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3 Keys to a Great Customer Experience in 2018

Jennifer Tomlinson
Jennifer Tomlinson

As you wrap up the year, set your company up for success by putting the customer first.

The end of the year is almost here, and you know what that means: New Year's resolutions! While some entrepreneurs and growing businesses may have already been thinking about how they'll streamline operations or launch exciting new marketing initiatives, one crucial topic that often gets overlooked is the customer experience (CX).

A recent Forrester report on U.S. customer service showed no average improvement in CX during 2017. Obviously, with the likes of Amazon and other giants, smaller businesses must work harder to distinguish themselves from the competition. While automating interaction processes seems like the quickest and easiest way to keep pace with these companies, smaller businesses have to build the human/offline process before they automate.

This problem is particularly bad in the B2B sector, with many customers rating CX poorly. That's a shame, because companies that provide excellent CX in a B2B relationship gain more customers and reap bigger profits. Regardless of whether your company is B2B or B2C, though, customers don't come knocking on your door for only your product or service. When they walk away (hopefully satisfied), they'll be walking away with an overall experience – one that largely determines whether your company will ever see them again.

Good CX is a comprehensive effort

Creating a good CX requires companies to take stock of their entire operations. According to Ray Meiring, the CEO of Qorus Software and one of our partners at Microsoft, all employees must understand the customer journey and recognize what a positive experience looks like.

Today, that journey is both more rewarding and more complex, with chatbots, sales portals, e-commerce, and brick-and-mortar stores all in the mix. With their opportunities for real-time feedback, customers provide many opportunities for companies to make that journey pleasant as long as the companies capitalize on these opportunities. Particularly for newer or growing businesses, it's important to capture customer feedback as soon as possible and implement changes to align operations with those expectations, needs and wants.

Doing that well requires employees to get inside customers' heads, imagining the experience as their own so they can create a business that is both relevant and enjoyable. In fact, a report by the Temkin Group found that 86 percent of customers who had a positive CX would conduct repeat business at that company, while only 13 percent who had a negative CX would.

Given that CX is such a key determinant of a company's success, organizations that are able to implement and adapt it effectively are those that will best situate themselves in the marketplace for the coming year.

1. Know thyself – and your customer's journey.

customer journey map allows you to plan out the entire customer journey, and the best maps align your company's identity with your goals for that journey.

A vague or listless map disconnected from what energizes your business and teams will only confuse the CX. Instead, be clear on the guiding points of your company – such as your value proposition, your differentiators and the "wow" factor that you bring to the marketplace – and let those qualities dictate how you see your customers navigating what you offer. This integration provides the most useful method for analyzing customer pain points, moments of delights and moments of feeling lost.

Along the way, ask your customers what they would love to have as experiences with your business to adapt that map. Re-evaluating customer goals as they evolve allows you to continue finding opportunities to unite customer satisfaction with robust value for your business. The one should always be informing the other.

2. Get your team on board.

With your map created, you need to get your teams on board, but it's not enough to simply emphasize generalized CX to your employees. They need specific details – both about what you have today and where you want to go tomorrow – and the customer journey map is a great way to offer that.

Thinking and feeling through the customer journey and their responses to that journey helps your teams correlate how their own strengths and perspectives enhance the company's operations. This process is also valuable for identifying any underlying problems.

As your people interact with the journey map, they may notice aspects of the CX that others haven't. This is just what you want. Document those findings, and iterate the process to improve the realized issues. A few rounds of this go a long way toward streamlining the journey map and the customer touchpoints it captures.

3. Create a culture of positive experiences.

When your team is clear on the map, you can now focus companywide actions on that singular goal: creating a company culture of positive CX. And your customer success teams are integral to this ultimate objective.

These teams keep a pulse on the market. Especially when you're competing against large enterprises, having and understanding this pulse is your differentiator. Of course, don't forget to reward employees who embrace the customer-centric spirit and demonstrate it in all their customer interactions. Strong employee engagement equates to a good customer experience, so the more you recognize and acknowledge how your employees foster that experience – through in-house points systems or a simple verbal callout – the more your employees will feel vital to your organization, and the better they'll continue to perform. Around and around it goes.

Good CX in both the B2B and B2C sector never rests on the status quo. By challenging old assumptions about customer-company interactions, crafting a customer journey map that highlights your team's contributions, and creating a culture of positive experiences, you can make 2018 the year of the customer – and the year of success, because the best products, marketing and financials mean nothing if the customer isn't happy.

Image Credit: Den Rise/Shutterstock
Jennifer Tomlinson
Jennifer Tomlinson Member
Jennifer Tomlinson is senior manager of channel marketing at Microsoft. She leads partner marketing efforts to help companies manage their current customers and grow their customer base. Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience in implementing successful, scalable marketing strategies for product, audience, and channel marketing in enterprise and small- and medium-sized businesses.