Every customer service rep can relate to that anxious feeling of suddenly engaging in an unexpected and unpleasant interaction with a customer. But in that brief moment where your welcoming and optimistic greeting was met with an immediate, hostile retaliation, have you ever wondered where that frustration was coming from?
I've worked in customer support for more than a year at this point. And, after encountering this time and time again, I wanted to know why these patterns emerged, and more importantly, how to fix them.
I started paying closer attention to these cases and what surprised me was that with most of these angry customers, the frustration didn’t originate with the support rep. Think about it — when you call a support line, it means you have a problem that needs to be fixed.
On the customer support rep's end, this can leave them fighting an uphill battle before even hearing the customer's problem. Instead of being the source of dissatisfaction, the customer service team ended up working as the feedback mechanism in a much larger customer service ecosystem, called customer experience.
Customer experience, or CX, is the customer's overall sentiment of every interaction that they have with your company. This evaluation runs parallel to your inbound marketing approach, beginning with the first point of contact with the customer and ending with your feedback outlets.
Customer experience accounts for what happens leading up to the support phone call and why overall customer experience with your company is resulting in the frustration observed. While a positive CX can be the catalyst for a loyal customer base, a negative experience can influence potential prospects even before they interact with your company. Being proactive in your approach to CX can not only help your team solve these tricky customer situations but create a long-term game plan for problems that may occur down the road.
How to Improve Customer Experience in 8 Steps
- Illustrate the customer journey.
- Equip and uplift your employees.
- Audit the customer experience from multiple internal perspectives.
- Dedicate a clear focus on this initiative.
- Personalize your interactions with customers.
- Distribute customer experience data to your entire team.
- Learn from churn when it happens.
- Consider customer experience with UX/UI design.
1. Illustrate the customer journey.
Before you embark on a company-wide initiative, it's probably wise to preface it with a game plan. In most cases, creating a customer journey map is a great place to start.
A customer journey map is an outline of every step your customers go through when interacting with your company. This includes engagements that extend beyond just purchasing the product, like social media engagements, online advertising, and customer service cases.
When building your map, be sure to consider a range of perspectives from your internal stakeholders. Insights into the customer journey are embedded across every part of your company so it’s important to include opinions from all of your team members (we'll go into more depth on this in a moment).
It’s also essential to account for both the pre-and post-sale aspects of the customer experience. While it may be tempting to spend the majority of your focus on the interactions leading up to the sale, the post-sale is equally vital to building a complete customer experience. Think about different touchpoints that the customer interacts with and how those experiences impact the customer's perspective.
By mapping out these interactions into one spectrum, it makes it easier for employees across your organization to visualize the overall customer experience. It will also improve their individual understanding of the customer's needs and expectations as they can pinpoint exactly where their work will influence the customer's journey.
With this understanding, your team can better identify the gaps between their desired and current performance and refocus efforts on new areas of your customer experience that could stand improvement.
2. Equip and uplift your employees.
Much of a customer’s experience can be attributed to whom they interact with during their buyer journey. If employees think that they don’t have the tools necessary to do their job efficiently, or feel underappreciated, it can affect their ability to perform.
To uplift your employees when current customer experiences aren’t up to par, you can:
- Identify common employee pain points through employee feedback tools
- Review current systematic process (from contact center protocol to CRM software)
- Amend processes to foster a more positive CX experience
It’s also possible for customer experience to dampen from employees not meeting expectations that the company culture promises. Evaluate if your upper management, managers, and employees all understand the values and tone expected of the company culture, and adhere to it for each customer.
Making sure the employee experience is positive can increase the probability of delightful customer experiences.
3. Audit the customer experience from multiple internal perspectives.
Since the customer journey is affected by every facet of your business, it’s imperative that you don’t focus on only one department when conducting an audit of customer experience. As we briefly mentioned before, customers interact in some way with every part of your business, so to gain a complete picture of CX, you will need to consider the unique perspective of each one of your internal departments. Here are three to get you kick-started:
Your marketing team will most likely be focused on customer acquisition, so they will have the best insight into brand awareness and user expectations. They will understand what content your visitors are consuming most, and what will generate the most qualified leads. Surveying your marketing team will help you understand how people are finding your business and what you can do to better shape your reputation leading up to a sale.
Sales will have insights into the early stages of the customer relationship. They’re on the front lines with the customer and their interactions reveal what is really motivating individual leads. Sales team members have information on the challenges that customers are encountering on a daily basis and how they expect your product or service to address those roadblocks. For the leads that don’t convert to customers, your sales team can help you understand what from your product offer led to that missed opportunity.
It's important to know that what you're communicating in your sales and marketing processes actually align with your customers' real experiences. Your customer service and success team can provide insight into this reality as they’re typically the first line of communication for feedback and product frustration. They hear honest feedback from customers on a daily basis, so welcome their perspective on what is causing the most problems for your customers.
For example, they can tell you what questions are asked the most during support calls and which topics on your feedback forums are generating the most activity. In SaaS business, the support team works with the user interface the most, so surveying their thoughts on the product can be a great way to address technical pain points.
4. Dedicate a clear focus on this initiative.
Your customer experience isn’t going to change overnight, so it’s important to demonstrate to your entire company a clear focus on your new initiatives. Dedicate someone to the execution of your customer experience plans. This person could be a VP of Customer Success, a Chief Customer Officer, Customer Success Manager, etc. It will be their job to communicate changes, facilitate operations, organize research analysis and perform any necessary actions to ensure that your new approach to CX is consistent across all departments of your company.
If you’re sitting there thinking this may be a bit of an extreme step, The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed in new research that companies that prioritize customer experience more often demonstrate higher revenue growth. While it’s common for change to be met with resistance in some companies, investing in your customer experience strategy early can end up paying off for your business down the road.
When trying to implement new initiatives, you may see hesitation from more senior leadership that’s rooted in their traditional approach. You will need to be sure to rally these employees to get on board as it will demonstrate a consistent show of support for change at higher levels of your company. At the end of the day, employees are going to follow whoever is in charge, meaning that failure to align senior leadership around customer experience can result in three detrimental roadblocks:
- Inconsistent interactions between company and customer
- Gating of information that could be potentially helpful to customers or employees
- Overall lack of support from employees
5. Personalize interactions with customers.
Depending on the scale and scope of your company, “personalize” can take on many different meanings. Personalizing experiences for your customer can help form a bond between brand and buyer. For instance, providing vouchers to the customer after their first purchase can personalize their experience and make them brand loyal over competitors.
Personalization doesn’t have to just be a discount, it can take on many forms:
- Thank you letters or emails to customers after purchase
- Customer follow-up surveys
- Dynamic website offers based on user preferences
Making the customer feel valued even after the sale is made is a great way to boost the overall customer experience.
6. Distribute customer experience data to your entire team.
If you want to get your entire company on board with your shiny new customer experience plan, then it’s important that everyone has access to your findings. Keeping your employees in the loop regarding the conclusions you have found from your research will help your team optimize daily internal processes such as customer routing, workflow automation, and client tagging. Not only that, but distributing customer insights across your entire company can also help:
Address Customer Needs Faster
According to Metasaas, 31% of SaaS licenses end up going unused, making it even more important to fix customer roadblocks as quickly as possible. Having data regarding where your customers are likely to face obstacles will help your team prevent user frustration and smooth over any confusing pain points in the customer's journey.
Improve Product/Service Quality
As we mentioned earlier, your customer service or success team will be able to provide insight on how usability issues with your product or service is affecting the overall customer experience. By having leaders and contributors from your success team meet with your product team, you can review top support ticket categories to identify the most common issues related to usability.
Increase Upsell Opportunities
Your sales team will have an easier time identifying upselling opportunities as they will have a better understanding of the best timing to reach out to customers. They can pinpoint specific opportunities on the customer's timeline to reach out with re-engagement initiatives (like a product add-on) which can increase overall revenue over time.
7. Learn from churn when it happens.
According to research from Bain & Company, if you can generate a 5% increase in customer retention, you can increase your company's profits by 25% to 95%. A great way to begin is to use in-app analytics to analyze areas of the customer experience where there is low engagement.
Low engagement typically suggests a higher risk of customer churn, especially in the SaaS industry. It will help to create an engagement correlation that can help you identify which customers have the highest risk of churn. You can use user app analytics to determine what percentage of engagement will result in the highest likelihood to churn then set up a monitoring system to alert your customer success team if a customer approaches that value. This gives your team the opportunity to proactively reach out to solve a problem before it's too late.
Even for the customers that you’re not able to prevent from churning, be sure to find out why they decided to move on. Provide multiple channels for customers to leave feedback and take their opinions seriously. If you’re truly focused on creating a better experience for your customer, then you should want to hear about the instances where your company came back short. Make it easy for the customer to cancel their account, but leverage your success team to find out exactly why this customer decided to cancel.
8. Consider customer experience with UX/UI design.
Think about where customer experience begins. Before a potential customer makes it to a customer support rep, they will perform some of their own research before formally reaching out for help.
It’s imperative that your company website is easy to navigate and clear in its offerings.
88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a bad user experience. To avoid complicating customer experience, have your engineers or marketing team optimize your digital domain to provide an engaging and informative experience— to begin their customer journey on a positive note.
Make Your Customer’s Experience a Delight
Changing your customer experience begins with being proactive and planning out your strategy. Your product or service can be the perfect fit for a customer, and they might miss out on it due to underlying issues in their experience along the way. Take these tips and apply them to your strategy to make your customers happy and keep them coming back for more.
Originally published May 5, 2021 5:30:00 PM, updated May 06 2021