Customer experience is a term thrown around a lot lately, but what does it mean to you and your business? The good news is that it’s simple to define, the bad news is that it can be hard to execute really well. Quite simply, customer experience is everything your customer feels, sees, hears, smells and touches while interacting with your business. Even the things you can’t control play a role, making it that much more important that you perfect the things you can control.
Customers today have a multitude of purchasing options, both traditional and online. Businesses can no longer afford to ignore the value of the experience they provide customers. Good customer experiences generate revenue, bad experiences can be devastating. Yet few are providing great experiences and many value marketing or advertising more. Here are five reasons why customer experience matters more now than ever.
- Customers respond to relationships more than advertising. We see thousands of advertising messages every day – from sponsored posts and digital display ads to billboards and television spots, and we remember a fraction of the messages we see. On the other hand, we remember our relationships and use them as a comparison for everything else. If you go to the same grocery store every time, it’s probably because you have a relationship with them. You know where to find everything you need and what quality to expect. You may be a member of their loyalty club and know some of the cashiers. If a competing grocery store sends you an offer, do you go? Only if the offer is more valuable than your relationship with your existing store. You may try it out, but if the experience doesn’t match what you’ve come to expect, you won’t go back.
- It separates you from e-commerce alternatives. If your customers can buy the same product online, why do they visit your store? Maybe it’s convenience or value, but it’s probably because they want the experience of visiting your store. If someone is looking for a gift for their mother and isn’t sure what to get, they may surf through multiple online retailers while sitting in the same room and watching a movie with her. That’s the experience they want. Your customers want the experience of wandering through your gift shop, exploring lots of ideas and being able to see them in person – maybe even pick up and feel the product, ask questions and take it home that day. You need to make sure that the experience you provide exceeds their expectations with service, quality, and selection.
- It’s the best way to generate repeat visitation. It doesn’t really matter what product or service you sell if a first-time customer has a great experience, they will be back. It’s that simple. Need and convenience may also drive repeat visitation, but not with the surety of good customer experience.
When a new convenience store opens across the street from the one you’ve been going to for years, you decide to give it a try. The one you’ve been visiting isn’t always clean, the cashiers don’t smile often, but the coffee is good. At the new store, you’re welcomed by a smiling cashier into a clean store, thanked for your business, and the coffee is still good. What do you do the next day? You’re probably going to try the new store a while longer.
- Relationships generate brand ambassadors. When your customers appreciate the experience you provide, they’ll recommend you to others. When that experience has led to a relationship, they’ll share your news with others both in person and through social media. Successful restaurants are usually very good at creating ambassadors through customer experiences. They often have very limited marketing budgets and depend upon the experience to generate on-going visitation. When diners check in on social media or share photos of the food served, they’re acting as trusted ambassadors.
- It’s cheap and has a great ROI. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to deliver an experience that matters to your customers:
- Train your staff to say hello and thank you.
- Use your customer’s name whenever possible.
- Make sure your facility is clean and easily accessible.
- Take the time to answer customer questions graciously and with your full attention.
- Ask your customers what you can do to improve their experience, make whatever changes make sense for your business, and then tell them what you’ve done.
It isn’t rocket science – it is plain good sense, but often forgotten! Your investment will be rewarded many times over.