If you run your own business, whether it’s a physical or online business, your brand reputation depends on how you treat your customers. While it’s easy to think that, as business owners, we’re always committed to delivering the best experience we possibly can to our clients, unless we think about this strategically, we may miss some key interactions.
What is ‘customer experience’ and why is it important for my business?
It’s important because someone who has a positive relationship with you is more likely to become a regular and loyal customer. And it goes without saying that if you want your customers to be loyal, you have to invest in keeping them happy. Focusing on the customer experience you deliver day in day out in your business should be one of the key elements of your customer retention strategy. This is something I mentioned in my previous post, Six ways to retain your loyal customers.
Having a customer experience strategy allows you to keep a close eye to all the ways your clients interact with your business, from the moment they first come across your flyer or your Facebook ad to when they book their first class, session or consultation with you. Focus on keeping them happy, and they’ll continue to do business with you (and therefore become more valuable to you) and recommend you to friends and family.
Is customer experience the same as customer service?
Customer experience includes customer service but it’s not limited to it. So if you run your own Fitness Centre or Gym or if you’re a Health Coach, you may often receive enquiries about timetables or prices for your classes or lessons. You may have a small team handling these queries, or it may be just you. Either way, always make sure any interactions with your customers are ‘on brand’. You or any members of staff you may have should live and breathe your brand values and ethos and always put care and attention when dealing with your prospective customers.
So if focusing on your customer service isn’t all there is to it, what makes a great customer experience? And most importantly, how do you deliver great customer experience to your clients?
Here are some of the steps I recommend you take when thinking about your customer experience strategy.
1. Have clear brand values
Have you ever thought about the answers to some of these questions?
- What do you stand for?
- What do you want to be known for?
- And what do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room?
- What words or phrases are your clients likely to use when they talk about you?
- Do you have company values?
For example, The Feel Great Marketing brand attributes are fun, honest, engaging, professional, positive and nurturing. Feeling great is the essence of my company, so I try and inject these values in every interaction I have with my prospective or existing customers. If I leave them feeling great, I know they’ll recommend me to their colleagues and business associates, and that’s obviously great news for my business.
What are your company values? And do all your policies and processes align with them? If the classes you offer at your Gym are all about combining fitness with fun, how can you inject fun in every interaction you have with your customers?
2. Create clear and consistent policies and terms and conditions
What happens, for example, when a client who had already booked a set of lessons and paid a deposit tells you that they can no longer attend and want a full refund? Be clear in advance on what your terms and conditions are, so you don’t need to have unpleasant conversations with your clients. If you apply one rule for a client and a different one for the next one, this is likely to come back and bite you. When you run a local business and everyone gets together in the same place, like your gym, studio, or fitness centre, your clients are likely to know each other or eventually meet. Your reputation is everything, and you certainly don’t want people to compare notes and realise they’ve been treated differently when doing business with you. So make sure your policies are in place and the service you offer is consistent.
3. Capture your customers’ feedback
I wrote about this before in the context of understanding your customers’ needs. This is important because it allows you to tailor your offering to the actual needs of your clients. But if you’re looking at developing a strategy to improve your customer experience, you also need to know how your clients are experiencing your brand right now. Think about the touch points along the customer journey and ask your customers. How satisfied are they with these types of interactions? Is there anything they’d rather change? Collect this feedback and, as part of your strategy, set some time aside to analyse it. The data you collect should help you identify areas of improvement and make tweaks to your business model. So you could have a post-interaction survey, or ask them to have a word at the end of a session. For more ideas on this, head over to my blog post 5 ways to measure customer satisfaction in your small business.
4. Identify areas of improvement
Have you ever received any complaints? If you have, take them seriously. You should address these as a matter of priority and make the necessary changes to avoid having more clients complain about having the same less-than-ideal experience. But also, spend some time going through all the interactions you typically have with your clients.
- Is there anything that could be improved?
- Are you living and breathing your brand values every step of the way?
- Are there any instances where you think that, as a business, you could do better?
Maybe, as a Health Coach, you find that booking appointments seem to take up a lot of your time.
Perhaps at your Gym or Fitness Centre you get asked the questions again and again about your classes. How can you improve this? For example, do you have an FAQ page on your website? If you don’t, it’s probably time to create one. And if you do, maybe it’s not prominent enough. Are there quick tweaks you could make to your website that would make this page more visible? Could you maybe add a link to it to your email signature or pin a post to the top of your Facebook business page to encourage more of your prospective clients to read it? That way, people wouldn’t contact you directly with the same questions. It saves you (and your customers) a lot of time, and it shows you are professional, organised, and proactive.
5. Competitor analysis
Good customer experience examples can be found anywhere you look. What are other local companies doing? What are big national or online brands doing? They don’t necessarily have to be your competitors. Just think about the companies you’re a client of. What do you like about the way they do business? Is there anything you could do as well? What do the best customer experience brands offer that you’d love to offer your customers? Going back to our example of booking classes, could you look into subscribing to a piece of software (something like Mind and Body) that allows your customers to select the classes or sessions they want to attend and book on the website or your app without having to email or phone you?
6. Set time or budget aside to implement changes
And last but not least, once you’ve collected all this data, it’s time to act. There’s no point in capturing feedback or doing the analysis work if you have no intention of doing anything with the information you gather. A big part of your customer experience strategy should focus on making the changes that will help you turn your existing customers into loyal, repeat clients.
So listen to your customers’ feedback and spend some time looking at the information you gathered when considering the interactions on your customer journey. What changes will have the biggest impact? What can you do now vs what will need to wait until next year, for example?
Maybe you’ve identified you need to make some tweaks to your website. Can you hire a developer to implement the changes for you? Or maybe your customers fed back that rather than emailing you back and forth, they’d rather pick up the phone and give you a call. Can you look into ways of displaying a phone number on your website?
Would you like some help in creating a customer experience strategy?
Your customers expect every interaction they have with you to be the best experience they have with any company. Can you deliver that? Do you have a plan in place to deliver the best customer experience your company can possibly provide? If you would like some help to determine your short-term marketing priorities and actions so you can deliver great customer experience to your clients, get in touch. I help Health and Wellbeing professionals like you get the clarity they need to take the right steps that will make a great difference to their business.