Anne Franz, customer experience executive at Confirmit, believes that the “customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship cycle.”
She goes on to say that the difference between customer service and customer experience is simple: “customer experience is what the customer feels; customer service is what the company does [for the customer].”
In my mind, customer service experience is the combination of designing experiences that meet or exceed expectations and focusing on how customers feel throughout every interaction they have with a company.
To help you understand what this means, we looked at our top 10 companies for customer satisfaction to find out how the “best in class” are creating experiences that ‘meet or exceed expectations’ and ‘focus on how the customer feels’.
The five “best in class” tactics are:
- Offer personalized service
- Add a human element
- Gather customer feedback
- Create digital experiences that extend beyond your product
- Empower your team with a strong company culture
Related: Why Customer Experience is important.
1. Offer personalized service
In the modern world, customers expect to be treated like individuals, not numbers. That means, as a company, you need to embrace new technologies and be smart about how you communicate and engage with your customers.
Do you know the important details about each of your customers? Things like name, contact information, and location? These are the vital pieces of data that you should be collecting on all your customers.
One simple reason: So you can tailor the customer experience and marketing communications to each specific person, delivering something that he or she actually wants.
By giving customers personalized service, they will feel like you care about them and understand what they want. These unique experiences can help you retain customers and create sticky loyalty to your business, which is essential these days, with pressure from competitors at an all-time high.
For example, R & G Technologies, an IT services company in Brisbane, Australia, sends their clients offers based on their needs. They have segmented their database into three interest areas: cloud computing, data security, and new products. As a result, instead of everyone getting the same email newsletter each month, each client receives content tailored to its particular profile.
Clever but easy, right?
Your business should combine technology and customer data to offer a more personalized experience. Think about what data you currently have about your customers. If you know recent purchases they have made, for instance, you can look for trends and patterns and send them offers and information based on that.
2. Add a human element
Remember when business used to be conducted on a handshake basis?
There’s something about the human touch that builds trust and gets a deal done. Today, with constantly evolving technology and a globalized economy, more and more of us are doing business virtually, via the Internet. But have you noticed that these virtual business relationships tend to be harder to manage and involve a lot more work?
There’s a good reason for that: they are, and they do. Without a human element, you lack the ability to build the level of rapport and trust that you can when dealing with someone in person. Don’t worry—that’s not just you. It’s all of us. It’s in our biology.
We need to have handshake conversations, handshake friends, handshake dialogues, handshake meetings. You name it. We just need to bring back the human spirit into all of the interactions we keep getting involved with.
So what can you do to mix humanity with technology?
Start creating customer service experiences that include a human element. Use technology tools like Skype and turn on the webcam! Show your face, smile, and engage your customers—insert your personality into the relationship.
A tool like DeskDirector (perfect for IT service companies) is also great at facilitating human interactions by enabling webcam chats between clients and customers. Live Chat Inc. is another tool if you’re not in the IT services space.
Another great way to add a human element is to add a photo to your email signature. By doing this, every time you send an email, the recipients will be able to see who you are and put a face to a name.
These two small steps will take you a long way toward building trust and rapport with your customers. These basic customer service experience elements should increase satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
3. Gather customer feedback
Remember the saying, “the more the merrier”? This applies to customer feedback, too. The more ways you have to capture customer feedback, the better chance you have of improving your customer experience.
Here are my three favorite ways to gather customer feedback:
- Use a customer feedback tool: Find a tool that measures satisfaction and asks for comments so you can “close the loop” on customer feedback. Client Heartbeat is one choice; you can also compare these eight other tools.
- Organize business reviews: This is probably the easiest and best way to get actionable feedback from customers. Simply set up a meeting with your clients every month or every quarter. Stop by their office, talk the talk, and ask the tough questions to get a better understanding of their honest opinion of your service.
- Engage on social media: Monitor your brand with your customers on social media. Look for happy or disgruntled customers and start a conversation with them. Ask them for more information, get clarification, and offer a solution—all with the goal of getting valuable feedback.
4. Create digital experiences that extend beyond your product
According to the Altimeter Group, digital customer experiences are being driven partly by technology, and partly by the evolution of customer behavior.
Your customers want to engage with your brand through digital media. Think social media like Facebook and Twitter, mobile apps, and the Internet. Do you have a presence on each media outlet?
In 2014 and beyond, the companies that can engage customers above and beyond the simple product level will be the ones that differentiate themselves from their competitors. They will be able to create an experience that separates them from the pack. Forrester analysts Harley Manning and Stephen Powers suggest that moving forward, the customer experience will be your only source of sustainable competitive advantage.
That’s why the digital customer experience is so important. The best companies use mobile apps to help their customers by adding convenience. The best companies have resource pages on their websites with lots of information to educate and help their customers. The best companies use social media to engage with their customers both before and after a purchase.
We live in a world where you have the power to own your relationship with each customer. Technology can allow you to create and maintain intimate, one-to-one relationships. No longer do you need to rely on TV, radio, and print media to bring you and your services to your customers’ attention.
What can you do to build a digital experience into your customers’ journey?
5. Empower your team with a strong company culture
The customer experience starts with your team. Absent the right company culture, with your employees buying into it, you will not be able to create amazing customer experiences.
Think about it. Remember all the companies you have worked for in the past. Was there anyplace where you dreaded going to work on Mondays? Did you offer “best in class” customer service, and did you work well with your colleagues to accomplish that, or not?
Now think about the best company you ever worked for. How did you approach customer service? Did you often find yourself spending an extra 15 minutes after work to send an email to a customer or partner?
I hope you’ve been able to make the association between the companies that had a good culture and those that didn’t. Chances are, the best company you ever worked for had one; and the worst company didn’t.
When it comes to offering a superior customer service experience, all the top-rated companies in this study said that they credited company culture for their success.
To create a great culture at your company, I suggest you follow these four tips:
- Understand what makes a good culture.
- Emphasize culture through hiring and training process.
- Focus on staff retention.
- Lead from the front as the managing director or CEO.
For a detailed overview of how to attack these tips, read this blog post about the connection between company culture and customer satisfaction.
I’ve listed five really good tactics in this blog post. I challenge you to start implementing these strategies inside your company and think about how they can improve the experience that you deliver to your customers.
To monitor the success of your initiatives, use customer feedback tools to measure satisfaction levels before and after your interactions.
Still interested in learning more about enhancing the customer service experience?
Read these articles:
- 5 Customer Experience Strategies That Work
- David vs Goliath: How to Use Amazing Customer Experiences to Remain Competitive
- Customer Experience Management: What it is and Why it Matters
- 15 Essential Beliefs to Deliver a Super Customer Service Experience
- Customer Experience vs. Customer Service: What’s The Difference?