Most of the startups I talk to understand that delivering a great customer experience is an important factor in driving business success. Equally, most also believe they are delivering a great experience and that they know what their customers want and need.
Unfortunately, when asked, most of these companies base this view on customer anecdotes and “market knowledge” rather than on a robust customer experience measurement framework. That is, they think they know what their customers want, but they haven’t actually asked them in a systematic and insightful manner.
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This oversight can cause major issues. Numerous studies have shown that, in general, companies have a much more positive view of the customer experience they provide than the views of the experience actually expressed by customers themselves. This internal bias can blind key decision-makers to what their customers are really experiencing, and can result in loss of sales, market share and revenue.
So how do you overcome this? The first step is to actually go out and ask your customers about their experience of your company (i.e. measure), and the second step (often forgotten) is take these insights and actually do something with them (i.e. improve).
Step 1: Measuring customer experience
Although to some people it sounds daunting, with the proliferation of tools and online services now available in the market, measuring your customer’s experience is actually pretty simple.
There are two primary approaches to customer experience measurement, with each having its pros and cons:
1. A survey-based approach
Customer surveys are generally cheaper to implement than interviews and can be more suited to high-volume, lower value customer transactions primarily in the B2C space (e.g. online retail). However, the insights the surveys provide into what drives a great experience can sometimes be limited and may require further investigation before an improvement plan can be developed.
2. Customer interviews
Customer interviews generally cost more to implement and can be more suited to lower-volume, higher value transactions either in B2C or B2B (e.g. website development). In spite of the increased cost, on the plus side, interviews generally provide deep insights into customer motivations and needs, and can be used to directly drive experience improvements.
Whichever approach you choose, it is important to consider the key points in the customer journey that you need to understand to determine when best to survey or interview customers, which measures to use, and which questions to ask. One key point to keep in mind throughout, if you are ever asking for a rating or a score from a customer (e.g. if you ask for an NPS rating), make sure you ask the customer “Why?” they have given that rating, as their feedback will provide you with the insights you need to drive improvements in customer outcomes.
Step 2: Improving the experience
Whilst more and more startups are starting to measure their customer’s experience, too many of the ones that do are not taking the next step and actually doing something useful with the feedback the customer provides.
There are two ways you will need to take action based on customer feedback, one on an individual level, and one on a systemic level.
1. Individual feedback
At an individual level, if a customer’s feedback in the survey or interview indicates that they are experiencing an issue or need information or some other form of personal assistance, it is important you have an appropriate mechanism in place to address their concern. Not having this type of customer resolution mechanism in place can produce even worse customer outcomes than not asking about their experience at all. If a customer (especially one experiencing an issue) feels like they have asked for help and nothing has been done, they can get even more frustrated than they might have been already.
2. Systemic improvements
The (arguably) more important use of the customer feedback obtained from the surveys and/or interviews is to combine the feedback from multiple customers and identify the key underlying themes or drivers which are driving either a great or not so fulfilling customer experience. Your task is then to build on and enhance the drivers of great outcomes and address or improve the drivers of negative outcomes across the entire customer experience. This will often result in a medium to long-term program of work being put in place to improve the overall experience for your customers
If your company still relies on anecdotes or internal knowledge to drive customer experience, it may be time to consider a more scientific approach to understanding your customers. By first of all measuring, and then taking the insights and improving the overall experience of your business for your customers, you should be well on the way to ensuring your competitive success in the market (all else being equal).
Shane Goldberg is principal and founder of CustCore Consulting, a company that helps businesses grow through a focus on improving end-to-end customer experience, sales effectiveness and go-to-market.