The rise of the digital age, instant access to help, advice and mentoring and a general can-do spirit of entrepreneurship have made it easier than ever to enter the world of business. In so doing, entrepreneurial types can take their career and their livelihood into their own hands and build a thriving business on their knowledge, experience and passion.
Nonetheless, the same opportunities that are available to you are also just as available to your competitors. In an era where your customers know that they can be fickle, how will you gain a leading edge over other businesses competing with you for the attention of the exact same customers?
You’ll deliver a better customer experience than your competitors can and thereby earn their ongoing loyalty.
But delivering exceptional customer experience is more difficult, or at least more involved, than many entrepreneurs may expect. If you think the customer experience begins when they first set foot in your premises or alight on your homepage and ends when they buy your product, think again!
Exceptional customer experience begins long before the customer commits to buying and continues long after your business is concluded. Here we’ll look at some ways in which you can deliver an exceptional experience to your customers before, during and after the sale.
Customer Loyalty is fostered through Building trust & value in your brand
Even if you don’t deal in e-commerce, it’s likely that a new customer’s first exposure to your brand will take place in the digital realm.
Whether they first experience your brand through your home page, a landing page or your social media presence, this is where you begin to sow the seeds for a welcoming and enjoyable customer experience.
Give your brand a voice
The first step in creating a great experience for your customers lies in giving your brand a voice that resonates with your target audience.
What kind of voice you choose depends on the nature of your business and the target market you’re trying to reach. Nonetheless, it should be caring, empathetic, knowledgeable and professional… But that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a sense of fun and levity too.
Speaking of content marketing, this is a great way to start building value in your brand long before a prospect is ready to become a loyal customer. It gives them that all-important something for nothing and establishes your knowledge and authority in your chosen field.
Give your customers the information they need
Customers will like and trust you if they know you are dedicated to giving them the information they need to make informed decisions as consumers rather than bamboozling them with sales pitch after sales pitch.
Your online presence should be open and transparent when it comes to information about the products and services you offer as well as the people behind your business.
Respond to customers on social media
Consumers need to feel valued if you’re to begin to earn their loyalty.
They want to use the social media platform as a means of starting to build a relationship with your brand… But it won’t work if that relationship is not reciprocal.
So I encourage you to respond when consumers reach out on social media. Like and share what they have to say. Show your customers that you’re committed to them and have a genuine interest in what they need and want.
Be available to your customers
There will be times, however, when your customers and prospects may need more information from you that is provided on your website, or at least not know how to access that information. This is where chatbots can come in very handy.
Not only can they ease pressure on customer-facing employees, but they can also help you to resolve customer queries in a timely and decisive way outside of office hours. This helps you to be there for your customers when they need you… Even when you’re not there.
If chatbots aren’t your thing, then ensure you have provided direct lines of access for potential and existing customers to contact your business when they need you. There’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than being unable to find a way to ask a simple question. And furthermore, sales are greatly impacted when customers cannot contact the business to check details of what they are considering to buy.
Build and leverage social proof
Finally, a great way to start to earn the trust of your target consumers is to leverage social proof.
Ultimately, anything you say about your own brand is likely to be taken with a pinch of salt by consumers. Nonetheless, if your previous customers have nothing but glowing things to say about you, putting this front and centre can help solidify customer’s trust in your brand.
Incentivising and sharing customer reviews and feedback is a great first step here.
Delivering an exceptional customer experience DURING THE SALE
So, now you’ve earned the customer’s attention. They’ve decided to take a chance on your brand at the expense of your competitors. However, if the experience doesn’t follow through on what your marketing and social efforts, the trust you’ve built up may go out the window.
Let’s look at continuing the customer experience going into the sale…
Design a customer experience that puts the customer first
Whether the sale takes place physically or online, you need to show that the whole experience is based around their needs.
Whether this comes from easy and intuitive UX or an employee greeting them with a smile at the door, you need to demonstrate that you value the customer’s experience from the moment the transaction begins.
A customer-centric marketing strategy is used to bring them to your business, and now you need a customer-centric sales process to seal the deal.
Employee training to nurture customer loyalty
Your employees are your most powerful weapon in facilitating a great customer experience. To a certain extent, you will rely on their inherent people skills and magnetic personalities. These are, after all, the qualities you hired them for. Nonetheless, your employees cannot be at their best without ongoing training.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing employee training with onboarding. Employee training should not be a one and done exercise which takes place when a new employee joins your team.
It needs to be an ongoing endeavour which imbues your employees with the skills to:
- engage customers effectively
- manage their expectations
- provide a level of service in line with your brand
- and know how to use the tools at their disposal to facilitate an easier and more pleasant experience for the customer.
Leverage CRMs for a consistent customer experience
It’s often the case that customers have a favourite employee, or at least one with whom they’re most used to dealing. However, if said employee is on sick leave or holiday, the customer still expects the same level of knowledge and service.
This is why Customer Relationship Management tools are so important. They are a one-stop repository for all kinds of customer information and can help ensure consistency in service across your team.
Highlight value in your invoices
The customer should feel like they’ve been given exceptional value for money and your invoice should reflect this. It should feature everything that’s gone into the transaction with total transparency. Plus any services or extras you add in for free should also be clearly stated on the invoice.
Bring excellence to your after-sale care
The sale is over, but your commitment to excellence in customer service most certainly is not. Here are some ways in which you can continue the exceptional customer experience in your aftercare…
Guarantees, warranties and returns
The customer has left happy with the product they have purchased, but they need to know that they are covered if something goes wrong. Thus, your returns policy should be made clear to them at the point of sale.
Guarantees and warranties can help provide great peace of mind for the customer and demonstrate the confidence you have in your products. The easier you make it for customers to return or exchange products if something goes wrong or they simply change their mind, the less chance there is of this impacting negatively on their perception of your brand.
Ask for their feedback… And use it to shape your ongoing strategy
Remember what we said before about social proof? That’s not the only way in which customer feedback adds to their journey. Allowing and encouraging your customers to leave feedback through a range of platforms also helps to remind them that their opinion is valued.
It also provides you with extremely useful information which can inform and shape your ongoing strategy. Every time you make a change to your operations based on customer feedback, don’t keep it to yourself. Let your customers know that their voice has been heard and valued.
Offer customer loyalty programs that give the customer more of what they want
Finally, you can continue to build value in the customer experience while also incentivising customers to keep coming back.
Loyalty and rewards programs can be powerful tools, but in order to be effective and valuable to the customer, they need to give them more of what they want. Whether you implement a points system, allow customers a discount on their next purchase, enter them into prize draws, give them members only exclusive freebies or all of the above, your loyalty program should be informed by customer feedback and give them the rewards that matter most to them.
Cover all these bases and you have the makings of a truly exceptional ongoing customer experience!