Small business owners who are serious about creating sustainable businesses must prioritize delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences. Why? Because we’ve left the information age and entered the age of the customer. One wrong word or misstep, and that irate customer will vent their poor customer service experience on Twitter, Facebook, and at the water cooler during their 15 minute break. Some will even upload a pic while sipping on a Starbucks.
In case you didn’t know, research has found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience and, happy customers are more likely to remain loyal.
In the last 3 -4 weeks, the question was raised by a couple business coaches I know. The essence of the question came down to, “What’s the surest way to stand out from your competitors so that prospects and customers remember you and remain loyal?”
The answer in both cases… deliver exceptional customer service.
Being the data hungry person I am – I decided to research it.
I quickly found the data to support, they were dead on. (The fact that one of them regularly goes the extra-mile in delivering 5-star customer service to his customer base made more sense.)
At the end of the day, there’s a real-world cost to lack-luster customer experiences.
The Bottom Line of Poor Customer Service
Poor customer service has a negative impact on any type of business. However, small businesses which rely on repeat sales and positive feedback for their success are affected most of all. While large corporations can exist with this and have new customers instead of those who have left, small companies will lose their market share. So what happens to companies which deliver poor customer service?
- Loss of Loyal Customers
- Loss of Potential Customers
- Loss of Profit
- Loss of Reputation
- Loss of Employees
“3 R” Rule: Responsibility, Resolution, Respect
If you do not want your business to be among those companies which lost their customers and reputation due to poor customer service then your goal must be to use every service problem as an opportunity to impress the customer. When mistakes happen, use proactive recovery as the means to create customer loyalty. Here are some useful recommendations which will help you not only deliver great customer service but also go an extra mile and exceed your customers’ expectations:
- If you made a mistake do not be afraid to take responsibility and provide a fast solution. A proactive approach in this case and efficient customer service will help to solve the issue and win customer’s loyalty. And such little things as a sorry note, present or additional discount will form a positive rather than negative customer experience.
- Offer a quick resolution to any complaint, do not leave negative feedback or complaint unresolved.
- Treat your customers with respect. Train your customer care team to treat each customer with respect and take into account all their needs and requirements.
Here’s a great infographic on what happens after a poor customer service experience:
While I love the concept of Responsibility, Resolution, and Respect… I want to give additional steps any small business can take to become a 5-star service provider.
Here are 7 Ways to Deliver a Great Customer Experience
1. Create a clear customer experience vision
The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can communicate with your organization. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles.
For example, Zappos use their Zappos core family values and these values are embedded into their culture; which includes delivering wow through service, be humble and embracing change.
Once these principles are in place, they will drive the behavior of your organization. Every member of your team should know these principles by heart and they should be embedded into all areas of training and development.
2. Understand who your customers are
The next step in building upon these customer experience principles is to bring to life the different type of customers who deal with your customer support teams. If your organization is going to really understand customer needs and wants, then they need to be able to connect and empathize with the situations that your customers face.
One way to do this is to create customer personas, and give each persona a name and personality. For example, John likes new technology and is tech savvy enough to follow a video tutorial whereas, Anne, needs to be able to follow clear instructions with a person.
By doing, your customer support team can recognize who they are and understand them better.
3. Create an emotional connection with your customers
You’ve heard the phrase “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”, well the best customer experiences are achieved when a member of your team creates an emotional connection with a customer.
Research by the Journal of Consumer Research has found that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion as emotions shape the attitudes that drive decisions.
Customers become loyal because they are emotionally attached and they remember how they feel when they use a product or service.
The research in “Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count” proved that customers don’t buy strictly for rational reasons – And much more important is to engage customers on an emotional level. A business that optimizes this connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth.
And, according to a 2008 Mori study titled “Understanding Customer Relationships”, emotionally engaged customers are:
- At least three times more likely to recommend
- Three times more likely to re-purchase
- Less likely to shop around (44% said they rarely or never shop around)
- Much less price sensitive (33% said they would need a discount of over 20% before they would defect).
4. Capture customer feedback in real time
How can you tell if you are delivering a wow customer experience?
You need to ask – And ideally you do this by capturing feedback in real time. Post-interaction surveys can be delivered using a variety of automated tools through email and calls.
And of course, it’s even possible to make outbound calls to customers in order to gain more insightful feedback.
It’s important to tie customer feedback to a specific customer support agent, which shows every team member the difference they are making to the business.
5. Use a quality framework for development of your team
Using the steps above, you now know what customers think about the quality of your service (#4 capture customer feedback in real time) compared to the customer experience principles that have been defined (#1 Create a clear customer experience vision).
The next step is to identify the training needs for each individual member of your customer support team.
Many organizations assess the quality of phone and email communication, however, a quality framework takes this assessment one step further by scheduling and tracking your teams development through coaching, eLearning and group trainings.
6. Act upon regular employee feedback
Most organizations have an annual survey process where they capture the overall feedback of your team; how engaged they are and the businesses ability to deliver an exceptional service.
What happens in the 11 months between these survey periods?
Usually, nothing happens. And this is where continuous employee feedback can play a role using tools that allow staff to share ideas on how to improve the customer experience and for managers to see how staff is feeling towards the business.
For example, using project management software of social media tools, you can create a closed environment where your organization can leave continuous feedback.
7. Measure the ROI from delivering great customer experience
And finally, how do you know if all this investment in your teams, process and technology are working and paying off?
The answer is in the business results.
Measuring customer experience is one of the biggest challenges faced by organizations, which is why many companies use the “Net Promoter Score” or NPS, which collects valuable information by asking a single straightforward question:
“Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?”
NPS is highly suitable benchmark for a customer experience metric because a lot of companies use it as the standard customer experience measurement. And the fact that it’s simple to implement and measure makes the NPS a favorite with company boards and executive committees.
I am personally acquainted with NPS because my website hosting company presents a 2 question survey at the conclusion of every customer service call using this model.
Customer expectations are higher than ever and word of mouth travels fast!
And as the customer becomes even more empowered, it increases the importance on the customer experience.
Customer experience is an area that needs constant nurturing and care and with a greater focus on customer experience strategy, companies will realize a positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention and increased revenues.
As a coach/consultant to local small business owners, authors, coaches, and solopreneurs – taking action on this insight can catapult the serious entrepreneur to the front of the line.
Now’s the time to step up your game if you want to boost sales and revenue. If not now, then when?
I’d love to hear your feedback below.