Delivering customer experience through frontline staff

Everything you could want or need to know about driving brand experience through your customer-facing employees 

One bad experience. Just one, and 86% of customers will immediately stop buying from your company. Ouch, that’s a clear message, isn’t it? We’ve got another few facts for you.

According to Thom Forbes, writing for MediaPost, 83% of customers in the US value a positive experience with a specific brand higher than the product itself.

Let’s not stop there. No less than 87% of customers think that companies should put more effort into offering a flawless customer experience. This is because only 1(!)% of them feel like companies consistently live up to customers’ experiences.

All of this clearly shows that customer experience has become more relevant than ever if you want to grow your brand.

The customer experience is more important than ever before if you want your brand to succeed.

2. What exactly is customer experience?

Let us introduce you to: the customer experience. For short, we like to call it CX but it is also known as CEX.

It is the way a customer perceives your brand. This perception is a combination of all the experiences that a customer has had during a purchase decision.
Customer Experience

The process begins (often long) before someone becomes an actual customer. Sometimes even before they’ve ever heard of your brand. And CX doesn’t end after a purchase does: it keeps on going.

You're probably thinking:

‘Even before someone has ever heard of my brand!? That doesn't seem fair...'

’Well, yes. And no.'

Because even the way in which someone learns about your brand is a part of the customer experience. Think, for example, about your presence on social media, how your products are depicted by fans on their own accounts, or even the way that people talk about your brand in conversations.

3. So, why is CX so important?

When it comes to CX, each and every one of us are experts by prior experience. Think back to a negative experience that you had with a certain company or brand. You paid for a service or a product but you’re not happy with the result. Would you remain a loyal customer?

  • Yes, because it's the cheapest/most economic option.
  • Yes, because I can't get this product or service anywhere else.
  • No.

If you answered any of the above, you’re not actually a loyal customer. And, as a company, loyal customers are exactly what you want.

From customer experience to loyal client

A loyal customer is a customer that not only buys with your brand or company, but also is engaged, both online and offline, with your brand. The brand loyalty is strong with these ones. They like sharing their positive experiences with the people they know and are thus ambassadors of the brand.

It’s difficult to obtain loyal customers – it’s going to take time and money – but loyal customers are extremely valuable. There’s no kind of marketing that can compete with the positive advertising that your customers put out there. They create lasting sales, spend more and they reel in new customers with their word-of-mouth advertising.

Think back to an excellent experience that you’ve had with a certain company or brand. How many people did you tell about it? Maybe you’ve even already made a second purchase yourself? There’s a good chance you did, huh? Being essentially lazy, we won’t go looking for alternatives if we’re happy with what we’ve already found. We’ll even take the price and product itself for granted.

Like we said: the bulk of consumers value a positive experience over the product itself. The same goes for product price. We make choices based on our feelings and afterwards we simply rationalise our choices with sound arguments.

nd whenever an experience is exceptional enough, we love talking about it. Lousy service or a package that was delivered to you damaged? We can’t wait to jump on Twitter to tell the world as quickly as possible. A purchase made in a store with very friendly sales assistant that even gift-wrapped your product for you? Instagram, here we come!

Nowadays, every consumer can share their experiences with a company, product or service via the internet, day or night, and can potentially reach an audience of millions. In doing so, we create an environment in which consumers have more and more access to information about your brand and about your competition.

In this way, the consumer creates a position of power for themselves. They will make purchases while being better informed than ever before and with higher expectations too. It’s therefore even more crucial than ever to make the customer happy – and to keep them that way.

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Customer service is a sensitive subject. Building a good name for your brand is a matter of time and effort and you can wipe all of this away with one simple slip or miscalculation. No less than 95% of customers will be less loyal after just a single negative experience. That is why it’s important that the whole customer experience is a positive one, from A to Z. Does someone have an overall positive experience with your brand that something goes wrong just one single time? Well, 86% of customers admit that could be enough to switch to your competitor. Ouch.

The goals of CX

In short, the most important goals of CX are:

  • Attracting new clients
  • Retaining current clients
  • Turning clients into loyal customers

The importance of CX explained in numbers

As we’ve mentioned a few times now, the bulk of customers value the customer experience over the price of the product they’re going for. An incredible 86% of people are willing to pay more just to have a positive CX, so this is something you’ll want to adapt to. CX is a hot topic since 97% of companies believe that offering a good customer service is a requirement for success. Despite this, there are still many organisations who have not optimised their customer experience.

If you want to offer an ideal experience, you need to know what it’s all about.

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4. What does a customer experience consist of?

Every customer experience consists of multiple touchpoints. A touchpoint is any form of contact between a (future) customer and your brand. It can be anything, both online and offline. Consider the design and usability of your website. Or the organisation of the store, the interaction with your personnel, the visibility of your brand on social media, the procedure of the purchasing process and the service after a purchase.

Every touchpoint or moment of contact is a moment of truth. You want to score points with CX? Then make all touchpoint a positive memory for your customer. If your customers visit your website, the usability and the design must be flawless. If your brand sees a lot of interaction between customers and sales assistants, then that must become a positive experience in which the customer is helped to or beyond their satisfaction – every time and by every employee.

5. How do you create the ideal CX?

So we know the overall picture needs to be exceptional to create a positive customer experience. Easier said than done, of course. The bigger the company, and the more employees, the harder it gets to guide this whole process.

This can be a big challenge in, for example, the retail industry or other non-desk industries. Consider, for instance, a brand with dozens of chain stores that have hundreds or maybe even thousands of employees working there. How do you make sure that every single employee has the right knowledge to help every single customer? How do you ensure that your employees are cheerful when working in the store? And with regards to customer service, how do you make sure that all internal systems work optimally so customers are helped in the most efficient way possible?

Let us guide you through it.

The customer journey

The first thing you need to do is map all touchpoints. You can do this by means of the customer journey. This is a representation of everything a customer does, sees and experiences during his search, the moment that he buys something and the moment that he uses a product or service. The customer journey maps the entire experience of your customers and shows all touchpoints where the customer and the company interact with one another. By making a customer journey, an organisation will gain insight into the decision making process and the purchasing habits of a customer. And it’s a worthwhile plan of attack too: stimulating customer satisfaction by means of the customer journey yields 20% more satisfaction and 15% more revenue.

To guide a potential customer through the customer journey as well as possible, you’ll need to know who exactly your customers are. For that, buyer personas are a pretty handy tool.

Buyer personas

You can fine-tune (future) interactions you have with your customers by using buyer personas. A key factor in this is consistency: you have to present your brand in the same way at every touchpoint. Be aware of your brand story. You have to present your brand as a strong one, in the same way over and over again. We also refer to this as brand alignment. Brand alignment is the applying of a vision, mission and core values at every level of your organisation.

“Buyer personas are standard examples, based on research, of who customers are, what they want to achieve, what the purpose of their behaviour is, how they think, how they buy and why they make certain choices.” Tony Zambito (founder of the customer journey)

Consistency, consistency and, well, more consistency

In an article by McKinsey, there’s an explanation of which three factors you could use to create an ideal customer experience, namely: consistency, consistency and consistency.

  • Customer journey consistency: according to McKinsey, consistency in the customer journey can be an important predictor of the total customer experience.

  • Emotional consistency: positive emotions during the customer experience are significant benchmarks of satisfaction and loyalty. Consistency is important in this matter to win a customer’s trust.

  • Communication consistency:consistent communication can boost CX significantly. Does your brand does as promised? Make sure that you let the outside world know about this.

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6. The role of frontline employees

Your non-desk employees are an important part of the customer journey. Especially in the retail and hospitality industry, there are multiple touchpoints that consist of direct interaction with customers.

Interaction with customers can happen both online as well as offline. Naturally, you need to make sure that, in both cases, the interactions run smoothly. Important pointers here are:

(Product) knowledge

Customer-facing employees need to know all the ins and outs of the product. That way the customer can be informed properly. Next to such basic knowledge, it’s important that the employee is always well aware of unexpected issues, for example, a product range that has some defect, a change of products or a product that will be removed from the product range.

Live the brand

Besides your loyal customers, your frontline workforce can also act like ambassadors of your brand. Are they involved with the brand and do they love the product? There’s a big chance they will wear or use it themselves and will tell the people they know about it.

Team spirit

Similarly, a good atmosphere within a company is significant to the CX. A good atmosphere leads to more engagement among employees of which you will reap the benefits. Happy employees in your shop? Motivated personnel that really wants to help customers and will take the time to do so? Guaranteed that this will result in positive experiences among your customers.

Don't confuse customer experience with customer service

Customer service means: the assisting of people and meeting of their requirements before, during and after a purchase. Customer service is a part of the customer experience. You should consider it as a touchpoint.

Therefore, customer service can be seen as an important part of customer experience. Is there a problem with the product or does the customer want to add something to his or her order? The customer service department is the one that responds to this.

“If a customer has to reach out to customer service, something has gone wrong in their experience.”

7. The ROI of customer experience

Investing in CX is easier said than done. At its foundation, there’s a strategy which needs to permeate the whole organisation. It’s time-consuming, it takes persistence and it comes with a price tag. Add to this the fact that the results aren’t always directly clear - CX usually only starts showing results in the long-term. But once you reach that, it will be more than evident in your revenue. We’ll give you some numbers to confirm this:

Harvard Business Review states that customers with a good experience spend about 140% more than customers with a bad experience. Additionally, 89% of customers will switch to another brand in the case of a negative CX with their current brand.

American Express conducted research that found that 70% of Americans are willing to pay, on average, 13% more when the CX is absolutely flawless. 

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Loyal customers are extremely valuable. They will tell approximately 9 people about it when they’ve had an excellent experience. Such a form of word-of-mouth advertising puts any other form of marketing to shame: it is the number one reason for consumers to try a new product.

So, what about negative experiences? What do they result in? Well, nothing very promising.

Whereas loyal customers share their experience with about 9 people, dissatisfied customers do so with an average of 16 people. So pay heed to this!

8. Focal points for improving CX

Do you really want to start paying attention to CX within your company so you can offer your customers an excellent experience? Then it all starts with the CEO. It’s ultimately the CEO who determines (or signs off on, at least) the tone of voice, vision and mission of the company. Once the CEO decides it’s time to start giving CX the attention it deserves, the rest will follow. Does your CEO have no time to pay attention to CX? Then everyone else’s attention will falter as well. In short, an internal CX programme revolves around:

  • organisational culture

  • organisational structure

  • processes

The CEO should be involved in all these aspects of an internal CX programme.

Personalisation

Scour the internet for trends in CX and no doubt you’ll come across personalisation. This is an important focal point for improving CX and it will remain to be so for quite some time. Time is money and time is valuable to us. Do you feel like you’re wasting your time somewhere? Then you’ll stay away from that place. As people, we don’t really like to feel like our precious time is being wasted. By using personalisation in marketing, people will feel like a certain experience is meant specifically for them. Especially for them even.

Personalisation occurs when everything is tailored to the specific needs of a consumer. This goes beyond a personal salutation in an e-mail. Think, for example, about the recommended products that consumers see when they’re shopping online. All of this can be implemented by means of smart data. This brings us to another issue.

Data

When you use your data in a smart way, you can discover all kinds of chances and experiences which are relevant for a customer. This revolves around enormous amounts of data. Going through those as a human, is virtually impossible. Machines are simply better at that. Which brings in artificial intelligence. AI is relatively new, especially in retail. Humans and machines complement each other by means of artificial intelligence. This way, it becomes increasingly easy to create an ideal customer experience.

More and more companies use data but they’re often just one step behind when it comes to processing this data. Predictive and self-learning tools are perfect because they proactively create personalised special offers.

In our day and age, there’s no denying the significance of data. With all this data, it’s important to keep in mind legislation concerning privacy and security. The European regulation concerning this issue is called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and it applies to all of Europe.

Technology

Machine learning is one handy little trick to offer especially tailored personalisation. Spotify is a good example of this. You like what you hear? Give it a thumbs up. Not your thing? A thumbs down will have Spotify adjusting the playlist to better fit your music taste.

Augmented reality in the form of technology can give consumers a more realistic image of what an experience is going to be like. You want to try on some glasses but don’t have the time to go to the store? Nowadays, several webshops offer the possibility to upload a picture of yourself and see what a specific type of glasses will look like on you.

Next to that, technology can also boost the customer experience by, for instance, enabling a faster delivery service. Such smart measures will definitely make your customers happy.

Numbers don't lie

The importance of customer experience will continue to grow, well, at least, they will if you’re interested at all in growing your company. The technology and techniques to do this are innovative, and are consistently being improved and renewed. As an organisation, you need to have a good grip on your strategy and its outcomes. It’s also important to monitor customer satisfaction, expenses, revenue and performances of contact channels and touchpoints.

To make this easier, many organisations appoint a Chief Customer Officer or set up a Customer Experience Management so the responsibility for this is managed in a central way.

Summary

Do you want to win big on the strength of your brand? Then focus on customer experience above all else. If you do CX well, it inevitably leads to more customers, as well as customers who are more loyal. Optimising the customer experience is a process that never truly ends. Every touchpoint can be improved over and over again. And the ways you can work on CX within your organisation are also evolving. Be committed to moving with the times, follow the latest developments and be a step ahead of the competition. Do everything it takes to make and keep customers loyal.