Consider three very different companies: Amazon, L.L. Bean, and Trader Joe’s. Each company sells radically different products to very different audiences.
Amazon is the eCommerce behemoth, and they target customers who want to purchase products from the comfort of their homes. L.L. Bean serves those who want comfortable, yet sturdy apparel (fleece-lined slippers, anyone?). Trader Joe’s is all about serving up organic, delicious, healthy food that’s easy to prepare.
And yet despite different audiences and products, each company rose to the top in their industry.
While there are certainly a number of contributing factors, there is one that connects them all: an intense focus on creating delightful, seamless experiences for their customers.
Consider the lengths Amazon has gone to in order to make shopping easy. You can order products with a single click, by speaking to Alexa, or by simply pressing a Dash Button.
L.L. Bean has their famous lifetime return policy, which allows customers to return any product at any time, for any reason.
Trader Joe’s extreme focus on customer service has become somewhat legendary, with stories of employees delivering products in snowstorms.
Why are these companies so obsessed with providing amazing customer experiences? Because they know it translates into more customers, more loyalty, and ultimately, more revenue.
Amazon spent millions creating great shopping experiences because they know that great experiences keep people coming back and drive word-of-mouth marketing. They know that seamless experiences drive growth, reduce expenses, and can increase loyalty by a whopping 80%.
We have a relentless focus on customer service. That's even more important online than in the physical world. If you make a customer unhappy in the physical world, they will tell five people. Online they can tell 5000. There's something about email that means people are much more willing to say exactly what they think and they can reach a lot more people.
Customer experience is closely tied to Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), which is the amount of profit a customer will generate over the course of your relationship with them. Few metrics matter more to the success of your company than LTV.
[Customer Lifetime Value] is one of the most important factors in determining your business’ present and future success. It’s an often-overlooked metric that can accurately predict how much your customers are really worth. By measuring the net profit that you’ll take in over the course of your entire relationship with a customer, you’ll be able to narrow down exactly how valuable they are to your business.
The equation is simple: Great customer experiences lead to higher LTV which leads to more revenue.
Of course, all this raises the question: how can you create seamless, delightful experiences for your customers?
You don’t have to be Amazon or Trader Joe’s or L.L. Bean to delight your customers. By implementing a few, relatively simple practices, you can dramatically improve every customer experience.
How? Here’s a step-by-step blueprint to follow.
What Exactly Is a "Seamless Customer Experience”?
First things first: let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when talking about customer experience.
Simply put, customer experience encompasses every experience a person has throughout their entire relationship with your business.
This includes everything from the first time they visit your website to the ads they see on Facebook to social media interactions to the customer service after the purchase. It’s an ongoing relationship that needs to be both maintained and nurtured.
A seamless customer experience is one that removes as much “friction” as possible. Friction is anything that creates a negative experience for a customer, and can include the layout of your website, interactions with employees, the values communicated, how problems are resolved, as well as offline and online shopping experiences.
So how do you create this kind of seamless experience?
Step #1: Put Your Customers First
This may sound obvious, but it must be stated. If you’re going to follow in the footsteps of Amazon and Trader Joe’s, you must always put your customers first.
Putting your customers first means focusing foremost on them from beginning to end, not only when things go wrong. At a high level, it means developing both a vision and strategy for delighting your customers.
You need to be able to identify the driving “why?” of your company. Why does your company exist and how do you improve the lives of your customers?
At a practical level, it means mapping out the customer journey, determining how things can be improved and where problems might arise, and then working to make that journey as pleasant as possible. It means embedding your “why?” into each step of the journey.
Once you have a clear picture of your “why?” and customer journey, you can get into the nitty gritty details in each step of that journey.
One example of how you might put your customer first is by implementing technology that minimizes friction points for them. Whether it’s making it easy to fill out tedious forms or streamlining the ordering process, using technology that will make every step of the customer journey as smooth as possible.
Step #2: Empower Your Employees
Once you know your company purpose and understand your customer journey, you need to empower your employees to take action. In other words, you need to give your employees the freedom and resources necessary to fulfill your company purpose. They need the autonomy to create delightful customer services.
This starts with top-level executives and must be dispersed to everyone from customer service reps to your sales team.
Customer experience expert Jeanne Bliss says this:
Leaders must be committed and clearly communicate to the organization the deliberate experiences customers are trying to achieve at each stage of the experience. “Experience” that leads to growth is your operational answer to the questions that customers want answered when they engage and do business with you.
Zappos is a prime example of this type of employee ownership. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, CEO Tony Hsieh says:
We receive thousands of phone calls and e-mails every day, and we view each one as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service. Our philosophy has been that most of the money we might ordinarily have spent on advertising should be invested in customer service, so that our customers will do the marketing for us through word of mouth.
It’s that kind of customer-centric message that has led to incredible customer service stories, like one employee staying on the phone for 10 hours and 29 minutes with a customer. And, of course, this type of customer service gets noticed and creates buzz for your company.
When you empower all your employees to create seamless customer experiences, you’re on the path to success.
Step #3: Build Relationships With Your Customers
This is critical. Many companies treat customers as simply a means to make money. The relationship never moves beyond, “Thank you, come again.”
The most successful companies, however, understand that revenue and relationship go hand in hand. In other words, the companies who develop real, authentic relationships with their customers.
Writing at Kissmetrics, James T. Noble writes:
The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. What people really want now is not just a product or a service, it's an experience. An experience that is more honest and transparent …more authentic – and businesses are going to have to keep up with growing consumer authority and give people what they want if they want to survive.
Customers don’t want to be a cog in your machine. They want meaningful relationships with companies. They want to know that your company has their back through each stage of the customer journey.
How can you build relationships with your customers? Some simple ways include:
- Engage with them on ALL channels. This includes email, phone, social media, in person, and any other ways you might communicate with them. Too many companies use communication tools to broadcast their message. Successful companies use communication channels to engage in conversation with customers.
- Create personalized customer experiences. By gathering data at different points in their journey (when they visit your website, at checkout, post-checkout, customer service interactions, etc.), you can create highly personal shopping experiences for each customer. And lest you think this isn’t important, personalization has been shown to increase sales by an average of 20% and leads by as much 42%. Conversion rate optimization expert, Jon MacDonald, recommends using collected data to customize everything from website experiences (like suggested products), email campaigns, advertising messages, and even which salesperson is assigned to a particular lead. The more you personalize customer experiences, the better your relationship with those customers.
- Deal with problems at a personal level. Too often, customer service feels cold, impersonal, and even robotic. We’ve all had the experience of calling a customer support line, being put on hold for twenty minutes, and then not having our problem solved. Obviously, this creates friction in our own customer journey and makes us less inclined to buy from that company in the future. This is why companies like Warby Parker, where a real person answers the phone on the first ring, are so successful. Yes, they have an innovative business model and outstanding product, but they also build relationships with their customers.
Step #4: Create A Feedback Loop
Creating seamless customer experiences is a rinse and repeat process. It’s not a one-time action that you can check off and then move on to other things. Rather, it’s an ongoing commitment to improving your relationships with your customers.
Implementing a consistent feedback loop allows you to always be making forward progress. How can you create such a loop?
- Implement practices at each step of the journey that are in line with your strategy and vision.
- Evaluate the results of those practices in terms of Key Performance Indicators (Customer Lifetime Value, customer complaints, Net Promoter Score, etc.)
- Make changes based on the data
This kind of feedback loop allows you to constantly improve the experiences of your customers, as well as ensure that your employees truly are implementing your customer-centric strategy.
If You Don't Offer Seamless Customer Experiences, a Competitor Probably Will
The old days of simply releasing a product and then expecting people to buy it are gone. If you want to stand out in a crowded, competitive marketplace, you need to focus on delivering smooth, seamless, delightful experiences to your customers.
This is precisely why we developed HelloWorks. We know that filling out forms online is both tedious and frustrating for your customers. There’s also the risk of user input error, which creates additional headaches, both for you and the customers.
HelloWorks allows you to create complex workflows that dramatically simplify the process of filling out documents. By making things simple and quick for your customers, you can increase completion rate by as much as 96%.
We’ve seen companies like Amazon and Trader Joe’s succeed because of the way they create customer experiences. We want you to be able to do the same thing in your company.