In the past, selling was about delivering on promises – meaning products that work and services that solve problems or generate opportunities. However, customers expect much more.

These days, customers want to do business with companies that not only give them ideas that improve their performance, but also establish trust with them. Brands that do not rise to the challenge will lose repeat business.

Competition is fierce across industries and it is in a constant state of flux. Companies that want to edge out competitors must go beyond delivering on promises and ensure that the experience of their customers is second to none.

How important, exactly, is customer experience?

  • 86 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. (1)
  • By the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (2)
  • 81 percent of executives believe they will compete on the basis of customer experience alone in the very near future – yet only 22 percent indicate they have developed customer experiences that exceed expectations. (3)
  • 62 percent of companies will now invest to meet the changing needs of customers. (4)
  • 72 percent of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people, but if the customer is not happy 13 percent will share their negative experience with 15 or more people. (5)
  • When it comes to communication and interaction, trust is essential. Consumers dislike snarky or trendy communication. (6)
    • 86 percent of consumers want companies to be honest
    • 83 percent desire a warm, friendly demeanor
    • 78 percent rate a helpful demeanor as a top priority.

Taking these points into consideration, how can a business create a positive, welcoming and hassle-free experience for customers?

1. Design a Website That Encourages Interaction and Engagement 

If prospects and customers struggle with a brand’s website in any way, they are likely to spend their money elsewhere. Since a website is typically one of the first ways that people interact with a business, designing it to encourage visitor interaction and engagement is critical. Brands should make sure their website has the following characteristics:

  • Loads quickly
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Easy to navigate
  • Anticipates visitor questions and needs

Employees in charge of marketing should carefully review and analyze website data and take a particularly attention to webpages that are not performing well. From there, they should determine whether these webpages are necessary and, if so, ask for feedback to improve them.

2. Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Technology such as smart automation and chatbots serves two very important purposes: it saves employees the time they used to spend on repetitive tasks and provides a more personalized experience to customers. Other benefits of AI include delivering better customer support, making predictions about sales, providing the right information at the right time in the buyer’s journey and retargeting customers that got away. The sky truly is the limit when it comes to leveraging AI.

3. Invest in Employees 

Every single staff member in the company, from the lowest paid employee to the most senior leader, must be onboard with the brand’s mission, values, and philosophy. They must also feel valued. Low employee morale and low employee engagement will negatively impact the customer experience.

Ensure that all employees – regardless of title, role or pay grade – are trained to provide the best customer experience and are measured frequently on what kind of customer experience they create. These standards should not be limited to external customer experiences. Internal customers – that is, stakeholders such as employees – should also receive a top-notch experiences.  Positive internal customer experiences improve teamwork, productivity, decrease employee churn, minimizes sick days, and ultimately creates a thriving corporate culture.

4. Obtain Feedback 

Managers should actively ask customers to provide feedback and they should listen carefully to what customers say in response. Contrary to popular belief, lack of feedback does not mean that customers are happy with the experience.

It is important to remain open to all feedback, including complaints and difficult conversations. Negative feedback can prove extremely valuable in presenting new ideas and ways to improve. Tools such as Mention are also beneficial for locating customer complaints and feedback online including social networks, forums and discussion groups.

5. Embrace Technological Tools 

While technology can seem intimidating to some, the fact is, technological tools offer compelling benefits. They allow companies to track and measure customer satisfaction, follow buying trends, capitalize on the buyer’s journey and keep an eye on the needs dictated by the market. Using these tools, brands can connect with prospects on a deeper level. This allows companies to draw prospects to their online properties and, from there, target where they are in their individual journey with the company.

Effective tools to accomplish these goals include the following:

  • Marketing automation
  • Closed loop selling
  • AI
  • Predictive analytics

6. Adhere to Ethics Standards 

Building trust with customers is absolutely essential. Brands can do so by taking certain steps to adhere to ethics standards.

The company’s website must comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act 2018 and with the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Additionally, brands should always be transparent about how they use, share and distribute the data they collect from website visitors and from customers. It is also imperative to follow CAN-SPAM laws that allow subscribers to opt-out of their subscription. Including a statement on the company’s cookie policy is a must, as well. Before employees record calls with customers or stakeholders, they should ask for permission, or it should be clearly noted.

Creating a positive experience for customers has become critical for long-term business success. Fortunately, by following these tips, companies can deliver an experience that will make customers return again and again.

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Jim Bozzelli