How to to improve customer experience is critical for business survival. Why? Happy customers stay loyal, spend more, and tell other people to visit you. That’s a pretty well-accepted fact. Ensuring a good customer experience not only makes a happy customer, it makes sensible business practice.
However, familiarity breeds presumption. Customers who were delighted by an element of their customer experience before will now expect that same good experience next time. For this reason, how to improve a customer experiences is an evolving processes. Think about the evolution of cars over the last 50 years. Innovations such as screen washers, ABS braking, air conditioning quickly went from desirable extras through standard features to being (in many cases) legal requirements. As customers have come to expect more, auto suppliers has to respond to compete. A constantly improving customer experience is essential to keep those customers happy and not looking to move their business elsewhere.
Commit to customer experience improvement
Many organizations struggle with how to improve customer experience. For most companies, an intrinsic part of improvement will begin with an organization-wide attitude of continual improvement. Organizations that commit to improved customer experience will have a better chance to survive and flourish.
Let’s look at the traditional stages of how to improve customer experience .
Improve your customer experience vision
What are you trying to do with your customer experience? It sounds like an easy question. However, to addressed properly, it is not always so simple. Looking at your vision is an important first step because, without it, the temptation is to believe you need to get better at what you are doing at the moment. Of course, that might help, but on the other hand, doing the wrong things better won’t necessarily make customers happy.
At the heart of this step is understanding what a good customer experience looks like to the people that matter— your customers. If improved customer experience is your goal, then keeping a focus on the customer perception is the key.
The first step to improve your customer experience, therefore, is to be sure you understand what the customers would view as improvement. This usually means involving customers in your improvement initiative, or at least including people who see things the customer’s way. As mentioned above, it is all too easy to get this wrong. For example, IT thinking cool new things are what everybody wants when your customers mostly want the technology to be invisible, and things to just work – good IT can be like magic. You might like social media and chats, your customers prefer human contact – or even vice versa – you need to find this out, not assume or guess.
Improving customer experience starts with the customer
You are still in business, so you must be doing some things right. Put effort into discovering what your customer’s experience is currently like. Improving customer experience means involving those customers and finding out how they feel, what they like, what they don’t like, what they would like to see change, and – critically – what they do not want to change. Don’t underestimate this step or how easy it is to get accurate answers. Meaningful and complete market research, customer surveys, etc. constitute a skilled profession: the average IT professional with survey monkey will not necessarily deliver the accuracy needed.
Ideas on how to improve customer experience
Now it starts to get more fun. Based on what you’ve found out about what the customers want and what you already do that you can build on … what could you do to reimagine customer experience? Once again, involve your customers, but don’t just rely on asking them what they want. This is an age of constant innovation and technological advances in customer experience: new communication channels, empowerment through technology, remote over local, and more. As the specialist, you are best placed to know what is possible today that was not possible yesterday, what new technologies may offer that your customers will not have imagined. So do not stifle your innovation and inventiveness. Check its relevance, of course, and don’t take it personally if the customers hate it, but advancing customer experience will rest on the supplier’s idea of what is possible.
Choose amongst your options
You will think of more good ideas than you can deliver. There will be limitations – of money, time, opportunity, and more. Customer experience improvement is – like politics – the art of the possible. Be realistic and ensure that you complete some things, not start lots without finishing any. And talking of politics, don’t ignore office politics – push at open doors, do things you can more easily get senior management support for even if they aren’t the ones you might most wish for. Get something through now that the CEO likes, and you have more chance of getting the ones you want next time.
Does that work?
Improving Customer experience needs testing just as much as new software or any other change. Because it is about the customer experience, it needs to be tested against customers. That might mean trying it out for real and seeing if it works – if you are feeling confident, that might be a good plan. Or, more likely, using some focus groups, sample areas, pilot schemes. What you mustn’t do is think it is proven because you (as suppliers) like it.
Measurement and reflection
Customer experience is always and inevitably subjective. It’s what your customers feel, and so measurements of your success will depend on subjective measures that are affected and influenced by a wide range of external factors – most of which you have little or no control over. But measurement is important because it is the only way you can confirm your success, and that confirmation is your main weapon in justification for future investment, support, and recognition. The measurements we discussed earlier need to be repeated, and feedback from customers is collected, analyzed, and acted upon. By the way, that last bit – acted upon – is the one most often forgotten, collecting data and feedback does not deliver value, only acting on it does that.
Do it again
Even more than most things, customer experience improvement is a never-ending journey. Whatever you do right, whatever delights your customers now will be things they take for granted tomorrow. Without ongoing effort and innovation to enhance customer experience, the perception will be disappointing, so keep working on new ideas.