Great customer experience is vital not only for retaining and increasing your customer base but also for providing valuable insight into how consumers respond to your product or service, which can subsequently be leveraged to improve your small business.
For smaller organisations, which are more sensitive to fluctuations in customer loyalty, these benefits cannot be underestimated.
Research has found that 92 per cent of consumers are likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.
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Clearly, this is an area of great potential for businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage, and I would advise all leaders to consider customer experience as a core pillar of their business blueprint. This may seem daunting, but with the right tools in place, you can efficiently manage feedback to ensure no customer issue is left unaddressed.
#1 – Identify some clear strategies for feedback
Keep it simple but use feedback to help drive your business goals.
Growth: Are you sharing customer feedback on your website and Google? Not only will this help the awareness of your brand, it will help with conversion too.
Conversion: When you win a new customer, do you ask them why they choose you? How did they find you and was there something that nearly stopped them joining? All these insights can help you convert more customers.
Retention: Do you understand the main pain points of a customer? I recently cancelled an online subscription I had for some wine. I cancelled via email and the company acknowledged my email but didn’t ask me why I was leaving. Surely they missed an opportunity here to learn from me and maybe stop others from leaving them too?
Advocacy: Do you have testimonials from customers? If not, can you source them through a simple survey? With their permission, you can use these on your website, it will drive traffic and also help drive conversion.
If executed correctly, a positive customer experience should benefit both consumers and businesses alike. By maintaining a happy customer base, you can in turn promote healthy growth in your organisation. However, to make this happen, it’s important to embed data-driven decisions which correlate to your business goals.
‘Whereas a bad review may be a drop in the ocean for a larger business, a damaging comment or rating could be catastrophic for SMEs’
#2 – Listen, understand and act
Managing the procurement of data is really only the beginning of the customer experience process. To improve your business, you need to listen, understand and take action on the feedback. Your voice in the business will become more powerful if backed up with customer feedback, and this is something we’re hearing from clients all the time.
One such client runs a small restaurant business and recently saw some negative feedback in our platform that was highlighting an issue with their burgers. The platform also showed what impact this was having on the overall experience of their customers. Using these insights and the voice of specific customers verbatim, the CX lead was able to share with the food team, and they changed the supplier of the burger buns as result. Real action on the back of feedback, and the client truly believes that the business leaders would not have listened without this customer feedback.
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#3 – Reviews and response
A glowing review is great to receive, and ideal for cross-promoting on your website and social, but it’s crucial to address those that are less favourable. Whereas a bad review may be a drop in the ocean for a larger business, a damaging comment or rating could be catastrophic for SMEs.
How you respond, resolve and action feedback is an opportunity to demonstrate desirable brand behaviour. If you can show yourself as an honest, reliable brand, which is eager to improve on customer issues, you will set yourself apart from those competitors choosing to neglect their customers’ opinions.
Customer reviews are a key indicator of their overall experience, but they also play a leading role in elevating your brand’s reputation. Yes, high-star ratings are important, but there are other elements which you may be overlooking.
Firstly, the volume of your customer reviews – both positive and negative. A higher quantity of reviews across a wider spread of sites will help to improve trust in your reputation.
Next, think about timing. Over 70 per cent of consumers deem reviews to be accurate if they were posted no later than three months ago, and this number drops significantly as the months increase. Recently published reviews indicate that your brand is frequently requesting feedback and keeping your customers actively engaged.
Moreover, reviews give you a unique opportunity to publicly acknowledge and interact with your consumers. Responding to online feedback shows loyal and prospective customers that you take their feedback seriously. Research has shown that businesses that close the feedback loop tend to maintain higher average ratings than those that don’t.
#4 – Humanise and personalise
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to addressing your customer feedback. It requires careful management to nip specific issues in the bud before they become ongoing problems. Indeed, research shows that 80 per cent of consumers are likely to switch to a competitor after more than one negative experience – an exodus which could be devastating for small businesses.
Chatbots can be enlisted to solve simple customer issues quickly and effectively. Ninety per cent of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential to their experience, and chatbots can help to facilitate this quick turnaround.
However, for more complex, unique issues, human interaction is far superior. Where chatbots are unable to detect tone and employ empathy to situations, human agents can help customers feel heard and respected. Therefore, an approach which combines chatbots and human operators will satisfy the demands of your customers by meeting fast response times while also upholding that important emotional connection.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that customer values are constantly evolving. Businesses can help humanise their brand by monitoring current trends and staying ahead of these values. For example, as corporate social responsibility continues to drive consumer choice, brands must ensure their policies and practices reflect this. A personalised approach allows businesses to align themselves with consumers and divert prospective customers away from bigger businesses which are unable to establish that human touch.
#5 – Benefit of platforms
In line with the rise of digital transformation, there are more ways than ever to garner and respond to customer feedback, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. For small business owners without the time or staff to oversee multiple management solutions, all-in-one platforms can be pivotal in the smooth running of customer experience.
This is where technology comes in. Digital platforms offering reputation management and customer experience solutions can process vast amounts of feedback data into helpful, prescriptive insights which companies can use to learn from and grow.
In fact, the best platforms will not only garner feedback, but help increase the volume of it. By optimising surveys to increase engagement, they can help boost the quantity and quality of your reviews – the benefits of which I elaborated on in tip three.
Competitor analysis and consumer trends can also be analysed through these platforms. By keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry, you can stay ahead of the curve and anticipate shifts in consumer values.
Chris Sparling is CX strategy director of Reputation