Most companies are completely unaware of what their customers go through, or worse, they are aware and feel powerless to do anything about it. The goal of any customer experience is to build confidence in the purchase decision.
Why does customer experience matter?
Customers want value. When they can’t identify value, they default to the one thing they do know: price. People will pay more if they are confident you will deliver value. Watch the sales process to understand the dynamics of building confidence:
- A sales specialist spends 15 minutes with a prospect, answers their questions, and dedicates their full attention
- The product is out of stock, and the prospect will not purchase today
- The prospect will say, “Do you work on commission?”
This interaction happens all the time. The question above means the prospect wants to reward the sales rep for their effort. That’s a bond between humans; classic quid-pro-quo. The time and effort taken to make a prospect feel confident tips the balance in your favor. They’ll be back to buy from you.
How to break it down
Most small businesses don’t document a customer journey: a series of touchpoints between the customer and your business ending with a purchase. Auditing this journey will help to understand the customer’s experience when dealing with your company. It will help identify pain points and places for improvement. Approach your customer experience audit in three parts — the beginning, middle, and end of the customer journey.
The common perception of the beginning is usually: “I get a phone call or an email.” or “Somebody fills out a form on the website.” If they have a retail space, you can also add, “Somebody walks through my door.” While this may be your first touchpoint, it’s actually halfway through your customer’s journey. They have already started to form an opinion about your company.
Examine the possible first points of contact and how a prospect might interpret your company. This could be a social media post, search engine, or referral from a friend. It could be your website’s home page or your reviews on marketplace sites like Yelp. This begins their thought process on your value. The stronger the first impression, the better their chance of a purchase.
For each of these first impressions, try to answer the question, “What do my customers think of me?” Most small businesses don’t know, and their response is usually, “How should I know?” This is completely normal.
When you look at the most successful brands, customers know exactly why they shop there. They form what’s called a brand narrative. Take, for example, Walmart and Target.
Price vs. style
Customers shop at Walmart because they are the “low price leader.” Many items at Target are actually cheaper, but Walmart has established itself as the low-price option. Target leans more towards style with its influencers and flashy marketing, store layouts, and bright vivid branding colors. Walmart has influencers and excellent branding, while Target has low prices, but the decision has been made in the mind of the consumer. People tend to oversimplify things to make them easier to understand.
Your company’s brand, along with your personal brand, is your reputation; what people say about you behind your back. You should have an idea of what people think of you and how their first impressions shape that opinion.
Lastly, examine the buying process. This should be the easiest to understand. Every business needs to know how to capture revenue and provide a product or service.
The critical element is, what happens when the process fails? What do you do when something goes wrong? None of my clients have ever had an answer for what to do. They always give me some version of “We handle it.” or “We improvise.” This is the most dangerous moment. This is when trust and confidence break down.
Establishing a relationship with a customer is always about trust. They need to know that taking a chance on you is worth it. They need to know that whatever problem they are trying to solve will be handled with complete transparency and give them the comfort to hand over payment. They need to know that you are in complete control of providing the product or service that attracted their attention in the first place. They need to know that you know what you are doing.
Things will go wrong
The most perfectly documented processes will fail. It’s not a question of if, but when. If you have not encountered any supply chain issues in your business yet, start thinking about it. Some predictions include shortages of cardboard boxes. Supply chain issues, and other issues outside your control, are going to cause inconvenience and discomfort. You are going to have unreasonable customers. Most interactions where someone is unreasonable are usually based on their own problems being projected onto you and your business. It’s not your fault. It’s still a good idea to be honest when things do not go as planned. Customers want you to solve their problem; so, you’ll want to have solutions in place.
For more on providing solutions amid supply issues, tune in to this interview with Jennifer Cox, president of NNEP.
The best solutions involve pleasant surprises
I ordered a large smoothie from the Jamba Juice app yesterday. When I went into the store, my large smoothie was split into two cups: a small and a medium. I looked at them curiously, and the girl behind the counter started to brace herself for a tirade. I asked, “Two smaller cups because you are out of large ones?” Her hesitance melted away, and a big smile spread across her face, “Yes, sorry about that. I gave you extra for the inconvenience.” By giving me a few extra scoops (which cost them next to nothing) to compensate for the lack of large cups and fresh bananas, they left me feeling better about my purchase decision. I’ll be back.
That’s the goal: customers want to feel more confident in their purchases.