Your boss wants you to retain more. Your coworkers want you to do more. Your customers want you to care more.

So what's your game plan?

If you don't have one, don't panic. While being able to deliver more of everything might not sound feasible given your current workload -- you have customers to support, after all -- it's much easier to do when you have a clear customer experience strategy in place.

At its core, a customer experience strategy serves as a framework you can lean on to ensure quality when the demand for quantity doesn't seem to be letting up.

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What Is a Customer Experience Strategy?

If customer experience (CX) refers to the sum of every interaction a customer has with a business, both pre- and post-sale, the customer experience strategy defines the actionable plans in place to deliver a positive, meaningful experience across those interactions.

A successful customer experience strategy should take into account a number of important factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Competitive insight
  • Consumer research
  • Marketplace data
  • Mission & vision

When defining your customer experience strategy, you want to ensure that you're including all departments, not just the folks in customer-facing roles. By incorporating feedback and insight across the company, you'll find it's easier to align the organization around the intended goal: improving the customer experience and relationship.

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Elements of Customer Service Planning

1. Reviewing Your Current Customer Service Strategy

The first step to creating a customer service strategy is reviewing your company's current approach to customer support. The goal here is to determine what's working well for your business and where you can stand to improve. If you're not sure where to start, try checking your company's help desk or call center data for key metrics that indicate success  — like Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction score, and customer churn rate. If you're scoring below expectations, you'll have a starting point for digging deeper into the problem. 

Another effective way to review your current strategy is to create a customer journey map. A customer journey map outlines all of the interactions between a customer and your business, including any pain points found along the way. This resource not only helps you identify friction within your customer experience, but also how to remove it and replace it with delight. 

2. Training Your Customer Service Staff

Once you know where you need to improve, the next step is sharing that information with your team and training your staff on any new protocol moving forward. It's important to share your findings with your staff  — even if the news isn't good — so they understand why you're making these changes. This will reduce pushback against your new policies and it will encourage reps to improve their performance in the future. It's never fun knowing your team is falling short of expectations, especially when other teams in your department are hitting their numbers. 

3. Determining Your Customers' Needs

Some customer needs are fundamental, like being timely and keeping a positive attitude. These are things that the customer will expect from your business every time they reach out. 

However, most customers have varying needs that change on a case-by-case basis with your business. In some cases, it may be imperative to provide a speedy response, at other times, quality and clarity are the keys to success. It all depends on how the customer is feeling when they reach out to your business and how well your team can identify and adapt to their needs. 

4. Solving for the Customer

A superior customer service strategy focuses on solving problems for the customer, whether those problems are anticipated or unexpected. Most of the time when we think of customer support, we default to an image of call centers and IT teams answering phone calls all day and night. But, many companies actually have teams dedicated to anticipating potential problems and intercepting them before they affect the customer. 

These are customer success teams, and they're a critical component to a complete customer experience. Not only do they plan for problems down the road, but they also check in with customers routinely, to ensure everything is going well post-purchase. This type of proactive customer service reduces churn and strengthens your team's relationship with your customer base. 

5. Providing Self-Service Solutions

With customer service technology more readily available than ever before, there's no reason why businesses shouldn't be offering self-service support options to their customers. Rather than requiring people to call your business whenever they need help, customers should have the freedom to answer questions and solve problems on their own using the same documentation that's available to your service team.

Additionally, self-service tools like knowledgebases and chatbots not only make it easier for customers to find solutions, but they reduce case volume for your reps as well. With more people using your public resources, fewer customers will reach out to your support team with simple or common problems. That saves your team some time to focus on the more complex issues that require more time to troubleshoot. 

6. Routinely Collecting Feedback

If you want to truly understand what your customers want from your business, you have to ask and — more importantly  — listen to them. 70% of customers will leave your company a review if asked, but it's critical that you take this feedback into genuine consideration and apply it to your strategy. 

You should also be routinely collecting feedback from your customers. As we mentioned earlier, customer needs can change, so you'll need up to date information regarding how your customers are feeling about your business. Things can change quickly, so it may help to add an automated tool that can help you collect feedback after each customer experience. 

7. Tracking Your Team's Performance

If you want your customer service strategy to be continuously effective, then you have to track its performance over time. Customers are always looking for the biggest bang for their buck, and they're willing to turn to a competitor if they think they can get a better deal or more reliable service. If you get content with your strategy, competitors in your industry are likely to catch up and can lure away your customers when you aren't paying attention. Or, a new trend might pop up in your industry, and you'll miss out on the chance to capitalize on it because you didn't gather any recent customer feedback. 

The most successful businesses are the ones that routinely check their team's performance and are always looking for new ways to add value to the customer experience. These businesses hold their staff to extremely high standards and expect them to generate positive interactions with every customer they meet. 

In an effort to help you define a comprehensive, cohesive customer experience strategy, let's explore some best practices to keep in mind for your business.

1. Reach Your Target Audience.

Business communication plays a big part in shaping your customers' experience. If you're not meeting customers where they are, you're missing out on an opportunity to engage them when they are most interested or in need of help.

Succeeding in this area of customer experience means your business must first determine which channels your customers are most active on so you can adapt your approach and serve them there.

From there, it's important to familiarize yourself with the channel -- whether it be social, email, live chat, or something similar. Ask yourself: How are our customers communicating on this channel already? And how can we use this information to make our outreach feel more native?

Reachability can serve as a helpful competitive advantage if you execute it properly, so it's important that your business has a handle on your customers' preferred channels, and are providing reliable, consistent service through them.

2. Offer Convenient Customer Service.

As customers become more empowered to discover solutions and information on their own via the internet and social media, the demand for increased service convenience grows. For businesses to remain in good standing with customers, they must prioritize start-to-finish online support.

Think about it: If a customer has a question on the weekend, do they have to wait until Monday to reach out? Or do you have a 24/7 live chat feature enabled to meet their Saturday needs?

Something as simple as having a polished, up-to-date knowledge base on your website is a best practice that provides customers with the ability to help themselves without having to reach out for help.

3. Provide Convenience When Purchasing Products.

Nordstrom -- a luxury department store known for its impeccable service -- recently launched a new customer experience tool aimed at improving purchasing convenience.

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Image Credit: Forbes

"The premise, which is built around making it easier for customers to shop in the way that they want to, enables app users to select items they like, then book to have them set in a fitting room for them in the store of their choice, ready to try on in person," explains fashion and business writer, Rachel Arthur.

This new system solves for convenience by allowing customers to try on clothes when and where it's convenient for them. It also gets people in the store, exposing them to thousands of other products they might be interested in purchasing.

But this is just one example of how your brand can leverage and invest in purchasing convenience as part of a customer experience strategy. Something as simple as having accurate pricing and packaging information on your website can effectively eliminate purchasing friction.

At the end of the day, you don't want to make it difficult for people to give you their money.

4. Create In-Person & Digital Personalization.

Another thing Nordstrom is using its new customer experience tool for? Data.

By learning about location and style preferences through the Nordstrom Reserve Online & Try On In-Store program, the retailer is able to incorporate personalization in a scalable way.

In an effort to provide the best possible customer experience, businesses should collect information throughout the customer relationship that can be used to provide relevant suggestions or more informed support in the future.

In the eyes of the customer, personalization (when done right) can serve as a sign of respect for their loyalty and business. It also signals that your business is interested in strengthening the relationship by continuously working to provide better service, suggestions, support, etc.

While there are many avenues for collecting and leveraging customer data, something as simple as a shared inbox for your customer success or service department serves as a great first step. By creating a transparent, universal space where folks can turn up passed customer conversations or requests, you're laying the foundation for more contextual communication and outreach.

5. Focus on Simplicity & Ease of Use.

Ever land on a website that was a disaster to navigate on mobile? We're willing to be you didn't stick around for very long.

Back in 2015, mobile internet use passed out desktop use for the very first time. Since then, mobile usage continues to grow, making mobile optimization a high priority for businesses looking to provide a simple and seamless experience for customers and potential buyers.

In an effort to amp up your businesses' ease of use, you'll want to focus on simplifying website navigation for all browsing types. After all, you can't expect customers to wait until they get to a desktop to uncover the information they need, right?

A great example to reference here is Amazon. Amazon embodies simplicity and ease of use in their checkout process by enabling Amazon Prime members to buy an item with just one click:

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What's more, it also offers a quick and easy way to uncover product info and answers to common purchasing questions within the same screen:

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6. Review the Flexibility of Your Communication Channels.

When thinking about your approach to channel flexibility, keep the term omni-channel in mind.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, onmi-channel is defined as an approach that provides customers with an integrated, seamless experience -- even when moving from desktop to mobile or social media channel to live support.

In an omni-channel world, the customer experience should be the same across platforms and channels -- and it should contain proper context when applicable.

"For true omni-channel success, there must be a 360-degree view of customer interactions across all channels (digital and traditional) to monitor channel preference, usage, and customer journeys from the customer perspective," explain the folks at TeleTech, a customer experience management solution.

If you're looking to streamline channel flexibility as a key part of your customer experience strategy, get your team together to talk about what you want the customer experience to look, feel, and sound like across channels. From there, you'll have the common ground you need to begin employing a more fluid, contextual overall experience.

7. Make Use of Automation and AI.

No business wants its service to feel robotic. But, the truth is as your business grows its customer base, it's going to be more difficult to provide the same personalized service that you did when you were only managing a handful of customers. That's not to say it's impossible to keep your standards up; you'll just need a little help.

This is where artificial intelligence and automation tools come into play. If used correctly, these features add tremendous value to the customer experience and create incredible convenience for your customer support team.

For instance, a chatbot can field customer inquiries on your website when your agents are away. So, even if it's outside your normal working hours, customers can still get answers from your bot and these inquiries won't pile up for reps to deal with on the following morning. Even if the bot just redirects customers to your knowledge base, it still points them toward a potential solution and allows your company to be accessible 24/7.

8.  Be Proactive.

Proactive customer service doesn't just have to be the responsibility of your customer success team. Instead, everyone at your business can play a role in the customer's experience after they purchase a product. 

For customer service teams, reps can alert the customer success manager (CSM) if someone has reached out multiple times with complaints. Rather than expecting the CSM to spot this individual on their own, frontline reps can easily look at the customer's ticket history and recognize whether or not they've had continued issues with your brand. If so, they can contact customer success following the interaction so your company can reach out before the customer churns. Plenty of people will leave your business without telling you, so it's important to regularly check in on your accounts if you notice any recurring problems. 

Customer Experience Strategy Is a Long-Term Play

Rome wasn't built in a day -- and you shouldn't expect your customer experience strategy to be either.

Our advice? Work on defining and streamlining the six key areas above, but do so under the notion that things are subject to change.

As you learn about what it means to communicate with customers on their terms, and collect data along the way, you'll find it's easier to make informed decisions about your overall customer experience strategy.

To learn more, read this list of examples of bad design that you can learn from.

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Originally published Aug 31, 2020 3:33:23 PM, updated August 31 2020

Topics:

Customer Experience