The customer experience (CX) is the summation of a buyer's every touchpoint and engagement with your brand. Each impression, no matter how fleeting or significant, adds to the experience. And it's up to brands to create an experience that is not only frictionless, but so positive that customers can't wait to tell their friends and family about it.
Plus, Zendesk's 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report found that three-quarters of customers are willing to shell out more cash to buy from a company that has a "good CX."
Understanding how to improve the customer experience is a priority for a lot of companies. Nearly half, according to one survey. Below, we go over 14 ideas you can experiment with to create happier customers.
1. Adopt a customer-first approach
Before you can think about improving the customer experience, you have to put yourself in the customer's shoes. In fact, companies with a "mature" CX believe they're more customer-oriented than profit-oriented, according to one report.
So rather than thinking about improving the bottom line, focus on improving metrics representative of the CX:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): The NPS is a standard measure for customer feedback. You ask customers how likely they are to recommend your products or services to someone they know. This is typically on a 1–5 scale.
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Also commonly rated 1 through 5, the CSAT asks customers how happy they are with their purchase experience.
- Churn rate: The churn rate tells you how frequently customers drop off or leave your business. A high or growing churn rate indicates friction that should be closely monitored and addressed.
- Retention rate: You want a high customer retention rate because it tells you how many shoppers are remaining loyal to your company. These customers make repeat purchases.
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): The CLV measures how much a customer is worth over the average lifespan of being an active customer of your company.
- Customer Effort Score (CES): This metric is another customer feedback measure which asks how easy it was for the buyer to solve their problem.
- Cart abandonment rate: This metric tells you how frequently a shopper puts an item in their online shopping cart but doesn't complete a purchase. These represent people with high purchase intent, so an increasing cart abandonment rate indicates an issue with the checkout experience.
You can monitor these metrics in Google Analytics or another business analytics tool. It's good to check industry trends, but the most important benchmarks to consider are your own. Over time, you'll see trends in your CX KPIs which will help you learn more about your business and your customers.
2. Document the customer journey
You can use a customer journey map to visualize the path a person takes from the moment they "meet" your brand through their post-purchase experience. This visualization of the customer experience is helpful because the purchase path isn't linear — many touchpoints and paths intertwine along the way. Understanding each of these touchpoints and how they relate to one another is critical for getting a holistic view of the CX.
3. Collect and respond to feedback
There's no better way to get information than directly from the source, and the same is true when it comes to understanding your customers and their experience with your brand. If you want to improve the CX, first ask customers what they think.
Customer feedback is a top influence for CX strategies of nearly half of companies with "mature" CX.
When you listen directly to your customers, there's no guesswork or intuition involved. Customer feedback can be qualitative (verbal, in passing, social media, etc.) and quantitative (surveys, CX KPIs, etc.) — it's best to use a combination of both.
THE ICONIC, Australia and New Zealand's leading online fashion and sports retailer, used to have issues collecting customer feedback. "[Previously], we were sending surveys seven days after purchase, which didn't lead to the best customer experience," says product owner Marc Antonov. The problem was, most orders didn't arrive that quickly. So customers were being asked about their purchase experience before they even received their purchase.
That's when they implemented AfterShip and Automizely. "AfterShip gave us the opportunity to reform our feedback loop. We realized timing and context are crucial and we now send the survey as soon as the last parcel is delivered which is triggered by data we receive from AfterShip," says Antonov.
4. Train your staff
It's important to get employee buy-in on improving the customer experience. Without that, your efforts will have a significantly reduced impact.
As the CX expert and keynote speaker Shep Hyken tweeted in 2014: "If we consistently exceed the expectations of employees, they will consistently exceed the expectations of our customers."
Getting your employees invested in improving the CX is about more than just training, though. It's important to build and nurture a strong and dedicated workforce.
Beyond competitive pay and benefits, offer perks like flexible working hours and locations (when possible), career advancement, and other growth opportunities. If you're as equally invested in the employee experience as you are the customer experience, you'll likely set yourself up for success.
5. Personalize recommendations and offers
Consumers are more data-aware than ever before. While some are concerned with their right to privacy, others know personalization and technology can actually improve their shopping experience.
Personalized shopping experiences can increase conversions as well as improve the customer experience. During the holidays, 59% of shoppers (78% of millennial shoppers) welcome personalized product recommendations, according to Shopify. Personalization goes beyond recommendations, too. You can also target discounts and promotions based on shopper preferences and purchase history.
Haircare brand CurlMix has an online form where shoppers can input information about themselves and receive tailored product recommendations that will work best with their hair.
6. Add conveniences
Any time you can reduce friction, you're simultaneously improving CX. There are many ways to make the shopping experience more convenient for your customers:
- Saved payment and shipping preferences: Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to give you their money. One-click pay is one way to do that.
- Various payment options: Beyond accommodating credit and debit cards, introduce options for mobile wallets, payment installments, cryptocurrency, one-click pay, and other options to make payment more convenient for shoppers.
- Fulfillment and shipping choices: If possible, offer fulfillment methods like curbside delivery or in-store pickup, as well as in-store returns for online purchases. Give customers a choice between free shipping and paid expedited shipping.
- Order tracking: Give customers the power to check in on their orders and see what their shipping status is at any time. You can build a branded order tracking page with AfterShip so customers can find out where their order is. ManoMano, the first online marketplace specialized in DIY & Gardening, uses AfterShip to display tracking events directly in customers' accounts instead of making them visit carrier websites.
- Returns: Should a customer be dissatisfied with their purchase, make it easy for them to fix it. The AfterShip Returns Center, for example, has notifications, a branded return status page, and analytics so you can streamline the process and create a positive CX.
7. Be accessible to all kinds of customers
It's easy to think about your customers as a group of people as opposed to individuals. Yet on an individual level, we each have different needs. Beyond prioritizing accessibility for those with disabilities, you also want to make it easy for all of your customers to do business with you.
For example, you can use AfterShip to send multilingual email notifications to your international and non-English-speaking customers.
8. Say thanks
A little gratitude goes a long way. Make every effort to thank your customers each step of the way. They have the choice of where to do business, and the brands who acknowledge customers for choosing them create an experience that makes shoppers feel appreciated. And when people feel good about your brand, they're likely to spend more money with you too.
AfterShokz, for example, sent an email to their customer list to say thanks for being a part of their community.
9. Add surprises to packages
Every customer expects the product they ordered to be in the box or envelope when it arrives. What they don't expect is an added surprise to make the customer experience that much more memorable.
Surprises in packages can be virtually anything you're capable of doing and shows appreciation for your customers. Include a hand-written thank-you note, a small free gift, or a coupon for their next purchase.
10. Take note of your competitors
While it's easy to get distracted with your own business, it's also important to keep up with what's going on with your competition. Check out their stores, social media, reviews, and other places where you can see customers talk about the brand — and see what people are saying.
If there's something they love, you might think about incorporating something similar into your own CX. If there's a recurring issue or point of friction, make sure you eliminate those in your own CX — and then tell everyone about it.
11. Analyze churn
Churn is one of the biggest opportunities for understanding how to improve customer experience. The points of churn tell you where customers abandon your brand. You can look at those areas and determine what the negative impact on CX is and then make changes to fix those issues.
For example, if you notice your cart abandonment rate is high and even increasing, this is an area of churn. Potential issues may be unexpected or high shipping costs, too many steps for checkout, or a confusing checkout experience. Remedy those issues and monitor the impact on churn to see if it helps or still needs addressing.
12. Improve efficiencies
The top frustration among consumers as it relates to CX is "long wait/response times." While this typically has to do with customer support, it could also apply to live chat. If a customer has to wait too long to hear back from a representative of your brand, they'll have a negative CX.
Here are a few ideas to reduce response time:
- Automate what you can. You might have common questions that a chatbot can answer without requiring a real human.
- Equip your team with canned responses. For common questions, you can give your support team a list of approved templated responses so they can focus on the more unique inquiries.
- Publish FAQs on your website. Answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) in a dedicated section on your website to reduce customer inquiries in the first place.
13. Leverage technology and automation
Technology has made it easier than ever for brands to manage every aspect of the customer experience. You can automate many processes to reduce friction and the amount of time and effort it takes to make a purchase.
Plus, technology makes it easier to stay on top of your growing customer base. While you might be able to manage 100 customers manually in your database, once you expand beyond your local market and add more customers to your roster, it'll be next to impossible to keep up with it all. Technology can house important information about your customers as well as play an active role in streamlining the CX.
Summary: 13 Ways to Improve Customer Experience
Hopefully these ideas to improve customer experience get your wheels turning as you plan out your strategy. The most successful brands put their customers first, and they invest in the technology and systems that enable them to do just that.
In summary, here are 14 ways to improve customer experience:
- Start with your customers
- Document the customer journey
- Collect and respond to feedback
- Train your staff
- Personalize recommendations and promotions
- Add conveniences
- Be accessible to all kinds of customers
- Say thanks
- Add surprises to your packages
- Take note of your competitors
- Analyze churn
- Improve efficiencies
- Leverage technology and automation
Improve your online store's customer experience rate by signing up for a free account with AfterShip.