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Opinion: 7 ways to improve customer experiences

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Delivering positive customer experiences is a popular notion for a good reason.

No business can afford to deliver mediocre service and risk losing customers, especially in this environment. With limited product features for companies to effectively differentiate and stand out from competitors, smart leaders leverage excellent customer service and gain competitive advantages.

The problem is that too many companies fail to deliver on giving excellent service. According to BusinessWire.com, in 2018, U.S. companies were losing more than $75 billion annually due to poor customer experiences.

Fortunately, most service problems can be avoided with a few practical steps.

1. Make service a top priority. The way to be known for delivering excellent customer experiences is to ensure that it's a top priority. Do you know everything your customer expects from their buying journey or purchase? If you assume you do, but you haven't researched or validated it, you don't know and need to find out.

Leaders need to make sure that customer service is more than a statement on the company's branding, banners or coffee mugs. That’s the easy part. For service to be exceptional, it must be woven into the fabric of the company.

2. Capitalize on retention. There's so much attention on customer acquisition today, and it seems as though customer retention has declined in importance. But that's a bad strategy because you are more likely to sell your widget to an existing customer than to sell it for the first time to a prospective buyer. Focus on satisfying the customers you already have, along with onboarding prospects into new sales.

3. Find and eliminate the slightest instances of customer dissatisfaction. Making customers go through annoying steps, repetitive actions or unnecessary company rules creates friction in their experience and dissatisfaction.

Try viewing your customers’ experiences from the front of the line, not from behind your counter. In other words, step out from your viewpoint and look, listen, feel or click your way through the typical ways people experience your company. When you find something that isn't creating the right impression, try fixing it.

4. Craft culture around high service standards. The best companies set high customer experience standards. They invest in training, rewarding and coaching employees on the fulfillment of those standards. Service standards should be consistent for everyone in the company.

How do you want your company’s service viewed? How is it actually viewed? Narrow the gap by setting high standards and regularly reinforcing them throughout the ranks.

5. Train managers into customer service role models. The adage that water never rises above its source applies to customer experiences. Employees won't rise above the commitment to service they observe coming from management. Managers should model the behaviors they expect from employees.

6. Treat employees like your most valued customers. Customers won't be treated as No. 1 if employees feel like they are treated as No. 2. When employees see that managers value and care about them like they value and care for customers, it removes the big obstacle of winning employee support and enthusiasm for service.

7. Action over words. When an organization lives and breathes customer service, everyone wins. The customers win by having better experiences. The employees benefit because it brings greater meaning and purpose to their work. Leaders gain because they can focus on activities that build future value instead of always putting out fires from service issues.

The most direct connection between high service standards and employee follow-through is the commitment of leadership. Serve employees like you want them serving customers, and make the customer experiences the main thing that drives your company.

Consultant, professional speaker and author Mark Holmes is president of Consultant Board Inc. and MarkHolmesGroup.com. He can be reached at mark@markholmesgroup.com.

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