One of the most critical aspects of any business throughout the world is the customer experience. The customer experience can mean the difference between brand loyalty, engagement, and repeat purchases, or the sentiment of “I would never use their services again,” coupled with scathing reviews on multiple media outlets. A positive customer experience speaks volumes about the quality that a business provides, as it shows effort and a level of care that has been curated toward maintaining a relationship with the end customer.
All businesses know that improving the customer experience can be powerful, and even using tools like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) can reflect the customer’s overall satisfaction – but this alone can’t distinguish between deeper aspects of customer experience. For example, a customer could have had a fantastic purchasing experience, but the purchased product was defective; the NPS won’t cover this differentiation.
How to quantify customer experience
As discussed in a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services webinar, efforts to quantify the customer experience have become critically important, especially during the pandemic. Interactions that were once in person have become, by necessity, digital experiences. Making use of new capabilities, accelerating technological transformations, and incorporating such technologies as artificial intelligence, real-time data processing, and cloud computing tools have become necessities for providing a positive personal experience for customers.
So the question becomes, how can I measure customer experience?
1. Consider new expectations and preferences
In such a technologically-driven society, customers have new expectations created as a result of new features and functionalities that are available on a global scale. Near-real-time interaction and exchanging of information, easy-to-use websites, and process visibility are all new-age expectations. By helping customers easily get what they want when they want it, you will set up an early foundation for an excellent customer experience.
Several factors should be considered in addressing new expectations; what is your company’s end-product, how do the majority of customers interact with your company, and how do customers obtain your product? These are just a few examples to consider, but tracking these major metrics can prepare your company appropriately, whether it’s online versus retail availability, ease of use, or perhaps a streamlined delivery and exchange method. Minimize friction and help customers get what they want in as few steps as possible.
Listen to what your customers are saying, needing, and wanting. This leads to the next point: Preferences. Customers will always have a preference, and preparation for such preferences should be a critical task to maximize the customer’s experience. For example, let’s suggest that your company’s product can be purchased in-store, online, and over the phone. This creates several unique metrics worth considering: What online traffic, or call volume, or shelf stock needs to be optimized to make sure that the needs of the customer are met?
Alternatively, what preferences do you know about your customers individually? Do they prefer to be called over the phone, or emailed? What services and products do your customers prefer? How often do they like to be contacted? When your company can engage by knowing, you can further prepare for an excellent customer experience ahead of time.
2. Add visibility
Another method that businesses can use for a better customer experience is transparency. This doesn’t mean publishing the complete inner workings of your business; in this instance, this means keeping the customer aware of current events.
Think of popular shipping companies: A customer places an order, they are given a timeframe of which the product will show up, but they also know exactly where it is in the shipping process, and the precise moment when it arrives on their doorstep. Rather than throwing information into the void and hoping for a package to arrive at some indeterminate time in the future, customers rely on trackers constantly to be more in the know. With a high degree of visibility into the process, this provides comfort for customers and manages their expectations accordingly.
What sort of blind spots in the process might be concerning for a customer of yours? What do other companies do to be open to their customers’ needs? Consider what components are most important for your customers to know and provide this information willingly instead of creating barriers to understanding.
3. Ensure consistency
Finally, consistency is crucial. As we covered previously, customers will always have a preference, and that will extend to how they interact with your company and its services or products. Regardless of whether it’s an in-store visit, online shopping, or placing orders over the phone, providing a consistent experience is key. An additional challenge to this is creating an omnichannel experience, where all methods of interfacing would have a complete view of where the customer is in their buying lifecycle and sharing this information in between. This will drastically reduce potential frustrations well ahead of time.
Take a look at where your company is after considering what has been discussed above. What achievable metrics do you have in place versus areas you may be lacking? What new metrics need to be developed and deployed, or what adjustments to availability need to be made? What is the current global impact, or ways of doing things that your company should anticipate or react to? These concepts and metrics will continue to evolve, but regular measurement will give your company an edge in responding appropriately and ensuring consistent customer experiences.
[ Want to learn more? Watch the on-demand Harvard Business Review Analytic Services webinar to see how companies are measuring the business value of end-end customer experience. ]