The business case is pretty clear. The more positive the experience your prospects and customers have with your business the more likely they are to become repeat customers and referrers. In other words: investing in positive customer experience will yield better financial results.
While you may have read or heard the term “customer experience” in recent months, do you have a firm understanding of what it is and how you may achieve positive results?
The Customer’s Journey
Think of customer experience as the customer journey. Phrased this way, you can probably begin to imagine just how important this concept is. It is quite literally the journey or experience a customer or potential customer has with a business from the beginning (when they initially learn about your business) to the end (which hopefully occurs with a long-term customer relationship – so, in essence, the experience never really “ends”).
The Importance of A Great Customer Experience
How important is customer experience? To get an idea, let’s look at three data points from an infographic produced by Monetate:
- 97% of consumers in the survey stated that a website interaction influenced their buying decision from a brand
- 73% of consumers would buy again from a retailer if they had a superior customer experience
- 89% would shun a business if they had a bad experience.
5 Steps to Creating the Best Customer Experience
Here are five steps every small business should be taking to optimize the customer journey.
Step 1: Brand the right way.
As previously mentioned, the customer journey begins the second a potential customer hears or becomes aware of your business.
And what you have known all along is true: first impressions matter. And so does your business’s brand reputation.
If your target customer never personally dealt with you, all they have to go on is what they know about you from the Internet, reputation, or other customers/potential customers.
What is your brand communicating to prospects?
- Make sure you have a reputation that entices, not repels, potential users.
- Keep customers happy so they spread the news of their positive experiences with you.
- Use social media and other marketing tools to shape your brand into what you want it to be.
Step 2: Maximize your content marketing.
Your website content should not only be SEO optimized it should also be written in a way that appeals to your audience. Your content should be educational, interesting, and relevant to your audience.
- What do they want to know?
- What issues are they facing?
- How do you help them solve those issues?
Since you don’t know how a potential customer will find you, every touch point should lead to answers to all of these questions.
Step 3: Up the ante on design and usability.
User experience and user interface design are important elements in the customer journey.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How intuitive is your site?
- Is it clean looking and easy to navigate?
If people have a good experience on your site, they will regard your business in the same manner.
According to many studies you could be alienating a user every second a page on your website doesn’t load. Pages that take longer than four seconds to appear may be completely abandoned. And since more people are searching on mobile devices than on desktops, your website needs to be user-friendly and use responsive design.
Your design and web structure is just as important to prospects as the product itself. You can’t create a good product and think that alone will attract prospects and convert them into customers. It is the experience that creates happy customers.
Step 4: Become a business everyone can trust.
Before anyone gives you their hard-earned money, they need to know, like and trust you. To move a prospect from interested to a customer, you have to make them not only trust your product but also trust your business.
No matter your business, chances are there’s somebody out there saying they offer the same product or service. If customers cared solely about the product, it wouldn’t matter where they obtained that product, only the price would be used to differentiate.
Set yourself apart from the competition by making your business and brand a name people respect and have faith in. Here’s how:
- Be quick to respond to customers.
- Answer current needs.
- Anticipate future customer needs and proactively form solutions.
- Offer fair business practices.
- Authentically show an interest in the customer and how you can improve their lives.
- Provide social proof.
Getting someone to buy your service or product quickly is not always the right objective. Often, it is the lead-nurturing stage that creates the most loyalty and supportive customers.
Step 5: Don’t Lose Focus.
Once a prospect becomes a customer, your job is not over. It is the customer experience you are optimizing here – not the prospect experience. Don’t think that once you move them from prospect to customer, you never have to worry about them again.
You have to continue to show value and show customers you care for them.
Here are a couple of big reasons why you need to continue to engage with existing customers:
- Happy customers are repeat customers (or customers who keep renewing).
- Your current customers help build your brand. How they feel about you will be reflected in their reviews, their social media posts and their discussions of you (or lack thereof) with their friends and family.
- Repeat business with existing customers is usually the highest margin area of your business.
- It is easier to retain existing customers than to obtain new customers.
Customer Experience Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
The prospect’s perception of the experience they have with your business is a reliable predictor of their behavior to buy from your business, continue to engage with your business, and refer your business to others. If the perception is negative, your business will not likely convert the prospect to a customer, much less receive their endorsement or referral. If the experience is positive, you’ll have the opportunity to build a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship of repeat business and referrals.
Customer experience doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be planned and executed.
If your small business needs help designing and managing a positive customer experience, begin with this ebook: How to Build a Remarkable Business by Focusing On the Total Customer Experience available here on our web site.