5 steps to begin, enhance customer experience

Creating or improving customer experience is a hot initiative at many companies, from those in the Fortune 500 to 5-10 person startups.

It takes passion and perseverance to build great experiences for customers across all interaction points in an organization. A great product or service is just the starting point. You also need a great billing process, great digital tools, reasonable pricing and refined ways to resolve customer problems.

Here are steps to have a great customer experience program:

• Define what customer experience is for the entire company. Companies traditionally create customers and compete on the need-satisfaction ability of their products and services. Customer experience seeks to understand and create great customer experiences.

If I am purchasing a cup of coffee, I want more than just a great taste. I want a pleasant in-store experience, a clear menu, an-easy-to-use mobile-phone app and an effective customer-service platform if I have a problem.

• Create an initial customer-journey map. Create a broad, visual representation of how the customer interacts with the company. How do customers hear about your services? How do they shop and purchase? How do they return products? How do they receive and pay their bills? Customer-journey maps are high-level guides to help a company understand, monitor and improve a customer’s interactions.

• Listen to comments, not scores, along the customer journey. Companies love numeric customer-satisfaction and other survey scores because they are easy to report, easy to track and easy to analyze. But they are ineffective to understand and improve a customer-journey assessment. Companies must have great text analytics and customer-sentiment analysis to tell them what is working, what is not working and the customer’s sentiment.

• Find ways to improve customer loyalty along every part of the journey. Focusing on growth, cost-reduction initiatives and competitors’ price actions will not create and measure great customer experience. The best measure is loyalty. If a customer returns, they contribute to the financial results of a firm. When customers defect, become sporadic or simply fall away, that is the bottom-line assessment of how well your customer experience program is working.

• Track and advertise improvements to the customer journey. Ongoing improvements to the customer journey should be promoted. Customers need to know that companies are listening and acting on their feedback. Dedicated, clear customer communication programs should inform customers how companies are acting to improve.

Customer experience is within the reach of any company in any industry, and in any stage of its existence. Great customer experience drives extreme customer loyalty and with it great financial results.

Chad Storlie is an adjunct professor of marketing at Creighton University.