Over the course of the last few years there has been a subtle but prominent shift in the way marketers think about customers. As this shift has occurred, customer retention marketing and customer engagement have gained traction as strategies for improving the customer experience. So much so, that today, customers are more interested in the customer experience that brands provide, even more than the actual product or service.

According to Deloitte, 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by brands as a competitive differentiator. This means that unless you are focusing on the experience of your customers, you could be falling behind or working from a disadvantage.

In order to help you improve the customer experience for your business, we have put together 7 best practices for doing exactly that. With these best practices in mind, you can provide an exceptional experience at every interaction with your customers and keep them around for life. Let’s take a look at exactly how you can do that.

customer experience

1. A customer-first approach

In today’s market, the first step in improving the customer experience is to make sure that you are promoting a customer-first approach and culture at your company. This may sound like the old adage, ‘the customer is always right,’ but in truth putting the customer first doesn’t mean they are always right. It means considering their values, needs, and ideals first as a jumping off point for the rest of the experience.

For some businesses, this will mean looking at user engagement metrics to get a better understanding of their customers before launching a campaign. For others it could mean a complete rework of their current marketing to turn the focus back on the customers. No matter what approach you take, make sure that you are always keeping the customer first.

2. Putting yourself in their shoes

Now, a focus on customers first is nice to say, but until it is put into practice it is essentially meaningless. This is why the first part of your strategy should be putting yourself in the shoes of a customer. By reading through customer feedback or speaking with customers you have a sound relationship with, you can start to create an idea of how they operate and what they need.

Growing up, we were taught the Golden Rule, “to treat others the way you want to be treated.’ A solid foundation for any marketing plan is to take this idea and turn it into a reality. Think to yourself, as a customer, ‘would X appeal to me?’ Whether it does or doesn’t, analyze the ‘why’ of the issue and you will develop a clearer picture of where the customer experience can be optimized.

3. Cover all your bases

Once you have taken time to consider the question of “What value can we provide to our customers?” the next step is to figure out the best way of delivering that value. Some will tell you it is through SMS marketing, others will say email, and still some will mention social media. In reality, the best approach is all of the above, something known to marketers as an omni-channel approach.

While it is true that some methods work better than others, like text marketing’s 95% open rate, the best way to improve the customer experience is by covering all of your bases. In fact, the Aberdeen Group claims that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.

4. Optimize both sides of the process

So far, we have mainly talked about best practices for putting customers first and thinking about them. However, there should be a good amount of time spent looking at the other side of the process, meaning the people who are responsible for creating a great customer experience. After all, without them, there would likely not be any customers to retain in the first place.

Take for example the Washington Post. When Scot Gillespie, CTO at WashPo, was asked to create a better customer experience across 26 products, he focused just as much on the people behind the process as those experiencing it. What ended up happening was a complete 180 in regards to the Washington Post’s customer experience and the creation of a more satisfied team. Unless you boost your own staff as well as your customers, it will be incredibly difficult to create an optimal customer experience.

5. Collect feedback, always

Once you get started with omni-channel marketing, you need to make sure that you are collecting customer feedback whenever possible. This is important for many different reasons in regards to the customer experience. First, when you are trying to improve your omni-channel marketing, you need metrics to figure out what is and isn’t working.

However, more urgent and vital to the customer experience, you need to create customer feedback loops in order to continue learning from your customers. Unless your audience knows exactly how to get in touch with you and you have a constant way of receiving feedback, you will soon find yourself chasing outdated ideas and trends. Stay on top of things and always be collecting, analyzing, and using data to create a better customer experience.

6. Be proactive instead of reactive

Something you may soon discover after reviewing customer feedback data is common trends that lead to customer churn and user dissatisfaction. Use this as an opportunity to get your customer journey in tip-top shape and take a proactive approach to customer experience instead of a reactive one.

Far too often companies only improve when they receive backlash. By going the extra mile and making changes before a problem arises, you will not only create a better customer experience, but reduce the amount of problems and complains along the way. Customers that start off on the right foot are much more likely to stick around than when you begin the relationship trying to win them back.

7. Under promise and over deliver

Our final best practice for delivering an exceptional customer experience is to under promise and over deliver. While we don’t believe in selling you or your brand short, you should always set realistic expectations for your customers and then try your best to exceed them. Customers will be happy if you meet their expectations, but blown away if you take it one step further.

The value of customer experience in 2018

It is clear from these best practices and general market trends that the value of customer experience has never been higher than in 2018. In fact, according to Gartner, 89% of businesses are soon expected to compete mainly on customer experience. With this in mind, best practices like the ones we just reviewed can greatly transform a business and set you on the right path toward total customer retention.

The only thing that stands in your way is getting started. As you can tell, most of these best practices have little to no cost associated with them, so you can start employing them today. So, what are you waiting for? Get after it and start creating an amazing customer experience for your audience!