Customers want to spend their money with businesses that genuinely care about them. Here’s how you can improve customer experience and create loyal fans who find new customers for you.
“You’ve got one of the best radars for bullshit of anyone I know.”
That’s what my supervisor told me shortly before I was dubbed StartupCamp’s new Director of Member Experience (for us, member experience equals customer experience). Essentially, I was going to be in charge of making sure our members were supported and cared for.
On one hand, this was quite a change of responsibility from my previous role as COO. On the other, it was a perfect fit for my strengths, my knowledge of the company and our products, and, as my supervisor had said, my keen awareness for insincerity.
But what does customer experience have to do with being bullshit-sensitive?
What is Customer Experience?
First of all, let me clarify. Customer experience is often mistaken for customer service. And while customer service is certainly part of a customer’s experience, these are two very different things.
Customer service: reactive assistance to address issues that customers have with your product or service. In short, defense.
Customer experience: a proactive strategy and actions that anticipate what might go wrong and work to prevent it. In short, offense.
As a whole, customer experience is every interaction your customer has with your company, from their first encounter to their last. That includes everything from your ads on social media to your “We’re sorry to see you go” email, (should you need to use it).
Most importantly, a customer’s experience with your company is how they feel when they interact with you. And heed this well: There are only two available experiences for your customer—positive or negative.
Why Customer Experience is so important (and tricky)
So, back to why identifying our company’s authenticity was so important to improving customer experience.
Let’s start by talking about a massive problem that lots of businesses face: Creating genuine relationships with their customers.
When a potential customer comes to you, they’re not evaluating just your product or service. They’re evaluating you as a company and looking through the shaded lenses of distrust. Their bullshit-scam-insincerity-riskiness-radar is on high-alert from the start.
That’s because customers are used to the floozy-courtship treatment that plays out like a scene in a chick flick where the protagonist ends up jilted and deceived. Companies spend millions of dollars on sales and marketing to woo potential customers. But only until they buy. Afterward, all the customer gets is a cold shoulder as the company moves onto their next potential catch.
The irony is, companies that behave like this (which is probably most of them) are really only doing a disservice to themselves. In his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, Joey Coleman explains that if the average company were to improve customer retention by 5%, they would see an increase in profits of 25%-100%.
Those numbers might sound bananas, but they’re accurate, taken from a study by Bain & Company. Most businesses invest five times more money in sales and marketing than they do in customer experience and retention—and bleed revenue as the consequence.
So how can you live up to the promises you make to your customers? How can you improve your customer experience to turn buyers into advocates and evangelists? And how does improved customer experience actually benefit your sales and marketing efforts?
Here are a few strategies and examples to help you improve customer experience and customer care for your business.
1. Show them the whole story, right from the start.
Your first touchpoint with a customer will happen before they are even a customer. It could be anything, anywhere. With the magic of analytics, however, most businesses can track their first encounters. They might be landing on your website’s homepage, a Facebook ad, a podcast episode or blog article, a social media post—or maybe you just shook hands.
Look at this first meeting as an opportunity to treat your customers well and to tell them the story of your company.
Clearly communicate who you are, what you stand for, and what they are in for if they decide to purchase your product or service. If your brand is trustworthy, thoughtful, or fun, prove it. Getting to know your company and your products should be simple and enjoyable.
One industry that excels at putting customer experience front and center is the house paint industry. Painting your house is probably not high on anyone’s list of weekend fun. But the industry has made the beginning of the process an informative, engaging experience.
By offering insights into color theory, showcasing examples of homes and interiors, and making color-picking tools user-friendly tools, companies like Lowes and Sherwin-Williams actually get customers excited to paint their homes. All of this value is offered up front on the home page of their websites, so right off the bat, customers know that these companies are invested in helping them accomplish their goals.
It’s easy to overwhelm yourself and your resources digging into customer touchpoints. Start with the basics. Where are your customers finding you? Where are they engaging? What are the most common issues they face while purchasing? Why are they contacting you after the purchase?
Answering these questions will tell you where you should focus first. Once you build strong experience habits on the front line, it will be easier to implement them in other areas of the company.
Every touchpoint has the potential to leave a lasting impression. Always aim to connect emotionally and convey the message that your potential customer will keep receiving the same care and attention.
2. People want to connect with people.
Every company or business in the world is really just a collection of people. But customers rarely have a human-to-human experience when they’re interacting with a company.
The fastest way to build a relationship with someone is to show them that you think and feel like they do. Take an intentional, purposeful effort to learn your audience and find ways to engage with them like a human.
Consider, for a sec, memes. Memes go viral because people see them and say, “Yup, that’s me” or “Yup, that’s what I think.” The reaction—and subsequent share—is instantaneous.
There’s no shortage of ways to create a more personable customer experience. You might create social media day-in-the-life posts, loosen up your stiff, jargony language in emails, or mail your new customers handwritten thank you notes. Remember, you don’t have to force it. It’s the business that’s getting in the way of the human, not vice versa.
I follow a few Instagram accounts that do an amazing job of sharing personal stories and connecting in a very real way. Check out Allie Casazza (@allie_thatsme), The Lucky Few (@theluckyfewofficial), and Blair Elspeth (@blairelspeth) for some inspiration. I talk about these people to my friends as if we are friends. In reality, they have no idea who I am, but I feel that I know (and trust) them!
Social media isn’t the only way to make a personal connection, though. Podcasts, websites, blogs, or stationary and stamps, are all opportunities to connect!
3. Laugh out loud, include bloopers, and give high-fives
My husband and I recently found ourselves on YouTube late one night, binging on suggested videos when we should’ve been sleeping. I’d ended up on a makeup tutorial by Kylie Jenner, and he was watching the entire library of Will Smith’s channel.
While I couldn’t care less about anything Kardashian-related and my husband can probably name only two Will Smith movies, we both felt like we “liked” the two stars for one particular behavior: they laughed at themselves.
It humanized them, in a simple small way. It was a connection.
At StartupCamp, our brand promise is to create courses that provide you with the easiest and fastest way to start a business from scratch. I’ll tell you right now, we’re not a perfect company, but we are full of people who care deeply about seeing others find freedom through entrepreneurship.
We know who we are, so we don’t try to hide behind a facade of perfection. When we miss the mark, we own it. We laugh at ourselves, fix the problem, and keep moving. We act like this because it’s who we are—and it’s the fastest way to grow, and keep our members growing, too.
We mean it when we say, “We’re going to make this right.” We also really mean it when we say, “Woohoo! Congrats on launching your business!”
I’m a customer. You’re a customer.
We know what it feels like to be seen and valued as a person, and we know what it feels like to be treated like next-in-line profit potential.
The Golden Rule always applies.
So my challenge to you is to start honing your own authenticity radar, and to shift your business’ top priority from sales, to delivering on the value and excellence you owe your customers.
Identify five areas in your company that need to be reevaluated through the lense of customer experience, and make action items to address and change those. Make sure your entire company and all team members understand this new value. If there is a breakdown, the customer will feel it immediately.
Finally, write something to your current followers, subscribers, or customers. Make it transparent, honest, and apologetic if need be. You don’t need to be a martyr, just be real. Remind them of the things that you have promised to deliver: before and after they hand you their hard-earned money.
As you begin to care more for your customers and improve your customer experience, you’ll create raving fans that help you grow your business. With enough nurturing, you’ll soon be surrounded by an incredible community of people who you care deeply about. That’s been the case for us, anyway!
Share a story in the comments about a company that knocked your socks off with your experience with them.