Delivering an incredible customer experience means putting your customer needs at the centre of all your organisation does.
Creating a customer-first culture is more than decreasing wait times or boosting product ratings. It calls for delivering impeccable standards of customer service that become embedded in the DNA of an organisation and adhered to along every step of the customer journey.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon
The customer experience. What is it and what does it matter?
Customer experience, also known as CX, is all the interactions that build a customer’s relationship with a brand. It’s the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching a product or service, purchasing, using the product and later, interaction with the brand post-purchase.
Setting and sticking to high standards at all touch points along the customer experience journey has never been more important. Research suggests customer experience will overtake both price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020.
Setting customer experience standards
Know thy customer.
To set customer experience standards that either solve problems in a meaningful way or delight and inspire, you must have solid insights about your customer and how they interact with your organisation.
Map the journey of interactions with your organisation from your customer’s point of view in terms of behaviour and needs.
Get started by identifying the most critical touchpoints of the journey and setting core customer experience standards focusing on those areas.
Keeping customer experience standards high
Now the standards are set, imagine everyone is on exactly the same page when it comes to delivering exceptional customer service. Teams know what is expected from them, feel confident in delivering great results and customers are consistently satisfied or, better still, converted into raving fans!
With planning, commitment and training, creating this ideal customer experience is possible. Here are a few ways of making high standards stick once you’ve put them in place.
Align standards across all areas of the organisation
Creating a customer-oriented culture from the top down is the only way to successfully embed it into the DNA of an organisation. Every layer of the company must contribute to customer happiness and the overall experience, it’s no longer just the realm of the ‘customer service team.’
In a customer-centric organisation, regardless of whether you are the CEO, customer-facing or in a back-office role, every decision, thought and action begins and ends with the customer in mind.
Clear direction and expectations must be communicated across the board on what the customer experience standards are and how to execute them. Without clarity, teams won’t understand what is expected and it’s easy for standards to slip. Identify any areas where staff may need additional training to fine tune the skills needed to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Leaders need to keep a finger on the pulse of performance and outcomes to ensure customer experience efforts remain high. Collecting feedback, reviewing opportunities, evaluating retention and surveying customers are a few of the ways to measure outcomes and maintain high standards.
Appreciate great work
Celebrate moments where team members go above and beyond with customer service. Exceptional service could be rewarded with incentives or gifts to motivate teams to maintain high customer experience standards.
Actions and attitudes for exceptional customer experiences
Listen and be patient
If a frustrated customer has reached out for support, take the time to figure out what they really need. If they want to talk for 20 minutes about the issue, build rapport and talk with them for 20 minutes. Don’t rush them out the door or off the call.
Patience goes hand in hand with the ability to listen attentively. Successful companies invest in training employees to hone their soft skills like empathy and listening to improve the customer experience.
Insights gleaned from mindful interactions should also fuel the continuous process of customer-centred design of products and services.
Respond quickly and accurately
“Good service is better than fast service.”
While a speedy response is important, it’s just as crucial to provide accurate information.
Not taking the time to understand what a customer actually wants and jumping to a conclusion, means they won’t receive the right solution. It’s a frustrated customer who has to return only to and repeat themselves again because their issue wasn’t resolved the first time around.
Make the first move
Businesses who prioritise the customer experience go out of their way to identify potential issues and resolve them before customers need to ask for help. This is proactive customer service.
Who makes the first move in your business? The customer or you? Does your organisation try to offer solutions to issues before the customer needs to ask for help?
Reactive customer service is the norm. Taking a proactive approach is a competitive advantage. It’s also an opportunity to gather rich customer feedback and data, allowing you to make more informed product or service design decisions in the future.
“The key is to set realistic customer expectations and then nohem – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways” – Sir Richard Branson
Optimism is great, but it’s more important to be realistic than set expectations that can’t be met. When you inflate customers’ expectations, you’re actually making it more difficult to hit a home runxperience.
Deliver the Wow factor
A few ways to sprinkle your customer experience with “wow” moments include spontaneous acts of kindness, finding quick, innovative solutions and arranging same-day emergency delivery. This kind of service can spark an emotional connection with the customers.
What steps has your organisation taken to set and stick to high customer experience standards?
Need to raise the bar when it comes to customer experience? Our Customers & Experience program can help fix common workplace problems including poor results and negative feedback from customers, setting standards and firm expectations and a customer experience that isn’t aligned across stories.