Customers want to improve their lives through the products and services they use.

They generally prefer to deal with a handful of businesses rather than many. What’s more, their future intentions and buying habits are often greatly influenced by their experience. Think about yourself as a customer.

The truth is that the most successful businesses provide outstanding customer experiences. This is no coincidence because these businesses see customer experience as a strategic priority and do what’s possible to ensure customers love them.

By delivering outstanding experiences and building customer loyalty, revenues tend to increase. So, designing and implementing an exceptional customer experience will enable your business to become highly successful too.

While working with numerous clients, I have found that designing outstanding experiences can be very difficult regardless of sector and business maturity. Many organisations don’t know where to start or how to design for their diverse customer base. That’s why EmergentLabs™ has designed our Customer Experience Framework – to streamline the design process and equip our clients to deliver great experiences every time. (I will share information about the Framework in another post.)

The Divide Between Business Leaders and Customers

There is often a concerning gap between business leaders’ perceptions and their customers’ perceptions. Refer to the figure below.

Customers Think Less of CX than the CEO does

You might expect businesses are working hard to improve the customer experience. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case.

  • 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience (Bain & Company).
  • 6% of customers rate their experiences as outstanding (Bain & Company)

A significant blind spot can be expected if CEOs overvalue the customer experience than customers do themselves!

If business leaders overvalue the CX provided by their organisation, perhaps employees do as well!

This blind spot allows your business to differentiate itself and reap the rewards. While competitors are overvaluing their customer experience, your organisation can tangibly improve its own customer experience.

Getting Honest About Your Organisation

What happens up top trickles down to the rest!

That’s why it’s important for the decision makers to be clear on what the company’s values are and make sure that message is thoroughly communicated to all employees and staff, even at the lowest levels. After all, each organisation needs to ask itself, ‘How good is the customer experience provided by us?’ This question is relevant to public and private sectors; and not-for-profit and for-profit.

It’s vital to understand what the experience is really like for customers. In order to best do this, ask the following questions within your own organisation in order to get the most transparent feedback.

  • What’s important for your customers and how often does your organisation sufficiently help with these areas?
  • How easy is it for customers to get access to support?
  • Is the organisation proactive for customers, or do things need to go wrong before there’s any intervention?
  • Can technology improve the experience for customers?
  • What sort of complaints have been received over the last 12 months and what’s been done in response?
  • How well does the organisation really understand customers?
  • Are there pockets of customers that are disenfranchised/disgruntled that aren’t given a voice?
  • What are the improvements that have been made in the last 12 months and how have customers received them?
  • Are there ideas that have been uncovered that can be rolled out more broadly?
  • How the views of customers, employees and executives compare and contrast?
  • Are there key people in the customer’s life that influence their journey? What do these people think of the customer experience provided by your organisation?

Based on these learnings, it’s valuable to crystallise findings and start to socialise them with the right people. Communication is key when it comes to a business being on the same page and achieving the same goals. Whether things are going well or not, it’s important to clarify why things are going the direction they are and what to keep up or change about the organisation’s actions. Particularly in the realm of customer experience. If required, create a sense of [true] urgency and work with the right people to affect change.

For more information on this in an in-depth way, please reference this blog: Embrace Change as the Norm.

The Reward

Research tells us you can increase revenue simply by offering a better customer experience. Plus, if you deliver an experience people value, they stand to become advocates for your business – the most potent form of marketing and advertising there is.

So the evidence shows customers are willing to pay for better experiences, and delivering these experiences saves you money on customer retention (and employees have more reason to stay – but that’s for another post). It can also generate more revenue as customers tell others about your business.

It also shows that most customers are unhappy with their experiences and that many businesses don’t understand the extent of this sentiment. So this is an opportunity for you to leverage this phenomenon, deliver an outstanding customer experience, and reap the rewards!

There are many valuable approaches including carefully considering and acting on complaints and compliments, secret shoppers, reviewing data which helps you understand customer engagement and retention, interviews, etc. These can be excellent ways to fully understand the ins and outs of how your organisation is treating its customers significant people in their life. You can also invite customers to fill out a survey online in exchange for a reward to help get more precise and frequent feedback.

Notable Statistics

Consider the following research findings in their relation to our topic:

What does this tell you? The most common theme with the above is customer experience. Let’s take an American company, for example, Nordstrom. Nordstrom is renowned for its superior and unparalleled levels of customer service. This is what keeps people loyal to the store and continue to shop there when they could just as easily get the same products online or at any number of rival stores. Their customer service practices influence the overall customer experience.

One of their prime examples of excellent customer service is the Nordstrom return policy. Customers could bring items back, without a receipt, without tags, without a time limit, and even if the items had been worn and still get a full refund. How many other companies do you know in the retail business that offer this policy? It goes above and beyond.

Conclusion

Delivering exceptional customer service is the best way to keep people coming back. Regardless of your product or service is truly the best out there, how you make people feel is the most valuable currency in the world. They won’t forget if you made them feel awful and uncared for, or if you made them feel special and like they mattered.

Customer service is what keeps people coming back – it keeps them loyal. Picture some of your favourite places to dine and shop – if there are a few that come to mind that you visit often, ask yourself if the way the staff treats you has anything to do with it?

I love walking into my local café because they greet me every time with a smile, have a conversation while I wait, and remember things about my life.

Regardless of what type of business you’re in or the industry, know that customer experience should be at the absolute top of your priority list if you want to succeed and make a difference.