Running a small business is more than just selling to customers in exchange for their money – much more. The experience the customer has when dealing with you has the power to make or break your small business’ reputation.
Customer experience can occur either during one transaction or over the lifetime of a customer’s relationship with your business, ranging from negative to positive. Your business’ ability to deliver a positive customer experience each and every time really sets you apart in their eyes. Research shows that customers do business with companies they like, something you have already experienced. How many times have you returned to a business where you felt welcomed, respected and taken care of – in other words, where you showed loyalty? On the flip side, how many people have you told about a business that treated you poorly? We’re betting you didn’t recommend that business to your friends.
How to define your customer experience
As a small business owner, defining your customer experience – knowing what they want and need – is important. The best way to do this? Go straight to the source, as early on as you can. Primary market research should be conducted with your target market to make sure you know what customers are looking for, what they’re not looking for, and what gap in the marketplace you can fill. Once you have a clear picture of what your customers want, you can plan out the best ways to give them the best customer experience.
Start by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you were your customer, how would you want be treated? What would you want to be told? How would you want your product or service to be seen each and every time? What would you want to hear if you phoned with a question? How could you be satisfied if you were unhappy? Figure out what all these diverse experiences should look and feel like.
How to deliver a great customer experience
Now that you’ve defined your small business’ customer experience, you can go forth and deliver it. However, the fun doesn’t stop there! To make sure you really are getting it right, ask your customer how their experience was.
A Harvard Business School study of big American companies found that more than 80% of executives believed that their companies delivered on their customer experience design. But when the researchers asked those business’ customers, the outcome was not quite as rosy. Only 8% of customers felt they had the experience they were looking for. What explains the huge discrepancy? To us, it sounds like the big companies weren’t communicating with their customers. Either they were designing the wrong customer experience, or they weren’t delivering the experience properly. In either case, the customer walked away with a negative impression of the business, and the business potentially loses out on future sales – think back again to how many of your friends you’ve told about a bad customer experience. The popularity of review sites like Yelp is proof that the customer experience is a powerful thing.
Once a customer experience has been designed, it’s important that your small business delivers this experience each and every time. Empower your entire team – no matter how large or small – to deliver on a positive customer experience and to really make sure it sticks. And don’t forget to follow up, to make sure your efforts aren’t falling flat.