Many companies react to growth pressures by trimming their customer support budget. That may provide some quick breathing room, but it’s not a prudent long-term solution.
In the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 57 percent of respondents said good customer service was the most important factor in inspiring brand loyalty. Consumer expectations are increasing, too—more than 60 percent have higher customer service standards now than they did a year ago.
Whether a company exceeds or falls short of customer expectations often dictates its success: 73 percent of business leaders report a direct link between their customer service and company performance. Clearly, organizations must prioritize the customer support experience if they want to improve their bottom line.
73% of business leaders report a direct link between their customer service and company performance.
Luckily, there are ways to invest in better customer service experiences without ballooning the budget. Simple changes and small initiatives can still have an outsized impact on CX.
Why do companies need to enhance customer experience?
Customer experience (CX) is becoming increasingly important, and companies are taking note. 56 percent of business leaders say improving CX is their organization’s top priority for the next 12 months—for good reason.
Providing a superior customer experience can:
- Increase customer retention
- Boost customer lifetime value
- Build brand loyalty
- Improve brand reputability
- Give companies a competitive advantage
An investment in CX is an investment in your business. Now’s not the time to settle for mediocre, especially when the quality of your customer experience can be the difference between customers coming back or leaving you for a competitor.
How to improve customer experience
If you’re wondering how to improve CX without committing too much time and money, here are 10 simple(ish) tactics you can start using right away.
1. Don’t leave customers in the dark
Manage customers’ expectations about how their support experience will play out to avoid frustration down the road.
Brian Reuter, former director of customer success at Zendesk, says it’s best to tell customers when they can expect to hear back from your company. “If you send an email to my support team or my success team, and I give you an immediate response that says, ‘We typically get back to customers within four hours,’ you’re much less likely to get frustrated.”
Without agent communication, a customer might expect a reply immediately and become annoyed the longer they wait. Send automatic emails establishing clear timelines for support responses, and tell on-hold callers how many customers are ahead of them or how long they may need to wait. If you have to get back to someone with a follow-up call or email, let them know when they can expect an update.
2. Talk to the people who know your customers best
Some of the most insightful data you can gather comes directly from your frontline workers. Support agents have firsthand knowledge of the customer journey, the most common customer complaints, and the main reasons customers churn. So, it’s beneficial to ask your support staff for qualitative customer feedback on a regular basis.
“Your customer-facing teams are going to have a good feel for what the biggest customer pain points are,” says Dave Dyson, manager of community engagement at Zendesk. “Do a stand-up and ask, ‘What’s the worst part of our customer experience?’”
The problem may not have an easy fix, but talking to your team can at least help you understand what’s really at stake and what must be done about it.
Of course, it’s important that you follow through—either by acting on your agents’ advice or informing them why you’re not able to implement changes at the moment. Your team needs to know that you value their opinion and appreciate their insights.
3. Embrace a “Next Issue Avoidance” strategy
Save customers and agents time by reducing the number of future follow-ups with a Next Issue Avoidance (NIA) strategy. This is an effective tactic for predicting and addressing potential customer problems.
At Zendesk, our NIA system involves proactively sending customers additional articles about topics related to their original issue. “We say, ‘Hey, a lot of people who experienced X have always experienced Y and Z, so here’s some information in case that happens to you in the future,’” says Holly VandeWalle-Gore, director of training and quality assurance.
NIA strategies show customers you really care about solving their problems and meeting their needs. It also spares your support staff from spending more time and energy on future follow-ups. All of which helps you provide a great customer experience.
4. Get your priorities straight
One small change that can have a big impact on your contact center? Switching from a “first-come, first-served” support process to one that prioritizes complex issues over simple ones.
Create a system for determining what tier of support is required for each ticket. This system guarantees that every customer receives an initial response at the same speed, but the customers who have more complicated issues are then routed to the second layer of support.
“We want to make sure you get the right level of expertise, and we want to make sure you get the right person,” explains VandeWalle-Gore.
5. Don’t take customer loyalty for granted
When it comes to retention, it pays to find simple ways to recognize and reward customers for their brand loyalty. This can be anything from a financial incentive to a thank you note.
If a customer’s support issue is especially time-consuming or frustrating, simply fixing it for them might not be enough. A free gift card or a discount on their next purchase may be what they need to look past the ordeal.
Another idea: Companies often invite their best customers to a “preview night” for new product launches so they can be among the first to find out what’s new (and get the message out through word of mouth). Presenting your audience with exclusive opportunities enables you to foster loyalty and gain valuable customer feedback.
6. Boost employee engagement
High employee engagement is critical to providing excellent CX. Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their work and typically go above and beyond what is expected of them, which naturally leads to better customer experiences.
According to a Gallup poll, engaged workers show an 18 percent increase in productivity and create a 23 percent increase in profitability for a business. And the Qualtrics 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends report found that employees are twice as likely to be engaged if they feel their company turns their insights into action.
Engaged workers show an 18% increase in productivity and create a 23% increase in profitability for a business.
Actively listen to the ideas and concerns of your support agents to ensure you’re not missing out on feedback that can help improve the customer experience. Your agents interact with customers daily, so they deeply understand your audience’s needs, expectations, and overall sentiment. If your connection with your staff suffers, so does your connection with your buyers.
7. Personalize CX
Modern customers want personalized interactions. In fact, over 90 percent of consumers are likely to spend more money with companies that offer personalization. Give your agents access to key customer information—such as contact details, preferences, and purchase history—so they can customize individual support experiences accordingly.
“As humans, we are drawn to the familiar,” says Jason Maloney, a customer success executive at Zendesk. “So whenever a person is interacting with a company, they want that sensation of, ‘Oh, I feel like they know me and understand my wants and needs.’”
Personalization can take many forms, but here are a few options that will help agents provide exceptional CX:
- Recommending relevant products and services
- Tailoring messaging to the customer’s needs
- Celebrating the customer’s milestones
- Personally addressing the customer (by name)
Use CRM software to capture and house critical customer data. Agents will have all the info they need right at their fingertips, enabling them to deliver more personalized service.
8. Collect customer feedback
Gather feedback from various touchpoints via:
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- Net Promoter Score® questionnaires
- Live chat tools
- Personalized emails and outbound calls
- Social media monitoring
Once the results are in, leverage that information to make better, customer-centric decisions. You can use those insights to improve your products or services, refine your internal processes, and strengthen your connection with customers.
9. Lean into the power of automation and AI
Businesses looking to drive and sustain growth must focus on automation and artificial intelligence (AI). By using automation and AI tools like chatbots, your company can communicate with customers in real-time, at any time.
Chatbots can be deployed over any messaging app or channel and deliver instant support. They can resolve basic issues, answer FAQs, guide customers to relevant information in a help center, or create a ticket for a human agent to pick up during normal business hours.
By using chatbots, you’re giving your customers the opportunity to find information without needing to contact a live agent—something many consumers actually prefer. In fact, nearly 40 percent of customers worldwide would rather interact with a chatbot over a virtual agent. Automating responses via chatbots helps your support agents, too. More tickets resolved by bots means more time for agents to focus on complicated problems.
If your business is still on the fence about the benefits, you may be missing out on a big opportunity to provide excellent CX. Roughly one in five business leaders say they get a “very high” return on investment from using AI or automation.
10. Refine your UX design
The design and functionality of your website are vital—yet often overlooked—aspects of the user experience (UX). 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a poor digital experience. So, it’s important that company decision-makers take stock in this part of the business. Users need to have a satisfying, reliable, and intuitive experience whenever they engage with your brand and customer support team online.
88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a poor digital experience.
Your website is typically the first point of contact between your brand and a customer, so it’s time to take a long, hard look at it (especially if you haven’t in a while). According to 99designs, there are seven principles of UX design:
- Focus on the user (build a customer-centric UX)
- Context is key
- Put the user in control
- Usability testing
UX and customer support share similar goals and use similar methods to accomplish those goals. When a customer has a problem or a question, it’s your support agents’ job to help them solve it quickly and effectively. The same goes for UX team members: It’s part of the designers’ and writers’ jobs to anticipate customer issues and questions. They must create websites that make it easy for users to find what they need.
One more idea to improve customer experience
There are lots of simple things you can do and strategies you can follow to enhance CX. But if you’re still looking for that one thing that’ll make all the difference, you may want to look into a comprehensive customer experience software solution that helps manage every aspect of CX.