In recent years, the idea of customer service has undergone a transformation. The global pandemic, the remote work movement, the advancement of commerce technology — are all factors that have contributed to a shift in the consumer mindset. The modern customer has shrunk their attention span while raising expectations, all the while becoming quick to allow each and every experience to dictate their relationship with a brand.
As a result of this evolution, brands need to consider that the understood concept of customer service is no longer enough to create lasting, emotional connections with their customers. The customer experience (CX) is now the business of the brand: ensuring proactive, authentic interactions from a customer’s initial discovery all the way through to the development of loyal, vocal advocates of the brand.
In this complete guide, we explore what customer experience is, its benefits, how to implement it, and key differences between customer service and customer experience, as well as the best methods for making the essential transition from CS to CX.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Is Customer Experience
- Benefits of Customer Experience
- Customer Experience Trends to Follow
- How to Implement Customer Experience Strategy
- Measuring Customer Experience
- Improve Customer Experience
What Is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is inclusive of any aspect of a business that affects how a customer feels. Customer experience prioritizes the relationship with the customer, regardless of length of interaction, or past or prospective purchases. Think about the last really good or really bad experience you had when interacting with a brand. This interaction could be something as simple as completing a purchase or as complex as engaging in an extensive live chat conversation about a particular product question. How did that experience make you feel? The way that a customer interacts with and perceives your brand throughout the entirety of their process with you, from discovery to purchase to loyal customer, is all part of the customer experience.
The customer is the lifeblood of the brand, and the modern customer has high expectations for its interactions with your company. Transforming your customer service into a company-wide customer experience culture is essential to delivering a CX strategy that not only meets but exceeds expectations, creating life-long brand advocates.
The Benefits of Customer Experience Explained
Providing a great customer experience reaps benefits far beyond positive feedback from your customers. A CX strategy brings both quantity and quality when it comes to results for any company. Here are four incredible CX benefits:
- Higher customer lifetime value: Great CX positions your brand as the first your customers turn to for support. A good product or service isn’t making the cut on its own. This, in addition to world-class CX, will lead to a higher amount of money spent over the entire relationship with your company.
- Reduced customer churn: Customer churn, also referred to as customer attrition, is a key performance indicator (KPI) that measures the rate at which customers stop interacting with your brand. An effective customer experience strategy can significantly reduce churn by bolstering a sense of loyalty between customer and brand. While a primary goal should be to obtain new customers, it can be more costly than keeping existing ones satisfied and loyal to your brand. A focus on CX means a focus on building customer loyalty and reducing attrition rates.
- Better brand equity: A consistently positive customer experience makes your brand more valuable to the customer. When given the choice between a company with implicit CX strategies and one without, customers will flock to the brand with empathetic and effective support every time. In fact, 79% of consumers say customer service is extremely important when deciding where to shop.
- More engaged customer base: Great CX is about flexibility to meet your customers where they’re at. An omnichannel approach, or providing consistent service across all communication channels, makes engaging with your customers that much more accessible.
Listen to the Podcast: Secrets to Improve CX
What Are Customer Experience Trends in 2022?
The world of customer experience is ever-evolving. New trends that emerge quickly become baseline expectations for customers. Currently, we’re seeing a rise in the use of SMS, social media messaging, and live chat support. Eighty-one percent of CX organizations report that reducing wait times is an extremely important priority to achieve within the next three years. These three emerging trends share the opportunity to meet customers where they are while saving money and freeing up time for your customers and agents. Learn more about these experience trends in our guide for the future of customer engagement.
Customer Service Versus Customer Experience
Customer service and customer experience are both critical pieces of your brand’s identity and the way it interacts with prospective and existing customers. While customer service is a piece of the larger customer journey, the customer experience refers to the entire journey itself.
The customer experience provides a more holistic view of how customers discover, interact with, and trust your brand. It takes into account customer service along with other support initiatives that support the whole journey. Customer service may analyze and address one scenario at a time in a somewhat reactive manner, while the customer experience sees the whole picture, including customer purchasing trends and preferred communication channels, empowering brands and representatives to take a proactive approach.
As customer service is one element of the customer experience, it’s important to focus on both of these aspects, rather than prioritizing one over the other. By enhancing the entire customer experience, it provides brands with greater opportunities to in turn enhance unique customer service interactions. With proactive customer service supporting the greater customer experience, brands will increase customer loyalty, improve consistency across the board, and advance the trackability and success of essential interactions. By continuously improving the experience as a whole, brands can transform one-time customers into loyal advocates.
How to Implement a Customer Experience Strategy
While brands may understand that it’s important to take a comprehensive customer experience approach over strict customer service, making the shift from CS to CX can be a daunting task.
There are a number of methods by which brands can begin to reposition themselves into CX, and there are five strategies that are crucial to successfully making the transformation:
- Data analytics: The customer experience is one that must be continuously evaluated and improved in order to keep up with the expectations of the modern customer. Capturing and assessing data about your audience’s consumer behavior provides valuable insight into unique shopping habits and preferences, which empower brands to create a more personalized, tailored shopping experience.
- Staff training: The shift to a customer experience-first culture starts from the top down. Successful customer support is only fully beneficial when the entire brand stands behind this idea, which is why teams in every area, not only customer service representatives, need to be trained with a customer-centric mindset.
- CX protocols: Consistency is key to creating brand support that presents a unified approach to the customer experience. Before jumping into training your representatives, ensure that thorough, organized protocols have been established.
- Proactive support: Customer experience is about being proactive in addressing customer needs, rather than reacting to each new situation. Using data analytics and automation, brands can predict potential issues and directly reach out to their customers, instead of waiting until the customer reaches out to them.
- Avoiding pitfalls: The best way to avoid some of the most common challenges in customer service is to take a step back and ensure all your ducks are in a row to provide the most seamless customer experience. This means investing in the software tools that streamline your processes, integrating data analytics throughout your entire organization, and establishing the protocols necessary to continuously monitor your progress and improve as you go.
Measuring Customer Experience
How can your brand continue to grow and improve the customer experience you offer? How can the process be accurately measured to understand what improvement looks like? While the customer experience may seem like something that is too abstract to effectively measure, there are a few important KPIs to track that can enhance your CX strategy.
Perhaps the most important is the customer satisfaction score (CSAT). One of the most insightful CX metrics, the CSAT score is used to measure an individual customer’s feelings about a unique interaction with your support team. It is administered through a Likert scale question, with answers that provide a five-point option system to reflect the customer’s experience.
Other insightful KPIs include the net promoter score (NPS) which evaluates the percentage of a brand’s strong customer advocates, the customer effort score (CES) which assesses how easy or difficult the customer experience was made by the brand, and sentiment analysis which helps determine whether a customer’s language reflects positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.
4 Pitfalls to Avoid to Deliver a Successful CX
Let’s think about some important pitfalls to avoid when delivering the customer experience. While this list could potentially be extensive, there are four major things that should be avoided to deliver a successful CX strategy.
- Insufficient training: The important thing to remember about training is that, first, it is the backbone of delivering excellent customer experience, and second, it is not a one-and-done process. A thorough customer-focused training program should be developed and executed not only during the onboarding of new representatives, but it should also be updated and reapplied regularly. Insufficient training can lead to dissatisfaction on both sides of the customer experience, resulting in disgruntled customers, and confused, frustrated agents.
- Generic solutions: Authenticity and personalization are some of the most important factors in gaining customer attention and trust today. In fact, research has shown that personalization results in a 10-15% revenue lift, and customer service is an important avenue through which to inject that personalization. Automation is an incredible resource for quick customer service interactions, but it can also be used to provide that extra personalization when utilized properly. By offering hybrid solutions, customers can receive a balance of automated customer service with personalized human touch.
- One-channel support: In order to deliver high-quality, proactive customer support, brands need to be able to communicate with customers where they are — and the modern customer is everywhere. Customer communication preferences can vary significantly, including phone calls, email, live chat, chatbot and social media. Only offering customer support via one channel, rather than providing omnichannel support, limits the methods by which you can satisfy your customers’ needs.
- Slow responses: Nearly half of customers expect customer service representatives to respond to them in less than four hours. However, the average response time for customer support teams is over 12 hours. This disconnect is a major issue in delivering high rates of customer satisfaction. By implementing response automations through your customer experience software, you can easily avoid slow response times and agitated customers.
How To Improve Customer Experience
Even in a time of rapid growth and success, there is more that any given business can be doing for their customer; sometimes with fewer resources. Businesses need to adjust and adapt to customer expectations. This is where customer service efficiency comes in.
Customer service efficiency means shifting your customer support mindset to handling more inquiries in less time. During COVID-19, customer service teams saw a 17% increase in inquiries. To be more comprehensive in their support, many companies are relying on expanded channel support.
An increasingly popular virtual support option, live chat allows for the one-on-one, compassionate support that customers are looking for. Unlike a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence, live chat utilizes your website to connect a human agent to a customer. This is a low-cost, mutually beneficial solution that will improve customer experience.
Chatbots are an AI-powered customer experience tool that allows customers to receive immediate responses. Chatbots are pre-filled with a content library that answers customers’ most frequently asked questions. In a situation where individualized support is not necessary, chatbots can service a high frequency of customers in a short period of time.
SMS text messages are a convenient and reliable form of support. With nearly a 98% open rate, SMS messages are a proven way to connect with your customer on a platform they are already utilizing. Not only does this sustain an efficient mindset, but it is also a less costly form of support. A Forrester study shows that on average a customer service phone call costs $16. An entire SMS thread between agent and customer costs between $1 and $6. For companies with limited financial resources, SMS might be a good CX channel to expand to.
Social media provides value to your company far beyond the traditional benefits of sharing information with your customers. Social platforms give customers an abundance of information – reviews, posts, business information – to utilize throughout their purchasing decision. Why not take advantage of their existing presence and give customers another place to have their questions answered?
How a Knowledge Base Can Transform CX
A knowledge base is a specialized library of information used to generate, maintain, and deliver a range of company or brand documentation and functions. The customer attention span is shrinking rapidly, so by offering more self-service support options, customers have the opportunity to quickly answer questions on their own time without needing to wait longer than they want to receive a response from a CX representative. In addition, knowledge bases can serve as an excellent resource for the internal customer service team, with standardized answers at the ready for common questions.
The first step in building your knowledge base is to establish your audience. For example, is this information intended for an internal audience, an external audience or both? Providing vital information through a knowledge base can save countless hours for your customers and employees alike, so determining the intended audience in advance is crucial to ensuring data is accurate and relevant.
Here are some examples of what information could be included for either internal or external knowledge bases:
Enhanced E-Commerce Customer Experience
E-commerce alone saw a 14.2% jump in sales during 2021. What it takes for a brand to survive completely shifted during the pandemic — support can no longer be confined to business hours. The idea of customer support alone is no longer enough. Brands have to consider the holistic customer experience to gauge success and retention.
The most concise way to ensure a positive customer experience is by refining the systems that are in play. With this greater reliance on e-commerce and more brands to choose from than ever, customers are looking for companies that are transparent. Providing upfront information across every interaction, not just on product pages, is an essential step in providing great e-commerce CX. This means not minimizing or hiding crucial information, even if it pertains to unfavorable policies. This information includes:
- Policy Information: Documentation gives your team a set protocol to refer to when they have questions, as well as seamless access to information needed to answer questions without delay.
- Shipping & Delivery Policies: Eliminate second-guessing with clear shipping updates and options as well as delivery notifications.
- Exchanges & Returns: Making the policies clear and understandable from the start of the shopping experience will foster customer trust and clarity in the event of a return or exchange.
- Warranties: Providing detailed and accurate product information is key. This includes clearly defined specs and descriptions of each item as well as transparent warranty information.
How to Deploy a Customer Feedback Strategy
Your customer should always be at the center of your business and collecting feedback from them can give you a greater outside view of your organization. Taking this feedback and implementing it can help ensure that all future experiences are better for your customers.
But before you can implement your customer feedback strategy, you must have a streamlined way to collect and organize it. The foundation of this strategy is your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Your CRM can track every interaction with a customer and, at a glance, give you insight into what is working or not working with your customers.
You also have to consider the means by which you collect feedback. Here are several options:
- Surveys: A survey via email or website pop-up is a great way to collect feedback. Though super adaptable, the key here is to make your survey goal-oriented and only include open-ended questions.
- Interviews: Insights provided from qualitative interviews with a segmented pool of customers combined with quantitative performance data can give you a true look at how your brand is performing. Remember to keep the interview conversational and flexible so as to not make the customer feel interrogated.
- Emails: Whether one-off, personalized emails, or automated post-purchase emails, these are an instant way to reach out to customers already on your mailing list.
- Social Media: Conversations about your brand might already be happening on social media. By keeping an ear to the ground, you can open doors to honest feedback from customers and even attract new ones.
- Sentiment Analysis: Also known as opinion mining, sentiment analysis involves scanning the language a customer uses to see if it skews positive, negative or neutral. Conducted through natural language processing technology, this is a great way for agents to get an immediate read on customers’ emotions and adjust their approach accordingly.
- Data Analytics: Data analytics can deliver insights on conversation topics, volume, deflection, SLA attainment, and much more, all of which can be used to gauge customer satisfaction.
No effective strategy is a one-and-done approach. Your customer feedback strategy needs to be optimized regularly using CSATs (customer satisfaction scores). CSATs are a measure of how your brand is matching up with customer expectations. The score is gathered by asking your customer a simple question, like a numerical rating from one to five, about their satisfaction with a service, product, or interaction. Though simple, this can be a highly effective measure of satisfaction.
Frequently Asked Questions on Customer Experience
Great customer experience takes a holistic view of everything the organization is doing to bring a pleasant experience to the entire customer journey. An excellent customer experience also increases brand trust, consistency, and trackability.
More consumers have shifted to online shopping, multi-platform interactions, and they now demand a different customer experience than they have in the past. 79% of consumers say customer service is extremely important when deciding where to shop, so delivering on consumer expectations has never been more important.
There are a range of tangible, focused software options available to assist brands of any size in their endeavor to innovate the quality of relationships with both their team members as well as their consumers. Fusing the finest aspects of digital and physical service allows you to position your brand to thrive in the long-term.
Quick service is one of the top three most valued customer service attributes during this time. According to our research, 59% of respondents said there is a need to adopt more automation for efficiency, and 56% said there is a need to invest in new technologies.
Easy access, seamless collaboration, simple oversight, efficiency, and effectiveness are all at the core of providing great CX remotely.
A good customer feedback strategy is not just about the collection of information, but also how you use it to inform future decisions and how you store it to improve future interactions. At the heart of your strategy should be a top-rated CRM platform such as Kustomer. This lets your staff see customer info at a glance and to improve every aspect of the service experience.
How Kustomer Can Help Make the Shift to a Modern Customer Experience
Making the shift from customer service to customer experience is more important now than ever before. To learn more about executing this shift seamlessly, download Kustomer’s Buyer’s Guide.