Working to provide stellar customer service and support is nothing new for most businesses. That can be just one of the ways they set themselves apart from the competition. But what about focusing on the overall customer experience?
Customer experience, or CX, has quickly become a buzzword for marketers in every industry — and for good reason. The term simply refers to how your customers regard their interactions with your company.
And they don’t just demand a good experience: They’re also willing to pay for it. According to a Walker survey, 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. So go ahead and throw out any notions that just offering competitive prices and quality products is enough to win over and keep consumers.
Even brands that focus on low prices have had to change the way they do business (ex. Walmart offering grocery pickup and delivery to compete with Amazon and other grocers). They had to change what they were doing because of what their customers valued and wanted.
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” — Roy H. Williams, best-selling author and marketing consultant known for his Wizard of Ads trilogy
Ready to wow your customers with how you treat and interact with them? We’ve put together some of the top methods and tools to help you improve your customer experience.
1. Take advantage of AI
Your customers are bound to have a question or issue outside of your normal business hours. And even if their dilemma or inquiry happens during the day, there’s no guarantee you or an employee are going to be immediately available to talk with them.
That’s why so many businesses and organizations are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for help. IMB predicts a staggering 85 percent of all customer interaction will be handled without a human agent by 2020.
One AI trend pushing companies in that direction is a chatbot, which instantly communicates with customers, answers basic questions, and directs them to the right team member for more information. You’ve probably seen these pop up on sites asking how they can help.
Chatbots can be used for more than customer service, however. You can also add them to your social accounts (ex. Facebook Messenger) to interact with and engage your followers. That ensures your audience receives instant responses anytime they reach out to you — which also improves your page’s message response time — and you can also use the bots to send out information.
- ManyChat: Add this chatbot to your Facebook Messenger to provide instant replies and also targeted messages. They offer a free and pro account, which is priced based on your number of active subscribers (ex. 1,000 subscribers is $15/month). You can set up automated sequences for your messages that will send based on user actions, and the bot will also notify you if a real person is needed to respond.
- Driftbot: This is one option for adding a live chat to your website. It helps qualify leads, connect them with the right person, and answer some of their basic questions. They have free plans all the way up to more than $1,000/month.
2. Track social interactions
You’re posting regularly on all of your social media sites, and now you’re starting to enjoy customer interactions. Great! But getting all of those new tweets, replies, tags, messages, and comments can become overwhelming if you don’t have a system in place to respond to them all. And it’s not just about if you respond — it’s how fast you get back to your customers that matters when it comes to improving the customer experience.
Consumers have shown they don’t want to wait: 84 percent expect a company to respond within 24 hours of them posting on social media, and 72 percent of Twitter complainants expect to hear back within an hour. Replying to them sooner will wow them, while taking longer can have a negative impact on their overall experience. Plus, your other followers will see how quickly you respond.
So, what should you do?
One of the best ways to stay on top of all of your social interactions is by using a social media management tool. You can use these to schedule your posts across all of your platforms, track engagement, respond to messages, and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
There are free and subscription options available, and you can find ones for every size marketing operation. Each site has a different interface and overall feel, so see what works best for you.
- HootSuite: One of the best options for its overall features and usability, this site offers free (three social profiles), professional ($19/month for one user, 10 profiles), team ($99/month for three users, 20 profiles), business ($499/month for five users, 50 profiles), and enterprise (custom account and pricing) options.
- Buffer: Plans range from free (three social accounts) to $399/month (150 accounts), and the platform features a simple design. It doesn’t have as many features as HootSuite, but that can be a bonus for someone just starting out.
Bonus: Some CRMs (ex. Salesforce, Hubspot) will integrate with your social accounts, creating a one-stop-shop for all of your marketing efforts.
3. Automate your services
The faster (and easier) a task is to perform, the happier your customers will be. And that’s where automation comes into play. For example, would you rather take time to fill out a long form or have the majority of the fields pre-populated? We’re guessing you chose the latter, as would your customers.
Any time your customers need to fill out information online — such as for billing, shipping, or downloading marketing materials — make their job easier by automatically filling in the information you have for them. When they fill out something on your site, ask if they want you to save their information for future use to make sure they are good with that.
You can also automate your email campaigns using your email marketing platform. Everything from birthday and rewards messages to emails based on where they are in the buyer’s journey can be set up in your automation sequence. These messages can be personalized to give your audience the attention and unique experience they crave. Plus, it saves your team time.
Most sites offer some form of automation and allow you to control the sequence length, intervals between emails, level of personalization, and the content. The majority offer free trials, so find one with the right features for you.
- HubSpot: If you’re looking to create a completely automated workflow (from emails to score leads), this option is one of the best. Each workflow you build is connected to the overall marketing platform, so you can track its progress and make adjustments as needed. There are a range of plans, including free, starter ($50/month), basic (starting at $200/month), professional (starting at $800/month), and enterprise (starting at $2,400/month).
- MailChimp: Beyond sending automated emails, you can also connect your e-commerce store to the site to automate messages for abandoned carts, purchases, recommendations, and other actions. They offer free plans all the way up to $199/month.
Bonus: Take the guesswork out of setting up your automated emails with tools like Robly’s OpenGen technology, which will resend your campaigns one to 10 days later (with a different subject line of your choice) to subscribers who didn’t open it the first time around. You can also automatically send your campaigns one at a time with Robly AI to ensure each subscriber receives it at the best time for them.
4 Show your loyalty
One way companies miss the mark with their customers is by forgetting this simple idea: Loyalty is a two-way street. You have to show it to earn it.
“It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.” — Seth Godin, best-selling author
You can’t expect your customers to stay loyal and become brand promoters if you’re not giving them a reason to. Some of the best ways to show them you care is by sending thank you emails, special deals, and offering a loyalty program.
The loyalty program can be an add-on to your current company app. Or if you don’t have an app, you can also create one solely for your loyalty program. Creating a digital program is much easier for your customers to manage, compared to having to keep track of a physical punch card. It can also help you track your customer’s behavior and buying habits to better customize their experience.
- AppInstitute: Offer customers a digital punch card with this app option, available for iOS and Android. With its drag-and-drop design function, there’s no coding experience needed. Plans range from $28 to $280/month with a variety of capabilities.
- Loopy Loyalty: Give customers stamps and rewards with the stamper app. You can also create location-based messages, and track the insights from the app. They offer plans from $15 to $50/month, and all of the plans are free for the first 45 days.
Make the customer experience a priority
If you aren’t finding ways to wow your customers, they’ll find someone else who does. When you put the customer and their experience first, the rest will follow — like improved metrics, engagement, sales, loyalty, and brand exposure.
There are marketing tools for every size budget and organization, so implement the ones that work best for you and your team. Make your customers glad they do business with you.
What’s your secret to providing the best customer experience? Share your tips in the comments below!
Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Her decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing.