As a business consultant, I have noticed that many of my clients are laser-focused on increasing sales. More sales = long-term success, so they spend their efforts creating and implementing strong promotional campaigns. I coach my clients that long-term success is based on client retention (repeat business). Because of access to massive amounts of information regarding products and services through the internet, customer expectations have changed. According to Shep Hyken’s article in Forbes magazine, we are in the “Era of the Customer.” Customers expect to engage with your business across various channels and can readily compare the experience you provide to that of your competitors. The net result is that the customers you are attracting are better informed and have higher expectations as it relates to customer service.
In today’s world, it is not enough for your business to have competitive prices, convenient delivery, or a great location. According to ValueWalk, 63% of customers expect companies to offer support via social media, and 35% of customers prefer it over other channels. If companies are to win in their markets and meet this new breed of customers’ expectations, business owners must develop a comprehensive strategy to provide a superior customer experience.
Customer Experience, or CX, is top of mind for Fortune 500 companies and represents a significant business opportunity for small business as well. When customers have had a good experience with you, their loyalty and satisfaction increase. According to a research study conducted by American Express, 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. Providing superior CX means increased repeat business and referrals of new business via customer referrals. Small business who create a better customer experience than their competitors can increase overall sales and net profit.
What is Customer Experience (CX)?
Per businessdictionary.com, Customer experience is “the entirety of the interactions a customer has with a company and its products”. The interactions are made up of three parts: the customer journey, the brand touchpoints the customer interacts with, and the environments the customer experiences during their experience. A superior customer experience will meet the customers’ expectation with each interaction.
Amazon provides an excellent customer experience for educated customers. They have made it easy to learn about, purchase, and receive products from toilet paper to flat-screen televisions with a few clicks. They provide excellent product documentation, rapid and effective online support, efficient transaction processing and reliable shipping options. After the sale, Amazon sends customer surveys and engages customers through email and social media regarding other products which may interest the customer.
Small businesses attempting to create superior CX should start by investigating and then investing in some of the following:
1. Internal Training
- Invest in training your staff. They are part of your marketing team. Your staff can be either your best cheerleader or your worst nightmare. Proper training provides your staff with the necessary tools to properly handle and solve problems, assist your customer, and build a relationship.
2. CRM Software
- Understanding your customer is a must. CRM, or Customer Relationship Management Software, allows businesses to categorize customers according to their expectations and devote attention to prospective buyers. Remember, meeting customer expectations at every touch point is the goal.
3. Communication Tools
- Have an active digital media presence, such as an updated website.
- Add a Chatbox to encourage customer engagement and give the customer the information they need in a timely and convenient manner.
- Activate the Text Message feature in Google My Business.
- Survey Customers on their customer experience.
The investment in customer experience pays off with increased client retention and referrals of new customers. As customers become more educated and have multiple competitive options are available at their fingertips, providing excellent CX will be mandatory for survival. By focusing on CX, small businesses will build strong relationships with clients by meeting their expectations at all times. This means earning the clients trust, and loyalty. Word of mouth travels fast! Happy clients = New Customer opportunities. Unhappy clients = losing new customer opportunities.
(Source: Nora Guzman, Consultant, UGA SBDC in Rome)