Customer experience is a term you are probably already familiar with if you’re a mid-market or enterprise company. But what makes a good customer experience and why should businesses worry about it? In the past, the cost of products or services, a particular niche or specialism may have been enough to make businesses stand out from the rest.
However, in a world where consumers have so much choice, businesses need to differentiate themselves through their customer experience. A PWC survey found that 73% of consumers cite customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. A recent survey found that 86% of buyers would pay more for a better customer experience. It’s clear that putting the customer first can pay dividends in future revenue.
Whether you excel in customer service with a personalised approach or by understanding buying habits, it’s important to keep the customer experience front of mind. This is where taking a customer-first approach can take your company from an average mid-market business to a competitive leader in the industry.
What does ‘customer-first’ mean?
‘Customer first’ is a strategy that businesses use to put their customers at the centre of everything they do and every decision they make. This means assessing the impact of every decision on their consumers and actively looking for ways the business can consistently provide a great customer experience.
This isn’t just an effective approach for individual consumers, it’s also a great way to establish brands as industry leaders and the company of choice for your target customers. A study by SEMRush found that 90% of people are much more likely to trust a recommended brand (even from strangers), so it’s really important to provide a great service that your customers will want to talk about. After all, word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of advertising.
Zendesk’s Agility Playbook has discovered that investing in a customer-first strategy is not only good for business, but it’s going to become essential to keep up with the competition in the future.
Listen to your customers
The first step in taking a customer-first approach is an incisive understanding of behaviours, attitudes, motivations and needs of your customers. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! Understanding your customers isn’t just about sending an automated survey after a purchase or providing a customer service telephone number on your website.
To truly take a customer-first approach, your business needs to give them the choice of how they want to communicate with you. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021, found that 50% of high-performing companies in CX had adopted omnichannel support, compared to 18% of low-performing businesses. By offering more ways to contact the business, your customers can choose the method which best suits them and will leave them feeling comfortable and happy rather than frustrated.
RELATED: What omni-channel really means
Offering more than one or two communication channels sounds like it should be a no-brainer, with more methods of communication now available and consumers being online 24/7. However, many companies are still not listening to their customers in the right way and the warning signals have been showing for some time. Our study found that just 34% of mid-market companies and 32% of enterprise companies offer three or more communication channels to their customers.
In addition, it can be difficult for smaller and medium-sized businesses to ensure they have enough resources to monitor several communication channels. When setting out the communication channels you’re going to use, you need to first think about the resources you currently have available and utilise those before paying for more. For example, could you ask your marketing team to monitor social media out of hours on a rota basis? Or perhaps you have a live chat function already on your website which could be accessible 24/7 with the help of a customer experience specialist like Zendesk.
Becoming a customer first business requires more than just multiple touchpoints though, it’s important to close the loop of communication and ensure you are listening to your customers at every given opportunity. This means providing several different contact methods that are accessible all the time, allowing consumers to switch between these methods without having to repeat details and actively reaching out to customers via these channels to hear their thoughts.
Use the information you receive
Receiving feedback from your customers is one thing, but understanding and using this information is where you’ll gain real value. As a customer first business, asking your customers for feedback is a key area of focus as it enables you to take their opinions on board and show them how you use this information to improve your business.
Feedback is a powerful tool and can be used in a number of ways - not just to find areas of improvement for your products and services. For example, when used publicly as a testimonial on your website or via third-party review apps, feedback can add credibility to your business to encourage both repeat and new custom.
When it comes to information gathering, you’re not just limited to feedback from customer satisfaction surveys or testimonials. Your business already has access to a number of data streams that can be used to improve customer service and the overall experience:
- Customer data such as:
- Purchase history.
- Customer service history.
- Billing information.
- Social media data.
- Loyalty programs.
- Service level agreements.
- Third-party behavioural data.
- Business data, including:
- Inventory management.
- Supply chain data.
- Delivery data.
Once you’ve understood your data and how you can use it to inform your customer experience strategy, you need to ensure it’s shared across all of your teams and updated automatically to be used most effectively.
A key thing to remember when you take a customer first approach is that customer feedback and data should not be limited to the customer support team. Your product teams, marketing and sales departments should all have access to use this information. This means they can make data-driven decisions that boost customer acquisition, loyalty and profitability.
Companies that excel at the customer experience grow their revenues at 4-8% above their market, according to a study by Bain - further proof that a customer first approach is an effective way forward for many businesses.
Paint a complete picture
As we’ve already mentioned, sharing your data and information within your business is really important when working on a customer centric strategy. It’s not enough to simply share a few testimonials though, your teams must have access to all the data you have - not just the bits and pieces you choose to share. You must ensure you have painted a complete picture of the customer based on this information.
To create a great customer experience, it’s essential that everyone knows everything about the customer and their journey. Every interaction and small detail is important for ensuring your teams provide the best possible customer experience, whilst also giving your customers a sense of appreciation and value. CX strategies that focus on the consumer as a whole entity, as opposed to small fragments of data, will be able to make the changes needed to increase customer happiness.
However, businesses are still only providing their teams and customer service representatives with small amounts of information about the customer. Our study found that 37% of agents at mid-market companies said they needed more customer context to provide a better experience. This automatically sets the agent up for failure and doesn’t give them the opportunity to provide exceptional customer care. In a customer first business however, this information would be readily available to support the agent in their communications with the customer.
Being transparent across your organisation is a sure-fire way to improve customer success across your entire business, whether your customers are communicating with your marketing team via social media or with your customer service team via live chat. However, you also need to be mindful of data security challenges and ensuring sensitive customer data is kept organised and secure.
There are several programs and tools that can be used to securely share and transfer files between users, without compromising on the security or integrity of your data. Encryption and password protection of files and data is also highly recommended, especially if you are sharing information across remote teams.
Taking a customer first approach doesn’t mean a whole shift in your current strategy. There are already many elements of your business that can be used and adapted to reach your customer experience goals.