Customer experience is a term you hear often online, but one which still puzzles many small business owners. What is exactly? How does it work? What can I gain from it?
Part of the problem lies in the way it is explained to people. Too often you read content that gives you the details, but neglects to mention the bigger picture. This leads to businesses using the wrong tactics, and the wrong moment, leading to subpar results.
So in order to help out the small business community, we wrote a short primer on the topic which you can find in the paragraphs below.
Why is Customer Experience an Effective Business Strategy?
Customers are rarely driven by reason when they seek to buy something. Instead, they rely on their emotions and gut instinct to guide them towards a purchase. Let’s illustrate with an example.
A customer that sees a restaurant while walking down the street won’t just walk in and order something. They probably have something else on their mind at the moment, i.e. they’re having an experience that doesn’t involve the idea of buying a meal.
But what if instead they saw a bunch of people gathered around in front of the restaurant? Our customer would likely take a peek at what’s going on.
Upon closer inspection, they might find out that a chef is giving a cooking demonstration, and giving out free samples. All the while a part of the crowd is munching on the samples, while another part is waiting for their turn while commenting how hungry they are.
Upon seeing this, our customer is probably starting to think something along the lines of “I haven’t had breakfast today, and those mini-burgers do look delicious…”.
While this is happening, her eyes are looking back and forth between the meal, the deft hands of the chef, and the random person in the crowd that is chewing a burger with an ecstatic look on their face.
These thoughts and sensations will result in an experience where the desired outcome for the customer is taking a bite of that delicious burger. At this point, selling the burger becomes just a formality.
Why is Customer Experience Essential for Small Businesses?
The example above illustrates why customer experience works as a business strategy. Now we will explain why this strategy is essential for small business success.
To put it simply, not using CX is like being the owner of the first restaurant from our example. If all you’re offering is to sell a product, the customers simply won’t have any motive to pay you any attention. And if you’re competing for customers with the aforementioned mini-burger joint.you will inevitably lose.
There are small business tactics that fall in the category of ‘nice to have but optional’. Customer experience is not one of them. Companies that invest in customer experience outperform their competitors by a huge margin.
It all boils down to customer psychology. Customers grew accustomed to treat shopping as an experience. And this means you need to create one for them.
According to the Microsoft State of Global Customer Service report, 96% of customers will determine their loyalty to a brand based on customer service. In other words, too many customers care about having an engaging shopping experience for you to not care.
What is The Customer Experience Mindset?
I want to talk briefly about the mindset you need to in order to be successful at customer experience.
In order to provide a quality customer experience, you need to enter the mind of your customers. This is deceptively simple.
Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking about customer experience too narrowly. Let’s go back to our restaurant example.
One way to think about the success of our restaurant would be to say the following: people love the experience of eating a quality burger.
This makes sense on the surface, but it really doesn’t tell you much about why the customers chose that particular place. It fails to mention the fact that people like spectacle, and the demonstration in front is a way to leverage this psychological quirk.
Seeing things from a customer experience mindset means thinking about these factors, and synthesizing them into useful information. Or to put it simply, it means who your customers are.
Customer Experience Tools
The way we explained customer experience so far might seem to indicate that you need expert psychological knowledge in order to accomplish anything. This is obviously not feasible for a lot of small businesses. Here technology comes to the rescue.
One way to look at an experience is to think about it as data. Customer X does thing B is a sentence, a piece of information. If you had many pieces of information of this sort, you can use an algorithm to combine them.
This is exactly why you need a CRM software. All your interactions with customers leave a digital trail. And if you channel this digital information into a CRM tool, it will organize this data so you can use it even without technical knowledge.
CRM software also allows you to act on this data in various ways. For instance, if you’re selling insurance online, you might learn that certain email design performs better with certain customers. You can then use this information, along with data from your website, to create more effective email templates. This is why it’s important to pick out an email marketing software that suits your needs best.
Customer Experience Tactics
An important way to look at customer experience is as a set of tactics for optimizing your interactions with customers. This includes both attracting new customers and extracting more value from existing ones.
We will give you a sample of tactics that small businesses have used in success in the past. But keep in mind that you will likely have to adjust slightly them to the specifics of your own business.
1. Cover Every Communication Channel
Every communication channel is an opportunity to create engaging customer experiences. From email, to social media, to verbal communication, you need to keep an open ear to what your customers are saying, and respond accordingly. Social media channels are a great source of interaction with your customers. Many users use social media to discover and research brands and products they are interested in.
2.Maintain a Consistent Level of Service
Every customer is valuable, period. From the guy that only shops once in a blue moon, to the compulsion buyer that is sending money your way every week. Consistency in the level of service will produce consistency of experience.
3. Personalize Your Communication
Every customer talks, writes, feels, and thinks in a very different way. These nuances are sometimes difficult to perceive, but they are the key to understanding how a given customer behaves. More importantly, showing you care about these quirks will earn you respect from customers, in addition to creating a positive experience. Use the gathered data to deepen and personalize the relationships with your customers.
4. Don’t Over-promise and Under-deliver
It’s easy to start believing your own hype, which will often lead to making extravagant promises to your customers. But if you fail to deliver, the blowback will make your reputation worse than when you started off. Instead, be more down to earth with your promises, and fulfil them consistently.
5. Listen to Customer Feedback
This one is a no-brainer, but we wanted to mention it to stress its importance. Customer feedback is the most valuable source of information you can find for providing a customer experience. Encourage customers to leave reviews, complete surveys, and share their data whenever appropriate.
Sending out customer satisfaction surveys after a visit, purchase or some other interaction can increase your retention. A study shows that you can prevent 11% of churn just by reaching out to your customer after bad feedback.
Customer experience is an integral component of every small business strategy. It is the key to unlocking the customers’ trust, which is essential for maintaining a stable revenue. And the sooner you start thinking with customer experience in mind, the quicker you will be to harvest its benefits.
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