3 lessons for improving the retail customer experience

3 lessons for improving the retail customer experience

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By Jesse Himsworth, vice president of strategy and integrated solutions, Clearlink

According to an Aspect survey, 54 percent of millennials, 52 percent of Baby Boomers, and 50 percent of Gen Xers have stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer experience. Across the spectrum, consumers agree that poor CX is a definite reason to abandon a service or stop purchasing products. And they're willing to take to social media to hold brands accountable.

In this environment, consumers are in the driver's seat. The days of brands being able to dominate the conversation and control the message through traditional advertising and marketing channels are over. As a result, the customer experience your business provides is more important than ever.

Here are three CX lessons for today's changing business environment.

Lesson 1: Don't rely solely on customer satisfaction surveys

Many businesses use customer satisfaction surveys as their main tool for receiving feedback on customer experience, then use those results to determine where they are and are not doing well in the customer service process. In my experience, there are a few issues with this approach. First, even when prompted, many customers find filling out such surveys a waste of time and do not do so — according to recent research from Customer Thermometer, only 9 percent of consumers take time to thoughtfully fill out feedback surveys.

Another, bigger, issue is that survey results for individual parts of the process may not add up to a cohesive whole. Although your company may score a 9 out of 10 in each surveyed stage of the customer journey, the overall experience may score much lower due to the organization's inability to tie the stages together and deliver a consistent brand voice across the entire journey.

A change in approach helps you to avoid the pitfalls associated with relying on customer satisfaction surveys. Instead, focus on intelligent customer experience, where everything is linked the experience is cohesive from start to finish.

Lesson 2: Test and optimize constantly

Where consumers click on your website, how long they spend on certain pages, what they searched for to find you — all that data is useful. But you shouldn't collect data just to have it. Instead, collect data throughout the process in order to create a closed feedback loop that creates an environment allowing for testing and optimizing.

Creating this testing environment allows you to incorporate experimental design into the process to isolate variables, giving you granular insight into what is and is not working with your website — and all facets of a customer's experience when planned correctly.

Lesson 3: Be proactive rather than reactive

Organizations often wait until there is a customer experience crisis before taking a hard look at CX improvement — and that's usually too late. Implementing testing and optimization after the fact means you're playing catch-up, running behind on issues that, had you been making CX a priority from the beginning, may never have arisen. Make CX optimization a piece of your day-to-day business, and execute your plans thoughtfully and scientifically to pay huge dividends.

Being proactive enough to test and optimize from the beginning means having strong organizational support for CX from senior leadership down to individual contributors. That can be difficult for larger companies with different teams each working with various parts of the process, with their own motivations — and the human tendency to shift blame. Strong leadership and a dedication to improving the customer experience across all platforms takes time, and money. It isn't always easy, and it isn't always the most immediately profitable approach, but in the long run, but I've seen time and time again that it is the right path to follow.

Following the lessons is just a start.A true dedication to customer experience, while it will set your organization apart, requires initial investment that might not show immediate results. In my experience, you rarely get it right the first time. But by focusing on the whole rather that just a few parts, testing, and collecting the right data you can constantly improve customer experience—and improved CX is good business.

Topics: Customer Experience

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