There are many methods for improving the customer experience, some complex and costly, others
relatively simple and inexpensive. But how do you know what's right for your organization, and
where should you start? We've compiled this list of customer experience initiatives any company can
implement to start improving the customer experience today.
1. Get employee buy-in
According to expert Michael Lowenstein, employees are the key to optimizing the customer experience. First, organizations need to make sure they have hired loyal employees who are committed to the company and fully understand the company's mission. Employee loyalty and satisfaction play a big role in improving the customer experience -- an unhappy employee usually won't provide the type of customer experience the company is after. For organizations looking to get employee buy-in for their customer experience initiatives, expert Lior Arussy recommends building a business case that explains why the initiative is important, from a customer's point of view.
2. Run an open, transparent business
Gartner suggests businesses be as open and transparent as possible in their dealings with customers and employees alike. Openness in business and transparency builds the trust of customers, and most experts agree that customer trust has a significant impact on the customer experience. The more open-minded, inclusive and transparent a company can be the better.
3. Deliver consistent customer experiences
Gartner also suggests making sure the customer experience is consistent across the entire organization. Every area of the company that the customer interacts with should have the same, updated customer information, so that the customer doesn't need to give their information to the company more than once. CRM software can help with this.
4. Train customer-facing employees
According to Arussy, customer-facing employees should be given customer experience training from day one. This training differs from traditional call center training in that it tends to be more customized to reflect the company's brand, desired customer experience and relationships with customers. Some things to cover in training include:
1. The principles of customer experience
2. The concept of delivering memories and not just transactions
3. The basics of customer segmentations
5. Give customers a personalized experience
Experts agree that personalization is the key to any good customer experience. According to expert Lior Arussy, the customer database is the backbone of a businesses' relationship with the customer, and the information stored inside should be shared with every member of the organization, that way regardless of who the customer calls, they receive a consistent, personalized customer experience. Since personalization can be complex and expensive, Gartner recommends companies evaluate personalization based not only on sales benefits but also on the long-term value of improving the customer experience.
6. Measure and analyze customer emotions
Measuring customer emotion is a new, growing trend customer experience experts are noticing. Companies that have the tools in place to measure and understand the emotions of their customers are better able to meet their needs. Emotion detection software is popping up in call centers, but Arussy feels it is more reactive than proactive, and will be more useful when it can measure customer emotions in real time. For now, companies can start by building models of common buying personalities that reflect the emotional needs of their customers, and train call center agents to reference these when dealing with customers.
7. Act on customer feedback
Everyone knows the importance of customer feedback, but not all companies actually act on the feedback and make the changes customers are looking for. Gartner feels this is something all organizations should be doing to increase their number of satisfied, loyal customers, and recommends communicating changes clearly and openly to all members of the organization. Technologies like speech and text analytics, as well as customer surveys, are often used for gathering customer opinions.
8. Take the customer's point of view
Gartner VP Ed Thompson recommends focusing on two or three processes customers care the most about, and designing them with the customer's point of view in mind. By taking the customer's point of view, companies stop focusing on the way the customer looks to them, and begin focusing on the way they looks to the customer. This can lead to more relevant, trustworthy and worthwhile business practices.
9. Create a well-balanced customer experience team
According to Gartner, organizations with the best-run customer experience programs usually have a good mixture of people from all areas of the organization responsible for and reporting on the customer experience. Thompson recommends the customer experience team structure be made up of people who are focused on customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and process improvement.
10. Design the total customer experience
Organizations shouldn't sit back and let the customer experience unfold as it will. Experts feel successful customer experiences need to be carefully designed and thoughtfully planned out to ensure that the right experience is delivered every time.
This was first published in March 2009