Creating A Seamless Customer Experience
Today’s connected customers have no trouble finding retailers that deliver what they want, when they want it. The customer is king and expects to be treated accordingly. A recent survey reported close to 75% of consumers said they will stop doing business with a company following a negative experience. More than 50% of these consumers will go on to complain to their networks. With the customer experience so strongly impacting your business, it’s imperative to take time to assess what’s working, where you can improve, and what processes you need in place to ensure customers have a positive experience from the time they discover your brand to the moment they receive an order.
Signs Your Customer Experience Needs Improvements
It’s impossible for 100% of your customers to be happy 100% of the time. While mistakes will certainly happen, your customer feedback should overall reflect a consistent experience. When the same mistakes occur frequently, it’s probably time to consider revamping certain processes within your customer journey. Here are a few signs your customer experience needs improvement:
• Customers are repeatedly expressing frustration regarding the timeframe in which their questions or concerns are addressed.
• Delivery dates are frequently delayed.
• The wrong products are consistently being shipped.
• You are often losing track of your inventory, causing customers to order something that is actually out-of-stock.
• You notice that many customers leave your site on the checkout page after adding items to their shopping cart.
Before we discuss solutions for these roadblocks, let’s dive into creating a basis for a positive customer experience.
Building A Foundation For Exceptional Customer Service
A positive customer experience should be at the heart of all your business decisions. From the navigability of your site to the logistics behind your fulfillment and shipping, there should be very minimal effort required on the customer’s side to select and receive an item. Once you’ve established a customer experience worth raving about, you can focus on highlighting it through marketing efforts. But first, focus on the intricacies and systems that work together to create a fluid, exceptional customer experience.
NAVIGATING YOUR ECOMMERCE SITE
From the time a customer adds a product to their cart on your website, to the time they receive an order, their experience with your company should be as simple and predictable as possible. Deliver surprises with marketing tactics and unique product designs – not with logistics and operations. Here are a few factors to consider when designing your website to ensure it is as easy as possible for customers to navigate:
Shopping On Your Site
Currently, over 68% of shoppers abandon their shopping cart without making a purchase. While a lot goes into choosing a shopping cart (like whether to use an eCommerce software solution or build your own website), your main focus should be making the customer experience so seamless that the user has no reason to leave the site prior to making a purchase. If an eCommerce solution, like Shopify or Magento, seems expensive but you also feel it can provide the most reliable, easy user experience, it’s still probably cheaper than losing a customer’s business because your site is broken or difficult to navigate.
Understand Buying Habits
Make it as easy as possible for return customers to shop. Saving billing and delivery addresses as well as order history ensures no customer can exit the purchasing process because they didn’t have time to complete an order. Knowing what people want to buy and when can help you increase email click through rates and improve on-site conversions.
When choosing a payment system, it’s best to go with something reputable. You wouldn’t want to lose a customer at the very end of their buying process because they didn’t feel comfortable entering their credit card information on your site. Also be sure to include all costs upfront – when shoppers abandon a cart, 56% of the time it’s because they are presented with unexpected costs.
Once a customer places an order, a lot happens on your backend – but all they should know is when and how the correct item(s) will arrive. Shipping options have become the norm, and customers expect to get what they want, when they want it. Whether they want an item shipped free (93% of customers will take action for free shipping), shipped fast, or giftwrapped and personalized, a lot of work needs to happen behind the scenes to keep your customers satisfied. Not all options are realistic for all companies, but test out what works for you, and list any and all options you can accommodate.
Even with all the best systems in place, mistakes are bound to happen from time to time. U.S. businesses lose $83 billion each year due to defections and abandoned purchases credited to poor customer experiences. To ensure your profits don’t contribute to this statistic, your customers must feel supported, especially when something has gone wrong.
COMMUNICATE QUICKLY AND THOUGHTFULLY
Should a customer need to communicate an issue, make sure they can do so easily and through the means of their choice. Whether by phone, email, or social media, customers expect you to see their concerns and respond in a timely manner. A social media management solutions, like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, might be an effective tool to give you visibility into what’s being said about your company across all social channels. It can be tempting to skip the negative comments and respond only to glowing reviews, but it’s how you respond to a customer’s poor experience that truly impacts how they see your brand. Tactfully and thoughtfully responding to a customer’s negative feedback shows customers that you take service – and your brand – seriously.
HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
It should go without saying that the way you communicate is an extension of your brand. Proveen Kapelle, a marketing professor at Dartmouth who analyzes companies with top rated customer service, said, “Customers get their service by interacting with the employees, and so for the employees to provide better service, they have to take ownership of what they are selling. If you have employees who are motivated, who take ownership, who take pride in what they do, that translates to customer satisfaction right away.” Hire for support and service roles with this in mind, and make sure employees who regularly speak with customers share your mission and can communicate it effectively.
LISTEN TO FEEDBACK
Customers want to be heard, and incorporating their feedback as you iterate on your products and scale your business is a way to create a culture of loyalty. Amazon Kindle is a famous example of doing this successfully; they went through thousands of customer reviews and continue to create new versions of the e-reader with this feedback incorporated. Not only do you create a product you know your customers want, but you show them you are listening.
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
When you fail to meet expectations, the customer experience crumbles. And these expectations are high. A recent Aberdeen survey shows that elevated customer expectations are the highest source of external pressure faced by mid-market retailers. So how does this impact your business? If a customer stays at a luxury hotel and has a mediocre experience, he might still rate it more favorably than a budget hotel at which he had a good experience. This is because the customer had higher expectations for the luxury hotel and paid more to stay there. Decide from the beginning whether your product is intended to serve a luxury or budget purpose. From there, be very clear and intentional with how you position your brand.
How a Positive Customer Experience Impacts Your Bottom Line
If you don’t have customers evangelizing your brand, your customer experience has fallen behind. Once you’ve created an experience that your customers can’t get enough of, it’s time to turn that positive feedback into a way to attract new customers.
WORD OF MOUTH
Even in the age of connected customers, there is no marketing tactic more effective than word of mouth. According to Nielsen, 84% of customers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products. Unsurprisingly, these recommendations are the highest ranking source for trustworthiness. This proves you shouldn’t think of customers as individual transactions, but understand that each experience has the opportunity to impact many more future customers.
With a Salesforce survey reporting that 70% of marketers plan to increase their spend on social and content marketing, if you’re not already there, your competitors are. Find out where your customers are simply by adding social sharing tools to your email campaigns and website to gain visibility into what, when, and where customers share. If you want immediate access to that information, you might consider using something like TowerData, which provides demographic, interest, and purchase data on 80% of your customer base for whom you have email addresses. Once you know where your customers are most engaged, create and maintain a strong presence on these platforms. Whether you’re posting, liking, sharing, or retweeting – or purchasing paid ads to get in front of your target demographic – social media is imperative to how customers see, and interact with, your brand.
Know who your customer is and speak to them in their language. Chubbies, a San Francisco-based men’s shorts brand, quickly identified their target audience as young men seeking a fun-loving, laid-back lifestyle. Their language never deviates from their attempt to connect with that audience, addressing customers on their website as “Hombre, Friend, Chubstomer, Amigo,” and writing product descriptions that start with, “Don’t even bother filling out that PTO form.” Chubbies’ voice is unwavering in who they are targeting, which has enabled them to grow an immensely loyal customer following.
CREATE CUSTOMER ADVOCATES
Consumer behavior is most influenced by the recommendations that come from a person’s network. An App Data Room survey found that advocates tell twice as many people about their purchases and are five times more valuable than average customers. You can directly influence your bottom line by leveraging customer advocates, and you’ll fall behind when your customer experience isn’t worth sharing.
Things You Can Do Today
- ✔ Watch a first time customer navigate your eCommerce site to pinpoint areas needing improvement
- ✔ Fix any site navigation issues, listening to and incorporating customer feedback
- ✔ Clearly communicate shipping costs and delivery status with customers
- ✔ Identify the social channels most relevant to your target audience and establish a consistent brand presence
- ✔ Build a responsive and reliable support team to respond to shoppers across all brand channels