Building the best customer experience: A user’s guide

The first thing to keep in mind is that customer experience includes all interactions with your firm. From sales conversations and the physical or online environments you operate in – to your systems, processes, training and even your internal culture. It can even involve external influences, such as the media, so designing or making improvements to the customer experience is likely to involve input from multiple departments across your firm.

How your customers feel at each point in the journey influences the likelihood of buying again or recommending your firm to others. Getting it wrong will impact your reputation, retention and ultimately, your bottom line.

Step 1: Lay the groundwork

Before delving into the customer journey, you need to ensure your foundations are solid enough to support the “above-ground” work.

Create a clear mission statement: A single vision that drives your strategy. This sets the tone for all customer interactions. Makes sure it’s clear and well-known to all members of staff.

Segment your customers: Identify their different needs and use this as the basis for measurement. Different touch-points will be more or less important to each.

Gap analysis: This shouldn’t just outline your current position against strategy, but use primary research to understand what your customer needs. The overall aim is to identify areas for improvement and steps needed to reach your desired brand image.

Step 2: Design a positive experience

Next, define the experience you want your customers to have for each of your key customer touch-points. This will help define the processes staff need to deliver the experience. For example, if you want a customer who calls with a query to have an efficient and seamless experience, then you need to ensure:

  • Staff levels are high enough to answer calls promptly;
  • They are well trained and motivated;
  • They have access to wide a range of resources (such as FAQs or product descriptions) to help them respond.
It’s unrealistic to expect every touch-point to be positive, so also consider how you can minimise any low points of experience, like complaints handling or form filling.

Read more about customer service:

Step 3: Involve everyone

A strategy is only as good as its implementation so requires co-ordination and co-operation across the whole business to ensure its success. This should involve:

  • Getting buy-in and support from all members of staff;
  • Addressing any internal changes needed, from systems and processes to staff training;
  • A wider cultural change – if the changes needed are significant;
  • Building your team’s knowledge about your customers with insight, demographics and research.
Step 4: Consistency and continuous improvement

Finally, consistency in your delivery is key. Not only across the customer base, but for individual customers who expect a high standard of service each time they interact with you. Robust monitoring is essential to ensure that, once implemented, the customer experience is continually meeting customer expectations and any areas for improvement are identified.

So always consider how you will collect feedback and insight from your customers up-front when designing a customer experience. It doesn’t have to be labour intensive. Technology now exists which can automatically record and analyse all of your staff’s interactions with customers (even face-to-face conversations), saving them from taking notes or analysing customer data. Harness that feedback to continually shape the customer journey so that, as their needs and behaviours develop over time, their experience remains positive and responsive to their needs. 

As Amazon MD Christopher North puts it: “We are constantly working to improve the overall experience we provide for our customers and set even higher standards.” Continuous improvement is key.

Joanne Smith is CEO of The Consulting Consortium and RecordSure.

Many businesses are guilty of becoming caught up with sales targets and always chasing the next new customer. Of course, it’s important to keep your business growing, however not at the expense of customer retention.

Image: Shutterstock

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