In today’s fast-paced and competitive landscape, providing a good customer experience is more important than ever. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, about half of customers would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. On the flip side, 75 percent of consumers will pay more for products from companies that offer a great experience.
Clearly, a positive customer experience can make all the difference, but it doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes planning and preparation. A customer experience strategy provides the structure your support team needs to deliver a high-quality customer experience every time. With a plan for creating memorable and meaningful experiences, your team will likely see fewer tickets, less churn, and higher profits.
What is a customer experience strategy?
A customer experience strategy is a blueprint for providing positive experiences at every customer touchpoint and improving your customer relationships over time.
The strategy captures the big-picture view of the customer experience, both online and offline. It outlines who your customers are, what pain points they’re experiencing along the customer journey, and how you plan to address those issues.
To be successful, a customer experience business strategy requires company-wide adoption of the guiding principles. You’ll also need a customer experience platform that allows you to efficiently track, analyze, and engage with customers.
Why is customer experience important for businesses?
Customer experience impacts customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and revenue—making it critical to the survival of your business.
How a customer feels about your company is directly tied to their experience—no matter how brief—which determines whether they’ll do business with you and whether they’ll come back. As we noted before, it takes only one negative experience for a customer to jump ship. But when customers consistently have good experiences, they’ll likely return again and again. Our Customer Experience Trends Report shows that loyal customers will go out of their way to buy from their favorite brands.
Companies that invest in the customer experience also see huge returns on their investment in the long run. A McKinsey & Company report found businesses that implemented an enterprise-wide customer experience program saw “15 to 20 percent increases in sales conversion rates, 20 to 50 percent declines in service costs, and 10 to 20 percent improvement in customer satisfaction.”
How do you develop a customer experience strategy?
The benefits of a customer experience strategy cannot be overstated. But when implementing strategies to improve the customer experience, there are some best practices to keep in mind.
Understand your customer
Only some people will enthusiastically respond to your brand, products, and services—and that’s OK. If you want to develop a successful customer experience strategy, the first step is to hone in on the consumers who will truly appreciate what you have to offer. Then, you can target your efforts accordingly and provide a great customer experience that’s tailored to them.
Start by looking at your current customer base. Specifically, look at your long-term customers, your biggest customers, and customers who are spending the most with you.
- What are some common characteristics among these loyal customers?
- What industries do they work in?
- Do they have certain job titles or income levels?
- Is there a particular product or service they gravitate toward?
Look for similarities and make a list of those shared traits. You can then go even deeper by creating customer profiles. These are fictionalized profiles of your ideal customers based on data, trends, and insights from existing buyers. They usually consist of key demographic information (age, location, job title, etc.) as well as insights into buying habits and pain points. Customer profiles provide a shared reference point and get everyone on the same page when discussing your user experience and building out your strategy.
Beyond analyzing your current customers, brainstorm potential groups who might find value in what you’re offering and what might prompt them to connect with you. You may be surprised to discover that there’s an untapped audience of new customers you’re not currently reaching.
For example, a hotel may think its main audience is tourists. But it may find plenty of business from outside groups—engaged couples who need a reception venue and lodging for guests, companies looking to host an event, local residents in need of a staycation, and so on.
Determine where the current customer experience is lacking
Customer churn often occurs after a poor experience with a business—whether it’s speaking with an unhelpful agent, enduring a long hold time, or having to repeat information multiple times. But you can’t fix something if you don’t know exactly what’s broken.
One great way to understand where your customers are struggling is to collect feedback via customer engagement surveys, reviews, focus groups, and casual conversations. Look for trends and recurring themes in their responses. For example, maybe many customers love your product, but they note difficulties contacting support and waiting a long time to talk to an agent.
You can also compare your business to competitors. Just like a customer would leave your business for a competitor after a negative experience, they’d also leave a competitor and come to you if the situation was reversed. With that in mind, take a look at your competitors’ customer testimonials and reviews.
- What do customers seem to love about your competitors?
- What don’t they like?
- What features or resources do these competitors provide to make the customer experience smooth and efficient?
- What do you offer during the customer support process that competitors don’t?
Use that information to find your competitive advantage when it comes to supporting customers, and focus on areas where you can outshine the competition.
You should consider creating a customer journey map, too. This map breaks down the various stages of the buyer’s journey—awareness, interest, purchase, experience, and loyalty—so you can see where you’re excelling and where there’s room for improvement when it comes to providing a superior customer experience at every touchpoint.
“The journey map allows you to understand what customers are experiencing, so you can have a more holistic view of where you fit in to make sure that it’s cohesive for the customer,” says Zoe Koven, Zendesk’s senior director of customer advocacy.
Fills in the gaps to create a seamless experience
Once you understand where the current customer experience falls short, you can start to develop and implement solutions to better meet customer expectations. The right solution will depend on what is negatively impacting your customer experience. Here are a few examples of potential gaps in the customer experience and how you might address them:
Say you’ve found that customers are waiting a long time to talk to a support agent. In this case, expanding your self-service options—such as chatbots, help centers, and community forums—might be the right solution. Companies across various industries have found self-service can empower customers to help themselves and significantly reduce hold times. Thanks to self-service chatbots and Zendesk’s shared workspace, Tile was able to decrease customer wait time by 28 percent.
Perhaps customers are frustrated because you’re not connecting with them on their preferred platforms. Consumers like to communicate with companies on the same channels they’re already using to talk to family and friends. Despite that, less than 30 percent of companies offer popular communication methods like live chat, social messaging, and in-app messaging.
You can set yourself apart from the competition by providing an omnichannel customer experience where buyers can reach you on whatever platform they want—including Apple Messages for Business, Google Business Messages, or Facebook Messenger. This is a win-win. Customers can connect on their preferred channels, and agents can provide a more personalized, seamless experience. Companies offering omnichannel support resolve tickets more than three times faster than those that don’t, according to our CX Trends Report.
Maybe customers’ biggest struggles are on the back end. Perhaps your product is buggy, your website is too slow, or people can’t click through to product pages, so they’re dropping off before they finalize a purchase.
Every second makes a huge difference in customer experience and, in turn, your bottom line. According to Portent research, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42 percent with each additional second of load time (between 0 and 5 seconds). In cases like this, you may need to work quickly with engineers and web developers to make significant technological improvements.
Of course, these are just a few examples. Whatever the issue and potential solution may be, it’s important to follow up with your team and customers. Solicit feedback to see if the solution actually improved the customer experience as desired.
While it makes sense to build a plan that drives customers to lower-cost channels like self-service and live chat, be prepared to see a shift in agent responsibilities. As more customers have their problems solved via self-service and so on, agents will be tasked with tackling more complex issues and support tickets.
Train and support your agents
Customers don’t want to speak to stressed out, confused support agents—they want to connect with people who are engaged and capable of solving their issues. So, prioritize supporting your agents by keeping them informed and happy at work. Investing in your team members will help reduce turnover and boost customer loyalty. After all, your support experience is bound to improve with friendly, knowledgeable agents who can resolve issues quickly.
Start by building processes around gauging agent engagement. Offer ongoing 1:1 meetings, team check-ins, and employee engagement surveys. These interactions make it easy to get feedback from your reps about where they’re struggling and what’s going well.
You can also invest in tools and technologies that improve agent workflow and simplify tasks, like a flexible customer relationship management (CRM) platform and a shared agent workspace. These solutions help keep information organized and provide the context agents need to address customer concerns adequately. Agents are then able to work together efficiently and provide fast resolutions. Our CX Trends Report found that by simplifying the agent experience and ensuring that agents don’t have to toggle between different systems, companies see more productive agents and happier customers.
The right software also has built-in reporting and analytics to track key metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) score, Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS), and ticket resolution time. This data can help you determine where agents may need additional training or resources and where they’re really thriving.
Get the rest of the company on board
Implementing a customer experience strategy takes dedication and expertise from every department—not just those who regularly interact with customers. As issues come up, you’ll need the support of various stakeholders to implement customer-focused initiatives and tackle gaps in the customer experience.
Getting teams across the company on board with your customer experience strategy starts with leadership. Encourage other department heads and company leaders to show enthusiasm about the customer experience and emphasize why it’s important. If management is making CX a priority, others will naturally follow. Plus, you may need high-level managers to actually implement your strategy and facilitate collaboration with other teams or departments.
Beyond the leadership team, find your customer experience champions. These are the team members who are going above and beyond to provide a top-notch customer experience. They can provide important feedback, help you execute and refine your CX strategy, and highlight the importance of CX across the company.
Of course, you can also host team meetings, webinars, and “lunch and learn” events to get colleagues up to speed and answer questions regarding CX.
Continually evolve your customer experience
Crafting a customer experience strategy for your business is not a one-time thing. Technology, your products or services, and customers’ needs will continue to change. As such, you need to regularly evaluate and optimize your customer experience.
Solicit customer feedback frequently to ensure you’re providing the best experience possible, talk through issues and trends with your agents, invest in the right customer service software, and review customer support data to evaluate performance. These steps will help keep you on the right track even as customer expectations evolve.