Best Practices for Customer Experience Management

“Customer experience is a catalyst of transformation. It directly impacts culture, strategy, structure and all parts of a business.” – Christine Crandell

While companies may claim that they care about their customers and do whatever it takes to keep them happy, the truth is that very often customer experiences are frustrating and far removed from the claims made by the company. In order to make the lives of customers easier and their business successful, companies must constantly learn from and strive to keep up with the best practices for customer experience management. Through these practices, companies would be more considerate of customers, and would put in added effort to understand their emotions and needs. The aim of customer experience management should be to elevate each experience to a level that compels customers to come back and bring others with them.

Poor experiences push customers away, which in turn, affect their short and long-term revenue and ensures that no customers stay for too long. Without customer experience management, companies would fail to give customers fulfilling and memorable interactions and be unable to meet their expectations. Poor service invariably leads to added costs, lowered customer satisfaction, increase in customer churn, and an irreparable loss of company reputation. The worst part of poor customer experience management is that irate customers vent their frustration via social media ensuring that a very large number of people and prospective customers see their reviews – potentially blocking out a huge portion of likely business. With so much to lose, it would seem irrational and self-destructive for companies to ignore the best practices of customer experience management.

We know that relationship building with customers should be an on-going and relentless process. Businesses cannot survive without customer networks, additional opportunities, referrals, and the resultant revenue. However, customers want more – they want humanized relationships and expect companies to understand them and their needs. They want to see this understanding in every interaction they have with the company in order for them to stay with a company for a long time. The challenge for doing this becomes greater because no two customers are alike – varying needs and expectations. For this reason, it becomes even more important to have a robust strategy for customer experience management in place, to ensure that the company remains flexible and adaptable to every change and variation.

Does your company do a good job in applying the best practices of this strategy? What does customer experience management entail? The first and most important aspect is of knowing your customers. Customers know exactly what they want, are aware of what good service is, and demand that every interaction and channel of communication offer a standard level of good service.  In order to meet these expectations it becomes imperative for companies to gain a thorough understanding of its customers. They must make every effort to understand the emotional reasons for which customers buy, the way they would use an offering to either remove a pain point or improve on what they have, what their business is doing, and other such factors that would get your company closer to and become connected with customers. The better your company understands them, the more robust strategy for customer experience management can be put in place.

The rise of technology has opened the doors to many different channels of communication and customers expect that a company would allow them access to each one. Customers should be able to connect with the company via any channel – from the standpoint of customer experience management, customers may begin an association with a company via the phone, but going forward should be able to continue the interaction via email, or chat, or social media. If a company claims that it follows the best practices of customer experience management, it should have systems in place to ensure that every customer’s ‘history’ is recorded such that they never need to repeat their requests or reasons for connecting. One of the top reasons for customer ire, as per research, is the need to repeat and explain their problem each time they connect with a company.

The premise of putting a strategy for customer experience management in place should be to maintain consistency. With all the information in one place and with the knowledge of customers, a company would be better equipped to expedite the problem resolution process, provide apt and customized offerings, while still maintaining compliance to their own business and its needs. Given the human factor, it would be imprudent to expect perfection and hence there would be lapses and flaws. However, with a robust system of customer experience management in place, a company could proactively find fixes for common or recurring problems, which could otherwise create inconvenience for customers. The easier a company can make it for customers to do business with them, the more trust customers would have – with trust comes loyalty and loyal customers always prove to be profitable and beneficial.

A system for customer experience management allows a company to, not only collect customer data, but to maintain it accurately and update it regularly. This in turn provides companies with valuable information readily available to serve customers better. The more information companies keep on customers, the more customized and tailor-made offerings and service they can provide. This allows customers to feel special and it is known that customers do business with companies that ‘know’ them and appear to make products and services just for them. The main aim of customer service is to show customers that they are valued and that the company would never want to lose them.

Through customer experience management, companies become attuned to listen actively and carefully to customers. This would entail getting feedback, asking the right questions, treating every complaint as an opportunity, and overall treat every customer interaction as though it were the only one. Customers like to feel in control – by asking for their suggestions and opinions, companies place control with customers, which in turn makes them feel responsible and accountable for the success of the relationship. They would make every effort to ensure that every experience they have with a company adds value to both sides. With such a collaborative mind-set, it would be hard for competitors to ‘steal’ the customers, putting the company in a formidable position.

We have oft repeated that customer service is no longer a department that only answers customer queries. Customer service now is seen as the first stage / level of a more profound sales and marketing pitch. The manner in which customers are treated at this stage, usually determines whether they move the association forward. Customers now seem to ask more product related questions even in their very first interaction with the front-end teams and if the service teams are unable to answer these basic queries, customers tend to move on to a company that is better equipped and trained to manage their questions. In essence, the service teams now form the first step of customer experience management – one poor move, and a company could lose a potential customer.

Customer experience management is all about building, strengthening, and sustaining relationships with customers. Even if a company starts slowly, it must pay close attention to each step and ensure that every interaction has a human touch and amply displays a culture of service and a willingness to please customers. Such commitment leads to happy customers and who does not know the power of such customers!

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