers a reason to come back, recommend you, or support you.
However, it does not replace your value proposition. Just saying you will make a customer happy doesn’t replace the need for a good product or good service. In other words, it doesn’t replace the need to articulate how and why you uniquely exist.
What customer service can do is enhance your value proposition. It can add a layer of your competitive advantage on top of an already good product or service, and reason for being.
Where to Start Leveraging Customer Experience?
In order to improve customer experience, you need to first understand your customer experience.
- Start with your team. Your internal team understands what your customer experience is like, because they are the ones delivering it and observing it. Start inside your organization first to understand how your team sees its own customer experience.
- Talk to your customers. Utilize tools such as Net Promoter Score or Customer Satisfaction Score to understand how your current customers see you.
- Compare how you view your customer experience versus how customers view your customer experience.
- Identify what you do well and areas to improve. Plan to capitalize on what you are good at, and focus on areas you have room to grow that have the most potential for impact.
After you’ve measured your customer experience, create a sustainable plan to manage and improve it.
- Develop a plan of action. Create an internal team that dedicates time and attention to customer experience. Set a frequency to evaluate customer experience on a regular basis. Create goals focused on customer experience.
- Look for opportunities to surprise and delight. Doing the basics for a good customer experience isn’t enough to differentiate you. Keep your eyes open for going above and beyond in big or small ways for customers. Better yet, make a process for your team to keep surprise and delight moments constantly in mind.
Customer experience is more important than ever before. Understanding what your customer experience is like, identifying opportunities to own great and unique customer experience, and creating a sustainable plan to improve it will improve your customer sentiment and add value to your brand.