How Customer Experience Can Save Small Businesses During & After Covid-19 [4 Free Tips to Start Now]
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
For the next 10 seconds I’d like for us to picture our favorite restaurant. You know, the place we take everyone visiting from out of town, and the one that holds a special, consistent space on our bank statement. Do you have yours? Perfect. Now, think about why it’s your favorite. Beyond the dishes served, what keeps you coming back? I think about my shawarma spot in Washington, D.C. While the chicken pita is unreal, it’s not the main driver of my patronage. Instead, I think about being greeted with smiles by the Hashem family when I enter the restaurant. I look forward to our catch-up sessions and exchange of gratitudes before I check-out.
When I think about any of my favorite businesses, I have similar memories about the people, the environment, and the overall feeling of ease. As we recall where we consistently purchase products or services, we would be remiss to say we do so only for the specific offering. Research shows that companies with a superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors lagging in customer experience. And, according to Forbes, consumers will reportedly pay up to 20% more to purchase from a company with a reputation for great service. The quality of the experiences we share with businesses are, oftentimes, the difference between us being a visitor or a regular.
What is Customer Experience? Over the past decade, customer experience has become increasingly popular among companies of all industries. In fact, B2B companies view it as the most exciting opportunity for 2020. But what exactly is it?
Most of us have heard of customer service and customer success positions at companies. Well, customer experience encompasses them both. And when you take into consideration that customer experience also interacts with the marketing, operations, product development, and nearly every other job function, it ends up looking like a complex equation:
It may seem overwhelming for companies, particularly smaller ones with fewer resources, to determine where they are supposed to start with this anomaly of a function. The approach becomes more clear when customer experience is viewed as a sum of impressions rather than a sum of job functions.
Customer experience is the impression left with your customers from start to finish. All customers take a journey with a business once they become aware of a need. If we go back to our restaurant example, our journey as a customer begins when we become aware we are hungry, and we have a need to eat. We then go through the process of finding a restaurant, purchasing our meal, and eating. After eating, hopefully we are satisfied with our meal to proceed with our day. The journey, however, looks a bit different for businesses.
Business owners must identify how to interact with the customer during each stage of the journey and decide what actions to take to influence a positive impression. This is no easy task on a regular day, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.
“Customer experience is the impression left with your customers from start to finish.”
Reputational & Financial Benefits of Customer Experience Since the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic, over 100,000 small businesses in the US have permanently closed, with more projected to close before the end of the year. For small businesses owners looking to pivot their business strategy, improving customer experience is a promising next step.
Businesses who are more intentional with their customer experience tend to have increased customer loyalty and retention. Data from Microsoft states that 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand, where loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend to the company.
4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience Today With the possibility of brand loyalty, increased revenue, and premium pricing models, designing a great customer experience is the equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too. And you know what’s even better? You do not need a fully-staffed customer team to start improvements. Solopreneurs and small businesses can begin crafting a better customer strategy today by focusing on these four areas:
1. Understanding your customer
What it is: Customer/Buyer Personas
Why it’s important: Understanding the problem your business solves for customers positions you to advertise your unique solution to the appropriate audience.
How to start: By first remembering that your customers are human: they have wants, needs, likes, and dislikes just like you. It might sound silly, but start by drawing a face on a piece of paper and giving your “customer” a name. Then, in relation to a problem, write down what their frustrations and needs are. When their needs and your business solution intersect, you can feel confident about acquiring and retaining the right type of customer.
2. Identifying where you interact with your customer
What it is: Customer Journey Map
Why it’s important: Customer experience is about the impression of your business from start to finish. You want to increase your chances of having positive interactions with your customers, because a positive experience leads to increased revenue and customer loyalty.
How to start: Start by drawing 3 boxes next to each other labeled pre-purchase, during purchase, and post-purchase. Underneath each box, list where you and your customer directly and indirectly meet. Next, think about how the interactions exist today and how they could be improved. For example, if your customer’s first pre-purchase interaction is with your website, you need to ensure that it’s easy to navigate and free of errors.
3. Establishing communication channels with your customers
What it is: Customer Feedback Channels
Why it’s important: 82% of U.S. and 74% of non-U.S. consumers want more human interaction in the future. By creating more personal communication channels with your customer, you invite trust and familiarity into your business relationship.
How to start: Make it easy for your customers to get in contact with you. Clearly list your phone number, social media handles, email address, and any other communication mediums that apply to your business, and ensure that you respond to inquiries within a reasonable amount of time.
4. Measuring your customer happiness
What it is: NPS Survey (Customer Loyalty Survey)
Why it’s important: Businesses with happy customers tend to be more profitable and have more referrals. Surveying your customers is an efficient way to quantitatively measure customer satisfaction.
How to start: Send out a survey to your customers that states: “On a scale 1–10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?” with an optional free response to comment “Why?”. Review the responses to evaluate your NPS score.
“The quality of the experiences we share with businesses are, oftentimes, the difference between us being a visitor or a regular.”
These are just a few ways for companies of all sizes and industries to begin to approach customer experience. However, the most important takeaway is that we should be designing strategies with empathy and compassion. The coronavirus pandemic has caused everyone to feel a varianced shift in normalcy. Demonstrating compassion for someone during a business transaction is what turns a purchase into an experience. Your unfair advantage-what separates you from everyone else in the market-is your ability to craft intentional experiences that value and acknowledge the person on the receiving end. As you shift your focus towards customer experience, I hope your company is top of mind when someone thinks about their favorite.