This article is the second in a three-part series on creating a culture of customer experience excellence. To start from the beginning, please read, “Making a Great Customer Experience into a Great Business Experience.”

We know that customer experience is worth the business investment. Institute of Customer Service research discovered that companies with a reputation for excellent service have an average of 24% higher net profit margin than their competition, and those highly reputed companies can achieve up to 71% more profit per employee. Company-wide readjustment may require time and effort, but the bottom line tells us there’s deep value there.

Now, let’s look at specific ways your organization can get to know its customers’ needs, desires, and goals. This will be essential for the topic of our third and final article in our series, where we’ll look at internal changes you can make to put customers front and center.

Okay, so how do you get started? Here are three relatively simple ways to kick-off what is sure to be a valuable journey to get to know your customer base better.

1.    Pick up the Phone

You don’t need to invest in a new software system or hire specialized consultants to talk to your customers. Every conversation with a customer is ripe with opportunity. Use it. Ask relevant questions, listen to their answers, and learn what’s important to that person at that moment. What issues are they facing? How can your business assist them?

Part of a customer-centric approach is encouraging your employees to express curiosity in customer-facing moments. Almost every employee has them. Leaders should encourage a proactive attitude and have the team make the most of those opportunities.

To take this even further, your leaders must be empowered to quickly navigate any internal bureaucracy to truly solve the customer’s problems. If, for instance, a customer expresses payment processing frustrations to a product support representative, they should be able to help solve the problem — even if it’s technically out of their purview. We’ll unpack this more in the next article.

2.    Conduct Frequent Customer Surveys

Personal conversations are priceless, but aren’t always possible on a large scale. Independent survey tools such as Survey Monkey, Polldaddy, and Qualaroo can help quickly and efficiently poll your customers on any number of topics. Likewise, many organizations automatically ask for customer feedback after each touchpoint on the customer journey, including after a customer visits your website or chats with an employee on an online chat platform or through a call center. Some organizations conduct annual or semi-annual formal surveys to consistently measure and benchmark customer experience.

Regardless of the survey format, here are a few questions to consider asking your customers:

  • What’s one thing we can do to improve customer experience?
  • What service would you like us to add?
  • What’s an improvement to our website you’d appreciate?
  • What would make it easier to connect with us?
  • How would you rate your recent experience with us?
  • How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?
  • How likely are you to purchase XYZ product again?

But, keep surveys short (less than 10 questions) and ask for feedback on a specific incident or purchase in a timely manner while the encounter is still fresh. Above all, don’t just gather data for data’s sake. Carefully review and consider the meaning of survey results and how best to implement changes with the ultimate goal of improving customer satisfaction. Where possible, try segmenting your customer base to identify common needs based on industry, location, or company size.

Once you start putting survey findings to work, be sure to monitor how those changes are impacting customers. Questions to ask customers during this phase include:

  • Have we successfully addressed your previous issue?
  • Have new challenges emerged? How can we address those?
  • Are you more likely to refer us to a friend now that we’ve made XYZ change?
  • Based on XYZ change, how satisfied are you with our organization?
  • What future improvements can we make?

Always keep the lines of communication open and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn about your customer and your organization.

3.    Keep Your Leaders’ Eyes on the Prize

Combining personal connections with objective, trackable standards and metrics can offer business units the reliable foundation they need to improve overall customer experience. Many organizations use Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) as key analytics in a customer-centric methodology.

To arrive at an organization’s NPS, customers are asked: “How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” The scoring ranges between 0 and 10. This test gives a simple, single number that represents how well overall a company is doing to satisfy its customers’ needs. One thing to note: This scoring won’t necessarily give any explanation for a high or low score, and it may be difficult to improve without more context and deeper investigations.

The CLV takes a longer look at a given customer’s value to the organization in terms of total revenue. This quantifies how important gaining or losing that business would be and how much weight each customer carries when evaluating complaints or determining how to reward loyalty. This calculation offers a financial focus in conjunction with customer experience and can help guide organizations toward steps that would most likely generate the greatest value.

Regardless of how your organization measures customer experience, it’s important that leaders understand that methodology and are empowered to coach their teams to deliver flawless customer service. And, individual and team performance evaluations should reflect the organization’s new focus on customer experience.

Maintaining frequent and open dialogue with your customers is always a worthwhile (and necessary) exercise — one that can lead to unexpected benefits. And, at the end of the day, you’ll have happier customers, which is good for business.

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