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The blog at The Chat Shop has already pointed out the losing battle when you make price your sole differentiator and the importance of making things as easy and convenient for shoppers/users as possible, especially in the context of the ease with which your would-be customers can leave your online storefront and start shopping somewhere else (it really only takes the swipe and tap of a finger for a site to lose business to a more savvy competitor).
If those two points are not reason enough to take the customer experience conversation seriously, let me add two more points: 1) effective marketing depends upon (and drives) a positive customer experience 2) especially for e-commerce and SaaS companies, you will not flourish unless you retain your customers, by taking great pains to ensure that they enjoy bringing their business to you.
Every interaction a customer has with your company—whether it’s browsing products without intent to purchase, or it’s attempting to get a question answered over the phone or online, or it’s completing a transaction—is an opportunity for you to change their impression of you. Ideally, this will be a change for the better, but it does not always work that way. Everyone has a customer service horror story, whether it’s a cable company or an airline or a contractor doing work on your home – telling these stories reinforces for the customer that they never want to do business with you again, and creates a negative first impression with their friends, family, and colleagues before you’ve even had a chance to engage them. As such, it’s critical that you avoid creating these horror stories!
To avoid being the victim of these marketing stains, you need to monitor the customer experience across their buyer’s journey and adjust accordingly to maximize the customer’s surprise and delight at how great your customer service is. Or, at least, minimize the points at which the customer felt their expectations went unsatisfied.
Maybe your website could be better designed so it’s easier for customers to find what they came looking for, maybe customers would abandon their online shopping cart less if they had a live chat agent available to answer their questions as they approached the digital check-out, maybe you should proactively offer suggestions for add-on purchases (e.g. that electronic device might need batteries, or a different adapter to charge from a car or computer). Each of these “moments” is an opportunity to deliver an exceptional customer experience, which creates or strengthens the positive feelings customers have when they think about your company and when they get to be the one in their social circle contributing something beneficial by recommending your company.
Once you’ve gotten the basics of monitoring and adjusting figured out, you can start trying some really cool tricks like offering targeted content based on customers’ previous behaviors. More on that in a future blog post.
Successful e-commerce sites generally experience a rise in returning visitors, as their customers continue to find value in shopping with them (rather than seeking out a new provider). SaaS companies cannot sustain their model if they do not retain their recurring, subscription-based revenue year after year (or month after the month, as the case may be). Any company is going to benefit from higher customer retention but these two types of companies in particular cannot sustain themselves without it.
Customer experience impacts retention in exactly the way you’d imagine (or perhaps in exactly the way you yourself have known). Let’s say you’ve got an acquaintance who doesn’t answer the phone when you call, doesn’t return your messages, and when you do finally get a hold of them you get the distinct impression they’d rather be spending their time with someone else or be doing something else. You might confront them about this or you might just write them off—but the bottom-line is: it feels like they aren’t worth the investment of time, effort, etc. so things don’t change you won’t continue to make that investment.
Admittedly, you shouldn’t have the same expectations for a company as you would for potential friends, but the underlying point is the same. In the rude acquaintance scenario, you’re going to spend your time with people who won’t let you down. Similarly, as a customer, you’re going to spend your money with companies that convey that they value your business rather than those that disappoint or even ignore you.
There are a number of steps you can take to improve customer experience. Find a few suggestions on The Chat Shop blog already, but there’s more to come…
Chris Frascella is the Content Director at Velaro Inc., where he is responsible for promoting the improved performance & advancements of live chat software. Before joining the Velaro team, Chris was integral in the continued advancement & marketing of outcomes-oriented, case management software at Social Solutions Global.
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