Customer experience isn’t just a buzzword that’s going to die out soon. People have been shifting their focus to a better overall experience over the last decade and longer. Over recent years, that focus has gotten more pronounced, and it now matters more than ever if you’re trying to get a leg up on your competition and make a good name for yourself in the industry.
Defining Customer Experience
Despite the similarities in phrases, customer experience is not the same thing as customer service. Service is only one small part of the whole customer experience. The term customer experience covers the entire interaction with your customers, from their first impression of your business to their final experience with you. The entire span of their interactions with you is their experience.
It’s easy to look narrowly at customer service and focus all your efforts on that part of your business, but doing so is failing to see the big picture. Customer experience is a better measure of the quality of your interactions overall, and it has more implications for the customer as well as more inputs from your side that can potentially change the outcomes.
The True Impact of Customer Experience
Good customer experience sets you apart from your competitors. Customers that have a consistently good experience with you are more likely to remain your customers instead of churning.
Brands that put their effort into creating an all-around good experience tend to excel over those that lack in any area. While customer service is usually the main focus by default, they’re only the tip of the spear in terms of creating a great experience for your customers.
People care more about how they feel interacting with a business than they did before. The emphasis is on finding companies that provide value from every angle, not just in customer service interactions. If the entire experience isn’t good, the customer can still leave disappointed.
No matter how good one part of your business is, another part that’s just average or subpar can drag down the whole experience. If you want to differentiate yourself, build customer experience into the very fabric of your operations. Without this, your competitors who choose to align their priorities with the customer may surpass you.
What Causes a Bad Experience?
If experience is the whole package, what are the individual trouble spots? These are the most common problems that ruin customer experience for businesses:
- Poor customer service
Service may not be the only component of the experience, but it’s still a substantial part. Your front line employees are the first people that a customer interacts with and the ones they’re likely to speak to when they need help.
Look at the interaction from the perspective of the customer. Are the employees empathetic, listening to problems before trying to offer solutions? Do they speak genuinely or read from a set script? How quickly are customers getting answers or solutions? All of these and other questions are important to uncovering the condition of your customer service.
- Long wait times
People hate waiting. Longer wait times lead to worse overall customer experience, even if every other part was positive. Work on reducing wait times for call-ins, products or services, customer interactions, and any other potential wait times for your industry. Specific industries will have their own bottlenecks that need to be worked out.
For example, a company that uses a call center for customer service calls may have long wait times when call volume is high or if the call system is unorganized. Keeping customers on hold indefinitely will have a strong negative impact on their experience. But, if the call center were to use a VoIP system with queueing and automatic updates that kept people aware of how long their wait times were expected to be, the experience could be made better.
- Problems or questions staying unresolved
In general, people want their problems solved on the first touch. They don’t want you to have to get back to them and they definitely don’t want to have to contact you multiple times for the same problem. On top of this, customers are also looking to have their interaction times as short as possible without compromising on getting the solution to their problem.
Track your interactions with customers to determine how many touches it takes to sort them out. If you’re not regularly solving customer problems on the first touch, try to work out what’s going wrong and give further training to your employees.
- Lack of human contact points
This ties in with people wanting as few touches as possible to solve a problem. Most people prefer not to interact with automated customer help systems. Online systems and FAQ are great unless you’re being too closed off with human customer support options. When they can’t find a solution that works, people want to speak to a person to get it solved, not a machine.
Going back to the VoIP example, this is notoriously problematic with business phone systems. To cut down on the number of customer service employees or reduce their time on the phone, automated phone service systems are put into place that takes customers through long lines of potential problems. Unfortunately, people hate virtual phone service menus. Automation and self-service are generally preferred, but not in all cases.
- Bottom line focus
People understand when they’re being treated like a walking money bag instead of a person. Good customer experience starts with prioritizing that experience over all else. Returns come in the form of higher customer retention, word of mouth recommendations, and other positive outcomes. If you’re only focusing on customers until the point of sale, pushing them to buy at all times, you’re not going to provide a great experience.
Transforming Customer Experience Internally
At the end of the day, your business has to focus on providing a good experience at every turn. If you don’t shift your focus now, you could be left behind as your competitors move and the customer continues prioritizing experience above all else. Explore your options for improving your customer experience, then do it.