How to improve your customer experience: 8 foolproof strategies

As a marketer, knowing how to improve your customer experience is vital. Customer experience is a key factor in building loyalty and long-term success for your brand.

In this post, we’ll discuss why customer experience is crucial, and how to enhance customer experience for your brand.

Why the customer experience is crucial

Customer experience refers to the impression customers have of a brand based on every interaction of the customer journey. This includes the quality of your products and services. But it also includes your mobile customer engagement, marketing efforts or advertisements, customer service, purchasing process and shipping times.

A positive customer experience is important because it directly impacts customer satisfaction, loyalty and business growth. It builds trust, creates emotional connections and makes customers feel valued and appreciated. Forrester research shows that customer experience improvements drive increased customer loyalty.

The business outcome is retention and increased sales. This also affects your marketing goals, leading to more traffic, clicks and sales.

On the other hand, a poor customer experience has negative impacts. One bad experience with a brand can lead consumers to leave negative reviews and shop elsewhere. This can lead to lost revenue, decreased customer loyalty, damaged reputation, negative word-of-mouth and fewer customers. 

Great customer service used to be enough, but now that’s table stakes. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s crucial to deliver an exceptional customer experience. You have to go above and beyond to create meaningful interactions at every touch-point.

In the following section, we will walk through how to create these exceptional experiences.

How to improve your customer experience

Improving your customer experience is necessary for long-term success. Fortunately, it's possible. Here are a few strategies to get started.

Develop a clear vision 

The first step in improving your customer experiences is to create alignment across the entire organization and determine your values around experience. Improving customer experience needs to be a priority, and approached with clear focus.

This starts at the top. Without leadership support, you won’t be able to make the necessary improvements. But beyond just buy-in, your leadership team needs to embody and model customer experience as a core value. Customer-centricity needs to be a thread that carries through every decision, within every department.

Once you have organizational buy-in, create your vision. This is the why: Why do you want to improve customer experience? And what might that look like in reality? Focus on value and creating meaningful, relevant experiences for your customers and prospects.

Document your vision, which includes guiding principles and goals. And refer back to this vision regularly to ensure you’re on the right track.

If you can’t develop a clear vision of what great customer experience look like, you won’t be successful in your attempts to improve it.

Get to know your audience 

Most brands have a good idea of who their customers are, but there is always more information to truly know who your best customers are and who you want to reach. You probably have access to demographics, like location and age, but to improve customer experience, you need to understand customers on a deeper, more human level.

One of the biggest challenges for marketers is identity resolution.

Companies need to have a complete, unified view of their customers as individuals, but this too often isn't the case. True one-to-one identity resolution is all about learning who customers uniquely are, including where they shop, what devices they use, and what their needs, pain points and preferences are. To ensure every touch-point is meaningful, appropriate and on time for a customer, you need to deeply understand them.

This is incredibly important, but difficult. The right technology is vital to knowing your audience—and how to reach them. One excellent tool for this task is a customer data platform (CDP) with built-in identity resolution to ensure that your audience profiles are complete, robust and actionable.

By understanding who your customers are, you can develop products and services that better meet customer expectations and deliver more satisfying experiences across all channels. 

Map out the customer journey 

Once you know who your customers are on an individual level, and those who are likely to become customers, you need to understand their path to purchase. Visually mapping the end-to-end experience of a customer’s journey allows you to see how people interact with your brand across all touch-points. It also illuminates their needs and perceptions.

Journey mapping will also show the intersection of online and offline interactions. Brands must be prepared to interact with customers at every critical juncture in their journey, across channels and devices. The first interaction many customers have with a brand is online, often on a mobile device. This means you also have to focus on connecting all of these touchpoints across the mobile customer experience, the in-person customer experience and their online experience. 

Again, strong identity resolution helps with this because it adds to the information you already have on customers, helping you get a better understanding of their past interactions so you can anticipate and plan for their forthcoming activities.

And remember that we’re not just talking about customer service here. How you treat customers when they interact with your brand, be that in-store, by phone, chat or email, is incredibly important. But that interaction is just one portion of their overall journey and the resulting customer experience.

The challenge is that there are many paths to purchase, often including several touch-points and interactions. But by cross-referencing your journey maps with other data, you can start to see where there are issues, opportunities or friction. 

To create a smoother, more enjoyable experience, you’ll need to identify and address the issues within your journey. Remember, the goal is to increase satisfaction and loyalty. Does your customer journey support that or hinder it?

Personalize the customer experience

Personalization—or adapting messaging and imagery based on what you know about a customer—has been a key theme for marketers for years.

Customer experience is all about feeling valued, supported and understood within brand interactions.

At a minimum, personalization means tailoring product recommendations, marketing messages and service interactions to the unique needs of the individual customer. But what most brands consider personalization—like using the recipient's name in an email greeting or referencing an abandoned cart item—aren’t satisfying modern customer expectations. Today’s savvy consumers want personalization, but they want it to be meaningful, specific, helpful, relevant and timely. They expect it to go above and beyond the basics as personalization applies to the content of the message, but also time of day, channel preference, browsing behavior, personal interests, and so much more.

When personalization is executed well, it fosters stronger connections and delights customers, which impacts their satisfaction, and ultimately their loyalty. The right tools, like Epsilon PeopleCloud, give a consolidated view of all your data—demographic info, online purchases, website visits, email opens, plus partner and walled garden data—allowing you to create truly personalized marketing experiences across all touch-points.

Whether it’s offline, digital or mobile, optimal customer experience relies on personalized marketing. 

Ask for—and use—customer feedback

To take your customer experience efforts to the next level, you need to get feedback from your audience.

Customer review management gives you insight into how your audience feels about your experience. What went well, what didn’t go so well, what were the friction points and where are there opportunities for improvement? All of this can be understood by talking to customers. And it’s especially helpful to hear it in their own words.

The most common way to get feedback is simply not getting feedback—meaning, not receiving customer engagement. It's arguably more important to listen to customer silence, and the potential reasons for it, than to focus exclusively on what you literally hear back from customers.

Another common way to get feedback from customers, however, is through surveys. These appear at the end of customer service calls, after a chat ends and at the time of purchase. Every shopper has heard, “Tell us how we did!” But these efforts are just the beginning. 

To truly understand how to make the customer experience better, you need to get more information. Here are a few tips for getting customer feedback right:

  1. Define your purpose - Why are you asking for feedback? Is it to improve a specific product or service, get insight into desired new products, find ways to increase profits or simply enhance the overall customer experience? You can better understand customer thoughts and sentiments if you’re clear about what you’re trying to achieve.

  2. Select your channels, tools and timing - Where is the best place to ask for feedback? And how can you gather that information in a way that makes it actionable? For example, a survey helps you easily collect and analyze data, but may not have high completion rates. But asking for comments on an Instagram post may flood you with data you have to parse through and organize. Both are valid, but you need a plan to ensure you have the tools and time to make the most of your feedback. It’s best to ask for feedback directly after an interaction.

  3. Ask relevant questions - Asking for feedback can be a single question: How did we do? Or it can be a full survey. Avoid asking too many questions, which decreases the likelihood of completion, and take the time to carefully craft your questions. Test the survey to ensure the questions you ask are perceived as intended. Use a mix of yes/no or scale-based questions, and open-ended questions, to give customers a chance to tell you what they think in their own words.

  4. Deploy active listening - Beyond surveys or asking direct questions of your customers, also just listen. What are people saying on your social posts? Is the sentiment overall positive or negative? What specific interactions do they mention in reviews? Whether this is manual or done through social listening tools, you have an opportunity to get candid feedback just by paying attention.

  5. Express gratitude - Some customers give feedback freely and frequently, but the benefit is two-sided. You need customer feedback to do better, and they want you to do better. But they are also taking time out of their day to share their opinions. Express your thanks to those customers and make them feel like their voices are heard and valued. Remember that asking for feedback is just another brand interaction, so it must be done respectfully and at the right time. How you approach feedback has an impact on customer experience.

  6. Analyze churn - Losing customers is hard, especially since it’s more costly to acquire new ones. But this is an opportunity to learn and identify areas for improvement in the customer experience. Asking customers why they returned items, or why they canceled subscriptions, is a simple way to find out where your product is lacking, or where you aren’t demonstrating your value.

  7. Mobilize your app - If you have a mobile app, take advantage of in-app tools to understand how customers use the app, and whether they find it valuable. This helps you understand the customer experience specifically of the app.

Once you have feedback, it’s important to use it. This data is powerful and informative; you need to develop a process to systematically review the feedback and make improvement plans. And don’t forget about feedback loops. Let customers know that you made updates based on their feedback. This will further enhance the customers’ experience because they will see that you value their input, and are willing to make changes to satisfy them.

Then, go back to the steps above about knowing your audience, mapping your customer journeys and personalization, and refine based on what you’ve learned.

Create an emotional connection

All of the strategies thus far have led to loyalty. As a business, customer retention is necessary for long-term success. You need to turn casual customers into raving fans. Creating emotional connections between your brand and the customer is key to cultivating long-term loyalty.

Loyalty used to be primarily monetary: spend a certain amount, and get something in return. But today’s loyalty is also emotional. Customers make purchase decisions based on emotions. And these emotions can come through any interaction. It’s how they felt when they tried on the shoes, the special event they attended in the dress, or the memory of who they were with when they ate the dessert.

But it’s also how they felt after the customer service interaction, or while shopping in the store. Empathy, respect and patience go a long way in establishing loyalty and creating connections. But also, don’t discount humanness. This shows up when sales associates care more about finding the customer the perfect item than they do about making a sale. Or when brands show a human side in emails and social media, customers feel more connected. 

Most consumers don’t just buy products because they solve a need; they also consider the brand, their values and the transaction process. A smooth process is one of the most important factors in whether shoppers will buy from you again.

Build a seamless omnichannel experience

Now to bring it all together, we need to talk about building a seamless customer experience, which relies on technology.

The right marketing technology gives brands access to high-velocity, individualized and real-time customer insights—but how do those insights improve the customer experience? For true customer-centric marketing, you need to adopt a connected tech stack including both adtech and martech.

The tech stack of yesteryear was disparate, where your email insights and activations occurred in your email service provider, customer transaction data lived in the CRM and social insights were stuck in walled gardens. Technology solutions now bring all your data insights together, enhance them with person-based identity, and activate them into your preferred channels with the right digital advertising services

This is true omnichannel marketing at scale. With a 360-degree view of your customers as individuals in your loyalty management software, you can create authentic personalization and connected customer experiences across channels.

From chatbots to mobile apps to in-store, seamless omnichannel experiences optimize the customer journey and satisfy customers. Disconnected experiences across channels and devices are no longer acceptable. 

Measure ROI

Finally, you need to understand what’s working in your customer experience strategy and what’s paying off. Essentially, you need to monitor and measure how satisfied your customers are. The key is having accurate and actionable data.

In your efforts to improve the customer experience, were there business results?

There are several ways to measure the return on investment (ROI) and success of your customer experience program:

  1. Return on ad spend (ROAS) - Measuring your ROAS can help immediately reveal the ways in which your customer experience program are providing value to your customers or not.

  2. Financial metrics - Connect customer experience metrics to financial outcomes such as revenue growth, cost reduction and increased customer spending.

  3. Business growth metrics - Measure the impact of customer experience improvements on business growth by tracking metrics such as customer retention rate, customer churn rate and customer lifetime value.

  4. Net promoter score (NPS) - This one-question survey asks customers how likely they are to recommend your business. This metric—when tracked over time—can show how well you are retaining customers, which implies a positive customer experience and loyalty. A decreasing NPS indicates issues.

  5. Ask for feedback - By asking your existing customers about recent changes or whether they are happier with you now compared to a previous time, you can understand the customer sentiment around your efforts. If you’ve implemented widespread changes meant to improve customer experience, but you’re hearing that customers are less happy, you have a problem.

  6. Return on Experience (ROX) - This metric measures the impact of customer experience improvements on business outcomes. It focuses on how improving experience drives consumer behavior and, ultimately, shareholder value.

By measuring ROI, you can get a clearer understanding of how customer experience initiatives impact your bottom line. This can justify further investments and drive continuous improvements.

Improve customer experience and drive long-lasting loyalty with Epsilon

With Epsilon, we help clients build a path to happier customers through our holistic loyalty management software approach. 

Powered by real-time data and industry-leading technology that’s designed to grow with your loyalty needs, Epsilon Loyalty helps clients deliver a unique, memorable marketing experience to each customer, driving optimal customer experiences.

Learn more about the smarter path to lifetime loyalty.