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During the last century, a multitude of businesses have subscribed to the motto, “the customer is always right,” giving more power to consumers and laying the groundwork for an increased focus on providing excellent customer service that eventually led to the customer experience (CX) in the early 2000s. Over the years, CX was elevated to become one of the pillars for growth organizations and an official business trend in 2008, when more and more companies rallied around it.
As the customer experience continued to make healthy inroads in the business world, its trajectory skyrocketed during the pandemic when countless consumers flocked to online transactions, enabling companies to continue operations and raising the bar for CX to maintain a human element. Although the customer experience has made remarkable strides in the last 20 years, it has only scratched the surface as entrepreneurs and business leaders keep pace with technology and harness its power to take CX to higher levels.
According to a SuperOffice survey of business professionals, nearly 46% of respondents rated the customer experience as the top priority for their business over the next five years, overtaking product and pricing, indicating that CX is a key brand differentiator.
With customer experience a critical factor in revenue growth, leaders must prioritize it, especially as they begin planning for 2023. Below are four areas to consider.
Related: Customer Experience Will Determine the Success of Your Company
Service versus experience
As companies develop a customer experience strategy, they should thoroughly understand the differences between customer service and CX. While customer service is part of the overall experience, CX encompasses the entire customer life cycle, ranging from awareness and purchase to retention and advocacy. Building a loyal base of customers who help boost company revenue.
Customer service is typically characterized as a transactional relationship between companies and customers that occurs on a reactive basis when there is a problem or as a routine practice to keep customers satisfied. Conversely, CX is generally defined as the holistic approach companies take to proactively build interpersonal relationships with customers over time that lead to brand advocates.
When leaders recognize the differences between the two, it is easier to understand the impact CX can have on a company.
Aspects of the customer experience
Companies with a holistic approach to the customer experience take the necessary steps to ensure the aspects of a great CX are integrated into all customer interactions. These include speed, convenience, consistency, friendliness and the human element. However, the human touch might be considered one of the more challenging aspects of CX, given that technology is a cornerstone of the emergence of CX. Technology has enabled companies to gain greater perspective and knowledge about their customers and deploy tactics for increased customer engagement.
Nevertheless, there is a solution if companies adopt a philosophy of merging humans and technology, as opposed to humans versus technology, by making technology seem more human and giving employees the tools and latitude to create a great experience. It is software with a service. Due to technology, customers are more knowledgeable about companies and brands than ever before, have high expectations and are careful about where they spend their hard-earned dollars. Companies that exceed customer expectations with a superb CX will experience higher retention levels, leading to increased revenue.
Related: Why a ‘Personal’ Customer Experience Is Critical to Your Business’ Success
Benefits of the customer experience
When companies prioritize the customer experience, it can lead to numerous long-term benefits, such as increased sales, reduced advertising costs and a loyal customer base. If customers feel appreciated and trust a brand, they will buy more products and expand their purchasing power through the company’s related services. When customers become brand advocates, word-of-mouth advertising increases as they share their experiences with their social networks. This can help the brand grow exponentially and reduce marketing or advertising expenses.
A loyal customer base translates to repeat business and brand advocacy, which are invaluable benefits as companies grow their business. Third-party credibility speaks volumes to potential customers who trust recommendations from acquaintances, which saves them time doing their own research and can lead them to make purchases sooner. CX is a win-win scenario as companies gain new business and customers enjoy a top-notch experience from a trusted brand.
Steps to improve the customer experience
As companies place a sharper focus on the customer experience, there are some basic steps leaders can take for a more immediate impact on their business.
- Create a CX vision statement that aligns with company values to inform/direct organizational behaviors/habits.
- Develop a list of easily implemented tactics, such as soliciting employee ideas; ensuring a consistent omnichannel (mobile app, social media, website chatbot, and in-person) approach; making technology less frustrating and more user-friendly; empowering employees to make customer-facing decisions, and reinforcing the human element in all avenues.
- Roll out the CX initiative internally via video and promote it on the intranet, during company and team meetings and through reminder emails.
- Encourage a culture of servant leadership and boost emotional intelligence efforts that will naturally extend to customer interactions. Provide employee training and development opportunities to improve soft skills.
- Monitor all customer feedback mechanisms and take action promptly, leading to positive outcomes.
- Set an example by walking the talk and living the CX initiative during all internal and external interactions.
Creating emotional connections is central to the customer experience, so companies that display clear communication, compassion, empathy, conflict resolution, self-awareness and adaptability are well on their way to providing a great experience. These qualities were honed during the pandemic, so they can be easily translated to CX initiatives.
When business leaders embrace the customer experience and prioritize it, their companies can reach new levels with loyal customers who attract new business leading to sustained revenue growth.
Related: Why Alignment Between CX, Marketing and Insights Is Critical to Creating Ongoing Customer Relationships
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