by Jay Zaltzman
Customer experience or “CX” is not just a buzzword. It’s an approach that can win new customers, slash churn, and turn customers into evangelists. If your company isn’t utilizing the customer experience perspective, you’re leaving profits on the table.
Some think that CX is just for large companies. In reality, smaller companies have an advantage when it comes to customer experience: they don’t have to go through layers of management to make a customer experience program happen.
First, let me explain what CX is. Companies that adopt the customer experience perspective look closely at different ways customers interact with their company and customize how they market to those types of customers – as well as the ways they provide their products or services – accordingly. It boils down to understanding what different customers want so that you can make them feel special. That makes them more likely to choose you, keep coming back, and tell all their friends.
For example, let’s say you own a gift shop. From what you’ve learned about your customers based on purchase data and market research, you might decide to develop separate advertising for men and women, and perhaps even a separate campaign targeting grandparents. For your existing customers, you might have special offers for people who have made large purchases in the past, or for those who are interested in a certain type of gift. You might come up with ideas for those offers based on your website analytics or based on what people are saying on social media. And to make your customers feel really special, you might give them an extra gift on their birthday or just at a random time. This kind of pleasant surprise gets people to tell their friends.
How do you implement a CX program at your business? Follow these steps:
Step 1: Define your customer segments. To do this, talk to your customers. Consider interviews and focus groups, use the wealth of information you have in your existing purchase data and website analytics, as well as what people are saying about your category on social media. What you’re looking for are different types of people that interact with the company in different ways. Perhaps they’re coming for different reasons, or perhaps it’s those who research on the web versus those who come in on the spur of the moment, or big spenders versus budget customers – whatever makes sense for your business.
Step 2: Find out what’s important to each type of customer. Look at each customer segment. How do they decide to come to you? What makes them really happy? Also, pay attention to their bad experiences, whether they happened with you or with your competition. Is there some way to turn that around and provide the opposite experience?
Step 3: Take that information and make the magic happen. Think of ways to make each type of customer feel valued and special. That means coming up with ideas for customized offers, but also ideas for great customer service. For some great examples, I recommend the book Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman.
You could stop here and be way ahead of the game. But there’s another step that can truly differentiate you from the competition. It’s the difference between your customer liking your company or loving your company. You do this by empowering your employees to ensure your customers have a great experience. That’s not the same as “the customer is always right.” Rather, it means giving your employees the leeway to do something extra for a customer if they think it’s appropriate and will keep that customer coming back. And this is one area where small businesses have an advantage over large companies. In a large company, it can be very difficult to change the company culture; something a small business owner can do quickly.
In the book I mentioned, Zombie Loyalists, Shankman gives a great example of how this can work. A woman booked a couple’s massage at a spa, and when she made the appointment, the receptionist asked if it was a special occasion. The woman told her they were celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of their first date, which they did every year. When they arrived at the spa, they were presented with a cake with “Happy First Date Anniversary” written in icing. This made such an impression on the customer, that she has been completely loyal to the spa since, has referred many friends, and calculated that she has spent $20,000 there over six years. Not a bad return on the cost of a cake.
Understand your customers and make a personal human connection with them and they’ll reward you with loyalty and great word-of-mouth. It’s worth the effort.