Once we fully appreciate the steps or stages of the customer experience, we have at our disposal a very valuable framework for improving customer satisfaction.
Instead of an overall “satisfaction” value, we can now break this down into a series of components, each of which can be assessed and, hopefully, improved.
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The buying experience is a sequence of stages. As vendors we often place a high emphasis on use, that is, problem fit; but often neglect the other experience stages.
What we need to do is examine each stage and ensure we can deliver a good experience. Keep in mind that the most important element in achieving a satisfactory experience at each stage is the expectation of the customer.
We should start our investigation by examining what the customer expects compared to what they experienced in each stage of the customer experience.
We can have the greatest impact on better customer experience by ensuring that what we deliver is what is expected. This applies in all stages of the experience: information search, evaluation, purchase, delivery, use and so on. If the expectation is incorrect or misinformed, our marketing task is to reset it so that it better aligns with what we actually deliver.
Our next activity should be to make each stage of the customer experience efficient for the customer. We need to understand how customers approach each element of the experience and find out what we can do to improve the experience.
We may have different groups of customers who require different types of experience. Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach, we need to identify each group and ascertain what their requirements are and see if we can package our product and service in such a way that different groups can readily follow the path which best suits their requirements.
In taking a broad view of customer experience we should have a number of objectives:
- We want our ideal customer to quickly identify us as a probable vendor, if not the best choice.
- We should create an environment where the evaluation process is not only efficient, but comprehensive, enabling the customer to quickly come to the conclusion that we can meet the need or solution requirements.
- We want to ensure that where we cannot meet the requirement, those customers are able to ascertain that information efficiently.
- The purchase itself should be efficient if not enjoyable.
- At the time of use or consumption, we want the customer to completely satisfy their need or resolve their problem. To do this effectively, we need to ensure that we clearly set out what problems we solve so that we have an alignment between the problem or need the customer has and the solution we provide.
- Our support, help, supplements, repair and disposal offerings need to align with our customers’ expectations.
- Our complaint handling process needs to respect the customer’s expectation and provide a timely and equitable result.
At the end of the customer experience, we want the customer to want to buy from us again if they have the same need or a new need, which we can resolve.
We also want to be the vendor of choice if the customer is asked for a recommendation. If possible, we would like our customer to be proactive in communicating their positive experience to others.
What we do know is that high growth is directly related to repeat sales and referral rates. Our profitability and resilience is directly related to the level of customer experience we achieve.
While it is near impossible to reach 100% positive customer experiences, we should aim to gain the approval of all but the most unreasonable customers.
Tom McKaskill is a successful global serial entrepreneur, educator and author who is a world acknowledged authority on exit strategies and the former Richard Pratt Professor of Entrepreneurship, Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. A series of free eBooks for entrepreneurs and angel and VC investors can be found at his site here.