What is the customer experience?

by Rodney Shepard (rshepard@arvest.com) 660 views 

The term “experience” is a word you hear more and more these days in the business world. Trying to define what it means and understanding it from a customer’s point of view is not only complicated, it’s my job.

So, what is the customer experience? What do you need to be doing to improve it? And why?

Simply put, this experience is what your customer goes through with you from start to finish and — most importantly — the way the whole process makes them feel. It will be either positive or negative, and it will likely determine whether they will do business with you again.

If you’re not already considering the experience of your customers or potential customers, chances are someone else is. And in today’s rapidly changing, customizable world, you could be left in the dust before you even realize it.

So, where do you start? The first step is to understand that, in order to be a better business, you need to stop only thinking about selling your product or service. Instead, focus on meeting your customers’ expectations — or, even better, surpassing them — and providing them with a personalized experience so they feel truly valued.

Nobody wants to feel like a number, and everyone appreciates a little personal touch. It’s a simple thought, but  it goes a long way.

Have you really thought about and analyzed the “customer journey” for your business? If not, map it out by taking a walk in your customers’ shoes. Doing so will help you understand your business from their point of view and help you improve the process.

From inquiring about your service to comparing against competitors to actually making the purchase, what are the potential pain points for customers? Why would they opt out at any step? What are the different ways they can learn about your business? How can you make the process faster, simpler and with less friction?

You need to be a champion and voice of the customer in the products and services offered. And to be the voice, you have to listen to their “voice.” By that, I mean all the information they’re providing you: analytics data from your website, customer feedback, what product or service is being responded to the most. It’s all telling a story, so listen and learn.

This kind of thinking used to be more of a local responsibility for businesses, but now that technology is an even bigger part of the customer experience, large companies are implementing chief experience officers (CXOs) at the corporate level.

Thanks to services like Google Analytics, businesses of all sizes, from corporations to mom and pop stores, are able to better understand their customers’ experience through a seemingly endless amount of data.

The customer voice is already talking to you, but you have to be listening. Trust me, it will help you better understand your customer and improve your business.

Once you commit to offering a better experience, keep the following three principles in mind: Be innovative! Be consistent! Be on the lookout!

Always be looking for what’s next in your industry, whether that’s new technology, new practices or new customer preferences. Whatever changes you implement, make sure it’s done across the board, from social media to the website to face-to-face interactions.

To better build trust with your customers, they have to know that you’re always looking out for their best interests and working to ensure their expectations are being met.

Taking a step back and trying to better understand and improve the customer experience is not only an opportunity to increase business and revenue. It’s a chance to set yourself apart from the competition and be genuinely recognized as a business that cares, which allows you to build and maintain a strong relationship with your customers.

Editor’s note: Rodney Shepard is the chief customer experience officer for Arvest Bank. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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