Customer experience - what it is and why small business owners should care

Customer experience is something small business owners should know about and be focusing on.

Whilst bigger companies have been improving their customer experience over the last ten years or so, many small business owners aren’t aware of it. Yet it’s proving to be a real competitive advantage.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. And there are things that you can do now to make a difference to your CX.

Image of woman serving behind bar
What is CX?

CX stands for Customer eXperience.

Customer experience is the impression your customers are left with after interacting with your business.

That could be positive or negative, amazing or awful. It’s a combination of their thoughts and feelings about what they experienced. 

Think about your recent experiences with businesses you’ve interacted with as a customer for a moment.

What was the best one? Why was it so good?
What was the worst one? Why was it so bad?

You can work to create a positive customer experience for your customers. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You just need to think about your customer and how they interact with your business from the moment they realise they need something, to when they buy it and the time after they’ve used it.

Why is it important?

Back in 2015 customer experience was declared to be “the new competitive battleground”. Not price. Not product features. Nor anything else that businesses have previously looked to be better than each other in. And that was 4 years ago!

People are seeking out companies that give them a great experience. A study by PWC about customer experience shows that 3 out of 4 people will consider a company’s customer experience when they’re deciding who to buy from.

Customers are put off by bad experiences –  in the same PWC survey, 1 in 3 consumers say they won’t buy again from a brand they love following a bad experience, whilst more than half will leave after several bad experiences.

Image of man serving customers

So a great customer experience will help you get more customers and keep them. A bad customer experience will lose you customers.

There are a lot of studies that show time, effort and money invested in improving your customer experience pays off. One by MaritzCX, in 2016, demonstrated that engaged customers buy 20% more products, will recommend a business to 46% more friends and family, and are 9 times less likely to stop buying from you.

That’s more customers buying more things, telling more people about what a great business yours is, and staying with you to carry on buying from you for a longer period of time.

Isn’t that what you want for your business?

What can you do?

Here’s a few things to begin with to start to focus on customer experience in your small business:

Get to really know your customers!

Your customers are people with dreams, goals and challenges. If you know what they are, you’ll know what your customer wants to do, what’s stopping them and how you can help. You’ll be providing added value to your customer.

Everyone has expectations – whether they’re high or low, things they like and things they just don’t.  When you know what these are you’re able to check if you’re meeting or exceeding your customers’ expectations, manage their expectations so your customers are never disappointed, avoid doing what they don’t like and include the things you’re sure they do like. This will help you improve your service levels and reduce the risk of poor reviews.

Understand where your customers are spending their time. Then spend your marketing budget in those places. The people you want to see your message are more likely to.

Find out what your customers think and use their answers to improve

Are you collecting feedback from your customers?

Regardless of how you’re doing this – face to face, over the phone, by online survey and so on – don’t get caught in the trap of only asking for feedback from customers that have successfully bought from you. This group of people have got over all the hurdles they’ve found along the way to making their purchase. Instead try and get feedback from the different stages of your customers’ path to purchase and across the different channels and ways they come into contact with your brand.

This might be a website survey asking about someone’s first visit. An email survey to find out about the delivery service. A phone call to check if everything’s OK after a short time using your product.

There’s no point collecting data and having your customers use their precious time answering questions if you’re not going to do anything with it! Analyse the results and use the information to improve your customer experience.

Focus on your team

There’s a direct link between happiness at work and giving a better customer experience.

Your team are going to deliver your customers’ experience. Gallup reported in their State of the American Workplace study, that employees that are engaged are likely to improve customer relationships, increasing sales by 20%.

Engagement is based on being able to do a good job, having the right tools and processes, having the authority to make decisions, the permission to spend time devising creative solutions and improvements, feeling appreciated and knowing how what you do on a daily basis helps the business achieve its goals and vision.

Check in with your team regularly to find out how they feel about these things. Invest in improving where it’s needed most.

We’ve written quite a bit about CX and the things that are important for it to work, like getting to know your customers well, employee engagement, brand … You can read more here.
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