1.28.2015

The customer knows best: practical ways to improve their experience

By Cheryl Adamson, theguardian.com
Happy customers become great ambassadors for your brand. Follow this advice to make sure they stick around
We all want more from our customers. More visits, more referrals, more repeat purchases, and, of course, more money. We’ll take more of everything, please. Well, apart from complaints, we can do without them.

Putting customer experience at the heart of a business, rather than dismissing it as unscalable or merely nice to have, sets it apart. Great customer experience leads to higher repeat purchase rates, helps us to create and sell a more compelling product, and builds an army of loyal brand ambassadors. So here are five suggestions of how to improve your customer experience:
Don’t play hard to get
You need to make it clear how potential customers can get in touch. Even if it’s just so they can call you to find out the business’s address or where to park. Forcing your customers through a tortuous path of FAQs on your website before you deign to share your email address is a false economy.
A confused customer doesn’t buy. Share your contact details clearly – it builds trust. Let them talk to someone straight away, you’re not too busy for this.
Speaking to your customers is not a burden. It’s an opportunity to convert them and a chance to understand their needs. Use this experience to improve your sales copy, product and understanding of your ideal customer. Set up a feedback channel (or simple Google doc) so that everyone benefits from this know-how.
See the whole person
Delivering on your product promises is not something to celebrate, it’s the price you pay for being in business. What builds loyalty is the way that you make a customer feel.
By making someone feel special in the moment they interact with you – whether it’s online or in person – you make yourself unforgettable. To do this, you need to see the whole person.
Be inquisitive. Find out who they are and what their goals are. Then note everything down in your customer relationship management system (CRM). If you find out they’re buying the trainers to wear in their first marathon, include a good luck card with the order. If you discover that they’re visiting London on holiday, don’t just send an automated receipt, include your favourite local tips.
Train yourself and your team to discover the whole person, rather than just the part of them that is interested in your product.
Share and share alike
Look for opportunities to share useful content that’s not all about you. If you understand your customer and their needs it’s easy to share a recommendation, article, book or product. “I saw this and thought of you…” is a lovely message to receive, particularly when there’s nothing in it for you.
Beware the faux reward
It’s tempting to reward customers with your own product. But thanking someone (or worse, compensating them) with the opportunity to buy more of what you sell, albeit with 10% off, doesn’t feel like a treat. Be thoughtful, and use what you know about your customers to give them something of value independent of your product.
Empower your team
Trust your team to make the best decisions for the people they’re serving, rather than refusing new requests and citing company policy with an unapologetic shrug.
Not only that, give each employee a budget (it doesn’t have to be big) to use to provide stand-out customer experience. Maybe someone pays for a surprise taxi for the overburdened parent with the crying child, or another uses their budget to send handwritten notes to everyone who buys that month.
Create an environment where all employees, not just those in the service department, care about how customers feel. This becomes the marketing currency which protects you from competition, price sensitivity and losing the sale. You become the business that customers will do anything to help succeed.
Cheryl Adamson is head of customer experience at online fashion school Mastered

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