The customer may always be right, but companies are often wrong in how they view customer experience. The confusion stems from not understanding the difference between customer experience and customer support.
Customer experience is the patron’s entire experience while interacting with a company or brand. Customer support refers to a very specific step in the overall experience where the customer directly interacts with the company, often seeking resolution to a problem.
Anticipating the needs of customers and fulfilling those needs before the customer makes a beeline for the competition is imperative to the success of a business. The niche market is highly competitive: there are dozens of companies that offer the same services with more sprouting up every day.
To survive, your company needs to shift its focus to enhancing the customer experience and nurturing your long-term relationship. Many people are habit shoppers who prefer to return to the same companies repeatedly. There are several small changes a company can make within their business to improve the customer experience.
Infallible Ways to Improve Brand Loyalty Through Customer Experience
Companies like to believe that they hold some control over consumer trends. However, the trust is that the customer holds all of the power. They can choose to take their business elsewhere at any point unless you give them a reason not to do so.
Unparalleled customer experience is that reason. Customers want their experience to be personalized, stress-free and, most importantly, timely. They want to interact with the company through many different platforms and devices, a demand the company must fulfill to satisfy a wide range of customers.
If your company is ready to follow consumer trends and stay relevant to consumers, they must enhance the customer experience.
- Get to Know Your Customers
Before you can even begin to provide the customer with what they need, you need to get to know your customers and their vision of the ideal customer experience when interacting with your brand.
Some of the details you need to know about your customers are their age, geographical location, marital status, annual income and hobbies or interests. Knowing some or all of these details will give you the necessary tools to improve how your company interacts with the customers and whether that interaction meets their collective ideal experience.
How do you get to know your customers? The same way you get to know anyway – asking them questions about themselves. In this consumer-company scenario, surveys are the best way to achieve the inquiry. Surveys can be emailed, mailed or left by the registers if your company is brick-and-mortar.
Surveys can provide invaluable information, such as how often the customer frequents your business, how they found out about your services and products. They also offer the consumer to provide helpful feedback regarding the company’s customer service, suggest new products, even give their thoughts on the ease of the store layout or web design, depending on the type of company.
- Use Social Media to Engage Your Customers
If you keep abreast of social media trends, you’ve likely heard about a “Twitter War” between two fast-food franchises over who has the best chicken sandwich. Consumers are flocking to both companies to weigh in on who they think has the winning chicken sandwich. Competing companies “trolling” each other on Twitter is a common occurrence and, for the most part, consumers eat it up, no pun intended.
However, it is a very thin line between harmless taunting and behaving in a way that alienates customers. Having a savvy social media consultant is a necessity if your company wants to increase its social media presence.
Social media can present a wide-reaching net that attracts more customers while retaining the ones who already follow you. Engaging with customers across social media channels can be done by making humorous posts (NASA has their Curiosity Rover post in the first person), even simply offering freebies or coupons.
The key to using social media in your favor is to remember what’s trending today will be old news tomorrow but at the same time, the internet remembers everything forever.
- Offer Phone Consultations
As much as people flock to the internet and customer service from artificial intelligence (bots,) an equal amount of consumers prefer the old-school communication of the telephone. Depending on the nature of your business, offering free consultations can help improve the customer experience, provided that there are other communication options available, such as email and online messaging.
While many homes eschew landlines, they are still a fundamental part of businesses. Offering your customers a free phone consultation (if applicable) goes the extra mile in personalizing the experience for the customer, assuming the person on the business end of the phone keeps a polite and helpful tone.
One downside to the rise of internet communication is that it can be difficult to find local phone services. If your small business is interested in opening the lines of communication via landline, find phone service here.
- Give Customers Free Stuff
Everyone loves free stuff. It’s an easy way to make customers happy and subconsciously remind them of your services when they use the item. Local fairs, charity walks, and other events are perfect opportunities to hand out free pens, hats and other necessities people use in their everyday life.
Online-only companies face a small disadvantage because they have to distribute free stuff that may cost more than a free pen. Free guides and other products are some of the options online companies can provide to the customers for free. In turn, the users begin to feel a connection with the company and continue to purchase their products.
- Anticipate Problems Before They Happen and Fix Them
Every company has problems. It’s how they handle those problems and whether the problem caused an inconvenience is what customers remember the most. Some problems, such a power outage, simply can’t be anticipated. The company must make the best of the situation and be timely in their response.
On the other hand, internet websites can anticipate server overloads or dead links. In many scenarios, the company needs to anticipate that a problem can occur and take the necessary steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
For example, a few years ago, the company Build-A-Bear advertised a promotion where customers could “pay their age” for the store’s products. The problem was that many stores did not expect the massive crowds, nor were they adequately equipped with enough in-store inventory. Both of those problems could have been avoided with proper planning.
While the company continues the promotion once-a-year with restrictions, consumer opinion has never recovered.
- Get Personal with Your Customers
Remember how the first step in enhancing customer experience was to get to know them? Now is the time for you to let them know that you know them and understand what they need or want before they tell you. That doesn’t mean spamming them with unsolicited emails or sales pitchy phone calls.
Birthday cards or coupons, specialized promotions and product suggestions based on previous purchases are a few of the ways to personalize a consumer’s experience. The pet company Chewy often surprises its customers by mailing them personalized sketches of their pets. Many restaurant chains send their customers free birthday appetizers.
- Create an Emotional Connection
If you’ve heard of the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts,” the same idea applies to create an emotional connection with your customers, either through one-on-one interaction or fostering a long-term relationship with the consumer.
To use Chewy as another example, they often tell their customers to donate bags of food purchased before a pet passes away unexpectedly. Then Chewy often sends cards of condolence to the customer. Local vet clinics often do the same thing when a client’s beloved pet passes away.
Loyalty, even brand loyalty, most often happens when a person feels emotionally attached to a person (or company, as the case may be.) Once emotionally attached, a consumer is less likely to shop around, more likely to recommend purchases and become repeat customers.
It may seem manipulative for a company to seek an emotional attachment from a customer. However, the person sending that card from Chewy’s or the vet is still a person making a connection with another person.
- Act Upon Customer Feedback
Those surveys you sent to customers to learn more about them are essential for companies to learn about themselves through the eyes of consumers. The feedback will provide information about such topics as whether your team members are engaged in providing exceptional service to the customers, whether the stores meet the customers’ expectations regarding cleanliness, timely transactions, and in-store assistance, as well as what products they’re looking for that your company doesn’t offer.
When customers take the time to fill out the surveys, they are doing so with the hope that the company will act on the feedback. If a customer routinely fills out surveys and never sees any change, they are likely to take their business elsewhere.
A Positive Customer Experience Will Result in Brand Loyalty
Customer service reps are often applauded for going “above and beyond” for customers. But to keep customers satisfied, a company must set the bar even higher by making the entire customer experience above and beyond.
The truth is it only takes a few extra minutes and a positive attitude by every employee in a company to create a lasting experience for customers. When you know your customers well enough to anticipate their needs before they do, you generate brand loyalty within them that will keep them coming back for more.