Imagine sitting at a restaurant, the decor is amazing – the perfect setting for a cozy dinner. However after being seated you wait forever for the waitress to take your order. When she does, she is unfriendly and unengaged. When the food eventually arrives, it looks appetising but it is cold and the waitress brushes off your complaints. To add insult to injury the food bill is exorbitant.
Would you go back to that restaurant? The answer is No, right? That is because you had a terrible customer experience.
Customers are far more discerning these days.They know what they want and they have high expectations. If you don’t meet or exceed their expectations, they will go elsewhere. Irrespective of what business you are in, be it service or product, online or offline, you have to focus on providing a good customer experience if you want to attract and keep your customers, and stay competitive.
“Customer experience is the next competitive battleground. It is where business is going to be won or lost” – Tom Knighton
What do your customers want?
This is a question I ask my clients who are struggling to retain customers and grow their businesses. The knee-jerk answer is normally “low prices”. Fair enough, but this still doesn’t answer the question – “What do your customers want?”
Many small business owners make the mistake of assuming to know what their customers want, but they don’t actually ask them. For instance you may think that having low prices is imperative however it may surprise you to learn that your customers are willing to pay more if they are guaranteed a better customer experience.
Getting to know your customers
There are numerous ways in which to learn more about your customers and what they want. It may be as simple as picking up the phone and asking them a few questions, or creating a short feedback form which you can give to your customers. You can send your customers surveys with incentives, for instance a free gift or a competition entry. Whatever you choose, be creative and make sure it is suitable for your customer base.
Remember every customer interaction point is an opportunity for you to get feedback, therefore utilise this opportunity.
Improving your customer experience
Customer feedback is only valuable if you actually use it. There is no point in capturing the data, if you are going to carry on as is and ignore their suggestions and comments.
When you get sufficient feedback, analyse the data. What do your customers most enjoy about their experiences? What do they least enjoy? What suggestions have they made which would improve their overall experience and what do you need to stop doing?
Establishing a quality framework
To help you improve your customer experience, set up a quality framework to help you monitor and improve the areas of your service most important to your customers.
The Quality Framework
A simple quality framework has the following fields:
Quality Feature – based on your customer feedback, what aspects of their experience is the most important to them. For instance friendly customer support, delivery times, responsiveness etc.
Current Situation – an assessment of whether you are meeting the customer’s expectation for that quality feature. Be honest and make sure you use their feedback and not your own assumptions.
Target Situation – what are your customers expectations. For instance deliveries within 24 hours?
Success Measure – in order to know if you are meeting your customer expectations, you need to be able to measure your performance. Use measurements that can give you numerical data where possible.
Action Plan – these are the detailed steps you need to take in order to meet or exceed your target.
Implementing you actions
Once you have defined how to improve your customer experience, you need to ensure that you implement your action steps and keep measuring their progress. If you aren’t getting the desired results, make changes to your plan and implement new steps.
When you start achieving success then make sure you incorporate your action steps into your standard operating practices. Train your staff on the new processes and keep monitoring how well you are doing, tweaking your processes when needed to meet or exceed your customer expectations.
Staying competitive in today’s marketplace is tough. To keep ahead of the game, listen to your customers. Get their feedback on their wants and needs, and make sure you keep improving their experience. One of the cheapest ways to market and grow your business is to create happy customers. Remember when you meet or exceed their expectations, they will return to your business. They will also more than likely promote your business through word-of-mouth by sharing their positive experiences with others.