Sure, a retailer’s success depends on lots of things. Customer service, pricing, store presentation, and great discounts and offers are each important – but studies suggest that no single element of your brand’s performance is as significant as a shopper’s perception of the customer experience as a whole.
Forrester Research conducted a five-year Customer Experience Index study, which found that customer experience is the single strongest factor in consumer loyalty. Based on their research, Forrester goes so far as to state that nothing else your business does matters as much as the customer experience.
And yes, that includes price. While price is an important aspect of customers’ decisions, it turns out that experience is an even greater factor in customer retention.
In fact, customer experience is so important that another study, conducted by Oracle, found that 81% of shoppers will pay more for a better customer experience. Half of participants were willing to pay up to 5% more for that experience.
The obvious implication is that customers want a great experience, and are willing to reward businesses that meet their expectations. So why is customer experience not already every retailer’s top priority?
One reason is that great customer experience is tricky to define and measure.
What Is a Great Customer Experience?
“Customer experience” refers to the way your customers perceive your brand and everything your business does.
Trying to measure and control every interaction with every customer is more than a little daunting, so it seems logical to focus on big-picture moments like resolving a customer complaint.
While those tactics can appease customers, the data suggests that creating a great customer experience is all about meeting your customers’ expectations consistently across all channels.
McKinsey & Company’s research points out that a pattern of positive interactions, even on “mundane” trips, is more important to customers than wowing them on select high-scope interactions, because ongoing positive emotions and brand trust are the largest drivers of customer loyalty.
Consistency is the key, but how do you achieve consistency? By looking at the big picture.
See the Whole Journey
The same study suggests that the focus should be on customer journey, rather than individual touch points. Likewise, companies that increased focus on the customer journey as a whole saw customer satisfaction increase by 20%.
Focusing on the entire journey means gathering feedback on numerous interactions as elements in a customer’s journey, rather than as discrete touch-points. While that may sound daunting, you don’t have to entirely revamp your measurement – you just have to refocus your existing tools.
One way to start identifying problems across your brand experience is journey mapping, because it will help you see how your customers interact with your brand and pinpoint trouble areas.
Next, consistently gather data on these trouble areas through surveys and customer intercepts, both of which allow you to ask your customers targeted questions about their entire experience to measure trends and long-term performance.
Mystery shopping is another effective tool; you can see the entire experience through the customer’s eyes, and the data you receive on the gaps in the buyer’s journey will help you improve in-store experiences and create consistency across your whole chain.
Once you have feedback from these sources, you can identify problem areas that detract from the whole experience – and create unwelcome detours in the buyer’s journey.
Creating a better customer experience doesn’t have to be hard. Focus on the journey, and you may see that same 20% increase in your own customers’ satisfaction.