CX: Experiences that keep your customers coming back

The way customers or clients interact with businesses has rapidly evolved during recent years. What hasn’t changed, however, is the need to provide an outstanding experience in order to retain those customers.

Customer, or client, experience (CX) is fundamental to the success of any business. No matter how they first find your product or service, it is the quality of interactions with your business that will determine whether a customer or client keeps coming back.

Customer retention often comes up in strategic planning conversations with our clients, who know it is vital to sustained cash flow and future growth. In this article we unpack:

Designing your approach to CX

While a CX professional is your best resource for detailed expertise, business owners and management can (and should) factor CX into their own planning. The following steps will help ensure your clients or customers have outstanding interactions at every step of their journey with your business.

Understand your ideal client

Do you know who your ideal customer or client is? Do you understand their demographics, purchasing preferences, lifestyle, life stage and influences? In creating the ultimate customer experience, you must first know who you’re delivering that experience for.

It is particularly important to understand the ‘pain points’ and barriers for your customers, but also their goals or aspirations. What issues are important to them in their lives and what problems can your product or service potentially solve for them? How can you help them achieve their goals?

Use these characteristics and considerations to build personas – fictional characters which represent the different types of clients or customers who may use your service or product. Consider the different journey that each may take with your business.

Map the journey: Put yourself in their shoes

Using these personas, put yourself in the client or customer’s shoes. Map all potential interactions along their journey with your business, from awareness or first contact, through to service or product delivery, after-sales and beyond - and consider what would provide them with the best possible experience at each.

You should aim to make each of these interactions as easy as possible – adapting your process and systems to suit their preferences, needs and goals wherever possible. For example:

  • Is your website easily found and navigated?
  • Do you have a range of purchase methods available?
  • Is your contact information easily accessed and do you provide a variety of options for communication?
  • Does your team respond quickly to all enquiries?
  • Is your service delivery as efficient as it can be?
  • Do customers receive updates on their order/project status?

In mapping this journey, gather the views of your team to identify what you are doing well, and what you can improve. Identify any gaps and include solutions in your plan or ‘map’. For more complex assistance with client journey mapping, consider calling in the expertise of a CX professional.

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Embrace feedback

When mapping your client journey, consider the points at which it makes sense to seek formal feedback from customers or clients. If they’ve had an outstanding experience, they may be very happy to share it with you.

Conversely, it’s important to receive and action any negative feedback as a method of consistently improving your CX. Feedback not only provides an opportunity to refine your customer interactions in the future, but to also improve the perception of a specific customer or client – your response to their feedback can itself create a great experience.

Informal or unprompted feedback is equally, if not more valuable. It can be difficult to hear at times, but being open and receptive to all constructive feedback can lead to significant improvements and highlight any ‘blind spots’ you may have.

Left unspoken or unheard, the feedback of a disgruntled customer can quickly fester and taint their impression of your business. To prevent this, provide genuine opportunities for clients and customers to express their views and ensure they are acknowledged (and actioned, if appropriate).

Make the most of your data

Most businesses collect and store an enormous amount of data. What information do you already collect or have access to that could be helpful in your CX planning? Sources may include internal systems, such as point of sale or accounting software, or external sources such as industry trends. Read this article to learn more about how to turn your data into useful insights for your business.

CX considerations for SME businesses

There are many issues and factors which influence CX and, while we won’t attempt to cover them all here, there are some key considerations outlined below that should be factored into CX planning for SMEs.

A great culture drives great CX

When the culture of an organisation is healthy and inclusive, it permeates every aspect of the business – not least of all the experience of clients or customers. Consulting your team during the planning process and putting time and effort into building a great culture, which is client focused, will quickly pay CX dividends.

An engaged team which operates in a culture that is built on the values you want your customers or clients to experience can be one of your best assets. Learn more about creating the right culture for your business.

‘Good enough’ is no longer enough

Loyalty to a business or brand is rarer and much harder to earn than it used to be. Where a customer once relied on word of mouth or local proximity in choosing a product or service provider, they now have easy access to a plethora of options and, thanks to the internet, distance is less of a factor. As a result, expectations are higher than ever and it’s relatively easy to change providers – which customers will quickly do if their current experience isn’t exceptional.

Communication and authenticity

Customers and clients are savvier than ever – they are looking for authenticity in their interactions, and can spot ‘spin’ a mile away. Take this into consideration for content and conversations – use plain language, avoid jargon and approach all interactions from the client/customer perspective. Establishing trust from the very first interaction and in all those that follow is invaluable to ensuring a great experience.

Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. Respond to communications as quickly as possible and even if you can’t immediately assist or action, simply acknowledging a request can go a long way. Be honest about timeframes and communicate delays or changes – it’s better to set realistic expectations than over-promise and fail to deliver. In a time when supply chain issues and labour shortages are heavily impacting delivery timeframes across most industries, this is more important than ever.

Want more best practice insights for SMEs? Our expert advisers have compiled nine articles covering the most important processes for successful SMEs. Read more.

CX impacts future growth

CX goes beyond a service-based approach to include the entire experience with a business – every interaction, at every stage of the journey. The impressions and feelings about your business which result from these interactions impact future behaviour, and in turn your bottom line.

By providing the best possible experience at every stage of the journey with your business, customers and clients are more likely to stay and/or return again in future. They are also more likely to speak positively about their experience with you to others – all of which is fundamental to the future success and growth of your business.

To learn more about planning for achievable and sustainable growth, or to discuss the right strategies for your business, get in touch with your local adviser.