​​3 ways to improve customer experiences

Mercer Smith

Mercer Smith,

VP of CX at Appcues

28 May 20200 min read

Appcues VP of CX Mercer Smith breaks down three excellent ways to improve your customer experience strategy plus action items you can get started on today.

Did you know that the smaller your company is, the higher your churn rate is likely to be? Companies with $10 million in revenue have an average churn rate of 8.5%, while companies with less than $10 million in revenue have an average churn rate of 20%. Interestingly enough, startups, the smallest of the bunch, clock in with churn rates of up to 60%, depending on their industry.

Churn rates are rising — and customers are becoming more discerning with their dollar. In the current economic climate, there’s little room for your customer experience strategy to be anything less than stellar. Customers want the companies they work with to be the cream of the crop, so focusing on enhancing customer experience is more important now than ever.

In fact, 73% of customers say that one extraordinary experience raises their expectations of other companies—as everyone else ramps up their performance, you’ll have to too. In this post, we’ll break down three excellent ways to improve customer experiences as well as lay out individual action items you can get started on today.

What is customer experience?

We experience it every day—when you purchase groceries or when you fill up on gas. In its most general sense, customer experience is a collection of the interactions you have with a business that you’re purchasing from. But it’s much more than that. It’s less tangible and measurable—the feeling a customer comes away with when they interact with your brand or even see your ads on a billboard. The customer experiences is also more direct: it’s the conversations your team has with customers, over any channel. That could be over the phone, over live chat on your website, on SMS text, in email, or any other way you communicate with employees of a company.

What makes an excellent customer experience that stands out above the rest? It’s a combination of things. Being available over many channels, like the ones we just mentioned, is one part of it. But it’s also about personalization, thorough responses, and sending fast, timely replies when customers need it.

Why do people talk about customer experience so much? Well, having a strong customer experience is going to be a key differentiator as many products become commoditized. Especially in software, it’s easy to replicate and build quickly. Teams are moving faster and faster, so unless you have a truly stand-out product, then customer experience will be the best and only way to make your company stand out. Another reason customer experience is so frequently talked about is that, well, it’s hard to achieve and maintain a good one. As businesses grow, customer experience becomes harder to uphold and manage. One poor experience can ruin a brand’s reputation—so the brands with an extraordinary customer experience are ones that focus on every customer interaction like it’s the most important one.

How to improve customer experience

Understand your ideal customer experience

In the tech industry, CX leaders spend 36% more time building customer relationships, proactively checking in, and monitoring tech adoption than industries where CX is just becoming popular. These things are super important because 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for great customer experience. Here are some of the best ways to get a handle on your customers’ ideal experience, and make sure you’re delivering it.

Know who your customers are

Your marketing team might already have customer personas in place to help you identify the type of customers that use your product most frequently. Use that knowledge to enhance your customer experience strategy. Here are a few things to consider:

  • What technologies are your personas most comfortable with. For example, do AI or chatbots make them uncomfortable?

  • How technologically savvy are your customers? What tone should you use in your documentation, blog and emails?

  • What channels do your personas want to use for support? Are there any that they don’t like? For example, how would they feel about receiving a text message from you?

Information like this helps you know what you should provide to give a customized experience, but also lets you know if there are areas that you don’t need to spend effort investing in. If your customers are made uncomfortable by AI, you can use it minimally or in the background, rather than placing it front and center in your strategy, for instance.

Make your own way

Don’t just do what everyone else is doing, even though it can be tempting to try to follow along if you see a really exciting success story. Every company’s customers are different, so not every customer experience strategy will fit. The best thing to do is understand what your customers need and want. Only a few companies already do this — 52% report that while they are using a variety of tools and technologies to help understand CX, there is little coordination between teams and the data isn’t as meaningful as it could be. Only 19% report having a robust set of analytics tools and technology services supporting customer-data-driven decisions and campaigns.

That isn’t to say that none of your strategies should be grounded in what other companies have done, but it’s better to confirm it with data about your own customers before you hit the ground running and invest the big bucks in it.

Get everyone involved

Everyone at your company will bring a different perspective to CX, and it’s super important to let them. Consider the different experiences that your sales team, versus your customer success team, versus your engineering team all have of your customers’ journeys. Rhonda Basler, Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections says:

“Make everyone responsible for the customer experience. Responsible for handling complaints. For suggesting improvements in your processes. For maintaining the customer-friendly processes you already have. If you don’t, you will find the actual responsibility for the customer experience at your company devolves quickly to “no one” or possibly to a few overachieving people whom you’re setting up for inevitable burnout.”

Using multiple perspectives to help inform your strategy makes it much more holistic and applicable. Here are a few things you can do to start involving more people in your customer experience strategy:

  • Invite people from across the company to help answer customer support emails, especially key stakeholders from other teams.

  • Inform other teams of metrics using language that is important to them. For example, your customer success or sales team may be keen to know how CX is impacting your churn.

  • Create a rock-solid bug reporting process collaboratively with your engineering team.

  • Embed CX team members into the meetings and inner-workings of individual product teams to represent the customer and learn more about upcoming features.

  • Share customer feedback from your customer-facing teams with your marketing team.

We do together what we can’t do alone, and your CX team works better when your company is united around the customer experience you want to give. It also means that potential issues with your customer experience strategy get resolved more quickly as there is more investment across the board.

Let customers do things themselves

Speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service matter the most to over 70% of consumers. Companies that prioritize these few things win out over their competitors in customer experience almost every time.

Every time you put a piece of friction between the customer and them getting what they want or need, ask yourself why. Is it because this is a point when you know it’s a better experience for the customer to get help from your company, or is because you are too lazy to fix an issue or build a feature to help?

Your customers should be able to do most things on their own including:

  • Viewing their invoices and making changes to their accounts, such as upgrading or downgrading.

  • Searching documentation and understanding what it means.

  • Requesting refunds.

  • Viewing account analytics and metrics.

  • Understanding outages and service interruptions.

  • Getting an overview of any products that they currently have or have installed.

Many companies choose to gate some or all of these features. If you’re choosing to do so, be hyper-intentional about why — otherwise your customers’ experience and loyalty may be at risk. Choosing to open things up and have more options in your available features is one of the best ways to enhance your customer experience.

Put your customer at the center of your strategy

The most important thing when trying to improve customer experience in your product is to remember the person at the core of it: your customer. If you don’t have a deep knowledge of what they want and need, you should first focus on understanding that. From there, make sure that everyone at your company has that same deep knowledge.

That way, teams outside of your CX organization can make customer-focused decisions that help continue to enhance your customer experience. Lastly, empower your customer to do things themselves. You might think it’s good to have multiple touchpoints, especially if your team is rated highly, but customers actually prefer to feel empowered rather than coddled. You’ve got this!

About the author: Mercer is the Director of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

Written by Mercer Smith

Originally Published: 28 May 2020

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