Don’t fight your feelings. Your customers certainly don’t.
When we talk about the customer experience, we’re really talking about the emotional connection between companies and their customers. While we like to think we can quantify what customers do and why they do it, at the end of the day, customer behavior boils down to feelings. We all feel strongly about certain brands and products, and it’s these feelings—and those of our friends and families—that influence us more than anything else.
It’s been proven that companies that focus on their customers’ experiences—that have empathy for their customers and view things from their perspective—perform better. A good place to begin exploring the customer experience is by asking yourself a few questions:
- How easy are you to do business with?
- How do your customers feel about interacting with you?
- Do they avoid doing so or do they willingly engage with you?
Avoid Taking Hostages
While your company may have many longstanding customers, you must dig a little deeper to determine what lies at the heart of their apparent loyalty. Can they get the goods and services you provide elsewhere or are you the only game in town? If I can only get the internet speed I need from one provider, for example, I may look like a loyal customer on paper but in reality I feel like I don’t have another option. Quantitatively, I appear to be loyal: I’m enrolled in the provider’s auto-pay service, I’ve been a customer for five years, I pay $80 per month for internet service. The provider thinks I’m loyal, but I feel like a hostage. We need to better understand our customers’ behavior and interaction with us, which requires complementing quantitative measures with qualitative insights.
An “F” for Effort
One of the biggest indicators of how your customers view you is how hard you’re making them work. Were they forced to expend more effort than necessary to get what they wanted from you? If so, you’re not providing an optimal customer experience. Avoid exposing your internal silos to your customers at all costs. They simply don’t care how your company is organized. What they care about is what you can do for them and that you make their interaction with you as painless as possible.
Happy Employees Make Happy Customers
To make a significant difference in the customer experience, you must also examine your employees’ experience. Are your employees empowered and equipped with the technology, skills, and other tools they need to do their jobs? If so, they’ll serve your customers better. In all my years of interviewing employees, I’ve never met one who didn’t want to help a customer. Problems occur, however, when an organization makes it difficult for an employee to do his or her job effectively or doesn’t authorize the employee to serve the customer’s needs. These things can sour an employee, and in turn, sour the customer experience.
View Your Business from the Customers’ Perspective
Looking inward isn’t enough. Through techniques like persona development and customer journey maps, you can gain insight into the customer mindset that allows you to examine your business from the outside-in. This process is likely to highlight many issues and opportunities from which you can prioritize and invest in to have the biggest impact on your customer experience. Many times, by addressing those top issues, you inadvertently find solutions for the ancillary ones.
Little Things Mean a Lot
While improving the customer experience often requires a colossal culture shift within an organization, it doesn’t always have to be a massive undertaking. Everyone within an organization has the power to help build empathy for the customer. It can be subtle process. It’s simply a matter of keeping empathy at the forefront of everything we do, regardless of the type of project we’re working on. A small shift in our thinking and perspective can lead to massive results in customer experience improvement.