The three essentials of good customer experiences

Customer experience essentialsWhen it comes to buying something, the experience wrapped round the product or service purchase counts just as much as the item or expertise itself.  A good experience is certainly a key differentiator and influences whether a customer returns for a second purchase or not.

In fact the most recent Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey found more than two-thirds of marketers said their companies compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. In two years’ time, 81% say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience.

So if experience is such a differentiator and driver for business success, what are the fundamentals businesses need to have in place to create customer delight and build trust and loyalty? From our work with businesses over the years, and in supporting many customer feedback surveys for our clients, we have found good customer experiences tend to flow from these 3 central pillars…

 

Customer experience essential 1: Responsiveness

Not only is this a key fundamental for creating a positive first impression with a customer, it’s essential for building and maintaining their trust throughout and beyond the purchasing decision.  Customers will be impressed by, or disappointed in, how quickly you respond to them and deliver the solution they’re after.

And with people being ‘busier’ and more ‘time-poor’ has come a growing impatience.  It’s also been fed by the speed in which customers can search and find insight digitally whenever and wherever they are.  They now expect a fast response when they have a question, want information, post a comment etc.

Those businesses that do respond quickly often succeed over those who don’t. Worse still, those that don’t can end up being highlighted very vocally and negatively on social media and review sites.

 

Things to check…

  • How easy is it for people to get through to your business?
  • What are the popular times when people look at your offering, and when do they get in touch (they may be different)? Do you need to reallocate resources to be able to respond then?
  • How polite and positive is the experience when your team responds?
  • Do you have all channels covered in order to respond quickly – eg phone, email, via your website, social media.

 

Customer experience essential 2: Communication

Communication is a major contributor to customer satisfaction highs and lows.  When the customer feels they’ve been kept informed and the supplier clearly understands what they are after, their satisfaction is high.

In contrast when they feel they haven’t heard from the supplier or problems haven’t been flagged to them straight away, they lose trust and dissatisfaction intensifies.  If you look at negative reviews online, many are prompted by poor communication and the customer feeling their expectations have been let down.

The good news is that great communication isn’t that common and when you do instil good communication practices amongst your team it seriously impresses customers.

Communication is sometimes confused with responsiveness.  It does indeed go hand in hand with it, but for a great customer experience communication needs to go deeper.  It really needs to get to the nub of what a customer is looking for in order to delight and exceed their expectations.

 

Things to check…

  • How well do your team interpret customers’ requirements – are they masters in questioning, listening and clarifying?
  • Do they build empathy and communicate the solution in a way that the customer completely understands what they will be receiving, when they’ll receive it and how much it will cost?
  • How good is your business at keeping customers posted on the product/services’ delivery and promptly flagging any delays, why they’ve happened and when they’ll be rectified?
  • Even better, how proactive are your team in thinking one step ahead of the customer to help them with their situation and offer additional help or value in some way?

 

Customer experience essential 3: Honesty

Whilst communication can help to delight and exceed customer expectations, if you haven’t got honesty in place no pleasantly delivered communication will get the customer to return.

By honesty we mean that the product or service delivers what it promises with no nasty surprises, disappointments or hidden additional prices/fees.

It’s helped by building transparency into product/service descriptions, prices/fees and delivery or project timetables.  The clearer the customer is about what they’re buying and what that buying process involves, and the more that process matches their understanding as it rolls out, the greater their reassurance in the supplier and trust.

One other point to bear in mind.  Honesty also comes from being consistent.  If you do a great job the first time, you need to ensure the same experience occurs in subsequent purchases. Of course loyal customers are human and from time to time will make allowances for suppliers facing the odd difficulty (such as awaiting a stock delivery or having a member of staff off sick).  Too many ‘hiccups’ in the buying experience will soon start to erode their trust, so be mindful that you remain consistently good overall.

 

Things to check…

  • What is your product/service quality really like – does it deliver on its promises?
  • How frequently do you deliver in a form and timeframe that meets the customer’s objectives, expectations, timeframe and budget?
  • What is it that customers like about your approach?
  • What disappoints them, or do they wish you would fine-tune?
  • If a problem does occur during the purchase, how quick and well do your team respond? Do customers feel reassured afterwards by your team’s response?

 

Summary

Customers certainly take note and warm immensely to a positive experience when they purchase something.  In most markets there are multiple competitive offerings and experience can help a business stand out and build a loyal customer base – whatever that organisation’s size.

Remember, people are busy and want to avoid being let down and having to sort out a purchase that’s gone wrong.  If you can wrap a positive experience around your offering which harnesses the powers of impressive responsiveness, communication and honesty, you will certainly reap the benefits.

And if you need help evaluating your customer experience or fine-tuning the quality of the touchpoints in your customers’ buyer journey with you, do get in touch.