Customers have bad experiences at stores all the time.
Have you ever felt like you were waiting too long in a checkout line? Have you ever called the customer service department of a company and gotten the runaround? Have you ever tried to get your waiter's attention in a restaurant but they were too involved in a personal conversation to notice?
Chances are, you've had at least one bad experience as a customer. I know I have.
Recently, when a retail company shipped my online order to the wrong address, I contacted their customer service department via their website's chatbot. The chatbot promised me that the company would reship the order and I would have it in a day. Excellent!
But then the chatbot was suddenly possessed by an ill-tempered, albeit real-life, customer service representative that contradicted the robot. I didn't know I had been talking to a robot!
Even though the interaction with customer service resulted in the company issuing me an immediate refund, the entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I had spent upwards of 10 minutes talking with a robot and feeling relieved that I would receive the products I'd ordered in just a day, but the entire conversation had been one big, fat charade!
Bad customer experiences like the one I went through have a direct impact on business growth, or rather a lack thereof. Am I planning on placing another online order with that company? Nope. I can order those products from another retailer easily enough. My attitude isn't unique, either. When a customer has a positive experience with a brand, the chances of them returning to browse and shop will increase. Whereas, bad experiences with brands only lead to a decrease in repeat visits as well as a decrease in customer retention.
Simply put, providing your shoppers with an excellent customer experience, or CX, will turn your business into a success, increase revenue, and contribute to spreading awareness about your brand.
What exactly is CX?
Customer experience, hereinafter referred to as "CX," is the overall perception that a customer has of your brand. The quality of your products and services is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impression your brand will make on a customer. How your business makes a customer feel also impacts their perception of your brand. Another contributing factor to a customer's perception of your brand is your brand's reputation. Meaning, what other consumers say about your brand has the power to influence customer perception and therefore has an impact on CX.
It's important to understand that CX is not customer service. Granted, providing your customers with excellent customer service will positively impact CX, customer service isn't the same as CX. Likewise, "CX" isn't a synonym for "customer service." Rather, CX is all about the "customer journey," which begins when consumers become aware of your brand and ends with them buying your goods and services.
From the initial introduction to the final purchase, you must provide consumers with a positive, memorable, feel-good experience—that's what CX is all about.
Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done. In fact, many companies believe they're delivering excellent CX, but in reality, their customers don't agree.
According to research conducted by Bain & Company, 80% of businesses (that participated in the survey) believed their CX was excellent, but only 8% of their customers agreed!
Providing a top-notch customer experience is possible if you carefully analyze the current consumer perception of your brand and make strategic CX improvements. In this article, we'll go over how you can do both so that your customer retention rates increase.
ANALYZE YOUR CURRENT CX
In order to set CX goals, you must first evaluate your current CX. If you only recently opened your business, you probably don't have enough data to analyze. We recommend that you apply the following tips to studying your competition and develop CX strategies based on the information you compile. For all other retailers, there are three primary ways to analyze your current CX—identify & develop customer personas, collect customer feedback via forms & surveys, and extrapolate CX anecdotal data from customer reviews.
Identify Customer Pain Points & Develop Customer Personas
Your retail store's Point-of-Sale system, customer relationship management software, and customer loyalty rewards programs have all been storing valuable customer data. These digital systems hold all the insights you'll need to review in order to identify who your customers are and their pain points. Identifying and understanding who your customers really are and what they want most from your brand will enable you to develop customer personas. You will need to define your customer personas first and then you can reverse-engineer the CX so that you're giving your customers the experiences they want. It helps to define the "customer journey" and the emotional result you want your shoppers to experience when they visit your store or eCommerce site.
Deploy Customer Feedback Forms & Surveys to Collect CX Information
Once you develop customer personas and begin to develop the customer journey you want them to experience at your store, you will likely discover trends that lead to questions. Meaning, if your POS, CRM, and loyalty data indicate that your typical customer usually acts on 2-for-1 deals but rarely goes for buy-3-get-2-free specials when both options discount the same product, you might wonder why. Is it because one promotion is marketed more clearly than the other? Is it because the product itself only seems valuable when it's sold at a 50% discount but not a 40% discount, and if so, why? This is where customer feedback forms and surveys come in handy. Collect information that you can leverage to improve CX by deploying a brief survey. Just make sure that the system you devise to collect customer feedback is quick and convenient for shoppers, visitors, and loyal customers.
Study Current Customer Reviews & Extrapolate What Works Vs. What Doesn't
Equally insightful as customer feedback surveys are your current customer reviews. There are many places customers may have been leaving online reviews about your business. They include your website, Yelp page, the comments section of your blog articles, your Google My Business profile, on Amazon if your branded products are sold there, and on your social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Though it will be time consuming, compile all of your reviews. Study the complaints as well as the compliments. And build two lists, one that captures what works and one that captures what doesn't. You can then develop CX strategies to maximize the positive experiences and minimize the negative experiences.
Before you move forward and implement specific strategies to improve the customer experience at your business, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with these CX objectives:
● Invent new opportunities for your customers to emotionally connect with your store and brand
● Educate and motivate your sales team to enhance CX so that they contribute to providing customers with a positive, memorable experience
● Devise a system to collect employee feedback, discuss proposed improvements, and reward employees for offering actionable suggestions to improve CX
Lastly, you'll need to familiarize yourself with your company's sales metrics and reporting options. Prior to launching any CX strategies, study your current sales figures and sales reports. Also, make note of the total number of current customers you serve and the number of social media followers you have. Once you have a clear picture of where your business stands, you will be able to measure the resulting ROI that your CX initiatives will provide.
For example, let's say that prior to implementing the CX strategy you've developed, you review your store's POS and CRM data and discover that your average monthly sales gross is $10,000, the total number of customers in your CRM system is 1,000, and your social media profiles average about 500 followers per platform. Set those figures aside. Then, after your CX strategy or strategies have been implemented and running for a period, review the new POS and CRM data along with your social followers.
Did those figures increase? If so, by how much? Analyze the growth and calculate the raw ROI by factoring in any expenses you incurred in order to launch and sustain those new CX strategies. Finally, set time aside to discuss and debrief with your co-owners, investors, managers, and sales team. Evaluate what is working versus what isn't working and make the appropriate adjustments.
Now that you understand the framework and purpose of launching new CX strategies at your store, we can dive into the nuts and bolts of specific improvement strategies you might want to implement.
TOUCHPOINTS, INTERACTIONS, & ENGAGEMENT IMPACT CX
Customer experience encompasses three major areas—touchpoints, interactions, and engagement. You can think of touchpoints as "locations," interactions as "communications," and engagements as "the quality of the interactions." Let's take a look.
A "touchpoint" is any place a customer comes into contact with your brand, such as when customers enter your store location. Your store is a touchpoint. Likewise, your social media profiles are touchpoints, and your advertisements are touchpoints. Even customer referrals and word-of-mouth marketing each constitute a touchpoint.
The most commonly used touchpoints include:
● Social media posts, stories, and ads
● Websites, eCommerce stores, and blogs
● Subscriber email newsletters
This marketing term encompasses human-to-human, or specifically employee-to-customer interactions and the particular methods of communication that facilitate those interactions. If touchpoints are the place where customers encounter a brand, then interactions capture the communication used during that encounter.
Popular methods of facilitating employee-to-customer interactions include:
● Communicating with sales staff in person and via telephone
● Using website chatbots, DMs, and Instant Messaging services to speak with sales associates, customer service representatives, and technical support staff
● Exploring online product details, service descriptions, and brand information by hovering a computer cursor over a website's digital images
Defining "engagements" isn't as cut-and-dry as stating that this term refers solely to the "quality" of your customer interaction options. Providing top-notch quality during every interaction, whether the interaction happens over the phone with customer service or while placing a bulk order online, is necessary if you want to secure returning visitors, repeat customers, and continued interactions. Continued interactions are the goal of engaging customers.
The following examples are surefire engagement methods to secure continued customer interactions:
● Offer a free service trial or free product sample to hook new customers
● Provide a personalized demo of what your business can do for a potential client
● Reward customers for completing feedback surveys
When implementing CX strategies that include enhanced touchpoint, interaction, and engagement opportunities, be sure to promote your customer loyalty rewards program to shoppers who aren't yet enrolled. Your rewards program is a potential powerhouse for CX, and your shoppers will appreciate the option to receive personalized deals, discounts, and rewards through your program. Remember, saving money is a customer experience that all consumers want.
IMPROVE CX TO RETAIN CUSTOMERS
Providing consumers with great CX requires commitment, creativity, and continual improvements. Customer interests, wants, needs, and pain points are constantly evolving, which means that in order to stay ahead of the CX curve, retain customers, and secure business growth, you will need to incorporate a system of implementing, analyzing, and adjusting your CX strategies periodically. Conducting an analysis once a month is probably too frequent, yet analyzing CX once a year won't be frequent enough. That being said, here are three innovative ways to improve CX that you can implement within a reasonable, manageable time frame. Let's take a look.
Build an Omni-Channel Retail Plan
The term "omni-channel" refers to a retail plan that uses all available channels to connect consumers with your retail brand. This CX strategy creates a unified, consistent experience for your customers that helps to clearly market your brand. Instead of putting your products and services at the core of your marketing efforts, omnichannel retail enables you to put your customers at the core so that you can communicate with them directly and effectively. An omni-channel retail plan, in practical terms, could include ways to shop in-person at your store, on your website, and through your social media profiles such as Facebook. By offering consumers multiple platforms and places to shop, you will improve CX and in turn improve consumer perception of your brand.
Implement Personalized Self-Service Options
Self-serve retail models that enable customers to connect and engage with brands on their terms have recently grown in popularity. The COVID-19 pandemic was a major contributing factor to the insurgence of personalized self-service options in retail. Changes in retail operations from contactless payments, to touchless shopping, to curbside pickup, to telehealthcare video appointments are all examples of personalized self-service options. Offering these options effectively enhances CX because today's consumer prefers to remain in total control of when, where, and how they shop.
Use In-Store Augmented Reality that Mimics Online Shopping
Similar to the rise in popularity of self-service retail options, augmented reality has also seen an increase in consumer demand. Augmented reality, or AR, is the result of any technology that utilizes computer-generated images to superimpose onto the viewer what is perceived by them as a heightened, tactile, yet digitized version of the real world. In its most basic sense, augmented reality is an interactive experience that digitizes a real-world environment. AR glasses provide an augmented reality experience that enhances video gaming, for example. What's so interesting is that consumers have come to rely so heavily on the convenience of online shopping that brick-and-mortar retail has recently launched AR experiences in their stores that mimic the typical online shopping experience. The beauty retailer, Sephora, is a great example of a retailer that launched AR experiences in their stores. Sephora offers "magic mirrors" that help customers visualize what different makeup colors and treatments will look like on them.
Launch a Customer Loyalty Rewards Program
Customer loyalty rewards programs can greatly and positively impact CX, but only if the program itself uses advanced technology that both retailers and members love. There are three key features to look for in a rewards program that is designed to improve CX—a mobile app, a digital swag shop, and rewards gamification capabilities.
● MOBILE APPS: If mobile apps didn't improve CX, the app market wouldn't have exploded back in 2008. Launching a mobile app as part of your loyalty program will improve CX and that's not all. These programs also increase customer lifetime value, customer retention, revenue, brand affinity, and so much more.
● SWAG SHOPS: Offering your members exclusive, branded merchandise that is not available anywhere except your swag shop is one of the most effective methods of organically fostering customer loyalty. Branded swag strengthens customer relationships, consumer perception, and of course CX.
● GAMIFIED LOYALTY: Gamifying aspects of your customer loyalty rewards program will not only motivate members to earn and burn points but will also provide an element of fun to the program and cause your members to perceive your brand in a positive light.
Does your customer loyalty rewards program come with a mobile app, digital swag shop, and gamification capabilities? If not, it might be time to upgrade to the loyalty platform, Loyal~n~Save. We put technology, as well as customer satisfaction, at the top of the priority list by offering personalization, automation, and the essential tools you need to improve CX.
Our loyalty program includes a customizable mobile app that members love. The Loyal~n~Save mobile app uniquely offers a digital swag shop where customers can redeem their earned points on exclusive items. Not only will our swag shop increase awareness about your brand, but it will also keep rewards points circulating through your business whether or not your retail store is open. Nothing improves CX like the option to claim exclusive products via mobile 24 / 7.
Ready to sign up for Loyal~n~Save? Check out our pricing packages to determine which tier will best serve your business. Have a question before you commit? Contact us to speak with a loyalty strategist that specializes in your retail industry.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.