Customer experience (CX) describes the experience that the customer has with a company. This is something that will strongly inform their impression of a brand, their likelihood to use the company again and their reviews of the business to peers and online. When you come up with an idea for a company, it is important not to think about just ‘what’ you do, but also how you do it and why you are doing it. In other words, a restaurant should not exist just because it wants to provide the customers with food in exchange for food. That is a business, but it is not a brand, it has no soul and it won’t create real fans. A restaurant instead should go about creating their business by thinking about the customer experience and how that will be unique compared with other restaurants in the area. What is the USP? And how can you make sure your visitors have the best time possible?
Creating a Customer Experience for a Restaurant
What might motivate someone to start up a restaurant?
- Maybe they want to cater to vegans because they feel there isn’t enough good vegan food in their area.
- Maybe they want to draw more attention to the food of their culture.
- Maybe they want to use only fresh ingredients.
- Or maybe they want to create a place that is fun, lively and makes for a great night out.
That is the stuff of the mission statement (a company’s statement of intent). So, in a few lines, you might summarize your business’ mission as: “To bring a taste of traditional Lebanese cuisine and culture. Showing the best sides of the country with hearty, delicious meals and sweet, indulgent desserts.” Very often a good mission statement will be one that is customer centric – that focusses on how it will make the customers feel and how it will ensure they have the best time possible.
That is a mission statement because it says why the business exists. It says what is different about the business and it shows that the company cares about more than just turning a profit. And when you take all those things into account, you have a company that is making something new and something that other people can get behind.
All the Aspects of Customer Experience
Customer experience is based not only on the main product or service that your business offers, but also on the smaller interactions that surround that ‘main’ experience. These include everything from the advertising, to the décor of the business, to the friendliness of the staff.
The experience encompasses every single interaction from the point where the individual discovers your company, to the point where they leave. This entire experience is what will inform their opinion of your company and their overall satisfaction. This will then help you to define your brand image: to decide how you want your logo to look, how best to advertise, what to do about the décor. All those things should be expressions of your mission statement, your reason for being and your USP.
So, you might therefore choose a logo that will express this somehow. It might include elements of Lebanese culture and it even use the flag somehow. Your aim is to show through the logo alone what people can expect when they come to eat at your restaurant. Likewise, this might help you to decide your décor: how can you bring the atmosphere and traditional feeling to your local establishment?
Your rep will form as a result of how people experience their interactions with you and then hopefully people will see your business as the way that you want to portray yourself.
An Example: Amazon
When people deal with Amazon, they expect a certain service. They know the packaging that will arrive, they’ll recognize the logo that is designed to look like a smiley face and they’ll expect a certain speed of delivery and reliability.
In the case of Amazon, customer experience is especially important. That’s because there is no ‘product’ – the customer uses Amazon on the basis that they will get a better experience. The commitment to quality and the consistent branding are the only reminders that the customer bought from Amazon and not some other faceless reseller.
As you can see then, Amazon is placing customer experience central to its decision making and it shows. You even see this with the way that people can order their products with a single click on an app that is designed to be as mobile-friendly as possible. Here, even the experience of ordering the product is superior with Amazon and therefore, people will prefer to use that service where possible. Again, the customer experience is everything from that first interaction to the point of delivery.
Customer Experience Informing Decision Making
When you forget the customer experience and focus on the bottom line, this is when you will start making decisions based on how you can cut corners to raise your profits in the short term: completing jobs faster, or automating/outsourcing parts of your service.
This will all result in a business that has no identity and that can’t help but come across to the customer or client. As a result, the irony is that just ‘trying to make money’ is the quickest way to lose the faith of your audience and to actually earn less money. If people see a boring logo, they won’t show any interest in your business. If you do nothing to differentiate yourself, they won’t show loyalty.
That is the difference between having a customer and having a fan. Fans have by FAR the higher LCV (lifetime customer value) and are worth more than you can quantify. The same goes for business decisions motivated by a quick buck rather than your customer satisfaction. If you start cutting corners, then people will look elsewhere.
When they changed the ingredients of your favorite spread for clearly inferior ones, did you stick with them? Or did you leave and find a better brand? On the other hand, if you are a true Apple ‘fan’ then chances are you’ll buy the next iPhone before you even read the reviews. This ALL comes from the customer experience and the associations you have with the business as a result.
How to Improve Customer Experience and Get Better Reviews
Delivering the best possible customer experience is also how you get the best possible customer reviews – which of course can help to improve your turnover.
Under Promise, Over Deliver
One strategy for getting good reviews to grow your business is to 'under promise' and 'over deliver'. This means that you will marginally lower expectations, such that you are seen to have gone 'above and beyond' for the customer. This in turn makes them feel obligated and is thus more likely to trigger a good review.
How might you do this as a dental practice? One example would be to add a couple of minutes to the wait time thus that they are 'pleasantly surprised' to be seen quickly. Another strategy is to give free gifts – especially to your younger clients.
Another way to get better reviews online is to simply ask your patients to leave a good review if they felt they had good service. You can do this through social media or in person. Note that often people just don't think to leave reviews, so don't be afraid to give them a little nudge in the right direction.
Of course, if you do get bad reviews, you can always respond to them on most sites. This way you can put forward your story and this is a good way to reduce the damage that can be done by a bad review. If you respond well and are sincere, you may even find that the person who left the review decides to change their rating and comments!
Another tip is to ask what you could have done to be better. And after the customer has left, ask them if they were completely satisfied or if there is anything else you can do to help.
Communication goes a long way. We have become accustomed to experiencing businesses as cold ‘faceless’ organizations and when someone actually asks how we’re doing, that’s enough to improve our experience greatly. Likewise, using customer feedback forms and surveys can also be an excellent way to get more detailed feedback regarding your customer satisfaction. This way, you
Look for ‘Pain Points’
A good way to improve customer experience is to try the experience first hand yourself and look for ‘pain points’. Where could things be better? What problems are there with the overall experience?
This could come down to a page that loads more slowly than it should, or perhaps it is a muddled and confusing UI on a website. Maybe you find that delivery is taking too long. Or maybe you are getting calls that were unsolicited just from signing up.
Not far removed is the idea of using a ‘mystery shopper’ – who is someone who will experience your business first-hand and then report back on that experience. Was it good? Where could it be improved? The idea is that your staff and team don’t know that this is anything than a regular customer and so they treat them just as they normally would.
Customer Experience Management
This is actually an entire field of business. So much so, that the field of ‘customer experience management’ or CEM/CXM has emerged in order to oversee it. This is a collection of processes and tools that companies can use in order to track and oversee the experience of the customer through the customer lifecycle. Examples include many of the things that we’ve looked at, such as the use of surveys, feedback forms and mystery shoppers.
Often this process will go through a number of steps:
- Understanding the customer – Know your customer persona. Who is your ideal customer and how can you cater to their specific needs and wants more closely?
- Create a customer vision – This is also known as a customer journey map, which outlines all of your customer touchpoints and suggests how the customer will interact with your brand at each point. It’s important here to think about all the different platforms and channels through which you will communicate with your customer. How will they typically discover your brand? How do you reach them to inform of them of offers? Do you have social accounts? How do you promote yourself?
- Create a brand identity – This is in order to develop emotional connection. You want people to think of your business not just as a faceless organization, but as a movement and better yet as something with some personality.
- Capture feedback – This is where the points we’ve already discussed come in. Everything from reviews, to feedback forms.
Note that this is an iteration cycle. This is not a static, fixed experience but something you can hone and improve over time. The more you learn about your customers, the more you identify what you’re doing right and wrong, the closer you can move your customer experience to that customer journey map that you came up with right at the start.
These products allow you to even more precisely quantify and later monetize your customer satisfaction. That in turn makes it a lot easier to keep at the forefront of your mind when making business decisions and when thinking about your plans for the future. But ultimately, this comes down to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’. Sometimes business doesn’t have to be complicated!