The Importance of Customer Experience
The best way to define customer experience is as the impression you leave with your customer across every touchpoint of their customer journey. It is the foundation of your brand, which I believe includes every interaction a customer or potential customer has with you and/or your business. It is how these interactions make them feel which leads to how they think about your brand.
What is the best marketing money can buy? A loyal customer whose experience with your business has been so great they actively refer friends and family to you. Ensuring they have had a great experience is more important than ever with the speed at which they can be shared online and the importance people now place on reviews and recommendations.
Getting to Know Your Ideal Client Using Buyer Personas
The first step in delivering a great customer experience is to really get to know who your customer is. Try putting yourself in their shoes and really understanding their story.
At KISStrategies we primarily work with folks who have a business idea but aren’t sure what to do next. One of our buyer personas is Brenda. Brenda represents people with a trade or vocation who feel they can better serve people by opening their own business (e.g. hearing aid specialist, optician, dental hygienist). Brenda feels that she can offer lower pricing and better service by operating on lower overhead. She works from home and is mobile, meeting her customers where it is most convenient for them. Brenda lives in a rural area with less than 100,000 people. She is a Gen Xer or young Baby Boomer, married with adult children. She is passionate about her community but loves to work in her garden, read a good novel, golf, and travel. She has a strong local network and is active on social media.
When we dig a little deeper, we find that Brenda experiences the following:
She sees people struggling to afford what the business she works for offers, often putting their health or well-being at risk. They have poor – hearing, eyesight, teeth, etc – and struggle with day-to-day activities due to not having updated tools or equipment. She hears people saying things like “I don’t have benefits so I can’t really afford…” As a result, Brenda thinks “I can do a better job of this and help all of these people have a better life” and she decides to start her own business.
Take some time to think about who your customer is, what are they experiencing in their life before they come to purchase your product or service? What problem do you solve? Who do you solve it for? What do they hear, see, think and do? Write a buyer persona for each customer segment you work with.
Developing a Customer Journey Map
Once you know who your customers are, it is important to understand the process they go through before, during and after they make a decision to purchase a solution to their problem, want or need. Once you understand the customer journey you can match your sales process to it so that you are meeting your customer when, where and how they need you to every step of the way.
The customer journey map sets out the stages of the customer journey, their goals at each stage, and the touchpoints you share as they travel through the journey.
The first stage in the customer journey is awareness. That is, the customer becomes aware they have a problem they to solve or a want or need they need to fill. At this point in their journey, they are not necessarily aware what the solution is or that your business even exists.
To match your sales process to the customer journey, your focus needs to be on problems and pain points rather than about your products or services.
Let’s say it is lunchtime, they are hungry and they need to find somewhere local to eat. They need something that is quick but they want to try something new. Their goal at the awareness stage is to start looking for a solution to their hunger. Touchpoints might include signage, social media posts, and friends or colleagues.
The next stage is research. The customer wants to find the best solution to their problem or best option to fill their want or need. This may mean looking for the best price, best quality, most recommended, or some combination of all of these.
In order to match your sales process, you need to be focusing on solutions, educating them and supplying answers to their questions so they can evaluate their buying criteria.
In our example, their goal is to find the best local restaurant that will satisfy their hunger while allowing them to try something new. Touchpoints might include online reviews, recommendations from friends, or a website.
The third step in the journey is the decision stage. The customer has gathered all of the information they need and are satisfied they have found the best solution for their problem.
Your sales process needs to validate this decision by making it easy to buy from you and then delivering on
the promise you made during the first two stages of their journey.
In our restaurant example, the customer will go through 5 stages with 5 sets of goals each of which we have to respond to. The first is that they arrive at the restaurant. The goals at this point may be to be able to find the restaurant easily or to quickly find parking. Once they are inside they have a goal of being seated and ordering their lunch. While they are waiting for their order, their goal might be to have a chance to catch up on some work or it may be to enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant. When the food arrives, their goal is to enjoy their meal and to decide if it is worth it. Finally, they are ready to leave and their goal is to pay their bill quickly and easily.
The touchpoints for this part of the journey will include signage, facade, greeting staff, server, menu, restaurant environment, music, decor, quality of food, and ease of payment.
As the owner or manager of a business, we must ensure that each of these stages is flawless and the customer can easily reach their goal at each stage. By mapping this out we are best able to manage the customer experience from start to finish.
The journey doesn’t end just because your customer has purchased your product or service. It is estimated that it cost 5 to 7 times as much to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. It is post-purchase where you have an opportunity to further WOW them with additional benefits such as customer communities, loyalty programs, personal
follow-up through email or phone calls. Now is your chance to make them feel truly valued and cared for.
From the customer’s perspective, they will share their feedback with friends and followers and make a decision about whether to visit this place again or try somewhere else. Touchpoints may include social media, Yelp, Google, and/or Trip Advisor, as well as follow-up emails from the restaurant.
In a nutshell, the customer experience you deliver at each stage of the customer’s journey will determine how likely they are to do business with you again, as well as how likely they are to refer you to their friends and family. By taking the time to walk through the experience in their shoes, you will maximize the value of each customer to your business. Consider what the lifetime value of a customer is to your business. If they average two visits per week to your business and spend an average of $10 per visit, they are worth $1,040 to your business each year. If they do this over a 10 year period, they are worth $10,400. Is it worthwhile to deliver an exceptional customer experience each time? I think so.