How do you build a successful business?
There’s no simple answer to this question, but a few best practices work for businesses of all sizes and types. Whether you’re a large healthcare company or a boutique real estate firm, you want to invest in smart people, think strategically, and beat the competition.
Then, there’s another best practice that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: Invest in customer experience.
Customer experience is the range of interactions that consumers have with your brand — from first hearing about you, all the way to working with you for the second, third, or forth time. “The best way to define customer experience is as the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey,” explains HubSpot.
If customers find your employees helpful, your services seamless, and your website intuitive, they’ll return again — whether you’re that large healthcare company or a boutique real estate firm. And, they’ll spread the word, online and off.
But if your customers encounter unresponsive employees, poor service, and a confusing website, don’t expect return visits or positive word of mouth. “Customer experience is of critical importance to the sustained growth of a business,” HubSpot writes.
Forbes Magazine recently published a long list of stats reinforcing just this. “Companies with a customer experience mindset drive revenue 4-8% higher than the rest of their industries,” Forbes wrote, adding that “73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors.”
So what can your business do to ensure customers are having the best experience possible? Here are three places to start:
Measure, measure, measure
First, you need a reliable system for quantifying customer experience. So seek out the experts: Your customers. Deploy a range of tools — from surveys to interviews — to collect feedback from a substantial sample of your customers about what’s working and what’s not. The folks at HubSpot recommend four approaches: “Analyze customer satisfaction survey results,” “Identify rate and reasons for customer churn,” “Ask customers for product or feature requests,” and “Analyze customer support ticket trends.”
Measuring requires collecting and parsing lots of data, so don’t undertake this process with just a pen and paper. There are a variety of tools businesses can use to help them measure customer experience. Smaller businesses might use free tools, like a Google form, to collect and sort customer feedback. Larger businesses might use an enterprise tool like SurveyMonkey CX — “a turn-key NPS solution with powerful features designed to collect, understand, and act on your customer feedback.” (NPS stands for “Net Promoter Score,” a widely-used criteria for measuring customer loyalty.)
Build a map (and strategy)
Once you have helpful data in hand, it’s time to map out customer experience, so you know what areas to focus on. Create a chart documenting each stage of a customers’ relationship with you: From first visiting your website, to receiving your first newsletter, to purchasing a product, to leaving a review on your website. Having this journey visualized allows you to put customers’ feedback in perspective. It will also help you identify every opportunity to deepen your connection with customers.
As Deloitte notes, “Creating an effective customer experience is about more than just ensuring your customers receive the products and services they desire in a timely and efficient manner. It’s also about creating touchpoints with real people who can organically evangelize and grow your brand through their social media and offline interactions with friends and family.”
Deloitte stresses the importance of collecting data at every point in the customer journey.
You’ve collected customer feedback, you’ve mapped your customer journey; you’ve created a strategy to improve customer experience.
But you’re not done. In fact, when it comes to listening to customers, you’re never done. Even after the surveys are in, it’s crucial to keep your ear to the ground. “Listening doesn’t have to just be between people,” writes Forbes. “It can be between a brand and its customers.”
By continuing to listen and seek feedback about the customer experience, brands can head off problems early, identify new opportunities quickly, and far more. “Listening grows customer retention,” Forbes continues, and “listening will increase customer spending.”
For this reason, keep all lines of communication — from your inbox and your Twitter account to your old-school landline — open and responsive.