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7 Critical Pillars of Customer Experience

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash -

Creating a delightful customer experience, tailored to each individual customer, doesn't need to be as hard as it sounds. After all, who doesn't want clarity, convenience, consistency, customization, appreciation, and value?

Helped along by smart technology, these pillars provide the framework for creating memorable, positive experiences.

1. Personalization

It feels good, to be treated like an individual. Even business to business buying is an emotional experience, as much as it is a financial transaction.  We all evaluate every touchpoint we have with a business, without consciously thinking of it, and our levels of comfort, confidence and trust go up when it's obvious that the business we're dealing with can tell us apart from every other customer.

The accessibility of super smart customer relationship management systems like HubSpot makes it easy to collect useful data on your customers (in a non-intrusive, business-focused way), over and above what they've actually purchased.  Which web pages they've visited, the path they've taken through your site, how frequently they've returned, which documents they've downloaded, which forms they've completed, all give you a clear picture of what they're looking for, and how far into their buying exploration they are.

Being thoughtful about how to use that information to put helpful and relevant information in front of them — at a time when it will be genuinely useful — can be both cleverly impressive and delightful, as long as you get the execution right. 

Your most sophisticated customers already expect that kind of treatment.  They've experienced it before, from other businesses. 

Customers who are newer to that kind of personal experience will be absolutely blown away.  They'll think you're incredibly smart, and they'll be delighted at how you treat them.

2. Consistency 

Knowing what to expect, builds trust.  On that basis, experiences that are consistently acceptable tend to be better received than experiences that vary between excellent and terrible. 

We feel better about predictability than wild inconsistency, because consistency indicates there's a repeatable process that we can rely on to work.  We might not feel like we've had an amazing experience, but it delivered what we expected, and it did what it needed to.

Aiming for consistently excellent will earn you customers who become true evangelists, recommending you to others. 

If you can't immediately get to excellent, focus on being consistent.  Work to lift your poorest experiences up to the standard of your best experiences, even if your best isn't yet amazing.

Set the standard for what people can expect from you.  Then, keep improving until you're delivering delight, every time.

3. Appreciation

Small gestures of appreciation — when they come from the heart — are priceless.

While it's tempting to think you need to give gifts, discounts, or something tangible to secure a customer's loyalty, it's really not that complicated.

A simple personalized thank you, goes a very long way.  It can cement a great experience, as well as turn a poor one around.

Thanking your customer for their patience and understanding when something went wrong is even more important than thanking them for their business.

If you're going to give gifts to your customer, make them something delightful.  That doesn't necessarily mean expensive.  It means you need to put serious thought into how your customer will feel when you give it to them.

If you give them something that goes straight into the trash, it's not just worthless.  It actually detracts from the goodwill you've worked hard to build up, especially if it has your brand on it. 

There are countless options for awesome corporate swag at every price point, and the effort you put into your selection will pay you back.

4. Transparency

The only kind of surprise you should aim to give your customer, is the good kind.

Pricing, returns policies, delivery or implementation expectations, response times, and ongoing service and support should all be made clear, right up front.

If anything needs to change, signal it as early as possible, and explain why.

Don't hide bad news.  Fronting up, even when it's uncomfortable, earns you respect, and trust.  Conversely, evasion will lose you respect, and more importantly, trust. 

Once that's gone, it's very difficult to recover, so as tough as it may seem, telling it like it is, is the only way to deliver a good experience.

5. Problem resolution 

It doesn't matter how good you and your team are, things are going to go wrong.  Sometimes, badly wrong.

Here's the amazing thing about commitment to customer experience — sometimes the worst times deliver the best and most memorable experiences.

It's all down to how you handle the situation.

You could be excused for believing that all that matters in problem resolution is speed of resolution.  That when something's tripped up, all you need to do is to fix it fast.  And, if you can't fix it fast, the situation will turn nasty.

In reality, it's not that simple.  How your customer feels about their problem — their experience — is as much about knowing you're on the case and doing what's possible to resolve it.

Setting realistic expectations, updating those expectations if things change, and keeping them informed throughout the resolution, has every chance of delivering an excellent experience.

That doesn't mean there won't be frustration at the time, but when your customer is able to trust that you will resolve their problem, you'll gain the kind of trust that's incredibly valuable.

6. Online support

Customers don't always want or need verbal conversations.  All too often, the time they have available to speak, doesn't really line up with when they have questions or need assistance.

Online support options like live chat, or a ticket creation form and automated responses let you offer quick resolutions or accept support requests without an enormous investment.  Again, smart CRMs like HubSpot come with these options built in — all you need to do is to turn them on.

This lets your customers interact with you when it suits them, allowing you to acknowledge that they've contacted you and to address their concern using the same method as they've used to get in touch.

The key is to remember that every one of your support options need to be consistently straightforward and intuitive to use.  Use them yourself, as a customer would, before turning them on.

7. Accessible self-service options 

Hands-on customers are more than happy to do things themselves, far more quickly and efficiently than they can do waiting for your team to respond.

The self-service options you offer will vary based on your industry vertical.  What's constant is how to determine what to offer, and how.

Common questions that have a limited number of possible answers can be offered online. If the information isn't sensitive, it can live on your website.  If it should be restricted to customers only, a private knowledge base or customer portal is ideal.

You can restrict access to current customers with individual login credentials, and hook into your CRM for a real time check into their customer status.

If using a knowledge base, ensure it has a powerful and intuitive search function, and that you write your knowledge articles so that they are easy to find. 

Again, it's helpful to use the knowledge base yourself and you'll instantly see that for ease of use, each article should cover a single topic.  The title should make it obvious what that topic is, and the content should be clear and concise.

Make it your own

Your specific interpretation of these pillars