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Understanding Your Customers' Experience

Katharine Paljug

Customer experience is a key driver of business success. From social media analytics to specialized CRM software, there are hundreds of tools devoted to measuring it. But which of these tools are actually important to understanding customer experience? And how does customer experience ultimately affect your bottom line?

When it comes to understanding and improving customer experience, there are five things every business needs to know.

1. Customer experience is different from customer opinion.

When it comes to understanding your customers, "experience" is different from "opinion." Customer experience, sometimes referred to as CX or UX (user experience) is the product of all the interactions a customer has with a business over the course of their relationship. It should be an ongoing process that grows and improves as your business grows and improves.

"CX is a thoughtful and caring approach to what your customers experience when interacting with your organization," said Rose Bentley, the senior vice president and general manager of North America for CloudCherry, a customer experience management platform. "It's about emotionally connecting with your audiences, instead of simply offering them a transactional relationship."

Customer opinion, by contrast, is what your customers think of that relationship, or how they feel about their experience.

2. Customer experience drives loyalty.

Your goal as a business should be to create an enjoyable, ongoing relationship (experience) to produce a positive feeling (opinion). This creates loyalty, making your customers more likely to turn to your company again.

"Your customers have more choices than ever before, so if you want to keep your customers and grow them, it's important to care about their experience with you and your organization," warned Bentley.

Customer loyalty also makes them more likely to recommend your company to others, an invaluable form of social proof. As a result, understanding CX and constantly working to improve it is vital to your business' growth.

"Above everything, the goal of tracking the customer experience is to support overall business outcomes," said Bentley. "These are the most important goals, including increasing revenue, decreasing churn and improving team productivity."

3. Focus on the journey.

From finding your website and reading social posts to asking follow up questions after a purchase and reading marketing emails, there are dozens of points where customers interact with your business. These are all part of your customers’ experience, and each of them can affect whether you develop loyal, long-term relationships.

To fully capture and understand all these interactions, don't think of CX as a single moment when a customer makes a purchase. Instead, consider the entire journey they take, from the initial moment of discovery to the (hopefully) continuing relationship after a purchase is made.

"Measuring customer experience means listening and caring about your customers' experience across their entire customer journey, from beginning to end and beyond," said Bentley. "By gaining actionable insights at each stage of the customer journey, companies can raise loyalty metrics … and improve other aspects of the customer experience that are important to business growth."

Understanding this whole journey also helps you understand when to disrupt it by reaching out or offering customers something new. This, in turn, can create more proactive experiences for your customers and drive growth in new areas.

4. You can measure customer experience on any budget.

There are lots of tools out there for measuring customer experience and companies to partner with who can help you set up CX systems. But a business with limited resources can still gain insight into their customers' journey.

Even if you don’t use software to measure customer experience, you can still use your website or social media analytics to learn how customers find you, what makes them stick around and what leads to them making a purchase. You can also solicit customer feedback directly by asking questions on social media, sending out a survey to your email list or following each purchase with a Net Promoter Score email.

Specialized tools can make collecting customer experience data easier, but it isn’t a requirement. Instead, think about the points where you interact with customers along their journey and what each of those points can reveal.

"You're only as good as your data," said Bentley. "Don't be afraid to open up your listening strategy to include social, chatbots and other cutting-edge data collection methods."

If you do partner with another company to measure CX, Bentley recommends being honest about your budget constraints. More important than the complexity of the tools used, she said, is to find a partner or a solution "that cares as much as you do about your customers."

"Then lean on that partner to drive your program goals and create a culture of customer centricity," she added.

5. Measurement is only the first step.

Finding tools to measure customer experience is important, but those insights don’t mean anything on their own. Once you have CX data, the most important step is what you do with it.

Once you have CX data, you need to invest the necessary time and resources to analyze it. Look for trends in customer behavior, then take the time to understand the implications those patterns have for your business' growth.

For example, if you find that many of your customers find you on a single social media platform,  develop a strategy for maximizing customer interaction on that platform, such as investing in advertisements, creating social media challenges or offering purchase incentives only to followers.

Other changes that you could make based on CX data could include:

  • Testing out new landing pages to lower your website's bounce rate
  • Providing more or different information about products in stores or on your website
  • Changing the frequency or content of your email marketing
  • Communicating more frequently about shipped or delivered purchases
  • Investing in your customer service department to answer question and fix problems
  • Purchasing chatbot software to help resolve customer concerns
  • Automating a follow-up system that keeps up with customers after purchases

But don't get too carried away – Bentley cautions businesses to remain focused on the customer, rather than on short-term changes.

"It's important to remember that the goal of any well-planned CX program is to build customer loyalty by providing delightful experiences," she said. "There are no quick fixes here, so your growth goals must be long-term."

Image Credit: Montri Nipitvittaya/Shutterstock
Katharine Paljug
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Katharine Paljug is a freelance content creator and editor who writes for and about small businesses. In addition to Business News Daily, her articles can be found on Your Care Everywhere, She Knows, and YFS Magazine. Visit her website to access her free library of resources for small business owners.